In Memoriam: Yildiray Erdener

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From Pelin Basci <>

Remembering Dr Yıldıray Erdener

I am sad to announce the passing of Dr. Yıldıray Erdener, who died at the age of 83 in his family home in Istanbul on May 3, 2021. A musician trained both in Western polyphonic and Turkish folk forms, Erdener started his career as an accomplished cellist. He studied music at what is today Ankara’s Gazi University. After graduation, he received a scholarship to study cello at the Freiburg Music Academy, in Germany. Between 1969 and 1975 he returned to the Music Department at Gazi University, serving as an instructor, as well as the department chair for one year. He gave concerts with a music trio including Professor Eduard Zuckmeier (on piano) and H. Hüseyin Akbulut (on violin). After the death of his mentor Professor Zuckmeier, he went to the United States to pursue an MA and doctoral degree (1987) at the departments of folklore and ethnomusicology at Indiana University-Bloomington. He studied with Professor Alan Merriam, the author of The Anthropology of Music, and Professor İlhan Başgöz the scholar of folklore. After a year of teaching at UC-Berkeley and in Lowell, Massachusetts, he directed a research project in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Between 1993 and 2010 he served as a professor at the University of Texas—Austin, teaching courses on Middle Eastern folklore, music culture in Central Asia and Turkey, Shamanism in Siberia and Central Asia, and Turkish language and literature. After retirement he returned to Istanbul, Turkey, giving occasional lectures and writing for “Sanattan Yansımalar” [Reflections from Art]. Erdener was the author of numerous books including Kars’ta Çobanoğlu Kahvehanesinde Aşık Karşılaşmaları ; Aşıklık Geleneğinin Şamanizm ve Sufizmle olan Tarihsel Bağları (Yapı Kredi Publications, 2017)  and the Song Contests of Turkish Minstrels (Harvard University Milman Parry Collection of Oral History Series, 1995). His articles appeared in Türk Folklor Araştırmaları; Türk Kültürü Araştırmaları; International Folklore Review; International Journal of Music in Turkey; The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music; Folklor/Edebiyat; and Cumhuriyet newspaper. He is remembered as a great scholar, a diligent teacher, a talented performer, and a kind and thoughtful mentor whose serious demeanor often masked a witty sensibility.

May he rest in peace.

(This remembrance builds on the obituary, which appeared in the online portal of Sanattan Yansimalar;

Pelin Basci


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