Ottoman music

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Music band from Ottoman Aleppo, mid 18th century

Ottoman music (Turkish: Osmanlı müziği) was developed in Istanbul and other major Ottoman cities and towns through the palaces and Sufi lodges of the Ottoman Empire.[1] Above all a vocal music, Ottoman music traditionally accompanies a solo singer with a small instrumental ensemble. In recent times, instruments might include turkish tanbur (lute), ney (end-blown reed flute), klasik kemençe (classical kemenche), keman (Western violin), kanun (zither), or other instruments. Sometimes described as monophonic music, the variety of ornamentation and variation in the ensemble requires the more accurate term heterophonic.


Ottoman music has a large and varied system of modes or scales known as makams, and other rules of composition. There are more than 600 makams that have been used so far. Out of these, at least 119 makams are formally defined, but today only around 20 makams are widely used. In the Sufi teaching, each makam represents and conveys a particular psychological and spiritual state. Sometimes, in certain makams, Ottomans would use different instrumental and vocal musical pieces in order to cure certain medical and psychological conditions.

A number of notation systems were used for transcribing classical music, the most dominant being the Hamparsum notation in use until the gradual introduction of western notation. Though non-Turkic contributions to Ottoman music have been marginalized since the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the Hamparsum notation system was invented by an Ottoman Armenian named Hamparsum Limonciyan. Hamparsum became the foundation of Ottoman classical makam theory and was also used by the Armenian Apostolic Church.[2]

Turkish classical music is taught in conservatories and social clubs, the most respected of which is Istanbul's Üsküdar Musiki Cemiyeti.

A specific sequence of classical Turkish musical forms become a fasıl, a suite an instrumental prelude (peşrev), an instrumental postlude (saz semai), and in between, the main section of vocal compositions which begins with and is punctuated by instrumental improvisations (taksim).[3] A full fasıl concert would include four different instrumental forms and three vocal forms, including a light classical song, şarkı. A strictly classical fasıl remains in the same makam throughout, from the introductory taksim to the end, which is usually a dance tune or oyun havası.[4] However shorter şarkı compositions, precursors to modern day songs, are a part of this tradition, many of them extremely old, dating back to the 14th century; many are newer, with late 19th century songwriter Haci Arif Bey being especially popular. Tanrıkorur argues that the perceived differences between the traditional music genres stemmed from the cultural clash between the East and the West that emerged during the Tanzîmat Era (1839–1908).[3]l

Musical instruments

Traditional instruments in Ottoman classical music today include tanbur long-necked plucked lute, ney end-blown flute, kemençe bowed fiddle, oud plucked short-necked unfretted lute, kanun plucked zither, violin, and in Mevlevi music, kudüm drum. Older instruments still in use include lavta.


Ottoman classical music comprises many vocal and instrumental forms, among which are the suites called fasıl. A fasıl typically includes many instrumental and/or vocal movements, including taksim, peşrev, şarkı, medhal, beste, and kar, among others.


Ottoman music has various genres including the spiritual, improvised ("gazel", "kaside", "durak", etc.) and fasıl music.

Composers and performers

Other famous proponents of this genre include Dede Efendi, Prince Cantemir, Baba Hamparsum, Kemani Tatyos Efendi, Sultan Selim III, and Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. The most popular modern Turkish classical singer is Münir Nurettin Selçuk, who was the first to establish a lead singer position. Other performers include Bekir Sıdkı Sezgin, Alaeddin Yavaşça, Müzeyyen Senar, Emel Sayın and Zekai Tunca.

Other composers

  • Sultan Abdülazîz (1830–1876)
  • Kara Ismail Ağa (1674–1724)
  • Nikoğos Ağa (1836–1885)
  • Sadik Ağa (1757–1815)
  • Sadullah Ağa (1730–1807)
  • Tanbûrî Numan Ağa (1750–1834)
  • Zeki Mehmet Ağa (1776–1846)
  • Refik Talat Alpman (1894–1947)
  • Hüseyin Sadettin Arel (1880–1955)
  • Giriftzen Asim (1852–1929)
  • Lemi Atli (1869–1945)
  • Reşat Aysu (1910–1999)
  • Aleko Bacanos (1888–1950)
  • Yorgo Bacanos (1900–1977)
  • Hacı Arif Bey (1831–1885)
  • Ismail Hakki Bey (1865–1927)
  • Kaptanzade Ali Riza Bey (1883–1934)
  • Neyzen Salim Bey (1829–1884)
  • Rahmi Bey (1864–1924)
  • Rifat Bey (1820–1888)
  • Şevki Bey (1860–1891)
  • Tanbûrî Cemil Bey (1871–1916)
  • Tanbûrî Osman Bey (1816–1885)
  • Ûdi Nevres Bey (1873–1937)
  • Cevdet Çağla (1900–1988)
  • Tanbûrî Mustafa Çavuş (1700–1770)
  • Nayi Osman Dede (1652–1730)
  • Neyzen Aziz Dede (1840–1905)
  • Neyzen Emin Dede (1883–1945)
  • Zekaî Dede (1816–1885)
  • İsmail Dede Efendi (1778–1846)
  • Kanuni Artaki Candan Efendi (1885–1948)
  • Kemani Riza Efendi (1780–1852)
  • Kemani Tatyos Efendi (1855–1913)
  • Misirli Udi Ibrahim Efendi (1872–1933)
  • Neyzen Dede Salih Efendi (1818–1888)
  • Tab-i Mustafa Efendi (1705–1770)
  • Rakim Elkutlu (1869–1948)
  • Subhi Ezgi (1869–1962)
  • Refik Fersan (1893–1965)
  • Gazi Giray Han (1554–1607)
  • Şerif Içli (1899–1956)
  • Tanbûrî Isak (1745–1814)
  • Buhurizade Mustafa Itri (1640–1711)
  • Dilhayat Kalfa (1710–1780)
  • Dimitri Kantemir (1673–1723)
  • Sadettin Kaynak (1895–1961)
  • Fahri Kopuz (1882–1968)
  • Seyfettin Osmanoğlu (1874–1926)
  • Suphi Ziya Özbekkan (1887–1966)
  • Yusuf Paşa (1840–1895)
  • Selahattin Pinar (1902–1960)
  • Nuri Halil Poyraz (1885–1950)
  • Hâfız Post (1630–1694)
  • Sultan Selim III (1761–1808)
  • Kemal Niyazi Seyhun (1885–1960)
  • Fethi Karamahmutoğlu (1942–1999)
  • Bekir Sıtkı Sezgin (1936–1996)
  • Bimen Şen (1873–1943)
  • Cinuçen Tanrıkorur (1938–2000)
  • Rauf Yekta (1871–1935)
  • Gülçin Yahya Kaçar (1966-presents)