The Violin In Traditional Turkish Music A General Outlook
by CIHAT AKIN
String Tradition In Turkish Music
The Violin And Its Usage
Notable Violinists In Turkish Music
String Tradition In Turkish Music
There has been a string playing tradition in Turkish Music, long
before the violin was brought in to the Ottoman Empire. The most
used string instruments were; the Iklig, Gicek, Ki-yak, Kopuz
and Kemence. In the late centuries only the Kemence became the
main instrument. Like the kemence; Iklig, Gicek, Kiyak and bowed
Kopuz was also played on the knee.
The kemençe consists of two words in Persian. Keman and Ce: Keman
means violin and ce is small, then we can con-sider the Kemence
as a small violin and it held the place of the violin in classical
Turkish Music. The Kemençe has three strings and tuned in fourths
and fifths. However there is an-other type of Kemence, which has
four strings. This had been used by Kemenceci Vasilaki for the
first time. Huseyin Saad-eddin Arel re-used the four stringed
kemence as an alternative to the western violin and tuned it as
same as violin which in-creases the possibilities of the instrument.
But when the west-ern violin entered in to the classical Turkish
Music, it was ri-valled by the kemence. Therefore there are stylistic
differ-ences between the two instruments and must not be compared
with each other because the kemence has a different playing technique
and style. Some of the violin players of the late century has
imitated the style of kemence in violin playing and established
a kind of different violin sound.
Keman is a very old Persian word. It was used for the violin in
Istanbul for the first time. The stem of word Keman in Per-sian
is: Hemiden which means bowing or bending. In all western languages
the meaning of the word Bow is the same as in Turkish: Yay. Bow
means ok in Turkish. There is an instrument called Iklig in Anatolia..
The bow of Iklig was also called keman and the performer ke-manci
in Anatolian Turkish. Today, keman refers to the European violin.
But two centuries ago keman was not the same instrument which
we know as an European violin. The old keman is called the Rebab
Before the violin was brought in to Turkey, the Sinekeman occupied
the place of the violin. Rauf Yekta Bey suggests that Sinekeman
together with the Ney and the Tambur estab-lished an excellent
trio in the peak time of the Turkish Music at the time of the
Sultan Selim III. Rauf Yekta suggests some claims such as Sinekeman
being brought in to Turkey by Miron, a Moldavian violinist during
the time of Sultan Selim III (1789-1807). But Sinekeman was played
long be-fore 1789. Toderini who lived in Istanbul between 1781
till 1786 suggests that Sinekeman was already common among the
Turks. Although Sinekeman is not a Turkish instrument, Rauf Yekta
suggests that we do not know the exact date of the first time
it was used. There was already a tradition of violin playing among
the non-muslim musicians such as Ke-mani Yorgi Aga, Kemani Anastasios
and Kemani Stefano.
Probably the oldest examples of the violins were found in cities
such as, Istanbul and Trabzon as a result of being in commercial
contact with Latin countries. Rauf Yekta Bey suggested that the
violin was brought in to the Ottoman Em-pire from Austria- Hungary
via Serbia and the Balkans. But It is not known exactly when the
violin appeared in the Otto-man Empire. Although it did not appear
in Turkish Music immediately, it was common among the people and
in the Kahvehane-s (Cafe or Tea rooms). But it was Yorgi, a fa-mous
violinist who introduced the modern violin to the bour-geoisie.
Sixteen years after Fonton, another westerner Blain-ville mentioned
Yorgi as the violinist of the Sultan. Aksoy claims that an older
document than Fonton and Blainville ex-ists, which is the picture
of Turkish Musicians playing the violin by a Swiss painter
called Liotard. But the oldest document is Paralleles des Ancients
et des Modernes a book by Perrault. Perrault mentioned an Iranian
violinist who played the violin in the French ambassadors residence
in Is-tanbul. But we do not know if the violin was a western type
The Violin And Its Usage
The violin took its place in Turkish Music even in the Der-vishes
convent. It was also used to perform in groups at the palace.
The number of violins in these groups increased gradually. One
of the writers of the 19th Century says (Ozalp Derleme)
...There were cafes in different places of Istanbul that were
like concert halls. In those places occasionally performers such
as the kemençe players Vasilaki, the violinists Tatyos, Memduh
and Tanburi Ovakim.... who were well known, would give concerts
on Fridays and Sundays. in day time and at night. Towards the
end of the 19th Century these cafes were called Semai Cafes. The
mu-sic which was performed in those places had different motives
from Turkish Folk Music and classical Turkish Music. At the same
time, performing in casinos became a profes-sion. The most magnificent
month for these places was the Ramadan. People who wanted to listen
to Poem and Music recitals used to visit these places..
The violin brought its own culture when it came to the Otto-man
Empire. The most important factor of that culture was the Gypsy
players. When the Ottoman army gained a new ter-ritory, Gypsies
were moving and re-establishing themselves in there. Gypsies spread
Turkish culture over Europe and took the European culture in to
the new Turkish territories. An Hungarian writer made following
explanation. (A.H.Tanpinar: Ismail Dede, Musiki ve Niota , Vol.
p.21)REFERENCES AND WRITER
" ... It is a known fact that, our musicians play with Turkish
instruments and in Turkish style... Our violinists were mostly
from among Turkish prisoners of war.... Our peo-ple were used
to having Turkish singers and players... It is clear that, there
was a close relationship between Turkish and Hungarian players.
In those days, Gypsies were settled down in the places where the
army had been. Therefore those Gypsies had an important role as
Turkish Music became known widely in the Balkans... Generally,
Gypsy players walked around in pairs. One used to play the violin,
the other used to play theSaz ( and instru-ment also called
Baglama)... During the war, it was much easier to find Gypsy
play-ers. Once captured they were not released be-cause it was
difficult to find good violinist and Zurna (a wind instrument)
players, thus there were Turkish singers in Hungarian castles
and Hungarian singers and players in Turkish cas-tles". REFERENCES
The violin was not taught in schools. The style was unique. Violinists,
singers, kemence players etc. performed in the same style because
composers did not write any music for particular instruments.
They did of course compose music with or without words, but instrumental
music was played by every instrument. Every instrument performed
the same pieces, but in a different way. Turkish Music was not
devel-oped as the polyphonic music was. They all played in unison.
They did not bother to sing the works in different keys. Male
or female voices performed the same works. Therefore par-ticular
techniques of the instruments or voices were not de-veloped in
an academic way. There was no work written es-pecially for the
violin so it was not expected to have an edu-cational method for
the instrument. Violinists, always stud-ied learned and performed
from memory. Many of them be-came violinists from studying on
their own. They sometimes listened to other players and sometimes
imitated them. When one looks at the life story of many Turkish
violinists, one sees that usually, they had learned to play the
violin from their father. There were innumerable Gypsy, Armenian,
Turkish and Greek violinists in the late Ottoman Empire. This
was one of the great examples of the mixed culture.
Players did nor use the western tuning system although they changed
the chanterelle to one tone lower. When we look at the past, before
the violin and Sinekeman were used, the first strings of the Kemence
and the Rebab were tuned to D. When the keman first appeared in
Istanbul the tuning did not suit the players and they changed
the first string to one tone lower which nowadays is still the
case, although some Turk-ish Music players use the international
tuning system today. Another opinion is that, before they were
met with the mod-ern violin, they were using the Sinekeman and
the first string of it, was tuned to D. When the violin was introduced,
they had some difficulty to play it with the chanterelle E and
they changed it into D.
I have heard personally the following opinion from a famous Kemence
player Cuneyd Orhon. He said that some of the makams in Turkish
Music are very difficult to perform on the violin. These makams
in the high pitches have got critical in-tervals especially on
Gerdaniye (D) Therefore it was easier to play with them on the
open string and they usually played with the same tuning.
The violin entered and being used in Turkey as a result of the
entrance of western tradition and music. We find out that, earliest
relationship between Turkish and Western Music has started in
the 16th Century. François I, then the king of France, had sent
an ensemble to the Suleyman II as early as 1543. Elizabeth I had
also sent an organ as a present to the Sultan Murat III in 1599.
But the real occupation of the western music started in 1826.
When the Sultan Mahmut II abandoned the old Jannisary army, he
founded a modern army called Nizam-_ Cedid. Therefore the old
mehter band as a part of the old military tradition was also disbanded,
a new western style brass team was established. In two years time
(1828) Giuseppe Donizetti was invited and he founded the first
western style military band. The band became the Sultans Music
Ensemble so called Muzika-i Humayun. Support for western Music
increased. Opera and Theatre companies appeared and there were
performances at the Pal-ace in Istanbul that was then the capital
of the Ottoman Em-pire. Great virtuosos came from Europe to give
concerts, in-cluding Franz Liszt and Henry Vieuxtemps. Mesut Cemil
Tel who is the son of Tamburi Cemil Bey, writes in his book called
Tanburi Cemil Bey in Hayati,
...When Vieuxtemps visited Istanbul, Tan-buri Cemil Bey played
for him. Vieuxtemps was impressed with his playing and marvel-lous
bow technique. REFERENCE
Even violinists such as Wieniawsky composed works influ-enced
by Turkish Music. The best example is his Oriental Fantasy for
violin and piano Op.24.
Notable Violinists In Turkish Music
According to a pamphlet written by Suleyman Faik Efendi, Musahip
Hizir Aga and Kemani Ali Aga were famous in the second half of
the 18th century. It was written by Evliya Celebi that there were
about 80 professional Kemence players in the middle of the 18th
century. They were called Kemani because the Rebab was called
keman. Evliya Celebi also mentioned Ahmed Celebi ( ?-1720) who
was the favourite pupil of Kemani Mustafa Aga. He also mentions
the names of two other players, Kursuncuzade and Murad Celebi.
Unfortunately we do not have any information about the style of
the older violinists, as we do not know if they played Re-bab,
Sinekeman or the western violin.
Kemani Ali Aga was born in Istanbul and studied in Enderun. After
his graduation, he became sergeant of the treasury, companion
of Selim III. Afterwards he became chief muezzin and was given
a nickname Ali Efendi. He died at the age of 60. He played the
oriental violin (Rebab) at the palace with well known musicians
such as Dede Efendi, Dellalzade Shakir Aga etc. Kemani Yorgi Aga
(18th Century) as mentioned above was one of the first violinist
to use the western violin in Turkish Music. He was a violinist
and composer of the palace also worked in Enderun, during the
time of Sultan Selim III and Mahmud I. Another pioneer violinist
along with Yorgi, was Miron (18th Century), he was from Moldovia.
Yorgi, Miron and Todori influenced each other. However, Yorgi
had played the oriental violin (as we call it Rebab today.) before
he played the western violin. His teacher was Kemani Ali Aga.
Kemani Hizir Aga (18th Century) and Sadik Aga (1757-1815) were
also important violinists of the 18th century.
Avram Barzilay was a violinist of Jewish origin. Towards the end
of the 18th century he lived in Thessaloniki. Among the famous
compositions there are two pesrevs in Cargah and Pencgah modes.
His grandson Barzilay also continued to perform in the same tradition.
Hamparsum Limonciyan was born in Istanbul in 1768. He was a composer
and violin-ist of Armenian origin. He attended churches and dervishes
convents to make music. He also took lessons from Ismail Dede
Efendi. He invented a new notation system with en-couragement
from Selim III. He died in 1839. Hamza Aga ( died in 1830s) and
Bedros Comlekciyan (1785-1840) were among the well known violinists
of the 18th century as well.
Kemani Riza Efendi lived between 1780 and 1852. His style was
very classical and dominated the Turkish Music un-til Tanburi
Cemils style became popular. He also taught the violin in Harem-i
Humayun Music Performance Group.
In the 19th Century the art of violin playing developed. In the
first half of the 19th Century Sinekemani Agop and a gypsy player
Denizoglu Kemani Ali Bey were important influ-ences to its development
and in the 2nd half of the 19th Cen-tury, there were many violinists
who were exposed to the new recording medium of that era.
One of the famous violinists was Kemani Aleksan Aga (1850?-1910?).
He was usually known as Kemani Aga, lived in Istanbul. When Darulmusiki-i
Osmani was established un-der the patronage of Shehzade Ziyaeddin
Efendi in Istanbul, he had worked there as a teacher. He was the
teacher of Ke-mani Serkis and Kemani Mustafa Sunar. He also gave
private lessons to the children of wealthy families. Kemani Aleksan
Agas style left an important mark on the other violinists. After
his death, the other musicians continued to play in his style.
Necabeddin, who played the violin in the Turkish Music State Ensemble,
was one of Aleksan Agas followers. Through out his life he was
known as the master of the violin. He made records of Taksims,
Yegah, Segah and Saba makams and made compositions as vocal and
instrumental pieces. According to Öztuna, he improved his art
by imitating the others before him. Öztuna PAGE NUMBER Unfortu-nately,
no recorded example of his work survives today.
Another famous violinist was Kemani Sebuh. He was also called
Kör Sebuh because of his blindness. He played the violin in Muzika-i
Humayun for a while and worked at night clubs for a long time.
His lively and characteristic playing style can be seen in his
compositions Oyun Havalari. Vio-linist Tatyos Efendi was one
of his students.
Another violinists of Armenian descent was Melekzet Efendi. He
was born in Istanbul in 1857. He was also known as a singer. He
went to Egypt and established a Music Society in Cairo and taught
in several Armenian Schools. He died in Cairo, in 1937.
One of the pupils of Kemani Sebuh was Tatyos Efendi and he was
also of Armenian descent. Tatyos Efendi was born in Istanbul in
1858. He studied with Kemani Sebuh. He worked as a performer in
Pirinççi Night Club for a while, he was an alcoholic and died
of cirrhosis at the age of 55 in 1913. He was one of the teachers
of Mustafa Sunar.
Kemani Bulbuli Salih Efendi was born in the second half of the
19th century and died in 1923.
He was of Gypsy origin and became very famous in the night clubs
and because of he imitated the nightingale and was called Bulbuli.
He was one of the teachers of Mustafa Sunar. He often played with
Tanburi Cemil Bey and left some re-cordings.
We can find out from his recordings that his style is very plain
and does not use ornaments as much as the others. His vibrato
is an arm and wrist vibrato as we can perceive from the recording.
He does not use finger vibrato very often. Much of the time he
uses continuous vibrato. Sometimes he does not use any vibrato.
He defines the differences between the notes clearly. He has a
small but musical, non-creamy and sweet tone. His intonation is
always correct even in the high pitches. He alternates the amount
of bow he uses for the characteristics of the melodies.
Kemani Andon ( ?-1915) and Kemani Dikran ( ?-1924) were the important
violinists of the second half of the 19th century. Another violinist
Kemani Kirkor was born in Is-tanbul in 1868, he was of Armenian
origin and also studied religious music. He worked in different
churches as a singer and he even wrote the notes of the traditional
Jewish rites for the chief Rabbi. He joined Darul Musiki-i Osmani
as a per-former. He also made some records. He died in 1938.
Kemani Memduh lived between 1868 and1938. He was of a gypsy origin
and was born in Istanbul. He played in the pres-ence of Abdulhamid
II several times. He also made records and he was one of the first
users of western tuning system.
Sinekemani Mehmet Nuri Duyguer (1877-1963) was born in Istanbul.
He learnt the Kanun from his sister and he took music lessons
from Enderuni Ali Bey. He composed songs and was admitted into
conservatory performing ensemble by Arel. He taught many students.
He both played the violin and Sinekeman.
Kemani Serkis (1885-1944) was of Armenian origin and was born
in Istanbul. His teacher was Kemani Aleksan Aga. He played the
violin in the school of Muallim Ismail Hakki Bey in Laleli, Istanbul,
later on he emigrated to Paris and died there.
Haydar Tatliyay was a violinist of Gypsy origin. He was born in
Draman in 1890, started to play the violin at the age of eight.
In 1914, he emigrated to Canakkale and worked in the clubs in
Izmir region. In 1928, he went to Egypt and stayed there for 4
years. He also stayed in Haleppo for three years and came back
to Istanbul. His style was arabesque and his compositions display
the influence of Arab Music. He used to practice regularly. In
a short time, he was called the Paganini of Turkish Music. His
instrumental works were a revolution for the instrumental Turkish
Music. But nobody was able to play them because of the difficulties
of the tech-nical passages. However, he was a great technician
but was poor musically. His musical taste was far away from the
style of Turkish Music. He used some Arabic tunes in his taksims
that affected his position in Turkish Music Society. He did not
know to read the music, always played by memory. In his playing,
he played very long phrases which were full of or-naments. He
used finger vibrato when he needed. He did not need to use the
vibrato much of the time because the orna-ments did the same job.
His playing was far from classical Turkish music, but there is
technical brilliancy in his record-ings.
Mustafa Sunar was also born in Draman. In spite of his family
reservations he studied music. He taught in schools for a while.
After 1945 he worked as a performer in the Istanbul Conservatory.
He also taught in Eyub Music Society. He died in Ankara in 1961.
He had improved his playing by taking private tuition from Kemani
Aleksan Aga, Kemani Tatyos Efendi, Kemani Memduh and Bulbuli Salih
Efendi. At the same time he was a very good performer of the Sinekeman
Resad Erer was born in Istanbul in 1899. He began to play the
violin when he was a child and soon became famous. He was one
of the founders of Darulelhan and Darultalim-i Mu-siki. Although
he took lessons from some tutors, he was largely self-taught.
He was influenced by Tanburi Cemil Bey. When we listened to his
violin playing, it is obvious to see this influence. His style
was much more close to that of the Kemence. He died in 1940 in
Sadi Isilay was born in Istanbul in 1899. He first studied with
his father. Later he attended the Darul Musiki-i Osmani Music
Society. He was taken to a tour to Thessaloniki when he was just
at twelve. After Erers death he took his place in the Municipal
Conservatory Performing Ensemble. He was one of the most important
violinist of traditional Turkish Mu-sic. His virtuosity was not
satisfying but his musical quality was extraordinary. He used
very long bows and did not play any false notes. He played with
a musical and strong sound but the sound quality itself was not
satisfying. He died in Is-tanbul, 1969.
Cevdet Çagla was born in Istanbul in 1900 and was one of the most
precocious violinists. His parents were fond of mu-sic. His father
was an amateur violinist and his mother was a pianist. Çagla gained
his first musical knowledge throughout his childhood in his musical
environment. Although his par-ents dealt with classical Turkish
music, they wanted him to study western music. As a matter of
fact he began to take his first lessons from Ama Hafiz Osman.
When he was at the age of six, he started to take private lessons
from Antoniyadis, who was an expert tutor of western music. Çagla
soon im-proved and was sent to Germany where he stayed for two
and a half years and completed his music and high school educa-tion.
Having returned to Turkey, he attended Istanbul Econ-omy and Trade
College. Meanwhile, he joined in Darultalim-i Musical Society
and worked there for 15 years. Within this period he took part
in many concerts both in Istanbul and abroad. He worked in radio
broadcasting when Istanbul Radio was established in 1927. Then
in 1938 he was appointed to the chief performer post. In those
years, he belonged to the Ankara Music Society which was established
by the composer Fehmi Tokay.
Between 1950-1956 he worked as a chief of Istanbul Radio Music
Broadcasting. Later on, he was appointed to Baghdad Conservatory
as a violin teacher in accordance with the cul-tural relations
between Turkish and Iraqi governments in 1956 for three years.
Çagla gained here a well deserved fame all around the Arab world,
giving concerts on radio and televi-sion. When he came back to
Istanbul he continued to work as a chief of music broadcasts.
He also taught in the Turkish Music State Conservatory until his
death in 1988.
Hakki Derman was born in Istanbul in 1907. He began to play the
violin at the age of ten. When he was twelve, he joined in Besiktas
Musical Society where he met Serif Icli and studied with him for
a long time. He graduated from Be-siktas Gazi Osman Pasha High
School and in 1926 graduated with a degree in Pharmacology. He
worked as a performer for a while and then he was accepted to
Istanbul Radio. In 1931 he took part in a tour to Greece for three
months. In 1936 he was transferred to Ankara Radio. Between 1937
and 1940 he studied chemistry and became a chemist in the Municipality.
Then he came to Istanbul and worked there in the radio and in
many clubs as a performer. In 1966 he was chosen as a sec-ond
president of the control commission in Istanbul Radio. In 1967
he joined in repertoire commission. He never dealt the art of
composition and remained as a performer.
He played in an extraordinary way with his own very dex-trous
and frisky bow technique. His style influenced many musicians.
He made various recordings. When his style is ob-served, one can
see his quick and lively bow style. He gener-ally uses short bows
and plays at the tip most of the time. He does not use long bows
and his phrases are not long like that of Haydar Tatliyays. His
intonation is impeccable and tone is very sweet. He often uses
the bowing effect of Ponticello. In his playing, very fast notes
can be observed. He does not use his technique for virtuosity
as Haydar Tatliyay does. The technique helps him to have a better
musical sound and he uses this very well.
Nobar Tekyay was born in Istanbul, in 1906. He was of Armenian
origin and his real name was Nobar Çomlekçiyan. When he was six,
he started to learn music from his father who was a well-known
Ud player. First he learned western music but later performed
Turkish music. He worked in some clubs and the Istanbul Radio
for a while and then went to Paris where he stayed for a few years.
On his return he worked in Istanbul Radio again. He died in 1955.
Nobar Tekyay opened a new age in violin playing in Turkish music
by making a synthesis of western technique and Turk-ish music.
He produced a smooth sound on the violin. He had a sweet tone
and used arm vibrato. He used both long and short bows. He also
used double stops in his performances. He used his technique purely
for musical purposes.
Today younger generations do not know about the musical personalities
of their recent heritage. They do not even search for them. The
style of performing traditional Turkish Music is close to extinction
as there is no link between the younger and the older generations.
It is no longer traditional. Musicians are creating a degenerate
industrial music. No one is listening to Tekyays, Caglas and Cemils.
MAHUR PESREV BY TANBURI CEMIL BEY
THE ORIGINAL VERSION
MAHUR PESREV BY TANBURI CEMIL BEY
AS PLAYED BY KEMANI BULBULI SALIH EFENDI
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