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K.

DEGIRMENCI: ON THE PURSUIT OF A NATION, IRASM 37 (2006) 1, 47-65

47

ON THE PURSUITOF A NATION:


THE CONSTRUCTIONOF FOLKAND FOLKMUSICIN THE
FOUNDING DECADESOF THETURKISHREPUBLIC
KORAYDEGIRMENCI

UDC: 78.078(560)"19"

MiddleEastTechnicalUniversity,Ankara,Turkey
E-mail:korayd@metu.edu.tr

OriginalScientificPaper
Izvorniznanstvenirad
Received:September6, 2005
Primljeno:6. rujna2005.
Accepted:November15,2005
Prihvaieno:15.studenog2005.

Abstract- Resume
This paper largely investigates the dynamics of cultural policy in the founding years of
the Turkish Republic (1923-1940s) by looking at
a particular cultural form, Turkish folk music.
The reconstruction of Turkish folk music and the
development of the term 'folk' reflect certain
cultural and political aspects of the formation
of the nation-state and of Turkish nationalism.
The paper also attempts to understand the in-

spirational sources of the founding cadres' cultural policy by looking at the genealogy of the
term 'folk' (in Romantic thought and during the
Enlightenment period) and their folk discourse.
Key words: Nation; Construction; Folk;
Turkish Folk Music; Turkish Republic; Cultural form; Turkish nationalism: Turkish music; Nationalism; Romanticism

Introduction:
SomePreliminary
Noteson CulturalForms
The cultural reproductionprocess cannot be envisaged outside power relations. Rather,power relationsare totally intrinsicto the culturaldomain. Cultural
transformationas a political strategy includes appropriationand reprocessingof
the meanings in cultural forms, institutionalregulationsto transformthe meanings and aestheticforms of culturaloutput, especially in the case of the State,and
utilization of some particularculturaldiscoursesin orderto maintaina politically
favorableposition. Thus, controlover culturalforms is to be consideredas a crucial element with which politics operatesin the culturaldomain.

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K. DEGIRMENCI:
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There are two general assumptions in this articlethat form the basis of the
argument.The first one relates directly to the nature of culturalforms and their
meanings.Culturalforms or productionsare the bearersof meaningsand codes of
behavior inherent in the culture itself. They also provide a hint to the intricate
relationsamong those meanings.Changesin cultureare visible largely when concern closely touches upon the meanings and changes in culturalforms. Based on
such premises,culturalreproductionor the changesin culturecan be investigated
throughan analysis of the culturalproductionsthat seem best to reflect meanings
in culture.The second assumptionis an instrumentalone that tacklesthe conception of cultureitself. Culturecan be defined methodologicallyin two ways. It can
be depicted as a seminal elementthatbringsforththe culturalformsor determines
the general frameworkof the realm of meanings in those culturalforms. In that
case, the meanings in culturalforms are generallythe indicatorsof the culturethat
directlyprovide their content.In the second case, politicalstrategiesare to be imagined to have a certaincapabilityof transformingculturalproductsfor theirown
political interests.Therefore,the restrictivefunctionof culturein the formationof
culturalproducts is also consideredin the definition.This view is instrumentalto
any investigationof the relationshipbetween politicsand culture.Thus, cultureor
culturescircumscribethe possible formsthat culturalproductscan take as a result
of the manufactureof politics. The field of 'possible forms' is also determinedby
the power of differentpoliticaldiscoursesand theirdomainsof hegemony- sometimes they are intersectedsometimes they remainat the opposite poles.
This articleattemptsto demonstratesome peculiarcharacteristicsof the relation between culture and politics in the founding years of the TurkishRepublic
(1923-1940s)by looking at a particularculturalform,Turkishfolk music. The history or the reconstructionof Turkishfolk music reflects political aspects of the
formationof the nation-stateand Turkishnationalism.Nationalismemerged as a
political and social engineering projectfrom the spirit of the Enlightenmentin
Western Europe,which was accompaniedby the formationof nation-states.The
aspect of engineering in nationalismin the constructionof Turkishfolk music is
apparentin whole terms in the Turkishcase in which the task of constructinga
congruent structurefrom a population having numerous and different cultural
roots was seen as the primaryconcern.
TheConstruction
of theFolk
Debates on the discourse of 'the folk' inevitably include an elaborationon
nationalism.This hand-to-handrelationshipbetween the folk and nationalismactually appearsas the result of a historicalfact.The growing interestin the folk and
folk cultureand therebythe resultingfolk discourse,was an indispensablefeature
of European nationalisms during the nineteenth century. Indeed, this close inter-

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49

est in the folk refersto a searchfor origin.The notion of origin revealing genuineness and authenticitygives the nationalistpoliticaldiscourselegitimacyas well as
meaning in its pursuit of constructinga nation having the same culturalroots in
origin. The very notion of states and nationalism as constructingthe imagined
concept of nation' plays a crucialrole at this point. The process of constructinga
nation with all its essential elements, including a common culture along with a
common language and heritage,is explicatedthoroughlyin some other works as
well.2 The nationassumed to have the same originand culturalheritageis nothing
but 'an imagined political community- and imagined as both inherentlylimited
and sovereign'.3Although thereare many controversiesamong these works,4their
conception of nationalism as having a crucial role in constructingan imagined
concept of nation and the origin myth is almost the same. This article operates
with the same conceptionof nationalismin understandingthe 'constructednature
of culture'in the case of Turkishfolk music.
Indeed, the concept of the folk has powerful connotationsof culturalunity,
although it is generally identified with the common people and they can be used
interchangeably.It marks a point of departurewhen used as a referencein any
politicalor culturaldiscourse.In fact,these two domainsareunrecognizablyoverlapping, especially when they appearas the two majorrealmswithin the snapshot
of the emergenceof the nationalin the culturaldomain.The concept of the folk in
a particularterritorypresumes a culturalhomogeneity and unity among peoples
living in that territory.Even in its most naive form,this presumptionabout homogeneity is severe; an outgrowth of an inculcationof the idea reflectinga concordance or integrity in the 'cultures'of peoples in a territory.Besides, it inevitably
refersto a seminal point from which the other partsof the society derive. The folk
discourse and the integrity of culture operate together through the origin myth.
Therefore,the characterof the folk readily involves a notion of authenticityrather
than being an ordinaryelement.
The increasingconcernfor the folk and, generally,the notion of culturalpatterns distinguishing nations from each other were the main tenets of Romantic
thought which was best reflected in the works of JohannGottfriedHerder. The
Germanphilosopher is seen as the discovererof the idea that every people has a
The notion actuallyhas roots in the Enlightenment;the idea that every
Volksgeist.5
EricJ. HOBSBAWM,NationsandNationalism
since1780:Programme,
Myth,Reality(Cambridge
and New York:CambridgeUniversityPress,1992).
2
ErnestGELLNER,Nationsand Nationalism(Ithaca:CornellUniversity Press, 1983);Benedict
on the Originand Spreadof Nationalism(Londonand
ANDERSON,ImaginedCommunities:
Reflections
New York:Verso,1991).
5.
Communities...,
3 B. ANDERSON,Imagined
4 For
example,Andersonin thiswork goes furtherand questionsthe existenceof any community,
the point on which he criticizedGellner;for his theory'simplicationof a duality between real/contrived communities.
Vol. 25 (1995):5-24,9.
Scandinavica,
5 TineDAMSHOLT,On the Conceptof the 'Folk',Ethnologia

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K. DEGIRMENCI:
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nation has its own distinctive culturalfeatureswas widespread in the eighteenth


century.'Thenotion of the spiritof a nation or a culturehad been central'to Vico,
Montesquieu,Hamannand to Zimmermann.6Therewas investigationof the folk
in the Enlightenmentas well, althoughthe concernwas considerably different;it
definitely conceptualizedfolk life as a primitivestate thatwould be eliminatedby
progress.In Romanticism,however,the folkwas identicalwith the nation;its primitiveness was consideredas being closest to the original,pristine,authenticnational
culture. Another majordifferencebetween the Enlightenmentand Romanticism
regarding their conceptualization of the folk directly relates to the concept of
progress. Whilst the Enlightenmenthonored progressin the mirrorof the primitiveness of the folk, the collectorsof folk culturein the Romanticperiod 'idealized
the past in order to condemn the present'.' They expressed their longing for the
past, being at home, in their searchfor the folk, the origin, and the authentic.The
very meaning of the word volkin Germanrefersto people with common culture,
values, and history. Their pursuit of the past was their journey to a prehistoric
time in which the nationalhad not been spoiled by the evil of industrialization.
The growing interestin, and actualneed for the folk inevitablyresulted in an
interest in folk research.The collectionswere tools for excavatingthe culturalinheritanceof the nation. These collectionscould be folksongs or folk or fairy tales.
Herder's own collection of fdlksongs was followed in Germanyby the texts of
Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano, and the folk and fairy tales of the
Grimms.8The expression of the nationalin music, hence its emergenceas a culturalartisticformhaving inherentlynationalroots,is an outgrowthof the changes
in understanding the musical domain, especially in nineteenth century Europe.
Finkelstein'sremarkspointingout the differencesbetweenthe two opposing trends
in interpretationof musicalpieces at the end of the eighteenthand at the end of the
nineteenthcenturyarevery illustrativeat this point.9Whilstthe notion of music as
a cosmopolitanor internationalart was shared among the paradigmsof perspectives in the formerperiod, this idea of cosmopolitanismgave way to the searchfor
roots or nation in the form of studies of folk culturein the late nineteenthcentury.
Indeed, the discovery of the folk in other culturalrealms dates back to an earlier
time. Storeyregardsthe interestin folk cultureas having two majorhistoricalperiods, one of which proved the existenceof inquiryabout folk culture, even at the
mid-eighteenth century.'"The collection of ballads or folk tales was pervasive in
6 IsaiahBERLIN,
ed. by H. Hardy(Princeton
ThreeCriticsoftheEnlightenment:
Herder,
Vico,Hamann,
and Oxford:PrincetonUniversityPress,2000),172.
(Malden,MA:Blackwell
InventingPopularCulture:FromFolkloreto Globalization
7 JohnSTOREY,
Publishers,2003).
andMusic(Ph.D. Thesis.Chicago:Universityof Chicago,2002),95.
8 BenCURTIS,OnNationalism
andNation:TheFolkHeritagein Music(New York:International
Composer
9SidneyFINKELSTEIN,
Publishers,1989),9.
Ibid.,2.
o0

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folk study activities in the earlierperiod. Its persistencewas made clearwith the
publicationof ThomasPercy'sReliquesofAncientEnglishPoetry(1765)and Francis
JamesChild's TheEnglishandScottishPopularBallads(1857)markingthe end of the
first period. He saw the search for the folk in the second period as mainly taking
place in the musical domain; an endeavor that also produced two majorworks:
Carl Engel's An Introductionto the Studyof NationalMusic(1866)and Cecil James
Sharp'sFolksong:SomeConclusions(1907),which also markthe beginning and end
of the second period.
These attempts at redefiningand reconstructingthe folk and folk cultureare
to be seen as the main tenets of the process of constructingthe categoryof nation.
The issue is clearly expressed in Bohlman'swork: ))The musical symbols of an
imagined community are many: an identifiablecorpus of folk song ... folk songs
that spell out the history of the nation in overt and subtle forms;and, in general,
the equationof folk music with nationalmusic.<"The cultureof the folk, the peasants, was defined as the characterof the nation in its pure and naturalstate. The
activity of collectingthe culturalforms of the folk and theirpreservationand reincarnationin the formof contemporaryworkswere consideredas the essentialsteps
in regaining the national culture. After the discovery of culturalheritage in folk
research,it is 'reprocessed'in orderto createthe nationalculture.'Contemporary'
nationalcultureis supposed to emerge fromthe remnantsof the 'original'national
culture.
TurkishNationalismandtheDiscoveryof theFolk
Such a brief history of the folk and folklorestudies in the general framework
of Romanticnationalismin Europetends to offer an overarchingexplanationfor
the emergence of the folk in all countries,as if these societies togetherfollowed a
linear developmental pattern in their political and cultural history. However,
Calhoun'sadmonition is plausible here in dealing with any phenomenaof different countries,which are multifariousenough to preventany generalization.There
is no single, universal definition, hence the theory of nationalism,which can be
applicablein all other contexts. Rather,the peculiaritiesof versatilenationalisms
depend highly on the 'contingentrelations'and 'distinctculturaltraditions'.'2In
some cases, such an inquirywould go furtherto the extent that it would question
whether such a cultural traditionexists at all. Investigationof culturalproducts
and their transformationwould help to demonstratethe peculiaritiesof various
nationalisms,as they are mainly dependent on the culturaltraditionswith which
"
PhilipV. BOHLMAN,TheStudyofFolkMusicin theModernWorld(BloomingtonandIndianapolis:
IndianaUniversityPress, 1988),54.
12 CraigCALHOUN,Nationalism
(Minneapolis:Universityof MinnesotaPress, 1987),123.

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they operate. Elaboratingon the history of Turkish nationalismdefinitely transcends the bounds of this paper. However, a briefreview of Turkishnationalism
is necessaryin order to point out some peculiaritiesof the context.
The identity problem,which is generallydiscussed by scholarsin the context
of the proclamationof the TurkishRepublicin 1923,had indeed been debated in
Ottomanhistory for about a century.The multi-religiousand thus multi-cultural
structureof the OttomanEmpirecompelled the Ottomanintellectualsto createa
conceptualunity against the rising threatof nationalismamong ethnic groups living togetherunder the authorityof Ottomans.Yildiz conceptualizedthe attempts
of unifying the populationthroughoutthe OttomanEmpirein threestages.13These
were the modernizing Tanzimatmovement proclaimedin 1839,which strived to
unite people on the basis of citizenship in a modernizing state, the Pan-Islamist
stanceof AbdulhamidII,and the ethnicallybased Turkishnationalismof the Committee of the Union and Progressafterthe BalkanWarsin 1912-13.The 1908Revolution gave way to three strandsof thought,which attemptedto explain the backwardness of the Ottoman Empire,while speculatingabout the possible unifying
power of the population according to their views: Western secular modernists
blamed Shariafor the backwardness,Islamistswho claimedthat the main cause of
the backwardnesswas the lackof necessaryIslamicorder,and Turkistswho stated
that the cause of backwardnessmust be searchedfor in >the loss of nationalculture throughIslam'stendencyto superimposeitself as a civilizationat the expense
In Yildiz's perspective,the Republicinherited ethnic naof national cultures.<<14
tionalism from the 1908 Revolution. However, there have been also attempts to
differentiatethe nationalism of Kemalismfrom any category of ethnic nationalism. Gulalp sees the base of Kemalismas territorialnationalism,which he considers as similarto Ottomannationalism.In this conception,people living on the territoryof Turkeywere defined as Turks.'5
Complicatingthe issue, though, is the fact that the concepts of Turkishness,
Islamism,and Ottomanismin the perspectiveof Ottomanintellectualsin the 19th
century were quite differentand controversial.In the Tanzimatperiod, for example, Islamism and Turkishnessimplied almost the same category, thus Islamism
was a class of nation.16This understandingalso seems to have operated in the
concept of JeuneTurc(YoungTurk),which was used to denote the Ottomanintellectuals living abroad during the Tanzimatperiod. They called themselves new
Ottomans, since neither the concept of jeunenor Turkishnessmeant anything to
Sinirlari(1919TurkUlusalKimliginin
Etno-Sekuler
Diyebilene':
13AhmetYILDIZ,'NeMutluTurkum
1938)(istanbul:Iletisim,2001).
TheDevelopment
of Secularismin Turkey(Montreal:McGillUniversityPress,
14Niyazi BERKES,
1964),351.
15Haldun GULALP,The Crisisof Westernizationin
Turkey:Islamismversus Nationalism,Innovation:TheEuropean
Journalof SocialSciences,Vol. 8, No. 2 (June1995).
16N.
BERKES,
Turkiye'de
(agdaslasma(Istanbul:YapiKrediYayinlari,2002),225.

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them.17This identity crisis continued in the process of establishmentof the Turkish Republic as well. The transformationof the Ottoman Empire with a multireligious structureinto a new Republicwith an almosttotallyIslamicpopulation,'18
though with an urge to constructa secularstate, fosteredthe predominanceof the
conceptof Turkishnessthatalreadyhad strongrootsand culminatedafterthe 1908
Revolution.
Although there was migrationof primarilyArmenianand Greekminorities
afterthe FirstWorldWar,Turkeycontinuedto have a multiculturaland ethnically
diversified population owing primarilyto the presence of Laz, Kurds, and other
groups. The statements of MustafaKemal Ataturk'9in one of his speeches interestingly expressed this multiculturalfeature,which did not cease to exist afterthe
... [he reminded his audience] the members
population exchanges:>>Gentlemen
who make up this exalted Assembly are not only Turks,are not only Circassian,
are not only Kurds,are not only Laz;it is composed of all of them and is an Islamic
Indeed his speech partlyreflectsthe ideology of Ottomanismin one sense;
body<<.20
Ottomanism claimed to embrace all people living in the Empire that belong to
differentnationalitiesand religions.However, afterthe establishmentof the Turkish Republic,the unificationof peoples in Turkeyunder the name of a single nation became a majorconcern.This was not an easy task consideringthe offensive
meaning attributedto the word Turkin the OttomanEmpire,which implied nomadic, uncivilized people who belong to a tribe.21
Turkishnationalismin the early Republicanera was generallyconsideredas
having a strong affiliationwith the ideas of Ziya Gokalp,one of the most important intellectual figures of the time. Although there are many objectionsto this
close affinity,22Turkishnationalismin the early periods of the Republicseems to
have taken its inspiration from Turkism,especially from Gokalp's ideas on the
issue of Turkishness,if not the issue of Islam.He was the ideologue of the Young
'7Ibid.,283.
18>>Before
the war,one out of fourpersonsliving in present-dayTurkeywas non-Muslim<.Caglar
KEYDER,StateandClassin Turkey(London:Verso,1987),79. The 1927census showed that non-Muslims constitutedonly 2.6 percentof the whole population.FerozAHMAD,The Developmentof Classconsciousnessin RepublicanTurkey,1923-45,Workers
andtheWorking
Classin theOttomanEmpireand
the TurkishRepublic1839-1950,ed. by D. Quataertand E. J. Zurcher(Londonand New York:Taurus
AcademicStudies, 1995),75.
19Ataturkmeans
literallythe Fatherof theTurks.
in F. AHMAD,The Developmentof Class-consciousness..., 76.
20 Quoted
21 Serif MARDIN, Din ve
Ideoloji[Religion and Ideology] (Ankara:Ankara Universitesi SBF
Yayinlari,1969),102.Basgozalso points out the offensivemeaningof Turkamong Ottomanelites. For
Such meaningof Turkwas
them, it >impliedonly uneducatedtownspeopleand ignorantvillagers.<<
alreadyrehabilitatedin the 19thcentury.IlhanBASGOZ,FolkloreStudiesand Nationalismin Turkey,
Institute,Vol. 9, No. 2/3 (August/December1972):162-176,164.
Journalof theFolklore
22SevketSureyyaAYDEMIR,TekAdam[TheUniqueMan](Istanbul:RemziKitabevi,1966).

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Turksmovement and Turkismin broad terms,basing his theory of Turkismon a


distinction between culture (hars)and civilization (medeniyet).23
This distinction
served as a theoreticalinstrumentto make viable simultaneousadoption of Westernizationand preservationof the nationalculture.Interestingly,Islamwas also a
part of this project,since it was to be combined with Westernmodernism under
the rubricof Turkishnationalism.He clearly saw Turkishnessas being more remarkablethanthe otherfeaturesin its capacityforintegration.Indeed,he defended
the secularizationof Islam via Turkification.Although Turkishnationalism,particularlythe views of Ataturk,resemblesTurkismor Gokalp'sideas to a greateror
lesser degree, the practicesand 'revolutions'24of the early Republicanera under
the strong leadershipof KemalAtaturkwere markedby the principlesof Turkish
nationalism, which strived to integrate peoples in Turkey under the label of
Turkishness.
Ziya Gokalp's interest in folklore studies was evident from his vast collections of folk tales; they included Ergenekon
(1912),Alageyik(1912),Ulkerile Aydin
Kizil
Elma
and
Yaratilis
(1917).Indeed,thebeginningof folklorestudies
(1913),
(1913),
dates back to the second half of the nineteenthcenturywith the fundamentalconsiderationof creatinga commonor nationallanguage,since therehad been a growing discrepancybetween the languageof the Ottomanelites, mainly constitutedof
Arabic and Persian vocabulary,and that of the common people using Turkish.25
This concernfor the purificationof the languagewas reflectedin literatureas well;
authors joined this movement after Tanzimattried to use a language that they
thought the common people could understand.Among them were Ahmed Midhat
Efendi, Ziya Pasa, Ahmed RasimSinasi, and AbdulhakHamid. The main incentive behind theirinterestin folkloreand the purificationof languagegave way to a
search for Turkishculture and origin in the folklore studies of the Republicera.
The activity of collecting folklore art forms was institutionalizedby the foundation of the Departmentof Cultureunder the Ministryof Education.This institutionalizationcontinuedwith the establishmentof the Instituteof Turcologyin 1924
and the FolkloreAssociationin 1927,whose main focus was folklorestudies. Other
prominentfigures actively involved in folklorestudies were FuatKoprulu,chairman of The Instituteof Turcology,and PertevN. Boratav,who representeda folklore methodology that emphasized cross-culturalemphasis,by which it differed
from the Romantic-nationalistapproach representedby Koprulu and Gokalp.26
"
Esaslari[The Principlesof Turkism],(Istanbul:inkilap ve Aka,
Ziya GOKALP,Turkculugun
1978).Therearesome criticsclaimingthatGokalpwas influencedfromFerdinandTonnies'conceptsof
and gesellschaftin his conceptualizationof the relationbetween cultureand civilization.
gemeinschaft
thelifeandteachingsof Ziya
Forone of these critics,see Uriel HEYD,Foundations
of TurkishNationalism:
Gokalp(Westport:HyperionPress,1979).
24 Devrimler
in Turkish;in the plural.
or inkilaplar
25I. BASGOZ, FolkloreStudies ..., 162.
26

Ibid.,174.

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K. DEGIRMENCI:

55

Basgoz offers a good summary of the meaning and significance of folklore studies
in that period:
... each folklore genre had a special value for the nation:proverbsreflectedthe high
morals and philosophy of the Turkishancestors,epics exemplifiedTurkishheroism,
riddles demonstratedthe clevernessand finesse of the Turkishmind, folk poetry revealed the naturalsentimentsof the people;in sum, folkloreas a whole expressedthe
nationalspirit which had been underminedfor centuries.27
Therefore, this immense activity of collecting folklore forms was the major
part of the project of constructing the imagined concept of nation, which was supposed to overarch all the distinct cultural traditions. Undoubtedly, those forms
shared similar characteristics that could be attributed to the same heritage. However, the concern should focus on the deliberate aim of those collections, which
was definitely to bring out the similarities rather than the differences in folklore
forms that can inevitably suggest a heterogeneous cultural background rather than
a homogeneous one. If one way of constructing a cultural heritage is overlooking
the differences, the other is reprocessing the collected folklore forms to categorize
them under the same rubric, which seems to operate better within the context of
the collection of folksongs.

theFolksongs:TheConstruction
of TurkishFolkMusic
Reprocessing
The understanding of music, hence the creation of national music, in Ziya
Gokalp's work was based on his distinction between culture and civilization. He
stated that both Eastern and Western music had emerged from Greek music, which
was not natural, thus artificial, since it is mainly based on quartertones.28Besides,
for him, Greek music was monotonous and boring. Western music transformed
the inherent structure of Greek music in the Middle Ages by the musical innovations in the newly emerging opera. They removed quartertones from the musical
structure and added harmony instead. However, Eastern music had not been capable of any improvements in the musical domain; it was 'ill' in that sense.29 This
music was the music of the Ottomans. After those explanations, Gokalp pointed
out that we have three kinds of music now: Western music, Eastern music and folk
27Ibid.,171.

28Z. GOKALP, TurkculugunEsaslari, 126-27.

29
is clearlyspeakingthe languageof
GokalpdescribedEasternmusic as morbid.Here, >>Gokalp
the Westernorientalist.The idea of the morbidityand irrationalityof the Easthas a historyas long as
thatof Westernorientalism,...<<.See MartinSTOKES,TheArabeskDebate:MusicandMusiciansin ModernTurkey(New York:OxfordUniversityPress,1992),34.

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(halk)music." The latterwas the music of our culturewhilst the firstwas the music
of our new civilization.Therefore,our nationalmusic shall emerge from the synthesis of these two musical forms, namely folk music and Westernmusic, which
would be 'healthy'.3'Indeed, Ataturk'sview on music converges with Gokalp's
thoughts. In an interview with a Germanreporter,he clearly stated similar opinions about Easternmusic. In his responseto the Germaninterviewerimplying that
the only thingthatthe Westwas nevercapableof understandingwas Easternmusic,
Ataturkstated that zthese [Easternmusic] are inheritedfrom the Byzantines.Our
In the same intergenuine music can be heard among the Anatolian people.<<32
stated
that
he
Turkish
for
don't
have
time
to
wait
four
hundredyears
view,
people
for theirmusic to reachto the level of Westernmusic.33This mechanisticapproach
to the musical development and the 'magicformula'proposed by Gokalpformed
the underlyingmechanismof the 'revolutions'accomplishedin the musicalsphere
in the founding years of the Republic.
Indeed, westernizationin the musicalspherewas far frombeing the sole concern of the Republicanera. Beginning from the Tanzimatperiod, there had been
many attempts to promote Westernmusic. The year 1826 is seen as the starting
point of tanzimatin music, in which Westernmusic was introduced to Ottoman
society.34It is interesting that the first westernizationmovement in music happened in the Army;in 1826Giuseppe Donizetti,brotherof the famous opera composer Gaetano,was invited to head the militaryband of Nizam-iCedid(the Army
of the New Order),which was founded by Selim III.Donizetti then taught at the
Palace Military Band School (SarayMizikaMektebi),which was founded in 1833
with the aim of trainingprospective musicians in the militaryband. This period
fundamentallyinfluenced the musical taste of the palace in which Donizetti and
his band gave performancesof western polyphonic music. Many famous musicians visited the Ottomanpalace during that period.35Anothersignificantdevelopment in this period was the gradualadoption of western-stylenotationalso for
music other than that of the Army Band.g6Although therewere many differences
30 In Turkish,the word halkactuallyconveys almost the same meaning with an emphasison a
common heritageas volkin Germandoes. The word folk means halkin Turkish,which comes from
Arabicand also has the meaning'to create'.It meanscommonpeopleor peasantsas well as the people
in general(in Latin,vulgus)and nation.It has also connotationsof peoples fromdifferentculturesand
historicalroots as in the word folks,halklar.

31Ibid., 127.

veMusiki:O'nunlaBirlikte,O'ndanSonra[Ataturkand Music:With
32A. AdnanSAYGUN,Ataturk
Him and After Him] (Ankara:Sevda CenapMuzikVakfiYayinlari:1,1987),9.
33Ibid.,43.
Sesleri,
Olgusu,in Cumhuriyetin
34BulentAKSOY,CumhuriyetDonemiMusikisindeFarklilasma
ed. by G. Pacaci(Istanbul:TarihVakfi,1999),30.
35 They included FranzLiszt,Luigi Arditi,August von Adelburg,HenriVieuxtemps.See Gonul
Sesleri,ed. by G. Pacaci(istanbul:TarihVakfi,
PACACI,CumhuriyetinSesli Seruveni,in:Cumhuriyetin
1999),10.
TheRiseof a SpontaneousSynthesis:TheHistoricalBackgroundof Turk36OrhanTEKELIOGLU,
ish PopularMusic,MiddleEasternStudies,Vol. 32, No. 1 (April1996):194-216,199.

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in the views of the sultans regardingWesternand Turkishmusic in the waning


periods of the OttomanEmpire,the words of SultanAbdulhamitIIarereallyinteresting:
music.Itmakesyou sleepy,andI
Totellthetruth,I amnotespeciallyfondof alaturka
AndshallI tellyousomeand
in
the
music,
particular operas operettas.
preferalafranga
aren'treallyTurkish.
Theywereborrowedfromthe
thing?Themodeswe callalaturka
Greeks,Persians,andArabs.37
Gokalpand AbdulhamitIIsharedalmostidenticalviews on this issue. Gokalp
also saw the Ottomanmusic tradition,which is based on alaturkaforms,as alien to
Turkishculture.It can have been expected thatGokalpwould rejectthose formsat
a time in which the remnantsof the OttomanEmpirewere rapidly declining,but
AbdulhamitII also tended to rejectthe music of the Ottomans,which had a tradition of almost five hundred years.
It can be concluded thatthe westernizationmovementin music in the waning
decades of the Ottoman Empire was similar to the reform movements in other
spheres,as they were actuallydesperateattemptsto clutchat the progressin western societies.It also sufferedfromthe eclecticismof the westernizationmovements
in the nineteenthcentury OttomanEmpire.Although the attemptsat westernization of music never meant any embodied transformationin the musical sphere,
they passed on a considerableheritageto the Republic.There were many musicians trainedin the musical schools of the OttomanEmpire,in which the curriculum was constituted on the basis of the principlesof Westernpolyphonic music.
Anothermajorcontributionwas the adoptionof the Western-stylenotationsystem.
The music of the Ottoman Empire is generally conceptualized in a duality
between the music of the people and the music of the palace.Justbeforethe establishment of the TurkishRepublic,music consisted largely of ClassicalTurkishArt
Music (transformedinto a more popularform- TurkishArt Music in the Republic period), which was composed and performedmainly for the palace circle,but
also heard in urbansettings;local traditionsof ruralfolk music which were multifarious to a great extent and listened to and performed among people in rural
areas (mostly unknown to the palace circles);and the music of the tarikats(religious or Sufi38orders) called tekke(lodge) music, which is anotherimportantcategory of music and a totally religious one.39
In order to createa nationalmusic and to get rid off Ottomaninstitutionsand
replace them with their Republicanequivalents, the TurkishRepublic began to
transformor to close down the musical institutions;even the ones which were
founded on the basis of Westernpolyphonicmusic. ThePalaceSymphonyOrches37Quoted in: ibid.,197.
TheArabesk
Debate:MusicandMusiciansin ModernTurkey(New York:OxfordUni38M. STOKES,

versity Press, 1992),36.


TheRiseofa Spontaneous
..., 197-98.
39 O. TEKELIOGLU,

58

K. DEGIRMENCI:
ON THEPURSUITOFA NATION,IRASM37 (2006)1, 47-65

tra, the only institution performingWestern music in the OttomanEmpire,was


closed down in 1924and replacedby the PresidentialMusicBand(RiyasetiCumhur
The traininginstitute,the PalaceMilitaryBandSchool (SarayMizikasi),
Orkestrasi).
was also closed and replacedby the School for Music Trainers(MusikiMuallimleri
Mektebi).Monophonic music education (Ottomanmusic) was banned in public
and private schools in 1927.40Lodges and cloisters(tekkeve zaviyeler),which were
the centersof tekkemusic, were also abolished.In 1934,artmusic was banned from
the radio stations for two years.41In order to establisha Westernmusical education and performance,Paul Hindemithwas invited by the governmentto head the
foundation of the AnkaraSchool of Music in 1935.42
Collection of music pieces, particularlyfrom the Anatolia region, played a
significantrole in the process of constructingthe discourse of Turkishfolk in the
musical sphere.43Gokalpstressed the importanceof collectingfolksongs to create
a nationalmusiccultureand indeedhe engagedin the activityof collectingfolksongs
in Diyarbakirand carriedout >>ethnographic
researchamong Arabs,Kurdish,and
Turkishtribes<and hoped >>toestablisha small museum of ethnographykthere.44
As early as in 1920,collectingactivitieswere institutionalizedunder the Bureauof
Culture (HarsDairesi)establishedby the Ministryof Education.In the same year,
Daru'lElhan(laterin 1926,the IstanbulConservatory)participatedin the activity
of collection. The Ministry of Educationassigned the Asal brothers,Seyfeddin
and Sezai, to collectfolk songs. Theircollectionof some hundredtunes fromWestern Anatolia, Yurdumuzun
Nagmeleri(Melodiesof our Country),was published in
1926.45Bela Bart6k was invited to Turkey to carry out a field trip to collect
folksongs.46IstanbulConservatory,with the advice and on the recommendations
40oO. TEKELIOGLU,
ModernizingReformsand TurkishMusicin the 1930s,TurkishStudies,Vol.
2, No.1 (Spring2001):93-109,95.
41 M. STOKES,
to hearmusicthatthey enjoyed<,people >>either
TheArabesk
Debate..., 36. >>Unable
turnedoff theirsets, ... or tuned in to Egyptianradio<<.
Ibid.,93.
42 Ibid.,38. Stokesalso mentionedthe opposingviews of Hindemithexpressinghis awarenessof the
problemsof this kind of musicalcolonialism.Hindemithbelievedthatthe solutionwas encouragingthe
studentsof musicto producethe musicthatpeoplewantedto hear.Aftersome work,he left Ankara.
All
43 In additionto collectingsongs, at this time, the Republicalso collectedpureTurkishwords.
this was happening within the background of the language purification movement. For more
informationsee one of the majorworks about this subject:Uriel HEYD,LanguageReformin Modern
Turkey(OrientalNotesandStudies)(Jerusalem:IsraelOrientalSociety,1954).
Instiin
of theFolklore
44Quoted in I. BASGOZ,FolkloreStudiesand Nationalism Turkey,Journal
tute,Vol. 9, No. 2/3 (August/December1972):162-176,166-167.BeforeGokalp,other intellectualsof
the time [RaufYektaBey (1915),Musa SureyyaBey (1915),Ahmet Cevdet, and Necip Asim (1916)]
stressedthe importanceof field researchorientatedto collectingfolksongs.SeeM. STOKES,TheArabesk

Debate ..., 34.

Music:ThePoliticalEconomy
(TheUniversityof Maryland;
45FezaTANSUG,Turkish
ofChange
Popular
Departmentof Music.UnpublishedPh. D. Dissertation,1999),39. Theauthoralso mentionsthe activeinvolvementof the StateConservatoryin Ankarain the collectionefforts,carryingout field researchfrom
1937to 1952.In thoseresearchprojects,abouteleventhousandrecordingsweremade.Ibid.,40.
TurkishFolkMusicfromAsiaMinor,ed.
46His collectionwas publishedas a book. BelaBARTOK,
By B. Suchoff(Princeton:PrincetonUP, 1976).

K. DEGIRMENCI:
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59

of Bart6k,collected 2000 folksongs, many of which were published between 1925


and 1935.47In the 1931-1951period, the Halkevleri(People's Houses), which were
government promoted associations,engaged mainly in the activity of collecting
folk songs.
Afterall these effortsto collectfolk songs, the main concernwas promotionof
the folk songs, which were then supposed to serve the aim of creatinga national
music. The idea was exactlythe synthesis firstproposedsystematicallyby Gokalp.
However, the period of the 1940s marked a general change in this attitude. The
songs were no longer seen as raw material;theiroriginalityconstitutedtheirvalue
as art.48With his radio programYurttanSesler(Voicesfromthe Homeland),started
in 1948,and his books, MustafaSarisozencontributedmuch to this understanding
and also to the leveling process, which tried to eliminate 'qualitative'differences
among forms of music belonging to various regions of Turkey.
Whathappenedto the differencesacrossand withinregions(supposedlyseven
regions) regardingthe musical structureand lyrics in those folksongs?The differences were preserved,even welcomed, but in a very typical modernistdiscourse.
Paradoxically,they are parts of the 'culturalmosaic' of a homogeneous Turkish
culture.If one way of delineatinga nationas a single body is constructinga homogeneous or integralculture,the other is renderingmore or less congruentthe different cultures in a given territory.They already have the same roots; the differences are toleratedin this way. The discourse of the 'mosaicof cultures'that has
gained popularityin contemporaryTurkey,seems to have roots in the traditionof
folklorestudies.
Ahmet Adnan Saygun, the most prominentfigure, both as a composer and
intellectual at that time, prepared a report entitled Pentatonicismin TurkishFolk
Music in 1936. The idea that Turkish folk music has a pentatonic structurehad
additionalimplicationsratherthan being merely a musicalanalysis.In actualfact,
Soviet ethnomusicology asserted that the modal structureshad derived from the
pentatonicstructureof folk music.49Saygun claimed that,togetherwith the musicologist Mahmud Ragip Gazimihal,he had found clues of pentatonicismin Turkish folk music. This feature was also intrinsic to the musical structureof Asian
Turks,the Turkswho lived behind the Urals, and Hungarianand Finnishpeople
as well. He investigatedthe expansionlines of pentatonicismin history.And interestingly, his main hypothesis was that there could be a relationshipbetween the
people living in the fields remote from the center of those expansion lines and
from Turkishness.50

47 I. BASGOZ,

Folklore Studies ..., 169.


48F. TANSUG, TurkishPopular ..., 40 and see M. STOKES, TheArabeskDebate ..., 40-41, for further

informationabout the developmentsat that time.


TheArabeskDebate..., 51. Stokesconsideredthe existenceof the idea in Turkeyas
49 M. STOKES,
a consequenceof Bart6k'sinfluence.
50

A. A. SAYGUN, Ataturkand Musiki ..., 47.

60

K. DEGIRMENCI:
ON THEPURSUITOFA NATION,IRASM37 (2006)1, 47-65

The process of constructinga cultural origin or heritage generally involves


two elements. One is eliminatingthe differencesand the other is reprocessingthe
'differences'in folk forms in order to define them as a part of an imagined entity.
Collectionsof folksongs and the political constructionof the discourse of Turkish
folk music from those 'inheritances'is an epitome of the second. Thousands of
variousmusic pieces collectedfromcertainregionsof Anatoliawere put under the
constructedcategoriesof the institutions.The standardizationand the categorization of folk forms in order to produce a 'safe' variety and difference involved,
among others, Turkificationof the lyrics and changing the rhythmicstructureof
the music in orderto adjustit to the invented lyrics.Ironically,in some cases, those
attemptsincludedchangingthe polyphonicstructureof the musicinto monophonic
structurein order to adjustit to the organizationalstructureof 'orchestra'at TRT
(TurkishRadioand Television).51The polyphonicstructureof the BlackSea music,
which canbe best performedwith the kemence
(a traditionalinstrument),was transformed into monophonic structure, which would otherwisehave been in conflict
with the orchestralstructureof the music performedat TRT,guided by the monoIn this process, changes in lyrics also accompaphonic instrument,the baglama.52
nied the changes in the rhythmicstructure.Therefore,the effectsand meanings of
a particularsong entirely changed with the transformationof the sound and the
lyrics.
Conclusionand SomeNotesfora FurtherStudy
Romanticismwas in a state of nostalgiain which the presentwas condemned
and the past idealized. Although there have been many similarattemptsby Turkish nationalismto identify folk culture in order to celebrateit as the national culture,those attemptshave been very much concernedwith the cultivationor refinement of that folk culture (althoughit is a genuinely nationalculture)in order to
elevate it to the level of the culture of Westerncivilization.In Romanticism,the
elementof purenessattributedto folk culturemade it directlysuperiorto the urban
or mass culture,which was seen as adulteratedby sweeping industrialization.Secondly, there was a combinationof Romanticismand the Enlightenmentregarding
the comprehensionof folk culture.Therewas idealizationas well as refinement,or
an urge to refinement,of folk culture.Thiswas very much relatedto the westernization ideal of the foundersof TurkishRepublic.Turkishculturewas to be seen as
inherentlywestern cultureor as capableof being a western culture.
of the musicalstructure,
51Fora keen explanationof those attemptsregardingthe transformation
Turkish
see M. STOKES,TheArabeskDebate..., Chapter3: 'Rule,System,andTechnique':
Reconstructing
FolkMusic.
52Ibid.,Chapter3.

K. DEGIRMENCI:
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61

Herder once stated:>>'People'


does not mean the rabblein the streets,which
never sings or creates but ratherscreams and mutilates true folk songs<<.3This
distinction between the 'rabblein the streets' and the genuine 'folk' has always
been a majorreferencein culturaldebatesin the historyof the Republic.The specter
of halkhaunts the culturalas well as political sphere. Complicatingthe issue, although the word halkdoes not have a primarymeaningof peasantsor people from
ruralareas,in the case of Turkishfolk (halk)music, the word has the definitemeaning of peasants or ruralpeople. Therefore,halkin the urbansphere has never been
sufficientlydefined from the aspect of culturalsignificance.
Any inquiryon the culturalsphereconsistentlyraisesthe same questionabout
cultural forms and their relations to the social and political realm:What is the
natureof the mutualrelationsbetweenthoserealms?Thisquestioninevitablybrings
forth the methodologicalissue; the way that we deal with culturalforms. Rather
than seeing various culturalforms categorically,any inquiryin the culturalrealm
should tacklethe issue with constantconsiderationof the floatingformsand meanings that are ostensibly essentialelements in culturalforms.Even when the transformationseems to be a qualitativeone, from folk music to a differentgenre, for
example, it can be ostensive. This is definitely true for the later developments in
Turkeyregardingthe position of Turkishfolk music. It certainlyhas not ceased to
exist; it has continued to exist in the form of folk music and in the form of other
music genres as well, like arabesk,or Turkishpopular (or 'pop') music." It has
passed its meanings or forms to other genres, a process which has strong roots in
politics. Another importantpoint is directlyrelatedto the peculiarityof the musical domain. As music accompaniesalmost all social practicesand the meaning in
music is transmittedby both language, lyrics, and musical features,such as patterns of rhythm and melody, it has a distinctive place among other folk forms.
Deconstructingthe discourses of authenticityand originality,which are the main
tenets in nationalistmodernistdiscourses,requiresan understandingof the music
by looking at the effects and meanings that people attachedto it.
Such a briefpanoramaof folk music in the earlyperiod of the TurkishRepublic revealsthe primaryimportanceattributedto the institutionalregulationsamong
other forms of political power. However, this fact never diminishes the significance of the symbolic power imposed on folk music. The categorizationand the
reprocessing of folk forms to eliminate difference are within the sphere of this
symbolic power. The engineering aspect of nationalismwas at the basis of that
transformationprocess, based mainly on institutions.Particularlyin a country in
which the formalpoliticaldomain was confinedto a single party,the politicalconstructionof culturewas based largelyon the predominanceof a single ideology, in
Quoted in J. STOREY,
InventingPopularCulture..., 4.
*3 This
point can be observedin the case of Arabesk.See M. STOKES,TheArabeskDebate...

62

K. DEGIRMENCI:
ON THEPURSUITOFA NATION,IRASM37 (2006)1, 47-65

this case, Kemalism.However, this study shall suppose thatthis period also refers
to an alternativemethodologicalpoint regardingthe relationbetween politics and
culture, along with the definition of politics within the culturalsphere. The total
exclusion of ClassicalTurkishArt Music and tekkemusic from the public sphere
engendered particularresistance forms. One of these resistanceforms was Nota
Magazine (the first issue was published in 1930);its main aim was proposing a
new idea of synthesis that definitely opposed the projectof sudden change in the
music of the Republicelites.55Anothermajor development,which can be counted
among those resistanceforms, was that the tekkemusicians,afterthe abolishment
of tekkes,played the leading role in creatingpopularmusic formsin urbanspaces.56
These resistanceforms challengedthe classicalperspectiveregardingthe relation
between politics and culture,which mainly depends on macropoliticsand institutional regulations within that sphere. All those attempts,though seemingly cultural, include political discourses within themselves.Therefore,the popularreaction to the banning of Turkish monophonic music in radio broadcasts,as mentioned in the paper, led to later developments that can be interpretedas the result
of this 'political'attitude.Thus,this understandingof the relationbetween culture
and politics also has significantimplicationsfor the domain of popular culture.It
is no longer a mass productionof culturalforms:it can be interpretedas a source
for politicalresistance.Everyculturalformis a compositionof meanings,aesthetic
traditions,and messages, which togetherreferto a politicaldiscourse.In its chase
for hegemony, any politicalstrategyappropriatesdifferentelements fromvarious
culturalforms,removes them fromtheircontextsand reprocessesthem in the new
contexts.The constructionof Turkishfolk music is an epitome of this process.

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37(2006)1,47-65
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65

Satetak
NARODAI FOLKLORNE
GLAZBEU
U POTRAZIZA NACIJOM:KONSTRUKCIJA
OSNIVACKIMDESETLJE(IMA
TURSKEREPUBLIKE
U elankuse
kulturnapovijestturskefolklorneglazbe s posebnimnaglaskom
istra.uje
na glazbene reforme
su
koje poduzete nakonustanovljenjaTurskerepublike(1923).Eliteu
Republicitragalesu za raznimmodelima (osobitoza modelimaistoCnoeuropskihzemalja)
i pozivale mnogobrojnepoznate glazbenike, ukljueujudii Belu Bart6ka,s namjeromda
pozapadnjaCetursku folklornuglazbu.ito se dogodilo s drugim glazbenimtradicijamau
Turskojkoje su bile proizvodi multikulturne i viSevjerskepopulacije koja je 2ivjela u
Otomanskomcarstvu?U tim glazbenim reformamabio je na djelu drugtveniin2enjering
kojise nadahnjivaoProsvjetiteljstvomu namjerida konstruiraprimjerenustrukturukojabi
se sastojalaod stanovnigtvas razli6itimi mnogobrojnimkulturnimi vjerskimkorijenima.
Razlike su ostale satuvane, bile su oak dobrodoSle,ali u vrlo tipitnom modernistiCkom
diskursu koji djelujena specificanna6inprepredenimuklanjanjemrazlika.Smatraloih se
dijelom 'kulturnog mozaika' harmonikneturske kulture. Ako je jedan natin ocrtavanja
jedinstvenogtijelanacijekonstruiranjehomogeneili integralnekulture,onda je drugi natin
davanjevede ili manjeprimjerenostirazli6itimkulturamana odredenomteritoriju.Zbirka
glazbenihkomadaiz Anatolijebila je standardizirana,tekstovisu bili prevedenina turskii,
Stoje paradoksalno,izvorniviseglasnikomadipretvorenisu u monodijske.Clanakse takoder
bavi diskursom osnivaCkihelita o narodu, koji je u velikoj mjeri pridonio stvaranjute
primjerenestruktureu podrudjuglazbe.Suprotnood politiCkihideala osnivatkih kadrova,
koje su uglavnom oblikovala natela Prosvjetiteljstva,njihov pojam o narodu spoj je
romantitkei prosvjetiteljskemisli.