Music with Personality

Yavuz Celep
7 minutes

Music genres have their own characters, their own limits, their own rights and wrongs. Dreamer, adventurous, energetic, dignified… Sometimes we take refuge in the music of whoever we want to be. We listen to the music that we believe reflects the character we want to take on. In this sense, it would not be wrong to say that music is a means of alignment and shaping for human beings.

Like music genres, the more than 500 maqams in Turkish music have their own unique character. If I try to explain these characteristics in technical terms, we may not be able to get out of it. But let’s take a journey with you through the maqams and I will share with you which maqam resembles what kind of a person I am through a few maqams. You can find a song in the relevant makam and listen to it while reading the article…

Come on, first of all, please come to the Uşşak table. Uşşak is the Love makam of our music. It is the plural of the word lover. For this reason, it is the station of the ascetics. But it is important to note that the Uşşak maqam does not create a melancholism that would push people into depression, despair and pessimism. As you listen, love increases, as love increases, gratitude increases, enthusiasm increases, joy increases. It makes you smile with pleasure. It brings the lover closer to his beloved. It is true, the path of love is bloody. Because there is no duality on that path. One cannot be attached both to the beloved and to other things. On that path, everything except the beloved is renounced. Everything sacrificed for the sake of the beloved brings the lover one step closer to the beloved. The Uşşak maqam takes you on such journeys and gives you a taste of the pleasures to be taken during these journeys.

Our next makam is Ferahfezâ: Imagine such a person who is always smiling, always cheerful, who keeps his heart away from all the negativity of the world, who interprets everything he sees with wisdom, and who always spreads joy and happiness to those around him. Of course, he also experienced hardships. But he is so conscious of looking at the universe in a positive way that he breathes in and out with the realization that there is a grace behind every grace. This is the human form of the makam of Ferahfezâ, one of the most prominent makam of our music. Ferahfezâ means one who increases freshness. It’s a makam that really increases refreshment as you listen to it. Can it be possible for the one who becomes more spacious not to spread spaciousness to others?

Speaking of joy, let’s move on to Nihavend, another maqam of joy. Nihavend people are also joyful and attract everyone with their spiritual beauty and energy. But for all their joy, there is a hidden sadness deep inside these people. It is a sweet sadness, it does not tire them, but they do not show it to anyone. Therefore, they are a bit lonely in crowds. Nihavend maqam is just like such a person. It brings joy to the listener, refreshes the heart, gives hope and energy. But behind all this joy, there is also a light and sweet sadness in this makam. In other words, while listening to some works in the Nihâvend makam, you may also be the guest of a subtle sadness that goes hand in hand with joy. There is a saying attributed to Halil Cibran; “Man hangs between sadness and joy.” Nihavend maqam can keep you hanging in such a place. Of course, this may be related to the intensity of Love in our hearts…

Our next maqam will be Shevkefzâ. If I had to describe the station of Shevkefzâ through a human being, I would probably say the following: A person who has a desire, a wish, first cries out with great love, shouts out his wish violently and steadily, then, realizing that the only recourse is to the divine level, slowly makes his way to the spiritual realms, and finally, having received what he wants from those realms, he retreats back to his corner in a joyful and dignified manner. As the proverbial saying goes, you don’t give breast to a baby that doesn’t cry, Shevkefzâ is a noisy, determined but peaceful person…

We have a 500-year-old office. It’s called Bestenigâr. It means “that which binds to the beautiful”, “that which is bound to the beautiful”. Bestenigâr is an otherworldly makam. When you listen to the morning call to prayer, it is like feeling that you are on your way to spiritual realms. As you know, the morning adhan is sung in the Sabâ makam. There is also a Sabâ scale in the makam Bestenigâr. As we listen, it connects us to the owner of the spiritual realms, the “beautiful”. But at the same time, there is such a course in the maqam that while you are wandering in the spiritual realms, it slowly leads you to a place deep within yourself. It is as if you go back and forth between the realm within yourself and the Divine realm. It’s as if it leads to a state of awareness, accounting, awakening…

The most commonly heard makam must be the Hicaz makam. In the words of Prof. Dr. Savaş Barkçin, “Hijaz is almost our genetic maqam.” The most widely used makam in Turkish music is Hicaz. The first musical maqam we all hear is the Hicaz maqam, as it is the maqam of the lullaby that our mothers sing to lull us to sleep, which continues, “May you sleep and grow up, lullaby…”. The Hicaz maqam has a relaxing, calming and soothing characteristic. The famous Turkish philosopher al-Fārābī said that this makam, which has a very loving, enthusiastic and burning nature, gives one humility. Indeed, one cannot learn humility and humbleness without experiencing trouble and hardship. We cannot bend our necks easily without hardship and trouble. But once a person has tasted that humility, there is no one he does not warm with the fire of love.

Lastly, I would like to talk about a very flirtatious makam: Hisar Bûselik. This makam is such a mahur makam in terms of coyness and coquetry that it really tied my tongue. Just as it does not easily allow words to be spoken about it, it is not a makam that will immediately say yes to compositions being made using it. There are four different cruise descriptions for this makam. As I said at the beginning, we cannot easily get out of technical issues, let’s not go into it, but know that this office is not an easy office. As I said, it is a very coquettish authority, it attracts many lovers, but it cannot give its heart to any of them. It is as if he himself, in the sadness of not finding the lover he wanted, sometimes complains, sometimes whines, and then suddenly changes, as if in spite of himself, smiling around, reflecting his joy and life energy. Hisar Bûselik maqam resembles such a person. I think it would not be wrong to say that there is a course in the maqam that evokes opposite feelings in people. If you want to feel the burning effect of the Hisar makam and the watery freshness of the Bûselik makam together, please listen to Hisar Bûselik pieces.

Good music is like a sheltered harbor from the storm. Or like a helping hand on the shoulder as we sit on the sidelines trying to find our own way. Sometimes it’s like a friendly voice that we call and talk to when we need to, that we are relieved to hear. And sometimes music is like a costume we put on when we go to a masquerade ball, a stylish but clumsy costume that helps us hide our true identity… Either way, never stop listening to music with personality.

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