We are delighted to present a special issue dedicated to Martin Stokes. Aside from his importance for the field of musicology, his specific studies on Turkish music are the main reason we chose him and his works for this special issue.

Prof. Stokes first came to Turkey for field research as a student from the Anthropology Department at Oxford University in the 1980’s. Ever since then, he has never cut his ties with Turkish music and Turkey. As an anthropologist and ethnomusicologist, he has carried out much field research and published the data obtained from these studies.

The article entitled ‘Hazelnuts and Lutes’ is a pioneering study for the research on musical culture in the Eastern Black Sea region of Turkey. Stokes examines the musical culture of the area from original perspectives, looking at the relationship between economy and music. Stokes highlights farming hazelnuts as the main economic activity, and discusses musical life in relation to it.

In 1992, he published the seminal work, The Arabesk Debate: Music and Musicians in Modern Turkey. This book is among the pioneering works on this issue. In it Stokes examines the different facets of the arabesk phenomenon, considering its historical and sociological perspectives. He carries out a sociological analysis of the period’s musical life of the 1980s, a period of rapid changes for Turkish society, by looking into the historical and social origins of this music genre. He also examines the interaction between Arabesk and social classes, focussing on the relationship between rapid urbanisation and music. In addition to this, he explores other phenomena such as arabesk and economy, arabesk and arabesk musicians in the culture industry.
In 1994, Stokes published an article that was appreciated by the musicology community all over the world. This article was the introduction to Ethnicity, Identity and Music: The Musical Construction of Place. Here, Stokes emphasizes three phenomena: the formation of identity, music and place. He underlines the transitive interaction between these three phenomena.

After these works, Stokes investigated other phenomena of Turkish musical life in the book The Republic of Love: Cultural Intimicy in Popular Music, published in 2010. Stokes examines the interaction between Turkish maqam Music, arabesk and pop music in this work. He scrutinized this phenomenon examining examples of the musical life of three important musicians of Turkish music history. These are Zeki Müren, Orhan Gencebay and Sezen Aksu. Stokes considers a large time-span of Turkish Music, ranging from the 1950’s to 1990’s. He examines their role in Turkey’s culture industry, the evolution of their music in time, and the relationship between this process and the economic and political changes of Turkey during that period.

Additionally, Stokes mentiones the queer music scene of Turkey by focussing on the specific example of Zeki Müren. Stokes also published another article about this issue. You will find a detailed review of the book, written by Şeyma Ersoy Çak, in this issue.

In addition to these publications, Stokes directed his interest towards different issues such as globalisation and music, the history of ethnomusicological works in the Middle East and diasporas and music.

We invited a number of respected colleagues to contribute and many of them accepted. After a meticulous editorial process, we present this to you. We would like to say something here regarding the content of the articles.

As you will see, two of our colleagues prepared reviews of some of Stokes’ major publications. These colleagues are Namık Sinan Turan and Şeyma Ersoy Çak.

This issue consists of specially written articles written by academics working on areas close to the centre of Stokes’ research. Although these individuals were invited by our editorial board, Stokes also suggested some colleagues as contributors. After a long process, ten articles  were chosen.

One of the most important contributions is that of Owen Wright. Prof. Wright follows the traces of Iranian Music in the work of three individuals. Two of them were travellers, Chardin and Kaempfer, who spent some years in Iran during the second half of the 17th century. The other is Jean Benjamin De Laborde. De Laborde was not a traveller, but gave extensive information about Iranian music in an encyclopaedia chapter entitled “De la Musique des Persans & des Turcs”. Unlike Chardin and Kampfer’ accounts, De Laorde’s work was text-based.
Wright examines three main aspects: observations on music heard, instruments, and theoretical descriptions. Additionally, he addresses the social context of these phenomena in the light of these observations. In particular, the part related to music theory presents some new and interesting data for colleagues working in the field. In addition, Wright briefly mentions remarks concerning music made by other travellers to Iran such as Cornelius Le Brun (1652-1726), Michele Membré (1509-94) and Adam Olearius (1603-71).

Another valuable researcher, Rachel Harris has contributed to this issue with an article entitled “Text and Performance in the Hikmät of Khoja Ahmad Yasawi”. She provides very important information about the musical form of hikmat among the Uyghur communities of Xinjiang. The hikmat are verses from the Diwan-ı Hikmat, an important Sufi book attributed to Khodja Ahad Yasawi. Harris shares valuable data about the performance of hikmat in mourning and healing ceremonies, based on her observations and other sources. Additionally, she traces to the role of the hikmat in Uygur society of Xinjiang. She also explores their melodic aspects. Finally, she mentiones their performance among the Uyghur diaspora.

Jonathan Shannon has also contributed to this issue with a highly interesting article entitled ¨From Silence into Song: Affective Horizons and Nostalgic Dwelling among Syrian Musicians in Istanbul¨ This article begins with the story of his Syrian musician friend Abdu Karim. When Jonathan Shannon met him, he learned that he had not sung since he was forced to emigrate to Turkey. At the time of the interview, he had been in Turkey for over a year. When he asked for the reason, Abdu Karim said he was not in the mood for singing.

But after two years, Dr. Shannon heard that Abdu Karim had started to sing again. When they met again in Istanbul, Shannon saw that Abdu Karim’s musical taste and ear had returned but his musical vision had taken shape according to his new living conditions. For instance, when they listened to a Turkish ney player he used the Turkish word hüzün instead of the Arabic huzn.

In this essay, he analyzes the phenomenon of Syrian musicians turning silence into song again, as in the case of Abdu Karim. In this context, he examines the re-contextualization and reformation of music in an immigrant musician’s new living space. The questions he posed were as follows:
“What roles might music play in how Syrians like Abu Karim navigate new socio-economic, political, moral and affective terrains in Istanbul? How might music serve as a source of comfort and nostalgic remembrance in conditions of displacement, or even as a touchstone for contestation over collective memory and the meanings of belonging?¨

In addition to these issues, he examines the role of music in the promotion of a transnational identity. This article not only contains very valuable information about these issues but it also provides important data about the musical life of Syrian musicians in Istanbul and their musical understanding that had changed due to their new situation.

The other article is entitled, ‘Music and the political: a dialogue with Martin Stokes.’ The author of this article is Dafni Tragaki. Tragaki traces Stokes’ ideas about the political aspects of music and musical phenomena and components. In the first question, the author discusses with Stokes his view about phenomena such as post-theoreticism, trans-disciplinarity and their position in the discipline of ethnomusicology. Stokes eloquently answers this question referring to the changing theoretical structures of ethnomusicology. Particularly interesting is his idea about the dialectic between what he refers to as ethnomusicologists’ “local concerns” and “metropolitan theory”.

In this interview, Tragaki and Stokes further emphasize other terms regarding politics and music such as musical cosmopolitanism, sentimentalist theory and sentimentalist theorizing. In addition to these, Tragaki dedicates space to Stokes’ important book The Republic of Love. In this interview, Tragaki asks questions about how Stokes explored political phenomena such as authoritarianism or political change in the experience of love (love song). One observation is particularly significant: it is not hard to see the political potency of love song in this broad theoretical and historical context.

Another remarkable contribution to this issue is the heartwarming interview by Fırat Kutluk. Firstly, Kutluk askes Stokes about the expression ‘the musical citizen’ , tracing the idea back to ancient Greece where ¨a good music produces good citizens¨. Kutluk explores the current situation in the UK in this light.

Kutluk quotes from Stokes’ work and he askes whether he thought Western societies were still concerned about good music needing to be in the hands of the right people. Stokes offers valuable thoughts about British music policy and the changing vision of British elites and decision makers concerning music policy in his answer.

Another question begins with the statement that musical preference can be the criterion of a being good citizen. Martin Stokes emphasizes the current situation of the UK’s education system and gives some examples of how music contributes to debates about citizenship in the UK System.

Kutluk further mentions Stokes’ aforementioned major works, The Arabesk Debate and The Republic of Love and he asks him what other changes he had noticed in Turkish musical life, beyond those described in these books? Could he describe the main features of this change? Stokes answers this question by referring to the period of social change during the military coups and the chaos of the 1970s and the emerging neoliberal order in 1980s.

The interview has a friendly tone especially towards the end of the article. Stokes mentioned how his Turkish music interest began. In the last part of the text, he shares a beautiful reflection about his journey that is part of the title of this article as well; ¨It turned a youthful adventure into a lifelong project, lifelong learning¨.

In addition to all of these issues, you will find Stokes’ answers to questions about cultural intimacy, the role of music in the handling of mid-life crisis, change of musical taste over the years (for Stokes) and musical censorship in the UK.

Our colleague Şeyma Ersoy Çak contributes to this project with an article entitled ¨The Development Process of Ethnomusicology Discipline, Preliminary Studies Carried Out In Turkey And Examination of Martin Stokes’ Research On Popular Music.¨ Dr. Çak firstly provides information about the foundation of the discipline of comparative musicology in the world in the 19th century. Afterwards, Çak explained how this discipline transformed into ethnomusicology after the 1950’s.

Çak also mentiones pioneering studies regarding ethnomusicology and musical folklore in the late Ottoman and early Turkish Republic periods. Additionally, she referred to the work of some important scholars (who have researched Turkish Musical folklore), such as Mahmut Ragıp Gazimihal, Halil Bedi Yönetken, Bela Bartok, Ursula and Kurt Reinhard, and Irene Markoff.

In addition to that, she directly discussed Stokes’ academic individuality and his works about Turkish popular music. In her article, she described Stokes as the first European ethnomusicologist who focused his work (in the areas of anthropology and ethnomusicology) on Middle Eastern popular music, explained Arabesk’s musical statement based on its cultural base, and examined the reflection of socio-cultural and musical elements on Turkish popular music.

After discussing Stokes’ work in the general area of Turkish Music , she exhaustively investigates Stokes’ two books, The Arabesk Debate and The Republic of Love. Unlike the other colleagues who have examined these books, she specifically scrutinizes the theoretical framework of these works.

Another important article in this issue is the one written by the musicologist Ulaş Özdemir. This article is entitled “Authority of notation, notation of authority: deconstruction of notation-centered official folk music in Turkey”. At the beginning of the article, Özdemir focuses on the phenomenon of authority. He gives various definitions of authority made by different social scientists such as Weber, Focault and Arendt. Then he gives information about deconstructivism that is one of the main aspects of postmodernism and an approach to understanding the relationship between text and meaning originated by Jacques Derrida.

Özdemir also traces the phenomenon of folk from the same theoretical sources and the role of authority defining what is ‘folk’ and what belongs to the folk. After referring to the pioneering work of important academics, he shares his own idea relating to how folk music is associated with the village life and the role of official authorities.

He then moves on to the role of folk music collecting tours, the creation of a principle of authority in folk music studies. Then, discusses the use of notation in Turkish folk music as an instrument of official Turkish music authority. Additionally, he traces the authority of Western notation from late Ottoman to early Republic eras. He examines how the use of notation affects the classical Ottoman music education system (meşk) and how it caused the simplification of Turkish repertoire.

He also focuses in his study on authenticity and authentic performance phenomena. Ozdemir provides valuable information about the effect of notation on the authenticity of Turkish folk music. In addition to this, he discusses how notation-centred Turkish folk music came to be and how the TRT became its main institution.

In the final section, he examines these issues from the perspective of deconstructivism and tries to detect the contradictions that characterize notation-centered Turkish folk music.

Another contributor of this issue is Özlem Doğuş Varlı. Her article is entitled, “On The Ethnomusicologist’s Symbolic Organisation of Time and Space: What If Ali’s Casette Player Was Destroyed?”. At the beginning of the article, she briefly mentions Stokes’ works and publications, the importance of these works for Turkish music, and the discipline of ethnomusicology. Following this, she mentions his research in Turkey. She especially focuses on his work in Eastern Black sea valleys. She scrutinises Stokes’ article entitled, “Hazelnut and Lutes”. She mentions how Stokes analysed the relationship between musical and economic aspects and how economic changes and migration affect musical life as a cultural aspect. According to him, after changes in economic situations and the beginning of migration from Eastern Black sea to different cities of Turkey and to foreign countries, musical life and the culture of music changed. Stokes analysed this issue using the case study of Ali’s tape. He stated that after many people moved to different places, especially Germany, many tapes were gifted to relatives and friends. Afterward, amateur recording by tapes became common habit. These recordings had important role for transportation and transmission of music as a cultural aspect. The destruction of Ali’s tape was shown as the reason this process may have stopped. Varlı scrutinises all of these statements of Stokes with the help of some theories in the social sciences, such as transnational culture and cultural transmission.

The other article of this special issue is entitled “The Impact of Turkish Orientalism on the Arabesk Debate: Self Orientalism, Occidentalist Fantasy and Arabesk Music”. The writer of this article is Onur Güneş Ayas.

Firstly, Ayas draws attention to the different understandings of arabesk among the Turkish elites and intellectuals on the one side and the artists, the producers and audiences of arabesk on the other side. Although intellectual critics drew attention to the sociological and political aspects of arabesk music and the Arabic musical elements in it, the other group does not show interest towards these issues. They never consider themselves as musicians playing Arabic music. Ayas’ thesis is constructed on the idea that self-orientalism is one of the important reasons behind this state of affairs.

In this section, he discussed orientalism and self-orientalism. He referred to some of the leading social theorists on the issue, such as Arif Dirlik. Ayas especially focused on how orientalists define the non-Western world as ‘the other’ and how self-orientalists of the non-Western world internalized this discourse and defined their own cultures according to the Eastern image that was built by Orientalists.

Additionally, he refers to an important passage from Dirlik regarding the reason why orientalists need self-orientalism. ¨Orientalism requires participation and the complicity of ¨Orientals¨ for its legitimation and hegemony. ¨ Ayas mentiones the existence of self-orientalism in the Ottoman and early Republican modernizers, adding that this can be named ‘Turkish orientalism’ since it has some distinctive aspects.

Afterwards, he explores the main aspects of Turkish-orientalism and its history. He highlightes that, interestingly, the reaction of the Westernizing elites to Alaturka music (Ottoman maqam music) in the early Republican period was almost the same as the reactions of some Westernized elites to arabesk in the 1980’s. The main reason for this reaction is that they thought both of these music genres contained Oriental/Arabic elements. Arabic culture was related to degeneration and primitivity in their world view. That is why the Westernized elites who were also Turkish nationalists never opposed external Western elements in Turkish pop music but fundamentally opposed arabesk music. They identified arabesk music with degeneration, primitivity and evil foreign intrusion.

Following this, Ayas examines Turkish orientalism as an unique combination of Westernism and Turkish nationalism which saw the oriental elements in Turkish culture as foreign intrusions and defined a Westernized Turkish image for the ideal citizen of the Republic. He also analyses how this approach was reflected in the arabesk debate.
Another critique on the part of Ayas is that nearly all the studies about Arabesk Music are based on sociological and political analyses. According to him, Martin Stokes is the first researcher who focused on the musical aspects of the Arabesk music.

In ‘The Arabesk as the Object of the Self-orientalist discourse’, he primarily addresses the discourse that associated arabesk music with the problematic aspects of Eastern culture (according to self-orientalists) such as sadness, obedience unquestioning, laziness, and so on.

In the section entitled, ‘Turkish Music, Arabic Music and the Arabesk’, he states that identifying Arabesk with Arabic music is not so reliable statement. Although this genre draws from Arabic Music, it is mainly built on elements from Turkish Folk and Maqam music. The denial of the relationship between Arabic music and arabesk by nearly all of Arbesque performers supports Ayas’ statement. Additionally, there is no arabesk performer that has an Arabic music background. On the contrary, nearly all of them have Turkish folk or art music background.

In the conclusion, Ayas mentiones the historical evolution of arabesk music and the relationship between this genre and various political conjunctures. Additionally, he analyzes both positive and negative discourses on arabesk from a critical perspective and argues that the pro-arabesk ideas were based on some versions of self-orientalism too.

The last article of this issue is entitled ¨An old peşrev living in the “piyasa”: Kanbos Nazîresi¨ , by Mehmet Uğur Ekinci. Ekinci focuses on the Kambos naziresi that is one of the most well-known Ottoman Peşrevs in Uşşak makam. This peşrev is nearly 250 years old but after the begining of the 20th century it could not find place for itself in the classical Ottoman repertoire. It was instead generally played during performances that were referred to as piyasa music. The interesting point here is that when the peşrev was composed, there was no phenomenon such as piyasa music.

By examining the historical trajectory of this peşrev from various primary sources, Ekinci reaches some conclusions about the transmission and performance of Ottoman-Turkish music. These conclusions not only make us more sceptical of the categorical boundaries between the “classical” and “piyasa” styles of performance, but also provide clues for a better understanding of their similarities and differences. They also underline the difficulty of finding an overall and rational explanation as to why a musical piece is favoured in a musical setting.

Finally, we hope that this issue, the result of hard and meticulous work for the purpose of publication, will be useful to those who are perhaps unfamiliar with Stokes work, but who are working in related scientific areas.


Persian perspectives: Chardin, De la Borde, Kaempfer

Owen Wright

2050-2083 |

Text and Performance in the Hikmät of Khoja Ahmad Yasawi

Rachel Harris

2152-2168 |

Music and the political: a dialogue with Martin Stokes

Dafni Tragaki, Martin Stokes

2181-2186 |

A contribution for pedigree of the Arabesk

Namık Sinan Turan

2149-2151 |

An old peşrev living in the “piyasa”: Kanbos Nazîresi

Mehmet Uğur Ekinci

2212-2233 |