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Reftar Kalfa

Reftar Kalfa

First known female composer in the Ottoman Empire

Date of Birth: Unknown

Place of Birth:

Date of Death: It is thought that she died sometime in the 1700s.

Place of Death:

Burial Site: Unknown

Topics

Gallery

Field of Activity

Composer

Although little is known about Reftar Kalfa, she is a composer who has caught the interest of various researchers into the history of music. According to those investigations, it is believed that she lived during the time of Sultan Mehmet IV, who reigned between 1648-1687. However, according to documents available to us today, the composer Reftar may not even be a woman because she was not referred to with the epithet Kalfa, but only with the name Reftar.

However, Reftar is a women's name in Persian. It denotes a woman who walks in a mincing, coquettish manner. Actually, the important unresolved question is whether Reftar really had the title "Kalfa." Nevertheless, to this day, Reftar Hanım has always been referred to as "Kalfa". If indeed it was truly her title, the term "Kalfa" would refer to her supervisory duties in the administration of imperial harem.

Because of the style of Reftar Kalfa's compositions, musicologists propose that she played the tanbur (long-necked lute). For that reason, in some documents, she is called "Tanburi Reftar Kalfa" (Reftar Kalfa, the tanbur player).

About Reftar Kalfa's works

The Romanian historian and scholar of Ottoman music Dimitri Kantemiroglu (Dimitri Cantemir) mentions a Saba Pesrev by the name of "Saba-i Reftar" in his book "Kitab-i Ilmu'l-musiki ala vechi'l-hurufat" (Treatise on Musicology and Notation) published in 1692. This composition ist the oldest known work of a Muslim female composer in the Ottoman Empire.

In the Encylopedia of Turkish Music, "Turk Musiki Ansiklopedisi," only five of her compositions are mentioned (three peşrevs and two saz semais). However, in the archival collections of the Music Department of Turkish Radio Broadcasting, TRT, there are more compositions under the name of Reftar Kalfa. For example, in the Ismail Hakkı Bey Collection in the archives of Radio Ankara, there are many compositions attributed to Reftar Kalfa: pesrevs in the makams Saba, Rast, Hicaz, Nigar, Sehnazbuselik, Muhayyersunbule, Arazbarzemzeme and Zirgule, together with saz semaiis Saba Pesrev and Eve Buselik.

Some examples of Reftar Kalfa`s compositions

Awards

(No information available)

Memberships

(No information available)

Education

(No information available)

Contributions to Society

(No information available)

Family and Friends

(No information available)

Commemorative Projects

Music CD in Her Memory

Osmanlı Mozaiği, Sony Müzik, 2001
In a seven-disc collection of the album Osmanlı Mozaiği, Reftar Kalfa's composition Saba Pesrevi is the oldest contribution of the disc "Woman Composers".

Further Reading

Sources

Quoted Sources
Source of Visual Images

Translation Turkish-English: Emre Aslay, Chicago Illinois, USA
Editing: Margaret Fearey, Milton, Massachusetts, USA

©2012 Meral Akkent

 

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