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Dilhayat Kalfa

Dilhayat Kalfa

The Ottoman Empire's first Muslim woman composer, whose works are still celebrated today
"I recounted, one by one, the desires of my heart."

Date of Birth: Unknown

Place of Birth: Unknown

Date of Death: 1737

Place of Death: Sultanahmet, Istanbul

Burial Site: Unknown



Field of Activity


Dilhayat Kalfa was the second known woman composer, after Reftar Kalfa, the first woman composer, about whom almost nothing is known. Dilhayat Kalfa was raised in the palace, as will be understood from the adjectival "Kalfa" with important administrative tasks, which gave her the rank of "Kalfa".

The Estate of Dilhayat, 1737

As the first researcher found Talip Mert in 1999, documentation of the estate of Dilhayat Kalfa in the Ottoman Archives and published it in Modern Turkish. This list, dated 1737 including things such as Dilhayat Kalfa's books, clocks, jewels, furs, rugs, metalwork, glass pieces, and kitchen implements, conveys information about Dilhayat Kalfa's standard of living and her daily life.
(Talip Mert, "Dilhayat Kalfa'nın Mirası" Musiki Mecmuası, No.: 466, pp. 68-73, Autumn 1999.)

Dilhayat Kalfa's compositions take their place amongst the works of the Ottoman canon, fixed by the Dar-ul Elhan Tasnif Heyeti (the Conservatory of our day). Also, in the Hekimbasi Corpus, Hekimbaşı Mecmuası one of the 18th century compilations of songs, thirteen works are found under the name "Dilhayat, " including a murabba composition in the Rast and Evic makams and a semai in the Segah makam

In other Ottoman sources, one encounters information about nearly 100 of her works. However, these works have not survived to our day.

The works of Dilhayat Kalfa that have survived to our time are counted among the important examples of the technique and aesthetic of the classical school. The flow of her makams and her prosody are exemplary. Especially in her works composed in the Evcara makam, Dilhayat Kalfa has executed the melodic progress and movement of this makam flawlessly. Two works in the Evcara makam, a peşrev and a saz semai exhibit a very special style. In her works composed in other makams, the rhythmic, melodic and lyrical elements are extremely restrained. Dilhayat Kalfa, who was seen to be very careful in her selection of lyrics, showed great care in arranging the relationship between meaning and melody. In composing her works, Dilhayat Kalfa made use of the important rhythmic patterns, such as cifte duyek, remel, devrikebir and hafif muhammes.

Among her vocal pieces the better-known pieces are Rast Beste (Nev-hıramım sana meyleyledi can bir, dil iki), Mahur Beste (Ta-be-key-sînemde ca etmek cefa vü kîneye), Saba Beste (Yek-be-yek gerçi ırmrad-ı dili takrir etdim) and Evç Beste (Çok mu figanım ol gül-i zîba-hıram için).

In the documents pertaining to Dilhayat Kalfa, it is revealed that she played the tambur.

Dilhayat Kalfa's Compositions


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Dilhayat Kalfa was educated privately. It is thought that she was a pupil of Bestekar [Composer] Itri.

Contributions to Society

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Family and Friends

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Commemorative Projects

Locations Keep Her Memory Alive
Dilhayat Kalfa's House

Dilhayat Kalfa's house was restored to be a hotel since 2012.
Address: Sultanahmet Mh. Tomurcuk Sk. No:1, Sultanahmet - Istanbul

Bestekâr Dilhayat Kalfa Sokağı

Composer Dilhayat Kalfa Street (Bestekâr Dilhayat Kalfa Sokağı) in Kadıköy, Istanbul

Dilhayat Sokağı

Dilhayat Street (Dilhayat Sokağı), Bebek, Istanbul.

Music projects
  • Ahmet Kadri Rizeli (Prodüktör), Osmanlı Mozaiği, 7 CD, Sony Müzik, 2001.
  • Gürsel Koçak (Ed.), Kadın Bestecilerimiz, CD, Cemre Müzik,1999.

Further Reading

  • "Dilhayat Kalfa'nın evi butik otel oldu",, 18.09.2012.
  • Berat Gürcan Yaman, Türk Düziğinin Devirleri, Haliç Üniveristesi, Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü, Türk Musikisi Anasanat Dalı, Yüksek Lisans Tezi, İstanbul, 2007, s.22, http:// (2.3.2012).
  • "Dilhayat Kalfa" maddesi, Esendere Kültür Sanat Derneği web sayfası, (2.3.2012).
  • Ş. Şehvar Beşiroğlu,"Türk Müzik Geleneğinde Kadınlardan Kadınca Müzik",, (2.3.2012).
  • Turhan Taşan, Kadın Besteciler, İstanbul, 2000.
  • M. Nazmi Özalp, Türk Musikisi Tarihi, Ankara, 2000.
  • "Dilhayat Kalfa", Aksiyon, 11.12. 1999, columnistDetail_getNewsById.action?newsId=5627 (20.3.2012).
  • Talip Mert, "Dilhayat Kalfa'nın Mirası", Musiki Mecmuası, No.: 466, pp. 68-73, Autumn 1999.
  • Talip Mert, "Dilhayat Kalfa", Yaşamları ve Yapıtlarıyla Osmanlılar Ansiklopedisi, YKB Yayınları, Vol. 2, p. 387, İstanbul 1999.
  • Yılmaz Öztuna, Türk Musikisi Ansiklopedisi, Vol. l, İstanbul, 1976, p. 167.


Quoted Sources
  • See the "Further Reading" section
  • Sources Used to Compile List of Dilhayat Kalfa's Works:
  • Yılmaz Öztuna, Türk Musikisi Ansiklopedisi, Vol. l, p. 167.
  • M. Nazmi Özalp, Türk Musikisi Tarihi, Ankara, 2000, pp. 177-178.
  • "Dilhayat Kalfa" maddesi, Esendere Kültür Sanat Derneği web page.
  • Turhan Taşan, Kadın Besteciler, İstanbul, 2000, pp.41, 42, 289.
Source of Visual Images

(No images available)


The Women's Museum Istanbul is grateful to Talip Mert for his support in producing the Dilhayat Kalfa introductory pages.


Taksim: instrumental improvisation Peşrev (Peshrev): An instrumental compositional form with two to four verses (called hane) and a recurring section (called the teslim). Peşrevs are composed in long rhythmic cycles, including 16/4,20/4,28/4,and 32/4. Peşrev literally means "prelude,"and they normally occur at the beginning of a set of classical music. Saz Semaisi: An instrumental compositional form with four verses (called hane and a recurring section (called the teslim .Saz semaisi are generally in the 10/8 rhythm, and are generally played at the end of a fasıl. Fasıl: a suite of Turkish classical pieces, all written in the same makam. A fasıl normally begins with the peşrev and ends with the saz semaisi. Şarkı (sharkı): song; most common secular vocal form Beste: a vocal compositional form with four verses Makam: the modal system of the Middle East. Makams consist of scales, as well as rules as to the unfolding of the pitches in the scales Tanbur: long-necked lute, unique to Turkish classical music Ney: end-blown reed flute with seven holes

Translation into English: Margaret Fearey, Milton, Massachusetts, USA
©2012 Meral Akkent
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