Healing knowledge from the Orient

Ancient Oriental Music Therapy

Author: Dr. Rahmi Oruc Güvenc
Category: Islam / Sufism
Issue No: 90

In the context of music therapy, sounds and music are worked with, because their healing effect on humans is known and tested. The following article presents the approach of ancient oriental music therapy, which differs in essential points from the western one. The human organism is seen as a vibrational system that can be brought back into resonance with itself and the cosmos through sounds. A deeper insight into this form of therapy is provided by the renowned clinical psychologist and private lecturer in ethnomusicology Dr. Rahmi Oruc Güvenc.

Between 1970 and 1980, Dr. Güvenc developed treatment concepts for integrating traditional music therapy into modern clinical practice at the Medical Faculty in Istanbul. He rediscovered ancient oriental music (abbreviation AOM) and its associated dances and movements, which originated from the shamanic tradition.





Shamanism is the belief in psychic and supernatural forces in other worlds. Before the emergence of the great religions that adopted shamanic knowledge, shamanism was practiced in all cultures. Baksi are the names of the shamans of Central Asia, and through rituals, chants, rhythms, movements and dances they succeed in attaining an altered state of consciousness and thus gaining access to the spiritual divine world that encompasses nature, animals and the cosmos.

Ancient Oriental music therapy is an effective way to experience and strengthen connection to life.



Dr. Güvenc is a Sufi master of six different orders, all based in Turkey. The tradition best known in the West is that of Mevlana Rumi, and Dr. Güvenc completed his philosophical studies with a thesis on this great mystic.

Sufism offers various spiritual paths such as prayer, meditation, and ritual, and is practiced worldwide in both Islamic and Christian cultures. It holds the experience of universal love, wisdom and divine truth, realization of the meaning of our being, including our own true divine being. Besides everyday life, it conveys another divine reality.

In doing so, Dr. Güvenc brings the spiritual attitude of the Sufi tradition, which focuses on the soul-spiritual unfolding of the active human being, into ancient oriental music therapy

whereby also on handed down song property is fallen back: To greet the Prophet Mohammed in Medina (Hijra, 622 AD), the women sang the song “Taleal Bedru Aleyna,” which translates as “Greetings, welcome, you whose face shines as bright as the moon.”

The song “Care kendime”, “All solution lies in me”, also goes back to a poet who was active during the Prophet’s lifetime. When the Prophet Mohammed heard these words, he felt so touched that he made the prayer dance “Sema”.

Sounds can give us healing and beautiful experiences as if from a dream.



In addition to the sung word, AOM draws on ancient Oriental musical instruments: the drum, called a küdüm, is a copper or metal container over which an animal skin is stretched and which is always used in pairs. The sound has a strong connection to the earth and is used primarily in the Mevlivi tradition, in the ritual of Sema.

Ney, a reed flute, is related by Mevlana to the human being who, after purification from his negative forces, arrives at the inner emptiness that is pure and clear. Another archaic Baksi instrument is the kilkopuz, which is especially suitable for imitating animal sounds and sounds of nature. The kopuz, a short-necked lute several millennia old depicted in cave paintings, was rediscovered and recreated for the AOM.

“IT IS,” creation and divine command are represented by the form of the rebab, another sound instrument in the AOM brought by Mevlana and his father from the Central Asian culture. The sound of water accompanies these instruments.

The Sufis believe that water can store information and sounds have a positive effect on the human organism.

The patient is thus provided with different sound experiences through the various instruments.

Are you curious about the other types of melodies in AOM and how they vibrate the body, mind and spirit? You can find the download to the full version of the article after the individual text excerpts.

TV: Dr. Güvenc, what are the core differences between Western and Ancient Oriental music therapy?

In Western music therapy, the instruments, for example percussion instruments, are played by the patient to express his emotions. But the healing effects of music and dance in AOM are based on psychological, neurobiological and cultural historical causes and come from several sources: Shamanism , Sufism, Art and Medicine.

Our entire organism is a vibrational system.

Biological rhythms such as breathing, heartbeat, sleeping and waking run automatically. By resonating with a healthy natural rhythm, as is true in AOM, a damaged organism can find its way back to its natural healthy vibrational state.

Ancient Oriental music and movement therapy distinguishes between two types of therapy: in receptive therapy, the patient is played in the appropriate key according to his or her symptoms. For example, the makame key of rest helps after strokes and with paralysis, but also with autism. This is because it lowers the pulse rate, gives calm, joy, balance and inner stillness.





Active music therapy is about making beautiful movements to the harmonic music. Over these old melodies, it is a matter of giving a melodic impulse that is translated into movement. Since it is not polyphonic music, the ear can follow this impulse more easily. Sometimes the structures are given here in the movement. Thus, the therapeutic effects of the Uyghur dances, which were also sung and played as cosmic music by one of the oldest Turkic peoples, are especially worth mentioning.


About the interviewee

Healing knowledge from the Orient
Dr. Rahmi Oruc Güvenc was a clinical psychologist and private lecturer in ethnomusicology at the Faculty of Medicine, Istanbul University. Also coordinator for the Alternative, Complementary and Traditional Medicine Department for the Turkish Ministry of Health. 1976 Founding of the Tümata Working Group, which has set itself the task of scientifically researching and presenting Turkish music. This is done through concerts, workshops, Sufi tours, Sufi seminars, congresses, and intercultural and interreligious activities. He passed away in July 2017.

Andrea Azize Güvenc, occupational therapist, music and movement therapist, book author. She supported her husband in his research and teaching activities and accompanied him on his travels. Together with him she created joint performances of ancient oriental music on stage with various oriental instruments, singing and dancing. She translated for her husband into German, French and English.

This article has also been published on the German Website: Heilwissen aus dem Orient

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