I'm from middle Europe, and to me, oriental music (also the Turkish Arabesk music) has a typical oblique/ skewed melody. In Greek music, despite other culture, there is in my opinion the same oriental melody.

I like that very much and for me it suggests with "sad" and "melancholic".

So I want to ask of what constitutes this typical oriental sad melody. It is connected with the minor key?

And I think in Yugoslavian folk music you can also hear the influences of melancholic melody; I think its a mix of stright Europian and the skewed oriental music. Are there academic terms of this phenomenon?

Some examples of songs:

  • Igor Cukrov feat. Andrea: Lijepa Tena - klapa furešti: LIPA - Goran Karan: Kad zaspu anđeli
  • Edip Akbayram: Aldırma Gönül - mahsun kırmızıgül mihriban - Ahmet Kaya: Hani Benim Gençligim
  • Helena Paparizou: My Number One (ok, Greek) - Hadise: Dum Tek Tek

And this is not hearable in western Europe music. Sad that there is no term. I wonder if it is based on a musical mode, on the Phyrigian mode ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phrygian_mode ) that Balkan/ Eastern Europe use musical mode similar to this in Turkey/ Arabian states..

  • If you are asking for the name of a particular kind of style or melody or scale, that's not normally on topic here. A lot of times, general names for certain sounds are not so useful, since there are so many variations and overlaps. It might help you more to keep in mind the names of some specific songs or pieces that you like that have this sound. Then, if you want to tell someone what kind of music you like, you would say "I like music that shares elements with these songs" and I think most people will understand what you're talking about.
    – Todd Wilcox
    Jun 22, 2016 at 13:24
  • When it comes to ancient Greek music, the sad truth (as I understand it) is that we just don't really know what it sounded like back when it was played and written. There is a notation system and some pieces written down that are extant, but exactly how the notation was translated to voice and instruments is not clear. Some scholars have made educated guesses and you should be able to find recordings of their interpretations.
    – Todd Wilcox
    Jun 22, 2016 at 13:26

1 Answer 1


Western classical music solidified around two well-defined scales, "major" and "minor," quite a long time ago, but those scales are far from universal in the world. Other scales include the "modal" scales used in the west prior to the ascendancy of major/minor, the pentatonic scales of East Asia, the pentatonic "blues" scale of West Africa and American blues, as well as the Middle Eastern scale you're probably thinking of, the "Arabic", "Gypsy" or "Double Harmonic" scale.

It is similar to a major scale, but with a lowered second and sixth tone. It's also similar to harmonic minor, but with the lower half of the scale mirroring the structure of the upper half (thus "double harmonic"). It has been often borrowed in Western music to give what was once considered an "exotic" or "oriental" feel to music (although these terms are now considered outdated and potentially offensive).

Here's an example of an well-known American rock song using that same "exotic" scale: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWnFqpAtRT0

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