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Mixing MusicsTurkish Jewry and the Urban Landscape of a Sacred Song$

Maureen Jackson

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780804780155

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804780155.001.0001

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(p.xvi) (p.xvii) (p.xviii) (p.1) Introduction
Mixing Musics

Maureen Jackson

Stanford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

The introduction provides an overview of contemporary and historical Jewish populations in Turkey and the Ottoman empire, their numbers, places of residence, intercommunal lives, and participation in historical currents of the empire, nation, Europe, and beyond. It discusses the history of Ottoman court music and the concurrent development of the Maftirim repertoire as a parallel sacred suite translating court music forms into Jewish religious space. It reviews the historical record of Ottoman Jewish music to illuminate how Ottoman Jews participated in common Ottoman musical practices, such as master-pupil apprenticeships (meşk) and song-text collections (güfte mecmuasI). The chapter summaries describe the major topics and arguments of each chapter, as well as the overarching narrative of the book: through introductory ethnographic stories from the recent past, each chapter elucidates continuities in the present and writes against a narrative of decline common to national minorities and at-risk cultural forms.

Keywords:   Ottoman Jews, Turkish Jews, Ottoman music, Maftirim, meşk, historiography

It is Saturday afternoon in a bustling, traffic-filled neighborhood of central Istanbul. Off a narrow side street, in a synagogue, a group of men gather between prayer services to sing together—deep, strong voices in chorus. They sing five Hebrew songs that parallel the Ottoman court suite, a chamber music style that, beginning in the seventeenth century, was performed and cultivated in the palace and Ottoman homes, and later popularized on stages of entertainment venues into the Turkish Republic. As the only woman, I sit outside the circle of men singing in the small upstairs room of the synagogue. Today, surprisingly, a female visitor joins me. “This is just like Zeki Müren—the music of my childhood here!” she exclaims to me in a whisper. Hers is high praise for the group, as Zeki Müren is considered one of the great vocalists of Turkish art music, performing on disc, radio, TV, film, and stage, particularly in the decades before 1980. After the singing is over, the visitor and I descend to the street, as the men go into the main body of the synagogue for the final prayer services of the day. In order to leave the synagogue, we enter a secured vestibule unlocked for us by pressing a buzzer. Within the vestibule a tinted, one-way mirror obscures security personnel, and once outside the building, surveillance cameras track us walking away, as we pass two or three plainclothes guards near the synagogue. “I’ve missed this music since I left Turkey,” the woman says wistfully. “I hear someone may be starting a Maftirim group of expats abroad,” I respond. “Really?” She turns toward me. “That’s wonderful!”

Maftirim songs, sung on Saturday afternoons in this central Istanbul synagogue, share diverse musical elements with Ottoman court music, forming a paraliturgical “sacred suite” of pieces composed in (p.2) the same makam (mode). Historically performed in the early hours before Saturday prayer services, the suite is currently sung mid-day to attract more listeners and singers from the numerically reduced Jewish community of Istanbul. Like the woman visitor, I experienced frequent musical epiphanies when I attended Maftirim gatherings in the city: here, a melody I had heard with Turkish lyrics on the radio, there, a vocal improvisation recalling Muslim religious singers. How exactly did this sacred suite develop, I wondered, its musical forms so intertwined with those of a broader Ottoman and Turkish artistic culture? What can its musical mixtures tell us about the place of Jews and other minorities in Ottoman and Turkish society? In a century of nationalisms, which included the Turkish Republic, how do we explain the unexpected survival of Ottoman-era Jewish religious music? And what do present circumstances—men singing within a high-security synagogue—reflect about social change, contemporary politics, and intercultural relations in Turkey and the broader Middle East today?

The current Jewish community of which the Maftirim singers are a part is relatively stable and non-emigrating, having a central religious administration, the Hahambaşlığı (chief rabbinate), and supporting institutions, such as a weekly newspaper, school, hospital and community centers, and a number of active neighborhood synagogues. However, emigration has greatly reduced a minority that once constituted a significant ethno-religious group in Ottoman cities such as the capital Istanbul, provincial centers of Edirne, Salonika, Izmir, and Bursa, as well as numerous smaller towns across the empire. An integral part of a multiethnic urban fabric of the past, Ottoman Jewry participated in diverse ways in economic, social, and cultural life, their histories shaped by Jewish communal institutions, as well as the broader crosscurrents of Ottoman, Turkish, and European history. The present-day Turkish Jewish population (approximately 18,000–20,000) residing primarily in Istanbul amounts to 25 percent of the population in the 1920s (approximately 82,000) and 15 percent of late Ottoman Jewry in 1911–1912 (approximately 122,000).1 Waves of internal and external migration throughout the century explain these figures, largely correlating with early twentieth-century wars, anti-minority political events in Turkey, and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948–1949.2 Once administered by the Ottoman government as one of the relatively (p.3) autonomously self-governed dhimmi (“protected people”) populations, Turkish Jewry today share a more contentious urban landscape in their Muslim-majority country, representing those who have chosen to remain through the sociopolitical upheavals of the twentieth century.

While I lived and conducted research in Istanbul in 2005 and 2006, signs of this more contentious urban landscape continually greeted me. Like the story about the Maftirim session and female visitor, my frequent synagogue visits involved security guards, surveillance technology, and fortified vestibules, as well as an initial approval process through the Hahambaşlığı for permission to visit. These precautions had been taken after attacks on Istanbul synagogues in 1986, 1992, and 2003. Other community institutions I visited, such as the weekly newspaper Şalom and Hahambaşlığı, initially had been difficult to locate, in part because of the lack of identifying signs as a security precaution. During a year of research in the city, I became accustomed to visible and invisible marks of social division, and as security personnel likewise grew accustomed to my presence, I moved around community spaces with greater ease. Furthermore, I was first surprised, then grew unsurprised, by the aural resonances I experienced in the secured synagogues—sounds connecting inside with outside, echoing something shared before and now walled off. Once the call to prayer from the mosque behind the synagogue interrupted and responded in Arabic to the free-form vocal style just heard in Hebrew inside the synagogue during prayer services. Another time I took a cab after Yom Kippur services, only to hear Qu’ranic chant for Ramazan on the radio, and the driver chat about fasting, without his knowing Turkish Jews were fasting that day too. Such impressionistic experiences across walls heightened my sense of living in a city ethnically and religiously divided in specific ways, stimulating questions about current sociopolitical relations in Turkey, the nature of past intercommunality, and the extent to which shared histories might be steadily lost behind secured doors.

These real-life experiences in Istanbul of the twenty-first century motivated the present study of Ottoman and Turkish synagogue music in its native urban environment of multireligious music-making. In contrast to post-Holocaust scholarly interests in documenting Turkish Jewish cultural forms, especially those lost or feared to be lost, by representing Jewish particularity or communities in isolation, this project (p.4) joins Ottoman and ethnomusicological research engaging with the blending and blurring potential of an intercommunal focus. The inclusion of the contemporary community, moreover, challenges a priori assumptions about what constitutes authenticity in threatened cultural forms, often represented by “older” and “pure”—rather than “newer” and “diluted”—music. In the case of Turkish Jewry as a whole, their reduced size and relatively hidden institutional life has contributed to scholarly inattention until recently, falling under the conceptual category of a Jewish enclave in decline or socially assimilated owing to twentieth-century anti-Semitisms, nationalisms, and emigration.3 As a result of a greater focus on Ottoman Jews in Sephardic studies of the past, scholars in the field of music history know significantly more about the Ottoman period of Jewish religious music, early twentieth-century singers considered to be the last “masters,” and the musicological links to court music than about the contemporary community and the sociological dimensions of musical interchange.

This study addresses lacunae in scholarship by prioritizing the broader social history and relationships underpinning musical links on paper, in addition to focusing on the understudied span of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries—the late Ottoman decades across the Turkish Republic today. Exploring the intersection of musical and historical studies, it engages with Jewish-Ottoman-Turkish music-making as a cultural thread for tracing intercommunal artistic relations and their transformations in the course of imperial endings and the building of a nation. As such, the study joins a nascent body of scholarship seeking ways for the fields of music and history to enrich each other, with the potential to recover lost voices, social relations, daily life, and art worlds. By encompassing the contemporary, culturally active community, moreover, the historical narrative avoids a simple story of decline, but rather engages with signs of social loss and division, such as high-security Istanbul synagogues and cultural preservation efforts, for the new historical stories they tell us.4 In foregrounding under-recognized social continuities and contemporary musical resonances, we can replace the well-worn statistical and musicological story of degeneration with the perspective of Turkish Jewry today—that is, arguably surprising cultural legacies with real-life meanings to a community, however numerically diminished, living in the present.

(p.5) A single musical form—the parallel suites of the court and the synagogue—provides a rich case study to explore the intercommunal dimension of imperial and postimperial sociocultural life. The study aims to interweave the sacred suite of the Maftirim repertoire with a number of linked histories—the Turkish Jewish community, an emerging nation, and the urban landscape of Istanbul—to illuminate multiethnic Ottoman music-making and its transformations in the course of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In order to tell this multilayered cultural history across a period of intense social change, the present work draws on the interdisciplinary spacial turn in Middle East studies by foregrounding the urban environment of Ottoman music-making and its national reconfiguration.5 By focusing on music as a social, collective process, rather than a series of artistic products, and by incorporating particular urban spaces, the resulting sociomusical analysis enables an appreciation of the social ethos and economy implied in musicological textual sources, while complicating undifferentiated notions of Ottoman urban “cosmopolitanism.”6 The general concept of art-making contextualized in urban space places the empirical evidence in the framework of a historical music world in which Jewish composers and their non-Jewish counterparts interacted through specific roles and intermediaries, places and activities, to generate a common musical culture. While artists of other regions may share in conceptual categories of artistic collectivities, such as aesthetic understandings, patronage patterns, divisions of musical labor, and learning methods, specific elements in the Ottoman case, such as long-standing oral transmission, contribute to a more complex understanding of unique aspects of Jewish-Turkish-Ottoman musical interchange.

By articulating how music and musicians moved in city life, we are able to fill lacunae remaining from past assumptions of ethno-religious isolation in the empire: that is, a distinct millet system isolating communities from each other through demarcated neighborhoods and communal self-governance.7 The more recent acknowledgment of Ottoman cosmopolitanism has elicited more complex studies of intercommunal contact, but also poses the danger of leaving the complexity of Ottoman social relations unexplored, especially in the sphere of music, often assumed to naturally unify linguistically diverse peoples under a common musical language. Even as an Ottoman social sphere (p.6) intermixed musicians, at times in opposition to communal identifications, geographic, ethno-religious, and historical contingencies often shaped, curtailed, or expanded musical encounters. A focus on the urban landscape of music, then, helps us map Ottoman music-making, nuancing our perspectives on urban cosmopolitanism in the empire and contextualizing isolated evidence of employment and meetings within a broader social and economic arena. Such an enriched portrait of historical musical life, moreover, provides a sufficiently detailed basis for investigating transformations of the art world and its urban space arising from political developments in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in the Turkish Republic.

In exploring cultural history from within a specific musical and social milieu, conventional historical markers in Ottoman and Turkish history may or may not be particularly relevant. On the one hand, because past ethnomusicological scholarship has prioritized the musicological over imperial social history, Ottoman historical contextualization can contribute further insight into musical developments. For example, scholars have recognized the city of Edirne as the place where Maftirim music flourished beginning in the seventeenth century, becoming the capital of Hebrew religious music. The missing piece of Ottoman history—that Edirne served as the second Ottoman capital before the taking of Constantinople and continued as a default capital for the sultan’s residency and military campaigns until 1700—explains Hebrew musical flourishing in the fertility of an imperial court culture (as we shall see below) cultivating Ottoman arts. On the other hand, political events considered watershed moments in Ottoman and Turkish historiography include major wars, legal reforms, and revolutions that may, in fact, obscure our understanding of cultural currents in daily life and the specific historical experiences of minorities. A well-established late Ottoman entertainment industry, for example, as well as war-related migrations, help to explain a burgeoning Jewish musical scene in Istanbul in the 1920s that laid the foundation for subsequent intercommunal and musical continuities in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries—developments overlooked in past histories demarcating the founding of the Turkish Republic and its reforms after 1923 as a moment of rupture in the area of law, culture, and religion. In the ensuing pages, then, we will periodize Ottoman, Jewish, and Turkish (p.7) history to illuminate minority and musical worlds not easily chronologized by top-down imperial or national political events.

New historical sources and ethnographic methods support revising cultural history toward a fuller understanding of the changing urban landscape of Turkish Jews and intercommunal music-making. Specifically, oral histories among Jews and non-Jews, musicians and non-musicians, capture life stories, memories, and empirical material absent from textual or national historical records. The ethnographic methods engaged here join a growing trend in historical scholarship to incorporate oral methodologies, especially for researching under-recognized or under-historicized populations, such as religious and ethnic minorities, women and children, among others, with limited textual traces in specific areas or eras. This study draws productively on personal interviews in Istanbul and its environs for new insights from Muslim friends of Jewish musicians, students of deceased cantorial masters, and women singing Maftirim songs, to expand on scholarship based primarily in Hebrew, Ladino, and musical texts. Such sources provide valuable material concerning, for instance, intercommunal relations, their continuities and discontinuities, Jewish musical biographies, and the participation of women and children in a male performance practice—material enriching, and often complicating or challenging, received wisdom about minority musical cultures of so-called Orthodox religious communities or nationalizing states.8 Participant observation in a variety of Jewish and non-Jewish venues, including synagogues, concert halls, state and community choruses, and social gathering places, contribute in particular to understandings of contemporary musical and social life linked to extant Maftirim music. In addition, Turkish-language scholarship and memoirs as well as critical readings of Ottoman and republican histories, serve to contextualize Ottoman and Turkish Jewry in ambient social and cultural currents, thereby resisting a narrow ethno-religious focus while elucidating the place of Jewish musicians in the wider society, across significant social change.

A note about appropriate language to refer to Jews living in the late Ottoman empire and Turkish Republic is in order. Well-represented in Sephardic culture areas (the Balkans and Levant), the Jewish musicians, religious leaders, composers, students, and diverse others that fill this study might be referred to as “Sephardi,” a term used in the past (p.8) to categorize descendents of Iberian Jews exiled by the Spanish Inquisition in the fifteenth century, and currently to define Ladino-speaking Ottoman and post-Ottoman worlds. Scholars have also debated the utility of “Sephardi” as a broad category of identification in Jewish history today.9 Despite the term’s usefulness for a variety of scholarly foci, the intercommunal and musical dimension of the present study begs for language reflecting the ethno-religious breadth and interactivity of Ottoman and Turkish music-making, however contentious and changing over time. Indeed, this varied, shifting collectivity included a wide swath of Jewish individuals, not only so-called Sephardi composers, for example, but also Arabic-speaking instrumentalists from Ottoman Arab territories, Jewish gramophone entrepreneurs from Eastern Europe and Russia, dönme composers from Salonika, and Jewish émigrés from Nazi Germany, Austria, and Hungary.10 These Jewish musicians and businesspeople also interacted closely with Greeks, Armenians, and diverse Muslims straddling the worlds of their coreligionists and the surrounding urban musical spheres. Whereas highlighting the ethno-religious distinctiveness of any one of these musicians risks over-accenting Ottoman religious communities or retroactively imposing contemporary ethnic boundaries, language reflecting the interactive cultural realm of music-making elucidates aspects of individual and communal identifications transcending the so-called millet system and at times opposing it.11 By speaking of “Ottoman Jews” we can capture the social and musical milieu of which musicians were a part, and “Turkish Jews” follows them into the Republic, reflecting new national identifications and citizenship as well as the disjunctions and transitions from what might be called their Ottoman culture area.

Let us briefly survey Ottoman court music as the historical foundation for the Maftirim repertoire at the core of this cultural history.12 Based on compelling and well-documented textual analysis by music historians,13 the current study investigates the social and urban contexts of this historical record. Patronized by the palace and cultivated in a variety of urban settings over time, Ottoman court music shares musical structures—compositional, rhythmic, melodic, poetic—with historical (p.9) liturgical practices of Muslims and non-Muslims worshipping in Sufi lodges, churches, and synagogues of the empire, including gatherings of Maftirim groups. The Ottoman court suite, or fasıl, arose within a longtime regional environment of suite forms in the Near East, Persia, and North Africa, developing a specific Ottoman style, distinctive from Arab and Persian predecessors, by at least the seventeenth century. As a chamber music form, the court suite was generally performed in intimate settings (palace, homes) by an ensemble of instrumentalists and singers, showcasing a series of compositions of distinct genres in the same makam. Similar and contrasting, the sacred suite of Maftirim pieces translated court musical forms into Jewish religious space through Hebrew-language pieces performed a capella by a male choral ensemble in synagogues on Shabbat.14 This vocal ensemble presented original compositions by Jewish composers, as well as adaptations from non-Jewish Ottoman pieces with Hebrew poems or scriptural passages as lyrics. Historically, Maftirim singers performed one suite in one makam before weekly prayer services, and by the nineteenth century established a tradition of early morning performances in Ottoman cities with significant Jewish populations (Edirne, Salonika, Izmir, and Istanbul).

Textual sources point to a measure of interaction between Jewish and Mevlevi (“whirling dervish”) musicians, suggesting clear avenues of musical contact and confluence. Originating in Konya in the thirteenth century, the Mevlevi gradually became the most prominent Muslim Sufi order connected to the sultan and Ottoman ruling class, establishing lodges in 1436 in the second Ottoman capital of Edirne and in 1494 in the third capital of Constantinople. Developing a distinctive musical form, the ayin, to accompany their religious choreography, the order played a central role in court music culture through the presence of Mevlevi musicians at the palace, the significant role of Mevlevi lodges in music education, and the further development of the ayin as some of the most complex compositions related to Ottoman court music. Meetings between Mevlevi and Jewish musicians are reported from the early empire in biographical accounts of sixteenth-century Edirne religious scholar R. Joseph Caro and composer R. Avtalyion ben Mordechai, and in contemporary times in life stories from Jewish urban centers. For example, Mevlevi musicians attended synagogues in (p.10) Izmir and Salonika to hear renowned hazanim (prayer leaders, or cantors) like İsak Algazi (1889–1950), and Samuel Benaroya (1908–2003) visited the Mevlevi lodge in Edirne as a boy to learn Ottoman music.15 As mentioned earlier, it is significant that the city of Edirne figures in these reports since it was the Ottoman capital (1402-1453) before the taking of Constantinople and a default royal residence at least until the eighteenth century. Given the Mevlevis’ historical linkages with the Ottoman ruling class and musical education, interactions with Jewish musicians—especially in Edirne and Istanbul—would effectively spell the latter’s active participation near or at the very center of religious and musical crosscurrents in Ottoman imperial culture. Ongoing visitations until the end of the twentieth century, moreover, suggest a historically multifunctional dimension to Ottoman and Turkish synagogues for learning, making music, and socializing—a dimension that has progressively narrowed and been reduced exclusively to Jewish religious practice today.16

According to the textual source of the güfte mecmuası (song-text collection), Jewish composers documented music in ways similar to their non-Jewish counterparts and participated in contemporaneous developments in court music. From an early Ottoman Jewish güfte mecmuası (Israel Najara, 1587) to later collections starting in the seventeenth century, Jewish composition and documentation of religious pieces correlated more and more with pervasive Ottoman practices, incorporating lyrics, makam, usul (rhythmic patterns), and genres in use in the Ottoman court suite.17 Developing into the Maftirim repertoire, the non-notated compositions confirm performance and educational practices in common with Ottoman musical culture. Until the twentieth century, oral learning through master-pupil apprenticeship relationships (meşk) predominated in the empire, taking place within such venues as the palace music school (Enderun), Mevlevi lodges, private homes, and later music schools and societies of the early twentieth century. The well-documented historical employment of Jewish, Armenian, and Greek Orthodox composers at court suggests another avenue for the sharing of such musical practices through active involvement of Jews in palace culture.

Far from being a static tradition, Ottoman court music changed and developed over the centuries, and as it did so participating Jews and (p.11) other minority composers infused such developments into their own religious music. Ottoman innovations included new instrumentation, complex or new makams and usuls, development of the vocal and instrumental taksim (improvisation), and changes in fasıl genres, such as the nineteenth-century light classical şarkı (literally, “song”) that popularized the fasıl cycle in the twentieth century18 European genres and instruments, as well as notational systems, presented further musical choices to Ottoman composers, especially by the nineteenth century; however, oral transmission and performance dominated the musical scene through the early twentieth century. With the advent of records and growth of gazinos (nightclubs) at the turn of the century, fasıl music found a popular, commercial stage—an early entertainment industry often owned and operated by minorities, including Jews, and showcasing vocalists who may have also sung religious songs in synagogues. Maftirim music shared in such musical crosscurrents of the time, and by the early Republic boasted big audiences and a repertoire that included contemporary composers and topical subjects. In the 1920s, as Turkish Jews from the provinces increasingly congregated in Istanbul, local Maftirim singers joined Edirne émigrés to perform at numerous synagogues in the city, providing a popular, weekly venue to hear Ottoman court music forms in an era of political and cultural reform.

In the course of the twentieth century, as Jews gradually vacated their neighborhoods in Istanbul, whether through emigration or upward mobility, the historical practice of Maftirim gatherings on Shabbat diminished into today’s single secured session, together with one public performance group. By the 1990s, three male vocalists were considered the last remaining masters of the genre in Istanbul: David Behar, İsak Maçoro, and David Sevi. Recently, the Ottoman-Turkish Sephardic Culture Research Center completed a major project remastering their recordings together with notation and historical background of extant Maftirim compositions. Taken as a whole, the evidence of the century appears to match a story of increasing cultural reduction, isolation and, ultimately, preservation. As we shall see, however, behind this apparent decline lies a more complex history of music-making across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as Jewish and non-Jewish musicians continued to network together to protect endangered Ottoman musical forms in a republican era of cultural (p.12) reform. More recently, amid diverse sociopolitical tensions, synagogue security and enclosed Maftirim sessions resemble a kind of second-stage, internal emigration of the religiously observant—a departure from the street into secured space. As such, Maftirim performance today continues to have much to tell us about the urban landscape of music-making, intercommunal relations and tensions, and the place of Jews in contemporary Turkish society.

The thematically based chapters of the book interpret music-making in Ottoman-Turkish synagogues, with particular reference to the Maftirim repertoire, as a part of a shared imperial and national history, even as the Jewish population in Turkey significantly decreased over the course of the twentieth century. Understudied in comparison with Ottoman Jewry and locally settled and self-sustaining today, the Turkish Jewish community, though small, is worthy of scholarly attention. In order to do justice to contemporary life and write against the grain of a narrative of decline, each chapter begins with ethnographic historical traces located in the present. The traces not only serve as a springboard for the historical discussion of the chapters, but also suggest a contemporary mixture of tenses more aligned than linear decline to a lived experience of an Ottoman-Turkish-Jewish musical culture today. To hear the historical and contemporary music behind the lines of this cultural history, a discography is provided at the end of the book.

Taken as a whole, the five chapters move chronologically from the turn of the twentieth century to the present day. At the same time, each chapter focuses on a specific theme significant to this changing historical period. Through the life stories of four Ottoman-born Jewish composers living in the early twentieth century, Chapter One explores how Jews in linked roles of religious vocalist and leader (from hazan to congregation head to chief rabbi) as well as popular artists facilitated cultural flows by circulating in musical urban spaces of which synagogues were a part. Framing music-making within the urban environment assists in examining the precise places and people participating in common patterns of patronage, aesthetic conventions, and apprenticeships (p.13) to cultivate changing, multiethnic Ottoman music-making. Through attention to Jews of differing positions and their compositional output, the chapter teases out a heterogeneous intercommunality, as well as makes visible Jewish composers who were socially active, but absent from past and present Ottoman and Turkish sources because of their Hebrew-only music. A finer articulation of urban music-making provides the basis for the investigation in Chapter Two of transformations associated with the dissolution of the empire and the establishment of the nation. The chapter proposes minority-focused historicization of the early Republic to foreground late Ottoman factors, particularly developments in the recording and entertainment industries, that initially provided new musical spaces and patronage for Jews, despite their imperial and republican political losses after 1923. In the course of a secularizing reform movement promoting European musical values— a trend reflected in immigrant German and Austrian Jewish musicians and emigrant Turkish Jewish hazanim—remaining Jews engaged with traditionalist non-Jewish performers in alternative venues and patronage patterns to sustain Ottoman court music forms in a nation-building era, and to continue to perform them in Turkish synagogues.

The Maftirim repertoire, with its close ties to court music forms, provides a fruitful locus in Ottoman and Turkish synagogue music to probe such intercommunal changes from empire to nation. At the same time, republican Jewish memoirs and oral histories challenge the conceptual exclusion of women from this male-only performance practice and extend recent ethnomusicological moves to complicate gendered dichotomies in Sephardic musical scholarship, that is, the association of Hebrew, religious, and textual forms with males, and Ladino, folk, and oral forms with females. By exploring fasıl music entertainment and education at the level of home and neighborhood, Chapter Three examines the under-recognized participation of Jewish women in popular classical Turkish music as a platform for some to learn Hebrew religious music in general and the Maftirim repertoire in particular. Through incorporating the concept of urban “soundscapes” that sonically include those excluded from formal performance venues, the chapter focuses on how one woman learned in direct and less direct ways, negotiating the space between gendered community musical expectations and a changing Turkish society.

(p.14) After the mid-1980s we witness a shift from ongoing visitations and networking between Turkish Jewish and Muslim musicians to Jewish religious music-making in increasingly security-conscious synagogues regulating the entry of visitors. Currently, a multiethnic Ottoman music world is reconstructed annually on stage through “tolerance” concerts shaped by Islamist party politics and including a Maftirim ensemble among its multireligious choirs. By analyzing new divisions in Maftirim performance today—participation in official concerts on the one hand, and on the other, historical practices in secured synagogues—Chapter Four engages the political and historiographical uses of both inventing traditions and hiding community among Turkish Jews seeking national belonging and communal protection after three attacks on Istanbul synagogues at the turn of the twenty-first century. Finally, the recent textualization of the Maftirim repertoire, a major preservationist project of the community produced in 2009, is the subject of Chapter Five. In the absence of those considered living masters of an orally transmitted music, the publication may be the sole representation of the legacy of the Maftirim for today and tomorrow. The Turkish Jewish historical record testifies to a striking persistence of Ottoman oral methods of transmission and performance across the twentieth century. With the massive, recently produced Maftirim publication important questions emerge about the preservation of so-called traditional forms, a subject of global cross-cultural discussions among ethnomusicologists and others around recording, notating, and distributing oral musical forms perceived to be at risk: what constitutes musical authorship and authenticity, originals and versions, masters and non-masters within new texts and technologies, new locales and audiences? Since the project effectively constructs the Maftirim of the future, we may ask how the music will be perceived, received, and used by scholars and musicians, congregants and listeners. To what extent will its Ottoman and Turkish oral foundations persist in a European-oriented academic and musical culture? What clues, if any, about its social and intercommunal history will remain between the lines of printed notes and lyrics?

Broad and blurred shifts between oral and textual patterns in Maftirim music-making across the last two centuries suggest viewing its story through the lens of multilayered and changing modes of transmission. (p.15) The following five chapters weave an Ottoman-Turkish-Jewish social history of cultural flows, actualized through city spaces and facilitated by individuals, reconfigured by political change and documented for posterity. The thread of musical transmission runs throughout changing sociopolitical contexts, tracing the variety of pathways, however divergent, overlapping, or diminishing over time, that represent the core of a process of mixing musics. There is an apparent broad shift from oral to textual transmission as one moves through the twentieth to the early twenty-first century. However, the oral and textual dimensions of urban transmission are never far apart: late Ottoman meşk sessions, musical scores, song-text collections, and records coexisted. Even as cassettes, compact discs, and scholarly editions appeared, real-life use of new technologies has determined how the music is passed on. Long-standing patterns of Ottoman and Turkish oral learning form the basis for the longevity of Maftirim music, reflecting, until relatively recently, musical relationships and enduring engagement with Turkish art music.

The voices of the Maftirim group continue to be heard in the unobtrusive synagogue in central Istanbul. Their songs echo wider practices of Ottoman-Turkish composing, performing, and learning, even as secured walls effectively reduce and hide the historical interchange evident in their performance. How did people, places, and music mix in the urban landscape of the city to cultivate such music-making in Ottoman society? Why have musical strands survived, and what stories do they tell us about intercultural life of the past century and the present day? Such puzzles are among those motivating this ethnographic investigation into the artistic and social life interpenetrating late Ottoman and Turkish synagogues, mixing (and unmixing) musics, and shaping the urban landscape of a sacred song.


(1) . Approximate population figures are based on Justin McCarthy, “Jewish Population in the Late Ottoman Period,” in The Jews of the Ottoman Empire, ed. Avigdor Levy (Princeton, NJ: Darwin Press; Washington, DC: Institute of Turkish Studies, c. 1994), 387, and Kemal H. Karpat, Ottoman Population, 1830–1914: Demographic and Social Characteristics (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985), 408. Figures for late Ottoman Jewry in 1911–1912 refer to the Jewish population living in what is now the Turkish Republic. Şule Toktaş cites a population of 20,000–25,000 in 2003, down from an estimated census figure of 81,400 in 1927. Şule Toktaş, “Turkey’s Jews and Their Immigration to Israel,” Middle Eastern Studies 42 (2006): 506.

(2) . On migration patterns of Ottoman and Turkish Jewry in the twentieth century, see McCarthy, “Jewish Population in the Late Ottoman Period,” and Toktaş, “Turkey’s Jews and Their Immigration to Israel.”

(3) . The prolific research and publications of Rıfat Bali have reversed this trend, with a focus on Jews in the first decades of the Republic. Marcy Brink-Danan’s work contributes to our understandings of the contemporary community in Turkey. See Marcy Brink-Danan, Jewish Life in Twenty-first-Century Turkey: The Other Side of Tolerance, Indiana Series in Sephardi and Mizrahi Studies (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012).

(4) . See the scholarship of André Levy for anthropological research on the Moroccan Jewish community and its unique structures and strategies for survival, which have remained understudied owing to the small numbers and assumed decline of the community; for example, André Levy, “Notes on Jewish-Muslim Relationships: Revisiting the Vanishing Moroccan Jewish Community,” Cultural Anthropology 18, no. 3 (2003): 365–97.

(5) . A roundtable, “The Spacial Turn in Middle East Studies: Interdisciplinary Methods and Approaches,” organized by Amy Mills, articulated this interdisciplinary turn among geographers and others through questions of space, place, and landscape related to diverse topics of research in Middle East studies. Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting, December 1–4, 2011, Washington, DC. 180 Notes to Introduction

(p.180) (6) . Past scholarship referring to cosmopolitanism in the Ottoman capital and port cities successfully challenged long-standing historical assumptions about segregated ethno-religious communities and limited intercommunality in the empire. For recent scholarship seeking to fine-tune, retheorize, or dispense with the term in the area of Ottoman, Turkish, and Jewish Studies, see Brink-Danan, Jewish Life in Twenty-first-Century Turkey; Maureen Jackson, “‘Cosmopolitan Smyrna’: Illuminating or Obscuring Cultural Histories?” Geographical Review 102, no. 3 (2012): 337–49; Amy Mills, Streets of Memory: Landscape, Tolerance, and National Identity in Istanbul (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2010); and Sibel Zandi-Sayek, Ottoman Izmir: The Rise of a Cosmopolitan Port, 1840–1880 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012).

(7) . For the seminal critical analysis of the so-called millet system, see Benjamin Braude, “Foundation Myths of the Millet System,” in Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire: The Functioning of a Plural Society, ed. Benjamin Braude and Bernard Lewis (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1982), 1:69–90. For subsequent scholarship and responses, see Michael Ursinas, “Millet,” in Encyclopedia of Islam, ed. C. E. Bosworth (Leiden: A. J. Brill, 1993), 61–64; Daniel Goffman, “Ottoman Millets in the Early Seventeenth Century,” New Perspectives on Turkey, no. 1 (1994): 1; and Benjamin Braude, “The Strange History of the Millet System,” in The Great Ottoman-Turkish Civilisation, ed. Kemal Çiçek et al. (Ankara: Yeni Türkiye, 2000), 409–18.

(8) . Sephardic immigrant congregations in the United States, for example, have been categorized as Orthodox according to American Jewish congregational divisions (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform). However, the term’s usage is problematic for Ottoman and Turkish Jews whose history of religious reform was not characterized by the same divisions. See Norman A. Stillman, Sephardi Religious Responses to Modernity (Luxembourg: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1995).

(9) . For an introduction to a collection of articles tangling with “Sephardi” as a term of Jewish identity, see Matthias B. Lehmann, “Introduction: Sephardi Identities,” Jewish Social Studies: History, Culture, Society 15, no. 1 (2008): 1–9.

(10) . Dönme refers to a follower of the heterodox rabbi Sabetay Sevi (d. 1676). Well-represented in Salonika, the diverse community appeared in public as Muslim, while continuing to follow Sabetay Sevi’s precepts and practices. For the most comprehensive study to date, see Marc David Baer, The Dönme: Jewish Converts, Muslim Revolutionaries, and Secular Turks (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010).

(11) . The memoir of Sa'adi Besalel a-Levi, a printer, singer, and composer in Salonika, reflects the tensions experienced by an Ottoman Jewish musician in conflict with rabbinical authority in the mid-nineteenth century. See Aron Rodrigue and Sarah Abrevaya Stein, eds., A Jewish Voice from Ottoman Salonica: The Ladino Memoir of Sa'adi Besalel a-Levi (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012).

(12) . For scholarship on the history of Ottoman music, see Cem Behar, “The Ottoman Musical Tradition,” in The Cambridge History of Turkey, Vol. 3: The (p.181) Later Ottoman Empire, 1603–1839, ed. Suraiya N. Faroqhi (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 393–407; Walter Feldman, Music of the Ottoman Court: Makam, Composition and the Early Ottoman Instrumental Repertoire, Intercultural Music Studies 10 (Berlin: Verlag für Wissenschaft und Bildung, 1996); Walter Feldman, “Music in Performance: Who Are the Whirling Dervishes?” in The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music: The Middle East (New York: Routledge, 2002), 107–11; and Maureen Jackson, “Music,” in Encyclopedia of the Ottoman Empire, ed. Gábor Ágoston and Bruce Masters (New York: Facts on File, 2009), 404–9.

(13) . See, in particular, the work of Edwin Seroussi, with related studies by Aaron Kohen, Walter Feldman, and Owen Wright (see the References).

(14) . Shabbat begins at sundown on Friday and ends after dusk on Saturday. Maftirim singers historically gathered on Saturday morning before prayer services. According to religious law, no instruments are allowed in the synagogue on Shabbat.

(15) . See Sam Lévy, Salonique à la fin du XIXe siècle: Mémoires (Istanbul: Isis, 2000), 21; Edwin Seroussi, “The Peşrev as a Vocal Genre in Ottoman Hebrew Sources,” Turkish Music Quarterly (Summer 1991): 1–2; Edwin Seroussi, “From the Court and Tarikat to the Synagogue: Ottoman Art Music and Hebrew Sacred Songs,” in Sufism, Music and Society in Turkey and the Middle East, ed. Anders Hammarlund, Tord Olsson, and Özdalga Elisabeth (Istanbul: Swedish Research Institute, 2001), 91; and Edwin Seroussi, Mizimrat Qedem: The Life and Music of R. Isaac Algazi from Turkey (Jerusalem: Renanot Institute for Jewish Music, 1989), 33.

(16) . There is evidence that historically Ottoman mosques were similarly multifunctional, for example as a venue for the Mevlevi ceremony and a variety of music-making that in contemporary orthodox understandings are not appropriate for the mosque.

(17) . For a detailed review of Hebrew song-text collections, see Edwin Seroussi, “Introduction,” in Maftirim (Istanbul: Gözlem, 2009).

(18) . Şarkı is a vocal work that became a prominent and popular part of gazino (nightclub) music. The composer Hacı Arif Bey (1831–1885) is heralded in Turkish music history as one of the first and most prolific composers of the genre.