Greek Orthodox Music in Ottoman Istanbul

9780253018335: Hardback
Release Date: 7th December 2015

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 288

Indiana University Press

Greek Orthodox Music in Ottoman Istanbul

Nation and Community in the Era of Reform

Hardback / £28.99

During the late Ottoman period (1856–1922), a time of contestation about imperial policy toward minority groups, music helped the Ottoman Greeks in Istanbul define themselves as a distinct cultural group. A part of the largest non-Muslim minority within a multi-ethnic and multi-religious empire, the Greek Orthodox educated elite engaged in heated discussions about their cultural identity, Byzantine heritage, and prospects for the future, at the heart of which were debates about the place of traditional liturgical music in a community that was confronting modernity and westernization. Merih Erol draws on archival evidence from ecclesiastical and lay sources dealing with understandings of Byzantine music and history, forms of religious chanting, the life stories of individual cantors, and other popular and scholarly sources of the period. Audio examples keyed to the text are available online.

1. The City’s Greek Orthodox: An Overview
2. Liturgical Music and the Middle Class
3. Confronting the Musical Past
4. The Music Debate and Tradition
5. Music and National Identity
6. Singing and Political Allegiance

Merih Erol is senior fellow at Koç University’sResearch Center for Anatolian Civilizations in Istanbul.In 2014, she was Onassis Foundation Visiting Faculty in the Department of History at Boaziçi University, Istanbul. Previously, she was a visiting scholar at Harvard and Princeton Universities, the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, and the Center for Advanced Study, Sofia.

Merih Erol’s careful examination of the prominent church cantors of this period, their opinions on Byzantine, Ottoman and European musics as well as their relationship with both the Patriarchate and wealthy Greeks of Istanbul presents a detailed picture of a community trying to define their national identity during a transition. . . . Her study is unique and detailed, and her call to pluralism is timely.

Mehmet Ali Sanlikol
author of The Musician Mehters

Overall, the book impresses me as a sophisticated work that avoids the standard nationalist views on the history of the Ottoman Greeks.

Risto Pekka Pennanen
University of Tampere, Finland

Greek Orthodox Music in Ottoman Istanbul broadens and renews the research field of late Ottoman and Modern Greek musical and cultural history.

Middle Eastern Studies

Greek Orthodox Music in Ottoman Istanbul is an important historical study, carefullyresearched and well argued.

Ethnomusicology Forum

Highly recommended for academic libraries.

Music Reference Services Quarterly

This is a thoroughly researched, erudite, and original examination in Ottoman-Greek studies/history, which is also relevant to broader scholarship through the connections it builds with the history of European, Byzantine, and ancient music, ethnomusicology, and cultural studies.

American Historical Review

This book . . . is a welcome addition to the field of Greek-Ottoman studies in the nineteenth century because it offers a sustained analysis of the much neglected theme of 'Greek-Orthodox' music in the troubled and complicated late Ottoman period.


This book is a great contribution to the fields of historical ethnomusicology, religious studies, ethnic studies, and Ottoman and Greek studies. It offers timely research during a critical period for ethnic minorities in the Middle East in general and Christians in particular as they undergo persecution and forced migration.

Journal of the American Academy of Religion