Another week and another Rhythm Through Diversity, a fun musical trivia section on Metronome Online, where we explore music and dance through the development of cultural and social etiquette, history, and background of people in diverse communities. The cultures around the world showcase many different musical forms and this week we will explore the ‘Turkish makam’, a system of melodies in Turkish Classical and Turkish folk music.

There are many makams (maqams) found in cultures of the Middle East (Turkish and Arabic music), with links to ‘echos’ in Byzantine music. The origins are found in Iraq, but more ancient modal relatives can be found in Central Asian music of Uyghur (muqam) and Uzbek (shashmakom) background. The Turkish makam system suggests having an octave divided into 53 equal intervals, which we call commas. There are 9 commas in a traditional Western music whole tone. A word often used to describe this system of melodies is maqamat, which is plural for maqam (makam).

The Turkish makam system suggests having an octave divided into 53 equal intervals!

Turkish makam consists of a tetrachord superimposed over a pentachord, or the other way around. There are 6 basic tetrachords, taking name of the tonic note (the central note), or another important note in the system. These are: Çârgâh, Bûselik, Kürdî, Uşşâk, Hicaz and Rast.  The tetrachords, along with their namesake pentachords, can be moved around to any note, with all other notes then transposing accordingly, keeping the same relationships.

While theory is great, listening to a master play is even better. Let’s check out Udi Hrant Kenkulian, as he plays his oud in a piece called Rampi Rampi.