The Violinist Mrs.Kevser

Today we have four works of the Violinist Woman Kevser:
Nihavend Longa (Called by her as Sirto)
Gallipoli Anthem (Called today as Gallipoli Song)
May the Rebec be the Translator of My Heart (Sedaraban Song)
Drink My Friends, I am a Masher (Hejaz Canto)

In a period dominated by men, she was a woman, who said “I am also here”, in one of the most challenging fields, in the field of art. A woman, who left this world leaving artifacts, that can challenge the world with their art. It is very surprising and sad not to find enough information about such an inspiring person in today’s conditions. She was a strong and creative woman, who was a person of distinction in her lifetime. Her works have survived to the present, but her story cannot be found. I have encountered a series of inaccuracies that have been fed up to the present with the erroneous transfer of information about the unique works (perhaps with conscious ignorance in some periods) she created.

She was born and raised in Istanbul in the 1880s. She was a master of piano and violin. On the 1st January 1917, she started working as a music teacher at the Dârülelhan (The House of Melodies) Music School, which was the first official conservatory of the Ottoman Empire. She was one of the first violin teachers of the school. As there was a war, when Dârülelhan was opened, education always took place in difficult conditions. The reasons for the establishment of the school were to record the Classical Turkish Music repertoire and to educate teachers, who know both Turkish and Western music, to teach in the schools of the Ministry of Education in the Ottoman Empire. The education period of the school, which has the characteristics of being an institute, was planned as four years plus a year of preparation. Besides Turkish music, there was given Western music education. On 22nd January 1927, it was closed with the decision of the Ministry of National Education.

We learn from the Nota Mecmuası (Musical Note Magazine) of Samli Selim, that there was a music school in the opposite of the sycamore in the Alemdar Street in Sultanahmet, and that special music lessons were given, and countless students were educated in this school between 1915 and 1924. In the magazine’s advice section, her name was given and she was clearly recommended for those, who wanted to take piano and violin lessons. Longa is one of the most important types of entertainment music. Several different styles of it have become popular until today. It is known, that after it was published in Samli Selim’s magazine, the second person, who published this work, was Samli Iskender (1878 – 1969), but he changed the work a little bit, and he did not use the name of the Violinist Woman Kevser. Later on, Iskender Kudmani changed the work more and published it also under the same name without using the name of Violinist Woman Kevser… Although the name of the song was changed as “Nihavend Fasil” in his publishing, it was obvious that it was the Violinist Woman Kevser’s “Nihavend Longa”. Although there are small differences, the fact that both Samli Iskender and Iskender Kudmani did not write in the documents the composer of the work, immediately draws attention.

Violinist Woman Kevser’s work had undergone changes until the end of the first half of the 20th century. Her name was not mentioned in the publishing during these changes and in the environments, where the song was a song. Maybe consciously, maybe unconsciously… The main reason for the change of the work was due to the fact that people, who made market music in the music halls and casinos of the period, wanted to embellish the work without disrupting the style and to reveal their individual skills during the vocalization. As a result of these additions and alterations, Violinist Woman Kevser’s Nihavend Longa has survived for nearly seventy years.

Violinist Woman Kevser’s misfortune is not only because of the change of her Nihavend Longa and the extinguishment of her name from the work. As if these phenomena were her general destiny, the work that we call Gallipoli Song, which the Violinist Woman Kevser composed with the name of Gallipoli Anthem, had the same luck. We understand that Gallipoli Song is owned by the Violinist Woman Kevser from the musical notes and the lyrics of the Gallipoli Anthem, which was again published in Samli Selim’s “Risale-i Musikiyye/Musiki Gazetesi” (Music Newspaper) in 1915-1916. The folk song, which has undergone melodic and verbal changes, has attracted the attention of some researchers about its origin, and about this work some articles have been written based entirely on unrealistic reasons and information, and sometimes on speculation. Onur Akdogu’s article in the third issue of Ege University State Turkish Music Conservatory Publications, which was published in 1991, can be shown as an example.

The first research was made by Mahmut Ragip Gazimihal (1900-1960). He mentioned in his writing, that it was a revived folk song, which had been elegized by a young man killed in Gallipoli during the Gallipoli Wars. Although he made some changes on the musical note and disrupted the dynamics of the work, the fact that the composition belongs to the Violinist Woman Kevser, was immediately understood by the authorities. The available official sources indicate this clearly. In the book Yurttan Sesler (Voices from the Homeland) published in 1952, the musical notes of Violinist Woman Kevser were given under the name Gallipoli, but her name was not mentioned. Changes can be noticed, when you examine it. The source document and the name of the composer were not written in this book. Information and the story of the region, where the folk song belonged, were written, but the sources were not indicated. After that, the work has been changed several times with different stories, but again, although it clearly existed in the main source, the name of the Violinist Woman Kevser was not mentioned.

It was inevitable, that these two works, which became so much widespread in the public, were subject to a verbal and a melodic change. Because these kinds of melodies are intended for the public. However, as the official documents in the archives of Ege University and Istanbul Technical University clearly show, that these two valuable works belong to the Violinist Woman Kevser, who was once a piano and violin teacher in Dârülelhan, and the value, which she added to these works, did not decrease in any period, even though her name was erased. We would like to apologize to the Violinist Woman Kevser, who has a very important and memorable place in the history of music, by adding this little correction note to the pages of history.


Longa is one of the most important types of entertainment music. We know that some genres of Romanian gypsy music are called also as long. Afterward, it has gained importance as an indicator of a certain stage of music education in addition to entertainment music. In the second issue of musical note publications with the name The Musical Note Magazine – Chant Turc (Turkish Songs or Canto) of Samli Selim (1876 – 1924),  the musical note of the work, which we know today as Nihavend Longa, was published under the name of Nihavend Sirto (Sirto, In Greek: Syrtos) and the composer was mentioned as Violinist Woman Kevser.

Gallipoli Song

They will shoot you, sergeant
They will put you in the grave before you die
Alas, my youth
Gallipoli gets smoke-filled
The forty-sixth legion becomes famous
Alas, my youth
In Gallipoli, there is a full pitcher
Mothers and fathers have abandoned hope
Alas, my youth
In Gallipoli, there is a range of cypress trees
Lion martyrs are lying under them
Alas, my youth
Gallipoli Strait is narrow, it is impassable
The waters of it have become bloody, you cannot drink a cup of it
Alas, my youth
In Gallipoli, there is a yellow snake
Ottoman aircraft make them kowtow
Alas, my youth
In Gallipoli, they shot me
They wrapped me up in the handkerchief of my fiancée
Alas, my youth
Gallipoli Anthem/Composer: Violinist Woman Kevser

By: Dilek Alp

*This article was  published in the  March-April issue of Marmara Life. 

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