Balkan Music

Greek Composers

ZAHARYA (?-1740 ?)
Zaharya is one of the most well-known of the minority composers of Turkish music. He was of Greek origin. This great music man who was known with various names such as “Zaharya the Composer”, Zaharya the Fur-maker”, “Zaharya the Semai writer”, but his real name was “Zaccharias”. There is no recording anywhere in regards of his birth date and neither is his date of death is clear but presumed as 1740?. Information about his life depends on some sayings and presumptions. It is believed that during his late years he accepted Islam as his religion and assumed the name “Cemil, Mir Cemil”. That bit of information depends on the recording of his name in some old magazines as “Zaharya” and in some “Mir Cemil” under his compositions called Isfahan saz semai and Hümayun beste.
It is understood that he has been the vocalist in the palaces of Ahmed III and Mahmud I and has become famous during the Tulip Period (1718-1730).
Zaharya is one of the important and valuable artists of our music world. The period during which he lived and composed were the most productive and most advanced periods in our history of music. His works are the most successful examples of our music. It is believed that he composed more than 1000 works but only few survived our day. He combined all traditions of our music with his talent and produced serious works strictly loyal to classic rules due to strong music training he received. In his works which are embellished with very artistic, beautiful and original transitions are interwoven with technical, aesthetic and graceful arts Although no information is available as to his training, we can understand from the lyrics that he knew the classic Turkish poetry very well.
Zaharya was also interested in church music. According to information gathered from the book titled “Papadopulo Tarihi” (Papadopulo History) written by Yorgius Papadopoulos, he had composed some religious rituals and songs for the church and also produced many Anatolian folk songs and songs and published these in a book. Zaharya’s church music was in the form of works sang at the end of rituals while the people left the church. Papadopulos’ History book suggests that Zaharya learned church music from Daniel, patriarch’s chief vocalist, and that he was also well learned in Arab and Persian music.
Besides his superior music career, he was also one of the most famous vocalists of his time. Zaharya had also dealt with fur trade, which allowed him to live a comfortable life.
It is believed that Zaharya died m Istanbul although his burial place is unknown.

PETRÂKİ (TİRYAKİ) (?-1750 ?)
He is a Turkish composer of Greek origin. Although his name sometimes spelled as “Tiryaki”, his original name was Petraki. No information available as to his life story. His compositions survived our day are as follows: Arazbar-Buselik Saz Semai, Bey ati Peşrev-Saz Semai, Hicazkâr Peşrev-Saz Semai, Nihâvend Peşrev-Saz Semai, Peyk-i Safa Peşrev-Saz Semai, Rast Saz Semai, Rehavi Peşrev-Saz Semai, Şehnaz Peşrev, Irak Ağır Çember Composition I: “Mest olup etmiş giribanın kuşade ta-be-naf”. Irak Zencir Composition II; “Bakıp cemaline aşık nice kararı kalır”.


He was a Greek musician who is believed to have died in 1770. He was the most acclaimed musician of the Ottoman palace and M/as able to appeal to hearts even with the simplest instruments. Yorgi the Greek used to play every instrument but was famous for his violin. Charles Fonton wrote that it was he who brought the European violin to Turkish music for the first time in 1751. About 10 songs survived our day.

İLYA (1718 ?-1799 ?)
Another Turkish composer and poet of Greek origin. It is believed that he lived between 1718-1799. He was born and lived in Istanbul He was trained in School of Selim III. Only five of his compositions survived our day. The lyrics of these songs which were formed in great forms like semai were also written by him which indicates that he knew Turkish quite well as to write for songs. No biographic information is available. His works bear all the traditional characters of our classic music.

Corci was of Greek origin and since he had lost his eyesight he was known as “blind Corci”. From foreign and domestic sources, it is evident that his name was known during the Mahmud I era and shortly lived in the period of Selim III. First, Corci played breast violin and then saw the original violin first from a French artist and used it. He worked in the gyneceum for a while. He produced both compositions and lyrics of which twelve peşrev and saz semai and seven song and semai survived our day.

İSTAVRİ (?-1840 ?)
No information is available for this composer of Greek origin. His following works are survived our day: “Gel yanıma ey nev-civanım” in Hüzzam Aksak form, “Yetdi bunca intizarım” in Nevai Yürük Aksak form, “Ey şeh-i nazım sana dil haldedir” in Nühüft Orta Aksak form, “Bu kemal-i hüsn ile ey mehlika” in Rehavi Ağır Aksak form.

USTA YANİ (YANİ AĞA) (Kemençeci) (?-1890 ?)
No information is available about the life of Greek of Turkish Nationality song composer Usta Yani. It is belived that he died in 1890. Fifteen songs of him reached our day.

TODORÂKÎ (?-1860?)
His surviving works follows: Mahur-Buselik Saz Semai, “İltifatın çok inâyetdir bana” in Hicaz Ağır Aksak form; “Gücenmiş bana dil-bazım” in Nühüft Yürük Aksak form, “Raks eylesin efraâ-ı dil” in Rast Sofyan form, “Ser-beste oldum zülf-i nigare” in Suzidil Düyek form.

He is known in our history of music with names like Vasil, Vasilaki, Kemençeci Vasil, Vasilaki Efendi. Vasil was born in 1845 in Litros, Silivri. Hisfathefs name was Yorgi.
Without proper education, in a very early age he started to play the clarinet in festivals, wedding ceremonies and bars around Silivri with a friend who played the timbal (nakkare). Although his name was Vasil, he was called “Vasilaki” which meant “small Vasil”. Later on he learned how to play kemence from a Greek named Yorgi and quit playing the clarinet. Around 1870, when he was 25, he moved from Silivri to Galata and started playing in the neighborhood coffee-shops. Lavtacı Andon Efendi, the lute player, who was playing at a place around Galatasaray heard about how well Vasil played the kemence. Although his group had a kemence player named Nikolaki, due to the carnaval, a second kemence player was needed and thus Vasil became a member of this master group of musicians as the second kemence player. Vasil was very intelligent, talented and had a very good ear and memory. Ali these helped him learn the mastery of instrument playing and Turkish music repertory from Andond and his brother Civan during those two years he played in their group. According to his close friend Ahmed Rasim, Lavtacı Civan once said “he had taken away in two years every thin I had collected in twenty years”.
He climbed to the top of his art in a very short time and worked with famous artists of the time like Tanburi Cemil Bey, Kanuni Şemsi Bey and Udi Nevres Bey. He was appreciated by statemen and rich people and played in mansions and palaces. He acquired a superior interpretation technique in performance of Turkish music. Before Vasil, who was a unique kemence virtuoso, kemence was an instrument played only in “rough instruments” groups. There is no one except Enderuni Tahir Aga who used the kemence in our art music. It was Vasil who gained a new technique to this small but exciting instrument and established its position in its place today. And Tanburi Cemil Bey raised this technique to an unreachable virtuosity. These two great artists who complemented each other used to be a very good friends.
Vasilaki was also master in producing interconnecting melodies. Most of Mahmut Celaleddin Pasa’s songs were interwoven with his melodies. Vasil also manufactured kemençes himself. He loved a kemence he called “Sarı Kız” most and carried it with him since it was very light in weight.
Since during his time recording business was not developed yet, he played to cylinder recorder and recorded partitions, none of them survived. He did not produce much work as a composer and composed three peşrev and one saz semai. Vasil spent his last years in financial difficulty and died in 1907, in Istanbul Suphi Ziya Özbekkan was his student.

Since Civan Aga’s eyesight was not very good he was called “blind Civan”. He was of Greek origin and his name was Zivannis Kiryazis. In some sources he is called Zirvaros or Zirvan. Birth date of Civan Aga is not known but it is known that he became famous in the beginning of the 20th century. He became famous for his powerful performance when he played for köçekçe groups. Besides being an instrument performer he was also known as a composer with a very bright style. He is the younger brother of Lavtacı Andon and is elder of Lavtacı Hristo.
Civan Aga gained twenty beautiful songs to the Turkish music repertory. He gave lessons to Vasilaki, Tatyos Efendi and his brothers. He trained many students. Date of his death is believed to be (1910?).

LÂVTACI HRiSTO (?-15.08.1914)

His original name was Hristâki Kiryazis and was of Greek origin. His birth date is not known. He is the youngest of Lavtacı Civan and Andon brothers. Hristâki was raised among his brothers and became a master of lavta (lute), vocalist and at the same time a successful composer of songs. He played lavta for rough instrument teams and performed as a vocalist. His more than thirty works are included in our repertory. Hristâki had composed many beautiful songs and converted Ahmet Mithat Efendi’s work “Zeybekler” into an operet. He had also prepared his famous works “Çalıma Bak Efede”, “Bıçak Düşmez Elinden”, “Karşıyaka’da İzmir’in Gülü” for the same operet. One of the selected songs of the Turkish music repertory, “Suy-i Kağıthane’de mecnun misal”, a song in Segah tune, and “Gidelim Göksu’ya bir alem-i ab eyleyelim” in Kürdilihicazkar tune are also among his famous compositions. A life past in misery, Lavtacı Hristo’s songs have the sad and sorrowful mood as well as joy.
Vasil, who had become a master of köçekçe with Hristo, Andon and Civan brothers and who was grateful to them for this, never left Hristo until his death. After the death of Vasil in 1907, Hristo lost his mind and with addition of family problems he committed suicide on 15.08.1914 by jumping out of the window of his house in Osmanbey.

This composer of Greek origin is believed to have been born in the middle of 19th century in Istanbul and died around 1914, in Istanbul Nikolâki worked together with Lavtacı Andon and Civan brothers but where and how he learned to play the kemence and music is not known. He was the highest master of kemence before Vasil it is told that he was masterful in playing köçekçe and dancing tunes with rough instrıımental groups composed of kemence, lavta (lute) and nakkare (timbal) players. Nikolâki was also a composer. He gained around thirty vocal and instrumental works to our repertory and was more successful and known with his instrumental works.

ZÂFÎRÂKÎ EFENDİ (Kemanî) (? -1920 ?)
Follovving songs survived from this composer of Greek origin: Karcığar Saz Semai, a Kürdilihicazkar Sengin Semai Song “Gönlüm yine ol gonca femin vaslını andı”; a Kürdilihicazkar Türk Aksak Song “Yandım ateşlere bilmem n’oldum?”; a Kürdilihicazkar Curcuna Song “Gördüm göreli gül yüzünü aşkına düşdüm”; a Hicaz Aksak Song “Can sevdi seni şah-ı şenim, kıldım feda can-ü tenim”; a Saba Düyek Song “Elemde zafer bulayım hem şad olayım ben”.

LÂVTACI ANDON (Lâvtacı ve Udî)

Lavta (lute) and ud player Andon, of Greek origin, was the elder brother of Civan Aga and Lavtacı Hristo. These three brothers had a sister called Erifill His original name was Batrik Kiryazis. He was born in Istanbul but his birth date is not known. He became famous in the beginning of the 20th century; Andon was a master player of both ud and lavta. It is not known when and from whom did he learn to play these instruments. He had worked in the market for long years with his brothers and were very famous especially with their performances in köçekçe form. Lavtacı Andon composed a very few songs and was successful in instrumental music.
He spent his last years with financial problems despite Vasil’s support of him. He died between 1924-1925, in Istanbul.

ALEKO BACANOS (1888-1950)
Aleko the kemence player was born in 1888, in Silivri. He is the son of Lavtacı Lambo Efendi and a descendant of a music-loving family. He is the nephew of Kemençeci Anastas, brother of Yorgo Bacanos and cousin of Kemençeci Sotiri. Bacanos started his music career first by playing violin in family circles and proved his musical talent even in his early age. Then he started playing kemence and worked in various music halls. He learned the music in practical form and played behind singers during recording in those years. He had been to Paris, Berlin and Cairo where he attended concerts.
Aleko Bacanos played his instrument with a style of his own and was appreciated during his time and recorded many records. He produced twelve songs as popular songs in his time.
Aleko Bacanos used to look elder than he really was due to his short height and tiny body structure. He had four daughters and two sons. Bacanos died during a performance at Turkuvaz Music Hail in 1950 and w as buried at Hagia Lefter in Kurtuluş.

Marko Çolakoğlu was a son of a poor Greek family. He was born in 1896, in Niğde. His family moved to Istanbul when he was four years old. After completion of his secondary education he entered the school of medicine. But due to financial problems he was forced to withdraw from the school to work.
His voice was appreciated since his early childhood and-had started to sing religious works at churches. He was under the patronage of Yakovos Nafpiliotis, head singer of Fener Patriach and Yorgo Vanaki, Head of Chorus of Galata HagiaYanni Church. He received music lessons from these persons. In the meantime, he worked as intermediary and in gold business to get acquainted with richer circles thus to solve his financial problems.
Marko Çolakoğlu stepped on the stage performance by playing violin. Then he chose the ud and was known with the nickname “Udi”. Before his death he was operating a music hall restaurant in Arnavutköy, along the Bosphorus. He died in 1957, in Istanbul. Marko Çolakoğlu left a few but very tasteful works.

YORGO BACANOS (1900-1977)
Yorgo Bacanos was born in 1900, in Silivri. His father was Lavtacı Lambo Efendi. He was the younger brother of Kemençeci Aleko Bacanos, nephew of Kemençeci Anastas, and cousing of Kemençeci Sotiri. Yorgo Bacanos started his music life with a small ud his father had bought for him when he was only five years old.
His father wanted him to have a higher education and become a doctor or a lawyer. Therefore, he sent him to many schools and prohibited him from getting involved in music. But, small Yorgo had no enthusiasm other than music and escaping from the schools his father had sent him, he indulged himself in music. His father finally gave up and started to build a serious music career for him. Yorgo Bacanos received note and method courses from Udi Kirkor, Karnik Germiryan and Udi Büyük Serkis and with his own efforts he reached higher levels.
When he was twelve, he started playing his ud togeiher with the fasıl at “Eftalipos” music hall. Yorgo Bacanos worked there as an amateur for one year. At the end of the year, the owner of the music hail bought him a beautiful ud. He continued working at the same music hail in 1910. When he was fifteen years old, he was known around the musical circles as “Udi Yorgo”. After Eftalipos, he worked at Küçük Gülistan music hail in Beyoğlu and other places.
He composed many works when he was twenty years old. In 1928, he went together with Hafız Kemal, Hafız Saadeddin Kaynak, Aleko Bacanos and Ahmet Yatman to make recording in Berling. In 1930, he went to Paris with Sadi Işılay and Aleko Bacanos to give concerts to Denizkızı Eftelya and made recordings there. From Paris, they went to Egypt to give more concerts. He became famous in Arab countries with his mastery in.




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