The ICTM Study Group on “Music of the Turkic-speaking world” was established in 2006 at the Music Department, SOAS, University of London. This Study Group is dedicated to the practice, documentation, preservation, and dissemination of traditional music and dance as found throughout the wide area of the Turkic-speaking world, stretching from South Siberia to the shores of the Mediterranean and increasingly in diaspora locations elsewhere.

The Turkic-speaking world is both geographically huge and culturally diverse (twenty-eight countries, republics and districts extending from Eastern Europe through the Caucasus and throughout Central Asia). Although the Turkic peoples of the world can trace their linguistic and genetic ancestries to common sources, their extensive geographical dispersion and widely varying historical and political experiences have generated a range of different expressive music forms. In addition, the break-up of the Soviet Union and increasing globalisation have resulted in the emergence of new viewpoints on classical, folk musical traditions and Turkic versions of globalised popular culture to fit new social needs. In line with the opening up of many Turkic regions in the post-Soviet era, awareness of scholarship from these regions has also increased.

The ICTM Study Group on “ Music of the Turkic-speaking world “ comprises the art and music of numerous different ethnicities including Altai, Bashkirs, Crimean Karaites, Karakalpaks, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Tatars, Turkmens, Turks, Uyghurs, Uzbeks, and Yakuts, as well as many other ancient and medieval states from history. Today at a time of globalisation and, for many countries losing their identity, the research and documentation on music of the Turkic–speaking world helps to identify key issues of music performance phenomenon allowing a better understanding of the vast Turkic speaking world to emerge.

With the collapse of the USSR, Turkic peoples from former Soviet Union have the opportunity to be considered as unified by ethnic and cultural traditions. The first international organisation to recognise the cultural phenomenon of the Turkic-speaking world was UNESCO. On an official cultural level, it seems that UNESCO nominations for “Intangible Cultural Heritage” [1] are the best evidence for such recognition. Recently twenty-two nominations from the Turkic-speaking world area have been approved by UNESCO, clearly showing what a diversity of musical genres the Turkic-speaking world possesses. Azerbaijan won four nominations (Azerbaijani Mugham; art of Azerbaijani Ashiq; craftsmanship and performance art of the Tar – a long-necked string instrument, and Novruz [2] ), Kazakhstan gained two nominations (Kazakh traditional art of Dombra Kuy; Aitys-Aitysh, the art of improvisation [3]), Kyrgyzstan was granted four nominations (Kyrgyz epic trilogy: Manas, Semetey, Seytek; art of Akyns, Kyrgyz epic tellers; Aitys-Aitysh: the art of improvisation; and Navruz); Turkey won five nominations (Semah, Alevi-Bektaşi ritual; Âşıklık: minstrelsy tradition; Meddahlik, the art of the storyteller; Mevlevi Sema ceremony; and Nevruz); Turkmenistan gained one nomination (epic art of Gorogly), Uzbekistan was granted five nominations (Askiya, the art of wit; Katta Ashulla, cultural space of Boysun District; Shashmaqom music ‒ together with Tajikistan; and Navrouz); Russia(Yakutia) won one nomination (Olonkho, Yakut heroic epos).

Why are these UNESCO-nominated Intangible Cultural Heritage traditions so significant? Because the newly established UNESCO schemes for Intangible Cultural Heritage assist in evaluation of traditional heritages displaying the cultural diversity of the Turkic-speaking people. The wealth of the Turkic music culture critically acclaimed by UNESCO experts proved its uniqueness and the fact that the international assistance is needed to provide the safeguarding pritorities towards music genres of the Turkic- speaking world.


Talking about the history of our Study group one should mention our past Symposia started from the first one on “Music of the Turkic-Speaking World: Performance and the Master-Apprentice system of Oral Transmission”. Chaired by Dr Razia Sultanova, it took place between 3-4 February 2006 at SOAS, University of London with the keynote speaker Professor Hiromi Lorraine Sakata (USA). The event aimed to establish a new Study Group within the ICTM (International Council for Traditional Music) for regular meetings and joined projects. It was considered important to pool our efforts to undertake the new ICTM Study Group in order to discover key issues of cultural phenomena of various musical traditions of the Turkic speaking world. Further symposia followed in 2010, 2013, 2014, 2016. and 2018. The latest on was the 6th Symposium and took place at the State Conservatory of Trabzon University in Turkey, on October 15-16, 2018. The theme of the Symposium was “Dance Phenomenon: Innovation and Creativity in Studying and Performing”.

The two-day Symposium comprised of two keynote presentations, eleven papers and three poster presentations.The symposium attracted participants from eleven countries. Two keynote speakers were Professor Ann R. David (University of Roehampton, UK) and Dr. Catherine Foley (University of Limerick, Ireland).Behind the Study Group activities there is a strong and flexible team working on its activities, reflecting a wide geographical areas. Its chairperson is Dr. Razia Sultanova ( University of Cambridge, UK), Vice-Chair is Dr. Galina Sychenko ( Glinka Novosibirsk State Conservatory, Russia) and Secretary is Dr. Abdullah Akat (Trabzon University State Conservatory, Turkey). There are also Appointed Study Group members serving on the Board.


Several books with articles by Study group members have been published in the thirteen years since the Group’s establishment: “Sacred Knowledge: Schools or Revelation? Master-Apprentice System of Oral Transmission in the music of the Turkic Speaking world”, Razia Sultanova (Ed), LAP, Germany, 2009; “From Voice to an Instrument: Sound phenomenon in Traditional cultural Heritage of the Turkic-speaking world”, Saule Utegalieva (Ed), 2016, Almaty, Kazakh Kurmangazy National Conservatory, 2016; and the most recent book released by the World’s leading academic publisher Routledge: “Turkic Soundscapes: from Shamanic voices to Hip-hop”, Razia Sultanova and Megan Rancier (Eds), London, 2018.
In future the group will continue its scholarly study aiming to promote the richness and the wealth of musical culture of the Turkic speaking world.



[1] The intangible cultural heritage as the practices, representations, expressions, as well as the knowledge and skills (including instruments, objects, artefacts, cultural spaces), that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognise as part of their cultural heritage. It is sometimes called living cultural heritage, and is manifested inter alia in the following domains: Oral traditions and expressions, including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage; Performing arts; Social practices, rituals and festive events; Knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe; Traditional craftsmanship

[2] Navruz (Novruz, Nowrouz, Nooruz, Navruz, Nauroz, Nevruz) was a joint nomination for Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, Uzbekistan (India, Pakistan).

[3] Aitys-Aitysh (the Art of Improvisation) was a joint nomination for Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.