Turkey: Imams Take Voice Lessons
Twice a week a group of Turkish imams gather in a small classroom not far from Istanbul’s Golden Horn. Their goal is to get in tune.
Istanbul’s Muftiate, or Council of Religious Affairs, has received complaints of late about imams who melodically recite verses of the Koran in an off-key manner. In response, muftiate officials have started offering voice lessons to any imam who wants them. Although strictly voluntary, those who have been identified as being “unable to satisfy his community” are strongly urged to attend, said Recai Albayrak, head of the of the district mufiate for the Beyoglu section of Istanbul.
The voice lessons are led by Firkret Yasin a graduate from the Classical Folk Program at Haliç University who also moonlights in a rock band that performs around istanbul. Yasin guides the group of 20 imams through warm-ups, scales and popular Turkish folk songs. He then shows how imams can use the techniques when reciting Koranic verses.
The imams gather in a classroom at the Fetih Kuran Kursu – Kasimpasa school that is normally used by religious students ranging in age from eight to 15. Although used to being accorded respect and deference, many are eager students.
“Before class I was not using my breath correctly, after [this] class I can recite the Koran better because of the scales I learned," said one Imam, who declined to give his name.
Sadri Karabas, from Kars in eastern Turkey, said he sought out voice lessons to improve his ability to issue the Azan, or call to prayer. "I decided to come to the class because I want to be able to read … the proper notes.”
Albayrak, the Beyoglu muftiate official, indicated that there is no shortage of candidates for voice lessons. There have been requests for at least another 40 imams to take advantage of the program, he noted.
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