Cemil Bey

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Tamburi Cemil Bey (Ottoman: طنبورى جميل بك)
Background information
Birth nameCemil
Born1871 or 1873
Ottoman Empire Istanbul, Ottoman Empire
Died(1916-07-28)July 28, 1916 (aged 43)
Ottoman Empire Istanbul, Ottoman Empire
GenresOttoman classical music
Instrumentstanbur, kemençe, cello, lavta, yaylı tanbur
Labels(reissues) Kalan

Tamburi Cemil Bey or Tanburi Cemil Bey (French: Tambouri Djemil Bey), (1873, Istanbul – July 28, 1916, Istanbul) was an Ottoman tambur, yaylı tambur, kemençe, and lavta virtuoso and composer, who has greatly contributed to the taksim (improvisation on a makam/maqam) genre in Ottoman classical music. His son, Mesut Cemil Bey, was an equally renowned Turkish tambur virtuoso.


Cemil Bey was born in Istanbul, Ottoman Empire, in 1871 or 1873; his birth date is uncertain. He took his first lessons in music from Kanuni Ahmet Bey and the violin player Kemani Aleksan, his first instruments thus being the violin and the kanun. After completing middle school, he continued in a school for civil servants (Mülkiye), but then devoted himself to music and abandoned his education. He began to play the tanbur quite early in his youth and by the age of 20, his renown had already spread among the tamburis of Istanbul. Reforming the traditional playing technique of the tambur, he developed an energetic technique based on a rich and agile picking style, lightening to a great extent the sonority of this instrument. Later on, he set about playing the Turkish classical kemençe and attained an astonishingly high level of technique, so much so that the virtuosity level of the Ottoman kemençevi of Greek-Gyspy origin Vassilis (1845–1907), considered as then as "the reference", came to be thought of by certain amateurs to be outmatched... He was also the inventor of the Yaylı tambur[citation needed].

Cemil Bey was able to play any instrument he picked up: he played lavta, cello, yaylı tanbur, zurna and several other instruments with equal virtuosity. His taksims and instrumental works he recorded on 78rpms with tanbur, kemençe, lavta, cello and yaylı tanbur had considerable impact on generations of musicians following him. The peşrevs and sazsemais he composed are pieces of great taste, requiring a developed performance technique.

If we are to lay confidence in his close friend Mahmut Demirhan's words:

He was a very sensitive and nervous person, who eventually suffered from alcoholism. Most of his compositions have been preserved in his recordings, but some of his work were incomplete when he died.


  • Bestenigâr Saz Semâî (Aksak semâî)
  • Ferahfezâ Saz Semâî (Aksak semâî)
  • Ferahfezâ Peşrev (Muhammes)
  • Hicâzkâr Peşrev (Muhammes)
  • Hicâzkâr Saz Semâî (Aksak semâî)
  • Isfahân Saz Semâî (Aksak semâî)
  • Isfahân Peşrev (Devr-i kebîr)
  • Kürdîlihicâzkâr Peşrev (Muhammes)
  • Mâhûr Peşrev (Muhammes)
  • Mâhûr Peşrev (Muhammes)
  • Muhayyer Saz Semâî (Aksak semâî)
  • Muhayyer Peşrev (Devr-i kebîr)
  • Nevâ Peşrev (Devr-i kebîr)
  • Şedarabân Saz Semâî (Aksak semâî)
  • Şedarabân Peşrev (Fahte)
  • Sûz-i Dilarâ Saz Semâî (Aksak semâî)
  • Nikrîz Zeybek (Aksak)
  • Nikrîz Longa (Nîm sofyân)
  • Kürdîlihicâzkâr Şarkı (Aksak) - Def-i Nalis Eylerim Hep Seyri Ruhsarınla Ben
  • Hüseynî Şarkı (Devr-i hindî) - Gormek Ister Gozlerim
  • Şehnâz Şarkı (Sengîn semâî) - Feryad Ki Feryadım
  • Nihâvend Şarkı (Yürük semâî) - Sevdim Seni Ey İşvebaz
  • Mâhûr Şarkı (Ağır Aksak semâî) - Var İken Zâtında Böyle Hüsn-ü An


  1. ^ Karakaya, Fikret (2005). "Tanburi Cemil Bey" in Kemençe : Masters of Turkish Music (2-CD with booklet), Istanbul: Kalan Müzik