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Musicking in Ottoman Istanbul | Stephen Jones: a blog



Performance in the presence of Sultan Ahmed III:
Burnaz Hasan Çelebi, the lead singer (left row at high, with hook nostril and fur gown,
directing along with his frame-drum), with tanbur, kemançe, ney, and santur.
Miniature by Nakkaş İbrahim, early 18th century. Source.

For the broad vary of musical exercise in late imperial China, I wrestle to consider accounts that transcend the generalised clichés of Confucian principle to depict the varied soundscapes of native communities of the day.

For musicking in late Ottoman Istanbul/Constantinople, my dabblings (severely restricted by my incapacity to learn Turkish) intention merely to achieve a very fundamental perspective. [1]

A significant useful resource is the famend travelogue of Evliyâ Çelebi (1611–82) (see e.g. beneath The tanners of Zeytinburnu). Among a wealth of fabric on every kind of life, his accounts of the expressive cultures that he encountered on his journeys by means of the empire are exceptionally detailed. Evliya’s feedback on musicking, as a participant observer, are the topic of appreciable analysis in Turkey. [2]

While (as in China) a lot dialogue relies on sources for artwork music, I be taught from a helpful on-line article in English,

He reminds us of the broader soundscape, encompassing venues such because the dergah dervish lodges, the Enderün palace, and the taverns; and events resembling weddings, circumcision feasts, and parades (notice additionally Ahmet Önal, “Public ceremonies in Ottoman Istanbul”). Music additionally accompanied dancing (resembling kõcek) and ortaoyunu fashionable theatre, in addition to wrestling, acrobatics, and juggling. 

Ersu 10

Bahçıvaoğlu Kolu’s ortaoyunu present in the presence of the sultan and his sons on a raft in entrance of the Aynalıkavak Palace. Miniature by Levni. Surname-i Vehbi.

Ersu Pekin notes the wide selection of performers in a multilingual and multi-faith society,

from the sultan and şeyhülislam to the müderris (professor), qadi (decide), poet, dede, and dervish. Musicians served as non secular functionaries in mosques, church buildings, and synagogues. They carried out as road musicians and bards. They lived as concubines in the harem and as housewives.

Meclis gatherings have been held by each elite and commoners, when folks got here collectively for dialog, poetry studying, consuming, and making music. From the sixteenth century, espresso homes turned fashionable venues for musical interplay, attracting everybody “from the unemployed to candidate officers, qadismüderrises, high-ranking officials, imams, muezzins, and even ersatz Sufis”.  Among the article’s fantastic illustrations is that this portray of probably the primary espresso home opened in Tahtakale, as described by Peçuyi:

coffee house

Taverns, in keeping with Evliya Çelebi, have been principally situated in Samadyakapusu, Kumkapu, Yeni Balıkpazarı, Unkapanı, Cibalikapusu, Ayakapusu, Fenerkapusu, Balatkapusu, Hasköy, and Galata. On the European aspect of the Bosphorus, there have been taverns in Ortaköy, Kuruçeşme, Arnavutköy, Yeniköy, Tarabya, and Büyükdere, and on the Anatolian aspect in Kuzguncuk, Çengelköy, Üsküdar, and Kadıköy.

Ersu Pekin cites passages displaying Evliya’s deep familiarity with a vary of genres:

Horos Imâm, with whom I memorised the Qur’an in the has oda [privy chamber], and Tâyezâde Handân, Ferruhoğlu Assâf Beg, Ma‘ânoğlu, Keçeci Süleymân, and Amber Mustafâ, who have been my buddies reciting the adhan [call to prayer], all gathered in the place for music (meşkhane), close to the bathtub in the palace, day and evening, and carried out music and fasıls of Hüseyin Baykara. […]

Hânende [vocalist] Kara Oğlan Âmidî was one of many college students of Yahyâ, and he was a distinctive grasp in usûl-bend and sihr-i helâl. Together with the ruler of Bitlîs, Abdâl Hân, I’ve carried out the fasıls of Hüseyin Baykara for 3 years in Persia, then in Erzurum with Defterdârzâde Mehemmed Pasha in ’56.

In Constantinople, combining with the makam system, the fasil suite kind developed from its Persian origin, with masters resembling Buhurizade Mustafa Efendi (Itrî, 1640–1712). Though referred to as a chamber style, it additionally seems in Evliya’s accounts of the mehter Janissary bands (cited by Ersu Pekin):

About the parade of the performers of pipes and reeds: there have been eleven instrumentalists who have been craftsmen and so they all have been troopers. They all tuned their devices and carried out Segah makam, then Emîr-i Hac peşrev and Hasan Cân peşrev, gül‘izâr peşrev;… and the fasıls of Tatar Hân semâ‘î, and paraded in entrance of the sultan with a nice and loud efficiency. (n.38)

Forty troopers carried out three fasıls in the night and in the morning; that is on the order of Mehmed the Conqueror. In the 4 locations [jurisdictions] in Istanbul [Evliya uses the name İslâmbol], in Eyyub, Kasımpaşa, Galata, Tophane, Beşiktaş, Rumeli Hisarı, Yeniköy, Rumeli Yenihisarı, Kavak Yenihisarı, Beykoz, Anadolu Hisarı, Üsküdar, Kızkulesi, each night and morning [dawn], the navy band performs; the subaşıs, qadis, and dizdars [castle wardens] stand at consideration; that is on the order of Mehmed the Conqueror, as a result of these locations have been serhads[frontiers] at the moment. In truth, they nonetheless are serhads. (n.74)

Besides native authors, Ersu Pekin cites the Polish Wojciech Bobowski (Ali Ufki, 1610–75) and the Moldavian prince Dimitrie Cantemir (1673–1723; see beneath Musics misplaced and located). As tastes modified, innovation is a fixed theme, persevering with with musicians such because the Mevlevi “composer” Dede Efendi (1778–1846).

Despite the broad social base, most work depicted occasions for the higher layers of society:

Ersu 14

Ensemble directed by lead singer Burnaz Hasan Çelebi (Enfi Hasan Ağa)
on the festivities of 1720.
Nakkaş İbrahim, Surname-i Vehbi.

Later, fashionable types like şarkı started to switch the lengthy fasil suites. Taking us into the early twentieth century, Ersu Pekin sings the praises of Tanburi Cemil (1873–1916), who could be heard on many recordings on YouTube, together with this album; right here he performs a taksim on kemançe:

Has the reminiscence of the town forgotten the music that mirrored the refined style of the Ottoman elite? Does the wealthy heritage contained in the data, now remodeled into şarkı and peşrevs, semais and ghazels, replicate that outdated type? Alas, we’ll by no means know!

Another helpful introduction in English is

  • Cem Behar, “Music and musicians in the city”, in Shirine Hamedeh and Çiğdem Kafescioğlu (eds), A companion to early trendy Istanbul (2021).

He too notes the broad social foundation of musicking:

Traditional Ottoman/Turkish music may and did survive independently from the impetus or patronage offered by the ruling group, and the courtroom was not the primary centre of music making. […]

The musical custom was sufficiently subtle and ingrained in the city social tissue and resilient sufficient to outlive the consequences of random modifications in the musical tastes, whims and preferences of rulers or their quick entourage.

Cem Behar goes on to quote the biographical compendium of Şeyhülislâm Es’advert Efendi (1685–1753), which in addition to a few dignitaries and members of varied Sufi orders, lists many musicians of humble origin. Many distinguished musicians have been Greek, Jewish, or Armenian (cf. Zithers of Iran and Turkey). Behar stresses the blurred traces between “folk” and “art” musics, and between non secular and secular types (simply as we have to do for China); as Constantinople turned dwelling to migrants from all around the empire, their regional types have been included into music of the capital. Despite the frequent phenomenon of named “composers”, oral instructing and transmission have been main.

He describes modifications in the building-blocks of usûl metre and makam scale, and the emergence of the fasil from the early seventeenth century.

The 1638 procession
Most celebrated are Evliya Çelebi’s vivid descriptions of the massive 1638 procession of the “guilds and professions, merchants and artisans” for Sultan Murat IV, “a kind of perambulatory census” with 1,001 guilds parading in 57 sections. [3] As the Sultan declared,

I need that every one the guilds of the town of Constantinople, each nice and small, shall restore to my imperial camp. They shall exhibit the variety of their males, retailers, and professions, in keeping with their outdated constitutions. They shall all move earlier than the Alay Köskü with their sheikhs and chiefs, on foot and on horseback, taking part in their eightfold music, in order that I might even see what number of thousand males and what number of guilds there are. It can be a procession the likes of which has by no means been seen earlier than.

1638 procession

1638 procession 2
Source.

Among the teams parading have been carpenters, fur-makers, toy-makers, bakers, butchers, mariners, cooks, confectioners, tavern keepers; civil servants, entertainers, madmen; companies of beggars, of thieves and footpads, and of pimps and bankrupts; fools and mimics. Evliya even data disputes over priority between rival teams.

This occasion of Evliya’s consideration to music (translated, impressionistically, by Joseph von Hammer, 1834) introduces some singers:

Evliya 42

And the forty third part (pp.233–40) is a fantastic stock:

If I, poor Evliya, needs to be requested the place I discovered such a full catalogue of musical devices, I might reply that in my travels in Arabia and Persia, in Sweden and Denmark, in Germany, Poland, and Bohemia, I, myself, noticed all of those devices and plenty of extra, and, if it please God, I shall give a extra full description of them in my travels; however these are the devices used at Constantinople, which I’m rather more conversant with, as I always delighted in the corporate of singers and musicians…

In the thirty ninth part (pp.225–8) Evliya additional describes the mehter Janissary bands, in addition to instrument makers.

See additionally Landscapes of music in Istanbul, and Istanbul: multisensorial experiences.

* * *

Returning to late imperial China: there too the literati elite skilled a vary of musicking in their quotidian social actions, even when they not often described it. Apart from qin zither and pipa lute, or attending performances of opera and narrative-singing, they frequented temples, mingling with clerics, in addition to participating in chamber music with  lowly blind retainers. A helpful different supply is fiction, such because the detailed accounts of formality life in The story of the stone, or Jin ping mei.

But materials on Ottoman musicking, with the insider element of Evliyâ Çelebi, appears notably wealthy.


[1] I’ve but to learn different main sources in English resembling

Along with The New Grove dictionary of music and musicians and The Garland encyclopedia of world music, for the “classical” types, see additionally Robert Labaree’s chapter in Michael Church (ed.), The different classical musics. Dare I say it, the wiki article makes a helpful introduction…

[2] An Evliya Çelebi bibliography by Robert Dankoff and Semih Tezcan (2015) lists Turkish research on his discussions of music, as does Ulaş Özdemir (n.34 right here). See additionally Aida Islam and Stefanija Zelenkovska Leshkova, “Ottoman music culture in the Balkans through the prism of the travel writer Evliya Celebi” (2016), and Dilek Göktürk-Cary, “Ottoman music in travel books” (2017).

[3] Some sections are translated in An Ottoman traveller: choices from the Book of Travels of Evliya Çelebi, translated by Robert Dankoff and Sooyong Kim (2011, pp.24–31). Along along with his ebook Istanbul: the imperial metropolis, John Freely makes use of Evliya’s account the 1638 procession as the idea for his personal explorations in Stamboul sketches (1974, reprinted by Eland in 2014).

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