The Prohibition of Turkish Music


Turkish music was prohibited for the radios because of a misunderstanding of Atatürk ‘s words “This music is far from expressing our enthusiasm" after listening to a bad music group in Sarayburnu”.

In this respect Vasfi Rıza Zobu told the following.

“The Turkish music coming from the centuries generation by generation had reached a proper level in Istanbul. But there has always been a contest to refuse the existence of Turkish music. Owing to existence of this quarrel Atatürk had prohibited Turkish music from his dinners. Neither would he sing nor would he ask someone else to sing. I do not remember how long had past since information had been passed on by Muhittin Üstündağ, the governor of the İstanbul. He told me to go to Ankara by night train, I had been invited to the mansion.

The day after I arrived in Ankara, I informed the mansion that I was there. It was nearly evening when the young man came to the hotel and told me he had been ordered to take me to the mansion.

After arriving at the mansion I saw him talking to important persons and some other Generals. I kissed his hand and received his complement of welcome.

It was evening, time for dinner; many hours had passed at the table. He did not seem to be cheerful. Generally, we were at this table with Mr. Hazım. Atatürk liked joking with us whether Hazım was there or not, but tonight he was not willing to do anything of the sort.

It was past midnight. Suddenly, I heard his voice call my name and I said:

“Yes, sir”

-If you remember, at the beginning of a performance you sang a song. What was the name of that song.

-I remember sir. It was a Mollier’s comedy “Mürai” adapted by little Kemal.

-It was a nice piece of work.

-Yes it was sir. It was a successful adaptation.

-No, I did not mean the play by the way it was nice too. But I meant the fairy of the composition.

Why should ı tell you a lie. I shied. For the first time I hesitated to reply to a question. I knew that he was opposed to Turkish music. If I agree with him and say yes, maybe he wants to know what I think about him. If I said no, I would refuse the beauty of the composition. It is not possible he would not pervieve that that as a lie.

-Don't you remember?

-Yes, I remember, sir. Dellalzade İsmail Efendi’s... I could not complete the sentence.

-No I was asking about the composition. Don’t you remember? Is it not in your mind? Won’t you sing it?

-Yes it is in my mind I can sing it, sir.

Not just me but everybody around the table was surprised. I trusted in God, I prepared myself in my seat, I started the song with all my talent and I finished covered with sweat.

There was no movement on the Atatürk’s side, therefore everyone was looking in front of themselves with guilt and waiting for what he would say.

Later on,

- What a pity. They understood my words wrongly. What a nice composition this is. You are, too. But is it possible to be pleased for a European by that song. I meant to find out a way to have them listen to these songs that we like so much. No matter whether by playing with their instruments or with their orchestra. Let’s make the Turkish music an international music. I did not mean to get rid of the Turkish melodies. Just listen to their music. They understood erroneously. They kicked up such a row that I could not say anything about it later.

At night, although Turkish music was prohibited, Mr. Yunus Nadi made a request to Atatürk.

- My pasha please won’t let us to be deprived of Turkish music songs (Alla-Turca songs) we can be injured deeply when our feelings are interfered with.

Atatürk replied to him:

- I'd like too. But a generation who has carried out the revolution must endured troubles, deprivation, and self-sacrifices. But we must attribute our culture its value.

These words of Atatürk showed us obviously that the prohibition of Turkish music was not meant as complete prohibition on the radio.

As I told you before, Atatürk was yearning for a Turkish music in western style and performed well. That yearning ceased with his asking for that song of Vasfi Rıza Zobu. At once he said so:

- What is wrong with that radio, always crying and groaning songs are on?

- Would it be possible for a person listening them to start a day with freshness and vigorously.

Atatürk was completely right in that.

If you listen to these sighing groaning songs early in the morning it won’t be possible for you start the day fresh and vigorously.

At one night he asked for the song of “Manastırın ortasında var bir havuz” (there is a pool in the middle of the Monastry) from the Presidency Orchestra.

His friend Mr. Nuri Conker from his childhood and youth said:

- You prohibited Turkish music on the radio, won’t let your self listen them either.

Atatürk’s answer is here:

- Now we are drinking raki here, would it be approvable to open the pubs by government all around the country? We were not to be able to free ourselves from our bad habits. But we have no right to transmit them to our future generations. For example we cannot open hashish cafes if the people have got such habits. We cannot broadcast crying, groaning songs from the state radio.