785) Classical Turkish instruments voiced hymns and songs in Ladino, Armenian and Turkish

Last week there was a Classical Performance Ensemble Concert at Istanbul's Ataturk Culture Center, organized by the Greater Istanbul Municipality. Jewish, Christian and Muslim choirs accompanied by classical Turkish instruments voiced hymns and songs in Ladino, Armenian and Turkish. The Sema (the dance of the whirling dervishes) and Semah (the religious folk dance of the Alevis) performances, albeit with only four dancers per performance, made the concert more colorful.

Reflecting the glorious and multinational, multifaith past of Istanbul, the concert was in the Turkish makams. The makam system is a set of compositional rules by which the melodic component of a piece of music is realized. The closest counterpart to it in Western music would be the medieval mode. Armenians, Greeks and Jews contributed a great deal to Turkish music and its makam system.

The performance took almost everyone in the audience in the concert hall to more sentimental worlds and different horizons. A very sorrowful hymn named "Hasta Zaman" (Ailing Times) in Armenian gathered a lot of applause and made people think about the conditions we have been living in. I think because of the inhumane conditions we face, "today" should be called "ailing times." The minister of tourism and the mayor of Istanbul were among the audience.
The performance was quite wonderful and I would like to describe it in more detail. However, since a written program was not presented to the audience, I am not able to do so.

The concert was something that we always wish to have. In this rotten world, when some of the politicians of major religions have been teaching hatred against others, this concert was an April shower, purifying souls. It reminds us that as people of different races and religions we have lived together for centuries and we share many things in common, including music. Unfortunately, we had ailing times; we had catastrophes in the past. Yet, still we are shoulder to shoulder singing songs. We are and will be together, that's for sure.

The Greater Istanbul Municipality should organize these kinds of musical performances for not only full-house audiences, but for all the Turkish public. I believe that there are many people in this country who want to hear Armenian or Greek songs in makams that they are accustomed to listening or singing.

Recep Guvelioglu

19 June 2006


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