Selim III (1761-1808)

28th Ottoman sultan. He was undoubtely one of the best composers in the Ottoman classical music tradition and played tanbur and ney. Altough there have been a great number of people from the imperial family who took interest in music and who played musical instruments and composed songs, none can compare with Selim III in his enthusiasm for musical pursuits and his achievements as a composer.

Gathering together well-known musicians of the court and city, the young Selim began to encourage musical activities in court even when he was a prince. He also supported female musicians in the harem section of the Ottoman court. His reign was undoubtedly the most brilliant era of Turkish music. Abdülhalim Aga, Vardakosta Ahmed Aga, Küçük Mehmed Aga, Sadullah Aga, Emin Aga, Numan Aga, Sakir Aga, Kömürcüzade Hafiz Efendi, Tanburî Izak, Dede Efendi and many other leading composers of the tradition flourished during this era in which the Ottoman court's traditional musical patronage went much beyond an official interest.

Introducing novelties in music is the most prominent aspect of this era. The need for creating novelties manifest itself in designing new makams, and also bending some established rigid rules to some extent . The years when he was a prince and sultan are usually referred to as "the era of Selim III" in the history of Ottoman music.

Selim III was a Mevlevi (the order of the Whirling Dervishes). He never lost his interest in the musical activities in the mevlevihanes (dervish monastery) and other musical centres in the city. He attended liturgical ceremonies of the Whirling Dervishes, and visited the Galata Mevlevihanesi to have literary and musical conversations with the great divan poet Seyh Galib. It is remarkable that Hampartzum Limonciyan and Abdülbakî Nâsir Dede both developed new notation systems with the encouragement of Selim III.

Selim III designed a number of few makams such as suzidilara, sevfekza, sevk-u tarâb, arazbuselik and nevakürdî. He composed appoximately 70 works using various instrumental and vocal musical forms. He wrote poems under the pen-name "Ilhami" and gathered them together in a divan. In some of his vocal compositions he used his own poems for song-texts.