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Written by: Ersu Pekin (Taken from Sultan Composers Cd/Kitap)

As the palace trained musicians within its own body, it either constantly recruited musicians who grew up outside the palace or asked them to participate in the musical assemblies held in the palace from time to time. "Cluster fasli" is an idiom used for the fassil that musicians working in the palace and those coming from outside the palace sing together. The invitation of Hamamîzâde İsmail Dede Efendi to the palace is a good example of this practice.

The song, composed by Hamamîzâde while he was still in his ordeal in the Mevlevi dervish lodge, started with the words "Zülfündedir benîm baht-ı Siyahım" in the buselik mode, which became famous in Istanbul in a short time. He attracted the attention of Selim and sent one of his companions, Vardakosta Ahmed Ağa, to the dervish lodge and summoned the dervish İsmail to the palace. Later, Dede Efendi traveled between the palace and the Mevlevi convent, and was the chief muezzin in the palace for a while, but he was never a palace man who continued this duty throughout his life. This shows that the palace undertook a function that followed the musical activities in Istanbul, enabled them to develop by incorporating successful musicians, and played a leading role in their cultural nourishment.


A similar environment II. It was formed during the reign of Abdülhamid. The sultan, who loved western music and had his daughter Ayşe Sultan take piano lessons, invited Cemil Bey to the palace when he heard about the fame of Tanburi Cemil Bey, who was identified with the music of Istanbul from the mansions of his time to the musician in the street.

In the Ottoman tradition, the terms state, palace, sultan show an inseparable unity as concepts and places. When the state is mentioned, the sultan who represents it and the palace, which is both the sultan's house and the place where the state is ruled, are considered together. Even if the palace is a building in a certain place or a tent in the campaign, it is the symbol of the state together with the sultan. It is seen that music has an important place among the signs symbolizing the sovereignty, state and principality in the establishment of the Ottoman State. To Osman Gazi, the Seljuk sultan Gıyaseddin Mesud in Konya, The flag, tabl (drum) and tug, which he sent as a symbol of principality and sovereignty, and "Tabl u Alem", which was also named as Cemaat-ı Mehteran-ı Alem, Mehteran-ı tabl u Alemi-i Hassa, Mehterhane-i Tabl u Alem, affiliated to the palace in the Ottoman Empire. He gave birth to the "Mehter of the World". The Tabi u Alem Mehter, which was attached to the palace, consisted of alemdars who were responsible for the protection of the sultanate sanjak, and the playing mehter, every day in the afternoon at the sultan's place, either in front of his tent or in its usual place in the palace.

Before the capital moved to Istanbul, the preparation of music books for the palace in the time of H. Murad, Maragalı Abdülkadir from Samarkand II. Dedicating his book Makâsıdü'l-Elhân to Murad is important in that it indicates the level and beginning of the Ottoman palace's interest in music. The book called Risale-i İlmü'l-Musiki, translated from Safiyüddin Abdülmümin by Ahmedoğlu Şükrullah and expanded with additions, Makasıd'ül Elhan, Nekavetu'l-Edvar (Nuruosmaniye Ktp, 3646) , books such as Fethullah Mü'min Şirvanî's Arabic edvar Risale fî İlmü'l Musiki (TSM Ktp, A 3449) dedicated to Fatih, the Eastern Islamic cultural resources, which were the basis for the formation of the Ottoman musical culture of the 15th century, were evaluated by the palace. In other words, it shows that he provided the necessary knowledge in determining the formation and identity of Ottoman music.

Classical Period

History-i Ebü'l-Feth writer Dursun Bey, who tells the period of Fatih, tells about the music council and the instruments played in the circumcision wedding of Fatih's princes, Bayezid and Mustafa, held in tents set up on an island on the Meriç River in Edirne in 1457. From Dursun Bey's saying "the sultan of the law", it can be understood that in such music assemblies in Fatih's palace, there was a palace-specific method, and music was performed in accordance with this method. Looking at the instruments mentioned by Dursun Bey, especially the instruments such as şeştar and barbut, and the playing of oud, şeştar, tanbur, rebab and barbut, it is understood that this music has an Islamic influence and that a unique Ottoman identity has not yet been formed. It is doubtful that the tanbur mentioned here is the tanbur used today; Likewise, it is more plausible that the rebab is the plectrum instrument described by Ahmedoğlu Şükrullah, rather than the usual stringed instrument.

It is among the information we have that there was a lute named Şîrmerd and a Kanuni named İshak in Fatih's palace. In an ehl-i hiref notebook (TSM Archive D. 9306/3) dated Rebiyülahir 932/January 1526, II. A musician named Muslihiddin, who was a tanbur player with a daily wage of 12 coins, was registered to the palace during the reign of Mehmed the Conqueror. This recording was made during the period of Fatih, in the court of the court, and after the period of Fatih, when science and art activities showed a constant vitality. It is told in the history of Dursun Bey that joy cushions were laid and cheng and craps were played during Bayezid's ascension ceremonies.

Haza el-Matla' fî Beyânü'l-Edvâr ve'l- Makamat ve fi ilmü'l-Esrâr ve'r-Rîyazât (TSM A 3459), known as "Seydi's el Matla" It was copied in 1504 during the reign of Bayezid. There is an interesting section at the beginning of this book in that it shows how the Ottoman palace drew its musical policy in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. In this section, the author first stated that the science of music originated from Farabi, who was considered the second teacher in the science of mathematics, then Safiyüddin Abdülmümin determined the sounds by using mathematics, that scholars were forbidden to deal with music in Baghdad during the time of Safiyüddin, but that the science of music was actually "İlm-ü Hakk". He explains that "there is no science to be abandoned" by giving various proofs and examples.

II. There are also daily musicians in Bayezid's palace. In the book numbered 7843, belonging to the period of Suleiman the Magnificent, in the Archives of the Topkapi Palace Museum, among the "community-i mutriban", II. The names of the kopuzists Şaban and Husrev, who are stated to have been mutrib since the time of Bayezid, and the two Kanuni named Sadi and Muhiddin, and a kemenche player named Nasuh are mentioned. The presence of the note "he came from inside" next to Kopuzcu Hüsrev indicates that there were musicians in Bayezid's palace, Enderun.

In the Suleymanname dated 1558, which is preserved in the Library of the Topkapi Palace Museum, two miniatures given by Esin Atıl with the definition of "Entertainment of the Law", there are musicians reading fasıls in the presence of the sultan sitting in a mansion. Likewise, a similar musical assembly was established at the circumcision wedding festivities of Sultan Suleiman's princes Bayezid and Cihangir in Topkapi Palace. In these miniatures, instruments such as the çeng, qanun, ud rebab (kemance), ney, muskal, duff (def) can be seen among the sazendes playing these instruments. In one of them, both çengi are portrayed as they are dancing with the flutters in their hands.

In the sources, in addition to avvad (udi), kobuzi, kemençe player, Kanuni, çengi and nayis, among the musicians called the court official community-ı mutriban, who received daily wages from the Ottoman palace during the Kanuni period, there are also mentions of guyende (hanende). The names of musicians and instrument makers are also mentioned in the ehl-i hiref notebooks, which show the officials and artists in the palace. From the explanations next to these names, as in the Fatih period, III. It is understood that during the reign of Selim, musicians were brought to the palace from Iran. These musicians naturally brought the music they knew and performed to the palace.

15th and 16th centuries. Ottoman palace music, on the one hand, maintained its relations with the music of the Eastern Islamic cultural circle both in theory and practice, and on the other hand, it contained local cultural characteristics. While the state was on its way to becoming a world empire in this period, it was preparing the way for Ottoman art, especially music, to attain a special identity within Islamic art and music. While doing this, he adopted the way of combining the local features that he created and found ready with the Islamic culture as a method.

Lady Playing the Lava. Engraving of Thomas Allom XIX century.

In 1635, IV. The lyrics of Evliya Çelebi, accepted before Murad IV. He tells Murad that he sang works in the segah, maye and bestenigar modes, the lyrics of which belonged to the Gülşenî sect and also to Derviş Ömer, Evliya's music teacher. Evliya Çelebi, who was a man of the people, had relations with the palace on various occasions, and even, according to his own statement, he entered the Pantry Room. Composing a folk song from a poem of the sultan, and reciting it together with other works by a public person in the presence of the sultan, constitutes an interesting example in terms of palace-society relations. Evliya Celebi also, IV. He also writes that Murad had a conversation with those who recited hymns and naats on Saturday nights by gathering hanende and sazendes, while explaining that the palace meşkhane was next to the private bath in the third courtyard of Topkapı Palace.

Ali Ufkî Bey (Albert Bobovski), who was in Topkapı Palace Enderun in the same period, showed the meşkhane in the third courtyard in the Topkapı Palace plan sketch he drew. According to this sketch, it is understood that the meşkhane, which is not in place today, is on the right side of the Arzodası, in front of the building where the sultan's dresses are exhibited today. Ali Ufkî Bey, who has left a book called Haza Mecmua-ı Saz u Söz, which contains the notes of many works of his period and examples of folk music, such as the bowl, writes that the meşkhane is open all day long, it is closed only at night, and the musicians take lessons from their teachers here. The lecturers are musicians living outside the palace, they come to the palace every day after the first council meeting. Music related boys gathered from various rooms in Enderun live in their own rooms. Listening to the concert prepared by an Italian musician in the palace with the Western music technique during the reign of Sultan Murad, Ali Ufkî Bey ordered the instruments used in the concert as kemen, tanbur (or şeştar), santur, miskal, ney, oud, and to play folk songs, Çağana, çöğür, tanbura, He wrote that a wire drum and a teapot were used.

The historian and composer Prince of Moldavia Kantemiroğlu, who wrote the most important source work on Ottoman music in the late 17th and early 18th century, said that music revived and matured in the Ottomans during the reign of Sultan Mehmed, with the efforts of Osman Efendi, a nobleman from Istanbul. gives the names of famous musicians around the palace. Noting that the head of the palace, Davul İsmail Efendi, and his treasurer, Latif Çelebi, were people who loved music very much, he stated that he wrote his book on the theory of Ottoman music with their encouragement, and that the sultans, who had to deal with constant wars in the early Ottoman period, now attach great importance to music and fine arts.


The Ottoman palace of the 18th century is experiencing a period in which the state's progress towards the end accelerated. Towards the end of the century, the preference used in the cultural field began to be towards the West. III. Selim was engaged in literature, music and history in his princedom. Although the Western influence was evident in the field of architecture during his reign, such an influence was not observed in the sultan's music. As Selim III's statesmanship, his music and composition are also important. After the conquest of Istanbul, III. Apart from Selim IV. Murad, IV. Mehmed, II. Mustafa, Mahmud I and II. Mahmud was one of the sultans who gave special importance to music. At the time of these sultans, the palace's interest in music far exceeded an official interest. In addition to the sultans, there were countless musicians and musical enthusiasts among the princes, lady sultans and other members of the dynasty. On the other hand, there were also sultans who did not like music: III. Osman comes. IV. During the short reign of Mustafa, the musical assemblies in the palace were abolished. Later, II. It can be said that traditional music experienced its last bright period in the palace during the reign of Mahmud.

Fun in the Palace Garden. Oud, Cengi, Def. XVI century. heads.

Rauf Yekta, II. While discussing the musical activities during the reign of Mahmud, he also tells in a lively language, based on oral sources, the chapter of "freyfeza", which was read in the Serdab Pavilion in the Topkapı Palace during the reign of this sultan. In this chapter, Dede Efendi, Dellalzâde İsmail Ağa, Şakir Ağa, Çilingirzâde Ahmed Ağa, Suyolcuzâde Salih Efendi, Kömürcüzâde Hafız Efendi and Basmacızâde Abdi Efendi; Kazasker Mustafa İzzet Efendi as neyzen, musahip giriftzen Sait Efendi; violinists Rıza Efendi, Mustafa Ağa, Ali Ağa; Among the tanburîs, very valuable musicians of the time such as Numan Ağa, Zeki Mehmed Ağa, Keçi Arif Ağa and Necib Ağa participated. According to what Gene Rauf Yekta reports, the fasil committee, in accordance with the custom of the palace, sat on a red mat laid on the ground and began the performance of the fasıl after receiving the compliment of the sultan.

Hizir İlyas Ağa, II. He is an agha who grew up in Enderun, in the palace of Mahmud. The name Letâif-i Enderun, which he wrote, is also important in terms of Ottoman music history. It is possible to understand the rooms and duties of the palace officer musicians of the period, their relations, works and personalities with this work.

Enderun is the most important institution of Ottoman palace music life. In Enderun, the aghas who were in the private service of the sultan lived in the Seferli, Cellar, Treasury and Has rooms. Musicians gathered in the Seferli Room. Expeditionary Room IV. It was established in the time of Murad. Before this room was established, "big" and "small" rooms were used for music education and terrace.

Khidr Agha. From the Nagâmat of Tehhimü'l Makâmat fî Tawhîd. XVIII century.

Music was also taught and performed in the harem section of the palace. The music teachers of the concubines in the harem could teach both in the palace and in their own homes. Countless musicians emerged among the women in the Ottoman court over the centuries; however, the names and works of very few of them are known. The most famous female composer of the palace is Dilhayat Kalfa, who lived in the middle of the 18th century. Dilhayat Kalfa's saz semai, which has the same maqam as evcara peşrevi, mahur (Tâ-be-key sinem cefâ vû kîneye to cefâ vû kîneye), eviç (too mug ol rose-i zîba for hiram) and rast (Nevhiram inclined towards you, can a , dil two) are among the valuable works of Turkish music repertoire. Reftar Kalfa, where Kantemiroğlu recorded her peşrev and saz semais, is another female composer whose works have survived. Levnî's famous miniature portrays a harem saz set consisting of a tanbur, a muskal, a zurna and a circle.

II. Mahmud removed Enderun. III. The renewal movements that started with Selim II. It happened when Mahmud abolished the janissary and established a Western-style army called Asakir-i Mansure-i Muhammediye. As a natural result of this, Mehterhane was also abolished, and Giuseppe Donizetti was appointed as the head of Muzika-i Hümayun. After that, Ottoman music would gradually lose its identity and turn to another direction, to the West. From now on, the palace will fulfill its function of promoting music by promoting Western music more. The fact that Abdülmecid became the sultan and the proclamation of the Tanzimat registered the westernization of music. The great composer of the period, Dede Efendi's departure from the palace, on the pretext of going on pilgrimage, symbolizes that the support of Ottoman music from the palace has weakened.

During the reign of Abdülmecid, Western music began to move to the Ottoman palace with the work of Donizetti, the manager of the Muzika-i Hümayun. In addition to the band, a hall orchestra is also set up in the palace. Donizetti Pasha teaches Turkish students in the Ottoman palace to sing Italian songs with musical notation. The palace orchestra, which developed over time, plays pieces from Italian operas; He laid the first foundations of Western music taste, first in the palace and then in the city.

Source :
This article is taken from the CD/Book titled "Sultan Composers", which is the 3rd of the culture series prepared by Ekinciler Holding on the occasion of the 700th century of the foundation of the Ottoman Empire.

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