Sacred music in Turkey – The call to prayerTom Lloyd | March 12, 2010
One of the most essential elements of the atmosphere of life in a Muslim city or village is the call to prayer from the tall, slender minarets at each mosque. Since these are broadcast through loudspeakers, we were curious to ask our guide more about the nature of this singing in Turkey during our visit to the “Blue Mosque,” Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace in old Istanbul (Constantinople/Byzantium).
We asked if the call was still in Turkish as prescribed by Ataturk – he said no, they tried that for a while but people didn’t like it, so they went back to Arabic. Were the calls broadcast from the same recording all over the country? No, they tried that for a while, and people didn’t like it, so ten years ago they went back to live singers, singing into a microphone from inside the mosque. And so as to not conflict with each other, where mosques are close together, they stagger their start times to avoid overlapping.
And he also took pride in pointing out twice that in Turkey, unlike in other Islamic countries, each of the five daily calls to prayer is a different melody.
Conversations like these about the Islamic aspects of Turkish culture come easily from our guides even at a time where issues of secularism and religious freedom are volatile. No one volunteers to say “I am religious” or “I am secular” – but everyone speaks of the central elements of Islamic culture and religious life with a respect and a sense of pride.