Arabesque or Arabesk (Turkish: Arabesk) is a term created by Turkish musicologists for an Arabic style of music created in Turkey. The genre was particularly popular in Turkey in the decades from the 1960s through the 1990s. As with Arabic music itself, its aesthetics have evolved over the decades. Although melodies and rhythms are predominantly Byzantine and Arabic influenced, it also draws ideas from other aspects of Balkan and Middle Eastern music, including bağlama music and Ottoman forms of oriental music. Arabesque music are mostly in a minor key, typically in the Phrygian mode, and themes tend to focus on longing, melancholy, strife and love issues.
A very small percentage of Arabesk is exclusively instrumental. For the great majority of it, a singer lies at the center of the music. Male singers dominated the genre in its early years, but female singers probably predominated during its peak years of popularity. Simultaneously with the influx of female singers, the sound grew more dancey and upbeat.Orhan Gencebay is generally considered the founder of the genre (though he disagrees with the usage of the term). Other well known older singers are Müslüm Gürses, Ferdi Tayfur and Hakkı Bulut. One of the most prolific and commercially successful is İbrahim Tatlıses, who broke all sales records in Turkey in 1978 and continues to turn out popular music to this day. He has maintained popularity in the Arabesk scene in recent years through remixing his tracks into dance friendly club tracks. The pure Arabesk album "Acıların Kadını" by the singer Bergen was the bestselling album in Turkey in 1986 and may be fairly labelled one of the classic albums of the genre. Bergen had several other hit Arabesk albums during the 1980s. Other singers include Gülben Ergen, Ebru Gündeş, Seda Sayan, Sibel Can. The singers Muazzez Ersoy and Bülent Ersoy designate themselves as modern exponents of Ottoman classical music but much of their work can be labelled as Arabesk with softer beats, since the strings and vocal melodies sound Arabic—or arabesque.. Zerrin Özer also made arabesque albums between 1982 and 1988 and the most arabesque album was "Mutluluklar Dilerim" in 1984. Common theme in Arabesque songs is the highly embellished and agonizing depiction of love and yearning, along with unrequited love, grief and pain. This theme had undertones of class differences in early 1960-70s, during which most of the genre's followers -mostly working class to lower middle class- identified themselves with. Turkish composer Fazıl Say has repeatedly condemned and criticized Arabesque genre, equating the practice of listening to arabesque "tantamount to treason".