ICTM-Turkey: A Historical Reappraisal (1947-present)

ICTM-Turkey has come a long way since 1947, when the International Folk Music Council (IFMC) was first established in affiliation to UNESCO.  Turkish scholars have been part of IFMC since its founding years, first more as government representatives, but later as independent researchers and National Liaison Officers, until a National Committee was formed in 1998.  The history of Turkish participation dates back to the contribution of Adnan Saygun, who joined the organization as a representative of Turkey, and served as an elected member of the IFMC executive board during 1947-1962.  Taking an active part in the post-war cultural debates on authenticity and revival of national dance and music repertoires, Saygun published important articles in the Journal of the International Folk Music Council, giving visibility to traditional dance and music from Turkey.  Today, thanks to the IFMC Bulletins, we are able to observe how interest in Turkish performative genres developed in international context, making its way to international archives, the first Bibliography of European Folk Music (1966) published by IFMC, international folk dance and music festivals, and ethnographies conducted by foreign scholars.  IFMC Bulletins also show how interest in the music of Turkic communities in Europe and the Soviet Union developed further during the 1970s.  

As transition from IFMC to ICTM happened in 1981, it was Professor Ahmet Yürür, who undertook the position of National Liaison Officer for Turkey during 1975- 1984.  A student of Adnan Saygun, Yürür took up where Saygun left off.  Educated in state conservatories in Ankara and Istanbul in Turkey and Indiana University and the University of Maryland in the US, Yürür closely followed the changing dynamics of ICTM as an international organization during the 1970s, and shifted his studies to the Society for Ethnomusicology (1955) in 1984. These were the years when IFMC developed an interest in reaching out national radio recording archives.  In 1977, Turkish Radio and Television (TRT) hosted a meeting of the IFMC “Committee on Radiotelevision and Sound-Film Archives” in Istanbul.  Many musicians affiliated to TRT Istanbul and Izmir radio departments joined this IFMC conference and presented papers. TRT became a “corporate subscriber” in 1980.  IFMC/ICTM Bulletins show that 1980s also witnessed a rising interest on the dance and music practices of “Euro-Turks”, whens many European researchers began to present their ethnographies in ICTM meetings.

Following the stepping down of Ahmet Yürür, Turkey continued to be represented by individual and independent scholars in many ICTM conferences. 1990s became a revival decade, when many new dance and music conservatories opened in Turkey, and more Turkish scholars began attending ICTM conferences.  Arzu Öztürkmen, who joined the ICTM circles in 1992, became the National Liaison Officer for Turkey in 1995.  In 1998, Boğaziçi University was acknowledged as the hosting organization for the National Committee for Turkey.  More recently, on March 2, 2019, a general assembly was held with the ICTM members from Turkey, to be re-structured for further collaboration in the fields of dance and music.

Since the early 1990s, several ICTM meetings were organized for various ICTM Study and Sub-Study groups in Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir and Trabzon.  These included the symposia of the Study Groups of “Ethnochoreology” (1998), “Music and Dance in Southeastern Europe” (2010, 2021), “Maqam & Music in the Arab World” (2014) and “Music of the Turkic-Speaking World” (2014, 2018), along with the meetings of the Sub-Study Groups of “Music Archaeology” (1993), “Dance Structural Analysis” (1993), “Field Research” (2005) and “Cocek and Çiftetelli” (2012).

Turkish dance and music scholars have been actively involved in several ICTM Study and Sub-Study Groups, including “Music and Dance in Southeastern Europe”, “Ethnochoreology”, “Music of the Turkic-Speaking World”, “Music and Minorities”, “Maqam” and “Iconography”. With the rising memberships, many new scholars from Turkey join and continue to contribute to the ICTM Study-Groups and meetings.

Adnan and Nilüfer Saygun at the Third Conference of the IFMC held at Indiana University in Bloomington, during July 17th to 21st, 1950.  From left to Right, the 5th on the last row is Adnan Saygun, and 6th on the second row is his wife Nilüfer Saygun. Source: Journal of the International Folk Music Council (1951) Vol. 3, No.5.  






March 2, 2019, National Committee Meeting, Boğaziçi University, Istanbul




November 8-10, 2019, National Committee Meeting Çukurova University, Adana