Pınar Somakçı


( by Assistant Professor Dr. Pinar Somakçi )

1. Introduction

Since antiquity, music has occupied a major place in the life of humanity. People have mostly relied upon music to express their grief, joy, heroism, excitement and love.

Creating a state of trance, music has influenced people and at times directed the masses. Music in particular, with its characteristic ability to concentrate the emotions, has been used by many civilizations as a means of reinforcing religious feelings and healing the sick.

2. Music Among the Turks

Music among the Turks is as old as Turkish history itself. Some historians and musicologists speak of a Turkish musical tradition extending back at least 6,000 years. For this reason we see fit to examine music and musical therapy among the Turks in three different areas, in historical order:

Central Asian Turkic Culture
Islamic Civilization
The Selçuks and Ottomans
2.1 Music in Central Asian Turkic Culture

Central Asian Turkic culture spans nearly 6,000 years.
The çevgan of the Mehter band (1134-249 B.C.) was known in the middle ages as mucuk, buncuk and çagana; as the kziezye Turecki to the Russians and the Poles, to the Swedes as the Turkist klockspel, and to the English as the jingling Johnnie.

Varieties of the dümbelek, düdük, çan, gong and çeng, as well as long-neck bağlama-type instruments were used in the 8th century B.C. Later, instruments such as the halile, zilli maşa and şakşak were used in the sufi lodges. Later still emerged the finger cymbals, mehter cymbals, spoons, and kayrak. Also in the 8th century B.C., a Turkish instrument called the pipa (bipa) was discovered by the Chinese; in the middle ages this emerged as the oud and the various members of its family.

In the area of wind instruments, pipes have been used by the Turks since ancient times. In the beginning of the Middle Ages the muynuz and nefir appeared. The kaval, pişe and ney were also used in this period. The tulum, or bagpipe, is of Middle Eastern origin. The double-reed zurna is quite old. The çıpçığ (a mouth organ) was used between the 8-16th centuries.

Rhythm instruments: The def (12th century), tümrü (14th century) and later instruments known as the mazhar, daire, bendir and zenbez, used at various times with different names. The davul is the Turks’ most common instrument for music, announcements and signaling.

The Huns of Asia greatly loved the çeng; the yatugan of the early period later evolved into the santur and kanun.

The oldest of the Turkish string instruments is the bağlama. In the early period the kopuz was used, followed by the tanbur, the tar family, the şurdugu and ravza (ırızva) in the Middle Ages, and finally the bağlama famıly (bozok, şarkı, karadüzen).

The dividing of an octave into six instead of eight, and thus arriving at five tones in an octave instead of seven is known in the west as “pentatonism,” and in Turkish as beşseslılık (beş - fıve, ses - tone). Pentatonism is observed to have spread from Central Asia to the world, where it continues in many areas. For example pentatonic elements are to be encountered in the villages around Urfa, Erzurum and Safranbolu, as well as in Konya, Cihanbeyli, Niğde and Eskişehir. Kazak-Kirghiz, Idil-Ural, Crimean, Yakut and Karaçay Turkish music contains completely pentatonic pieces, while Uzbeks and the Turks of East Turkistan, the Caucasus, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan have semi-pentatonic pieces.

As Central Asian civilization spread throughout the ancient world, it continued to survive everywhere it settled. This cultural trend, increasing with the heavy migrations of the 9th and 11th centuries, moved steadily westward along the northern and southern routes around the Black Sea and was thus introduced to the tribes of the ancient world. Examples of this can be found in many old travelogues.

2.1.1. Music Therapy in Central Asian Turkic Culture

The kopuz or saz played in the Central Asian period was used as an important instrument in healing, calling of good spirits and banishing of evil spirits. Also in the Altay plateau and to the north, they were used especially by shamans in the healing of the sick and in religious ceremonies. The shaman is a master of the trance which gives the feeling that he has left his body and ascends to the heavens or descends beneath the earth. Playing the davul, he brings spirits under his power and, establishing contact with the dead, demons and fairies, brings healing to the ill.

Later under the influence of Islam, healers known as “Baksı” emerged among the Altay, Kashgar and Kirghiz Turks. During a seance, the baksı would artfully combine music, poetry, mimicry and dance in an attempt to heal the sick. The dance he performed in a complete trance was believed to have especially healing powers.

In Uzbekistan as well, though they were not well known, there were people known as “Kinne Yöyücü,” which healed those struck by the evil eye. These people also used song or dance in their treatments in an attempt to expel demons from a person’s soul.

2.2 Music in Islamic Civilization

In the era before Islam, the Arabs mostly lived in tents, living a nomadic life and raising camels and sheep. For this reason their fine arts concentrated in the area of poetry. Later the related branch of music began to emerge. Two forms of music appeared among the Arabs. One of them, the “gina or şarkı” was poetry put to music; the other, “tagbir,” was the singing of prose style lyrics. In this way secular music was born.

In the beginning of Islam, the people showed resistance to music. The singing of songs was not well received. The reason for this was that music and song was thought to turn people towards fun and pleasure, lead to the neglect of religious duties and encourage sexual desires. Later, the Prophet Mohammed, pleased with those who chanted the Koran beautifully, gradually changed the people’s anti-music views. In the early period of Islam, the Koran was chanted in a minor scale with few notes. But over time began adorning it with melodies containing the musical characteristics of their own lands.

Gradually, as the heads of state were captured by the lure of music, it became fashionable to sing and play instruments. In this way, music progressed little by little and in the Abbasid period reached a higher level. In this period, the famous Turkish Islamic scholar and philosopher Farabi explained music from a theoretical standpoint in his book, Kitab-ül Musiki, and provided information on musical instruments.

The Turks accepted Islam in the 9th century. This old culture, which before Islam was moving westward in great migrations, blended with other cultures and gave rise to various genres of music. Finding an honored place within Turkish Islamic culture, music especially developed in the palace and lodges, and in the Mehter bands. The main centers for this development were the Mevlevihanes and the Palace. From among the Mevlevis and members of other Sufi orders came great composers, and both religious and secular developed and progressed. Within the Bektashi order, the folk music tradition thrived.

2.2.1 Music Therapy in Islamic Culture

Through the history of Islamic civilization it has been chiefly the mystic sects (Sufis) which have been involved with music, used and defended it. The Sufis mention that mental and nervous disorders are cured by music.

The great Turkish Islamic scientists and doctors Zekeriya Er-Razi (854-932), Farabi (870-950) and İbn Sina(980-1037) established scientific principles concerning musical treatment, especially of psychological disorders.

In his book, “Musiki-ul-kebir,” Farabi attempted to set forth the relationship between music and physics and astronomy. According to Farabi, the effects of the makams of Turkish music on the soul were classified as follows:

Rast makam: brings a person happiness and comfort.
Rehavi makam: brings a person the idea of eternity.
Kuçek makam: brings a person sadness and anguish.
Büzürk makam: brings a person fear.
Isfahan makam: brings a person the capacity of action, the sense of security.
Neva makam: brings a person pleasure and contentment.
Uşşak makam: brings a person the feeling of laughter.
Zirgüle makam: brings a person sleep.
Saba makam: brings a person cesaret,kuvvet.
Buselik makam: brings a person strength.
Hüseyni makam: brings a person serenity, ease.
Hicaz makam: brings a person humility.
Farabi also outlined the effects of the makams of Turkish music according to the times they were effective:

Rehavi makam: effective at pre-dawn.
Hüseyni makam: effective at dawn.
Rast makam: effective in early morning.
Buselik makam: effective in mid morning.
Zirgüle makam: effective toward noon.
Uşşak makam: effective at noon.
Hicaz makam: effective in the afternoon.
Irak makam: effective in late afternoon.
Isfahan makam: effective at dusk.
Neva makam: effective in the evening.
Büzürk makam: effective in late evening.
Zirefkend makam: effective during the time of sleep.
The great Islamic thinker and philosopher Ibn Sina (980-1037) wrote that he gained much from Farabi’s works, and even learned music from him and applied it in his practice. He said, “One of the best and most effective of treatments is to strengthen the mental and spiritual strengths of the patient, to give him more courage to fight illness, create a loving, pleasant environment for the patient, play the best music for him and surround him with people that he loves.”

According to Ibn Sina, “sound” was essential to our existence. Sounds arranged within a musical order, and in a particular fashion, would have a deep reaching effect on one’s soul. The effect of sound was enriched by man’s art. Ibn Sina also believed that changes of pitch would determine a person’s mood. What allows us to appreciate a musical composition is not our sense of hearing, but our sense of perception, which allows us to derive various inspirations from that composition. For this reason, well-attuned, harmonious tones, and the adherence of compositions and rhythms to principles, can have a captivating effect on people.

In conclusion, during the period of Islamic civilization, Turkish-Muslim doctors such as Er-Razi, Farabi and Ibn Sna used musical and pharmacological methods in the treatment of psychological disorders, and these methods, applied by both Selçuk and Ottoman doctors, were cultivated up until the 18th century.

2.3 Music among the Selçuks and Ottomans

The pentatonism in pre-Islamic Asian Turkish music began to change under the influence of religion, and an eight-note scale came into use. This music gradually came to form the Selçuk music and its close relative, Mevlevi music. In the 13th century, Safiyüddin Urmevi emerged as a great Turkish Islamic scholar. Safiyüddin studied the Turkish musical system in a scientific manner.

After Safiyüddin, the greatest composer, musical scholar, singer and instrumentalist to emerge from the East was the teacher Abdülkadir Meragi, who lived from 1360 to 1435. When Mevlana’s father Bahaeddin Veled (born 1207) came to Anatolia, he also brought instruments such as the ney, rebab, çeng, kudüm, halile and mazhar which form the crux of Mevlevi musical culture. In time other genius composers such as Itri and İsmail Dede entered the arena. As religious motifs gradually began to be replaced by social themes, Turkish art music and Mevlevi music emerged. Mevlana was especially attracted to instruments such as the rebab and ney.

As Mevlevi and Turkish classical music continued on the one hand, various forms of Turkish folk music such as the türkü, uzun hava, atışma, bozlak etc. were developing, with the poetry of Ahmet Yesevi and the nefes of the Bektashis, accompanied by kopuz and bağlama.

Hacı Bektaş Veli is said to have had a role in introducing Mehter music, which had been used in military campaigns from Selçuk to the Ottoman times, to the Janissaries. The instruments used in this music included the kös, davul, nakkare, kudüm, zurna, nefir, nısfiye, zil and zilli maşa.

Many fine musicians were produced in the Ottoman palace, including Murat II, Beyazıt II, Murat Iv, Mustafa II, Ahmet III, Selim III and Mahmut II. During this same period emerged such famous masters as Itri, İsmail Dede Efendi, Hafız Post, Recep Efendi, Zekai Dede, Emin Dede, Nayi Osman Dede, Ebubekir Ağa and Kantemiroğlu.

2.3.1 Music Therapy Among the Selçuks and Ottomans

Although the first serious music therapy was practiced during the Ottoman period, various healing attempts were undertaken in pre-Anatolian Central Asia by shaman musicians known as baksı. Even today, there are baksıs among the Central Asian Turks, who continue these activities (Güvenç 1986ö p. 24).

Ibn Sina, in a hospital established in Damascus by a Selçuk Turk, engaged in the healing of mental disorders with music. The influence of Ibn Sina continued into the Ottoman period.

The Ottoman palace doctor Musa bin Hamun used musical therapeutic means in the healing of tooth diseases and children’s psychological disorders.

Hekimbaşı Gevrekzade Hasan Efendi (18th century) was the student of Tokatlı Mustafa Efendi, who translated Ibn Sina’s famous work, “El Kanun fi’t-tıbbi.” In his own work, he said that he had drawn heavily upon Ibn Sina’s book.

In his work, “Emraz-ı Ruhaniyeyi Negama-ı Musikiye,” Hekimbaşı Gevrekzade Hasan Efendi outlined which makams were effective in the the treatment of which childhood disease:

Irak Makam: effective in the treatment of childhood meningitis.
Isfahan Makam: clears the mind and protects from colds and fevers.
Zirefkend Makam: effective in the treatment of stroke and backache, fosters a sense of strength.
Rehavi Makam: Effective in the treatment of all headaches, nosebleed, wry mouth, paralysis and phlegmatic diseases.
Büzürk Makam: Effective in the treatment of the brain and of cramps, and eliminates fatigue.
Zirgüle Makam: Effective in the treatment of heart and brain disease, meningitis, heartburn and fevers of the liver.
Hicaz Makam: Effective in the treatment of diseases of the urinary tract.
Buselik Makam: Effective in the treatment of pains in the hips and head, and of eye diseases.
Uşşak Makam: Effective in the treatment of foot pain and insomnia.
Hüseyni Makam: Effective in the treatment of liver and heart disease, siezures and hidden fevers.
Neva Makam: Effective in the treatment of children who have reached puberty, pains of the hips, and brings joy to the heart.

We know that in the Topkapı Palace hospital, young students were treated by music. Master musician Safiyüddin states that makams should not be played randomly but rather that at certain times during the day, these makams would ease the soul and bring comfort:

Rehavi makam: shortly before sunrıseç
Hüseyni makam: at dawn.
Rast makam: in late morning.
Zirgüle makam: at noon.
Hicaz makamı: in mid-afternoon.
Irak makamı: in late afternoon.
Isfahan makam: at sunset.
Neva makam: in the evening.
Büzürk makam: in late evening.
Zirefkend makam: at night.
Although he mentioned what times during the day makams should be listened to, he also divided the 24-hour day into four sections and researched when each makam should be sung or listened to. Some doctors also examined the issue of the effect makams had on different nationalities, and the relationship between makams and astrology.

According to some Turkish doctors, the following makams were affective on different nationalities:

Hüseyni makam: Arabs
Irak makam: Iranians
Uşşak makam: Turks
Buselik makam: mostly played for Greeks
In terms of their influence on the emotions, the doctors determined that various makams provoked the following feelings:

Irak makam: pleasure and relish
Zirgüle makam: sleep
Rehavi makam: weeping
Hüseyni makam: beauty
Hicaz makam: humility
Neva makam: bravery
Uşşak makam: laughter
Each makam was also associated with a particular sign of the zodiac.

The old Turkish doctor Şuuri, in his book “Tadil-i Emzice,” stated that music was beneficial against all disease and pain, and was supported in this by scholars and scientists of the time.

3. Conclusion and Recommendations

This paper has addressed music and musical therapy among the Turks from a historical perspective, and examined the developments in Turkish Civilizations up to the present.

In the light of these studies, the following conclusions have been reached:

The use of music in healing began in extremely ancient times within Central Asian Turkic Culture, was practiced by people with a variety of duties, and examples of it have survived to this day.
In the Turkish Islamic world, music therapy activities and especially the use of music in hospitals first began in the 9th century, and exhibited great advancements up until the 18th century.
It is notable that in music therapy, countries’ authentic national music is effective, and different makams and instruments are useful according to the type of disease.
As stated by Güvenç, Turkish music, with a pentatonic origin, a high facility of improvisation and emotion, and because of its many microtones (komas) has a many faceted capacity for the expression of emotion and thus is gaining steadily in importance in psychotherapy. This thought is supported by research conducted in various countries, and by papers presented at the 2nd International Music Therapy and Ethnomusicology Symposium held in Istanbul in 1993.
The music therapy ideas and practices addressed in this article could be reexamined and reevaluated with modern-day technology.

The relationships between makam and temperament, time and astrology could be readdressed within more scientific approaches and in clinical trials.

Beyond use merely as a mode of therapy for an array of diseases, musik can also be very useful as a preventative. For example, various choices of appropriate musical genres my have positive effects on people living a stressful urban lifestyle, on factory workers in order to increase productivity, and even on animals, to increase production of products such as milk and eggs.


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