Mahur can be thought of as the sister to Rast makam.  Though the intervals at first glance make it resemble a descending Western major scale, it in fact often borrows the intervals and changes seen in Rast, modulating to Nikriz rather often as well (also an attribute of Rast).  The main focal points of Mahur are: [gerdaniye], [neva], [rast], with other notes also playing an important role, such as: [tiz buselik]/[tiz segah], [mahur] (of course), [acem], [hüseyni], [çargah], & [dügah]. As I mentioned already, Mahur is a descending makam, starting in the upper octave, eventually stepping its way down to the tonic, often mimicking other makams on its course, and certainly not descending in a direct, straight line.  On the contrary, Mahur takes us for a ride as we move through its subtle mood changes, rising and falling, but always with the tonic and basic Mahur scale as our anchor.

Though it is rarely notated, we should make sure to make [mahur] note slightly flatter (into [eviç] note) when we pass over it in a descending melodic line. Also, you will hear in many performances of Mahur compositions and taksim that in the very beginning, the note [tiz buselik] is often flattened and made into [dik sünbüle], often by sliding down into it from [tiz buselik].  The diagram above tries to illustrate some of the changes and directionality seen in Mahur, but the repertoire is the real guide to its movement and changes. Notice however that there are definitely shifts in intonation that occur which can enrich your performance if you pay attention to them. One of the hidden beauties of this makam is how really subtle its changes can be - the best advice is listen to the masters for guidance.

One more thing to remember when it comes to taksim. Taksim is a composition, just like a saz semai or any other type of piece.  The difference is that it is only half written. You have the basic outline, and many possible places you could take it (found in the repertoire and taksim recordings).  It is your job to not only be true/authentic in your playing of a taksim, but also to be innovative and make an interesting musical composition. In the beginning it makes sense that we need to copy other, more experienced players to get the hang of this. But as you progress and become more comfortable in the makam, you should not fall into the trap of repeating yourself and others, when you could be creating something very interesting and unique which still falls within the borders of a traditional taksim. The example of Udi Yorgos Bacanos is perfect here, because though he was born more than 100 years ago, he was able to be extremely innovative while staying entrenched in the tradition of the makams and taksim form.


Now for the fun part!  Below I have some musical selections which will illustrate for you how Mahur is performed in various musical forms. Notice that in the şarkı (vocal) selections, we usually play the instrumental part in the beginning, even though it is notated at the end (Aranağme). As an exercise, see if you can find every instance in which a piece modulates to another makam, even for a very small moment in the melody. Pay close attention to melodic changes in each piece, and make note of them to compare with others. You will see some differences from piece to piece in the ways Mahur is used, and you should explore the repertoire to get even more taksim and compositional ideas for your own use.

Typically in a Turkish gazino or meyhane, a longer cycle of compositions in the same makam would be performed, starting with a Peşrev and then move on to vocal pieces in various rhythms, and then usually end with a Saz Semai or other instrumental piece.  A taksim or two would usually be thrown in at the beginning or middle wherever it was felt appropriate. Here, I am not doing this exactly, instead giving you some variety so you can get a better overall feel for the makam. Please use my performances on this site only as the well-meaning yet imperfect examples that they are, nothing more. I hope that they are helpful to you..


Mahur Taksim Example Audio


Mahur Peşrevi by Gazi Giray Han

Mahur Peşrevi Audio

I love this piece - it sounds like a child playing, with hints of adulthood around the corner. Try and listen to Necdet Yaşar's rendition, it is very beautiful and sweet.


Mahur Şarkı by End. Hafız Hüsnü Efendi

Mahur Şarkı Audio

Careful with the signs here - it might seem a little confusing, but once you play through it with me you'll see how it works. A very fun piece I think!


Mahur Şarkı (Traditional Aksak)

Mahur Şarkı Audio


Mahur Zeybek

Mahur Zeybek Audio

I have not found a recording of this yet, but I had fun embellishing it for this page. If you know of another recording of this piece, I would love to hear it.


Mahur Şarkı by Nuri Halil Poyraz

Mahur Şarkı Audio


Mahur Saz Semaisi by Kemençeci Nikolaki

Mahur Saz Semaisi Audio

Another often recorded piece - usually the Teslim is played twice every time in this piece specifically, but here I only repeated it at the end to be brief. Notice that in this version of the notation, the shift from [mahur] to [eviç] is notated in the first measure of the Teslim. We can apply this in other descending lines in the piece, but I found it interesting that it was actually shown here.


Copyright © Mavrothi T. Kontanis. All rights reserved 2008