Composer, nay player, musicologist (B. 26 March, 1871, Aksaray / Istanbul – D. 8 January, 1935, Istanbul). His real name was Mehmet Rauf and he was from a family called ‘Reisülküttabzâdeler’. His father was the first examinant of Mektubî Seraskeri Kalemi of the War Office (Ministry of Defense), Ahmet Arif Bey, and his mother was İkbal Hanım. After he had lost his mother when he was three or four years old and later his father when he was seven years old Altunizâdeler, one of the notable families of Istanbul, assumed his guardianship. Ten days after he graduated from Mahmudiyye Rüştiyesi (T.N. Junior High School) (28 July 1884) following his education at Simkeşhane İbtidaî Mektebi (T.N. Simkeşhane Primary School), he began his civil service post at the Imperial Council Office (Divan-ı Hümayun) as a deputy clerk. He graduated from the Language School (Lisan Mekteb-i Âlisi), which he started in order to learn French, after four years. He continued working at the Imperial Council after he came back from Aleppo, which he visited for a short time in 1894.
Yekta Bey continued taking calligraphy courses and received a diploma in this field. He was given the nickname “Yekta” by his teacher Nasih (Nasuhî) Efendi. At this time he also took Arabic and Persian lessons from private tutors. He was awarded with the fourth class Order of Osmanî (1900) and Mecidî (1903). He was pensioned off while he was adjunct of the head of Imperial Council Office (Divan-ı Hümayun) during an arrangement made in 1922. Rauf Yekta Bey, who was a member of Istılâhat-ı İlmiy-ye Council in 1913, had given courses of Turkish music theory and history of Eastern music at this place since the foundation of Darülelhan (music school) (1917) until the Ottoman style department was removed. From 1926 until his death, he served as the President of Istanbul Conservatory Committee for Classification and Fixation of Historical Turkish Musical Works. He participated in the Arabic Music Congress held in Cairo in March and April of 1932 with Mesut Cemil Bey… He could not recover from typhoid and died in 8 January, 1935, in Beylerbeyi and was buried in Nakkaştepe Cemetary in Kuzguncuk.
We can say that Rauf Yekta Bey focused most of his works on researches and did not show much interest in composition. In spite of that, he had composed around fifty works in various forms such as prelude, kâr, composition, ağır semâi, saz semâi, song, march, Mawlawi ritual, tekbir and hymn. Rauf Yekta Bey, having a rich musical repertoire and classical style, composed Mehmet Akif Ersoy’s ‘İstiklal Marşı’ as well. The yegah ritual, which he composed while he was the chief nay player (neyzenbaşı) at Yenikapı Mevlevîhânesi, is an exemplary work of this form. The composition, which he composed in rast maqam with the victory tempo (zafer usulü) he invented and which he named ‘Millî Tekbirr’, of Abdülhak Hamid (Tarhan)’s poem, which begins with the verses “Allâhü ekber Allâhü ekber / Kâim onunla mihrâb u minber, is a unique work in this field. His bayati-araban saz semai with mâhur prelude is also among the outstanding saz works.
Rauf Yekta Bey, is the man of music who laid the foundations of modern day Turkish music system and Turkish musicology with his researches and works. As a musicologist, composer and nay player (neyzen) he is one of the prominent persons of the history of Turkish music. He started his first musical practices in 1885 by practicing religious musical works from Zekâi Dede, who was his teacher for more than seven years. He enriched his repertoire with the religious musical works from Osman Efendi, Head Muezzin of Beylerbeyi Mosque, and especially with the lessons he took from Zekâizade Hafız Ahmet (Irsoy) and Bolâhenk Nuri Bey, from who he had learned Western musical notes. He continued his works, which he began with Mehmet Ataullah Dede, sheikh of Galata Mevlevihanesi, in 1889, on musical theory with Mehmet Celâleddin Dede, sheikh of Yenikapı Mevlevihanesi. In the meantime he benefited from Salih Zeki Bey for sound physics and acoustics and learned tambour from Sheikh Celâleddin Dede. In addition, he found the opportunity to study the literature of Western music. This knowledge and experience he had gathered constituted the foundations of the works he had later created.
Rauf Yekta Bey, had undergone an initial ritual called ‘sikkesi tekbirlenmek’ carried out by Seyyid Ali Rıza Dede, sheikh of Kasımpaşa Mevlevihanesi, in 1886 and thus, joined the Mevleviyye Tariqah. He took his first nay lessons from Sabri Dede and Hacı Ali Dede, who were dervishes of Galata Mevlevihanesi and were among the prominent reed flute players of the period. He made himself accepted among the music environments with his works and with around 400 articles that he had written on almost all aspects of the music. He had introduced the sound physics and a scientific touch to the music authorship, which he began with his article “Osmanlı Mûsikisi Hakkında Birkaç Söz” (T.N. Just a Few Words on Ottoman Music) and published on the newspaper “İkdam” on 6 April 1898. His music discussions with authors such as Ahmet Mithat Efendi, Zâti Bey (Arca), Nûri Şeydâ and Mahmut Ragıp (Gazimihal) was among the serious arguments of the period.
In addition, as a good music teacher Rauf Yekta Bey had trained many students. Among these students Kemal Batanay, Sadettin Heper, Burhâneddin Ökte, Gavsi Baykara, Âsaf Hâlet Çelebi, Mesut Cemil Tel, Halil Can, Mehmet Suphi Ezgi, Mehmet Emin Yazıcı, Faruk Ârifî Emhaz, Zeki Arif Ataergin, Suphi Ziya Özbekkan, Ruşen Ferit Kam and Vecihe Daryal, whom he had taught for a long time, should particularly be counted. Rauf Yekta Bey, who was known as a very polite, kind and humble man with a sensible personality, had a rich library that comprised manuscripts, notes, music documents and musical works. Some manuscripts of this library, which also comprised rare handwritten musical works, were lost after his death and the printed books had been donated to Süleymaniye Library. His grandson Yavuz Yektay is in possession of a big part of what is left from his library and collection. January 1965 issue of the magazine “Mûsiki Mecmuası” was dedicated to Rauf Yekta Bey and a doctoral dissertation (MÜ Social Sciences Institute, 1997) called “Rauf Yekta Bey ve Türk Mûsikîsi Üzerindeki Çalışmaları” (T.N. Rauf Yekta Bey and His Works on Turkish Music) was written by Süleyman Erguner. In addition, a postgraduate thesis called “Rauf Yektâ Bey’in İkdam Gazetesi’nde Neşredilen Türk Mûsikisi Konulu Makaleleri” (T.N. Rauf Yekta Bey’s Articles on Turkish Music Published on the Newspaper İkdam) (2007) was written by Muhammed Ali Çergel at the same university.
Esâtîz-i Elhân: Hoca Zekâî Dede (1. part, 1318), Esâtîz-i Elhân: Hâce Abdülködir-i Merâgi (2. part, 1318), Türk Notası ile Kırâat-ı Mûsikiyye Dersleri (1335 / 1919), Esâtîz-i Elhân: Dede Efendi (3. Part, 1341 / 1925), Risâle-i Mûsikî (1328), La musique turque (Encyclopédie de la musique et dictionnaire du conservatoire, Paris 1922. In this monograph, which he originally wrote in Turkish and then translated to French, theoretical and applied subjects of the Turkish music history have been explained with examples. It was also published as a book under the name Türk Musikisi: Istanbul 1986), Türk Mûsikisi Nazariyatı (1343 / 1924), Şark Mûsikîsi Târihi (1343 / 1924, 1933), Mu’fe-merü’l-mûsîka’l-c Arabiyye (Cairo, 1933). Mutâlecât ve erâ’e havle mu’temeri’l-mûsîkıyyi’l- Arabiyye (Cairo, 1934).
REFERENCE: Yılmaz Öztuna / Büyük Türk Musikisi Ansiklopedisi (1990), Sadun Aksüt / Türk Musikîsinin 100 Bestekârı (s. 300-308, 1993), M. Nazmi Özalp / Türk Mûsikîsi Tarihi (II, 161-166, 2000) - Türk Sanat Mûsikisinin Yakın Tarihçesi ve Ruşen Ferit Kam (tsz), Ahmet Şahin Ak / Türk Musikisi Tarihi (2002), Süleyman Erguner / Rauf Yektâ Bey: Neyzen-Müzikolog-Bestekâr (2003), Nuri Özcan / Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı İslam Ansiklopedisi (c. 34, s. 468-470, 2007), Muhit¬tin Serin - Kemal Batanay / Bestekâr - Tamburi - Hattât - Hâfız (2006), İhsan Işık / Ünlü Sanatçılar (Türkiye Ünlüleri Ansiklopedisi, c. 5, 2013) ) - Encyclopedia of Turkey’s Famous People (2013) - Resimli ve Metin Örnekli Türkiye Edebiyatçılar ve Kültür Adamları Ansiklopedisi (C. 12, 2017).