Through the centuries, Turkish
artist and artisans have developed styles of art
that are uniquely Turkish.
Forbidden by Islam to portray human and animal
forms in art, early Turkish artists turned their
creative talents to architecture, music, poetry,
weaving, wood and metal working, ceramics, glassblowing,
jewelry, manuscript illumination and calligraphy.
Today a new flouring of Turkish art and culture
is taking place in Turkey.
Turkey has a very ancient folk dance tradition
which varies from region to region, each dance
being colorful, rhythmic, elegant and styles.
Among the most popular are "Çayda Çira"
from the Sivas region in Central Anatolia. This
is performed by young girls dressed in silver
and gold embroidered kaftans who dance in the
dark with lighted candles in their hands; "Silifke
yogurdu" from the Mersin region in the South
in which dancers click wooden spoons together
above their heads; "Seyh Samil" from
the Kars region in the East, a beautifully dramatized
legend of a Caucasian hero; "Kiliç Kalkan",
an epic dance performed with swords and shields
from the region Bursa; "Zeybek" from
Izmir, another epic and vigorous dance performed
by male dancers who bang their knees on the floor
in between steps. Folklore has also had a considerable
influence on ballet. First imported from Europe
and Russia, ballet became institutionalized in
the Republican era along with other performing
arts. The Turkish State Ballet owes its momentum
and development to
the great British choreographer Dame Ninette de
Valois. The State
Ballet in both Ankara and Istanbul
has, for decades, performed many world classics.
Several new foreign and Turkish productions have
been introduced into the repertory over the years
and a number of modern dance companies have begun
to give performances throughout the country.
Turkish music evolved from the original folk
form into classical through the emergence of a
Palace culture. It attained its highest point
in the 16th century through the composer known
as Itri. Great names in Turkish classical music
include Dede Efendi, Haci Arif Bey and Tamburi
Cemal Bey. It is a form that continues to be professionally
performed and one that attracts large audiences.
Turkish popular music is a variation of the national
musical tradition, played with instruments such
as the tambur, kanun, ney and ud. Folk music has
developed gradually over the centuries in the
rural areas of Turkey. It is highly diversified
with many different rhythms and themes. Musical
archives contain almost 10,000 such folk songs.
Turkish religious music, mostly in the form of
songs, is centuries old and rich in tradition,
embodied at its most perfect by Mevlevi music.
The Turks were introduced to western classical
music through orchestras which were invited to
the Sultan's Palace to celebrate occasions such
as weddings. The great Italian composer, Donizetti,
conducted the Palace orchestra for many years.
The first military band was founded in the 19th
During the Republican era, the Presidential Symphony
Orchestra, founded in 1924, and the Orchestra
of the Istanbul Municipality Conservatory, played
a leading role in introducing and popularizing
classical music in Turkey. Turkish composers drew
their inspiration from Turkish folk songs and
classical Turkish music. Today, conductors such
as Hikmet Simsek and Gürer Aykal, pianists like
Idil Biret and the Güher and Süher Pekinel sisters,
and violinists like Suna Kan are internationally
recognized virtuosos. Leyla Gencer is one of the
leading sopranos of La Scala Opera, wildly acclaimed
whenever she performs in her native Istanbul.