Composer and performer (B. 1728?, Istanbul – D. 1801?, Istanbul). He was the son of Hafız Kerim Efendi, one of the muezzins of Fatih Mosque, and was one of the greatest composers of the reign of Sultan Selim III. In some sources, the information regarding his life have been jumbled together with other namesake composers of his era. Some of his works may have been confused with those of other namesake composers. Therefore, information regarding his life is not precise. As far as it is known, after his first education, he was accepted to Enderun Mektebi (The Palace School in which the devshirmeh [T.N. selected for the army] children were educated) and he was educated in literature and history and gained skill in javelin, Indian club and horse riding. He had served in the Russo-Turkish War in 1767.
It is said that he received great attention from Selim III because he had a beautiful voice and he was a master singer (vocalist) and that he was the head of the fasil committee of the sultan for some time. Sadullah Aga, who is accepted as the most powerful composer of the school of Selim III, was also the musahib (talk friend) of the sultan and later he became the head musahib. He was an eloquent and cheerful person with a nice personality. He served as a music teacher at Enderun and served at the Palace during the reign of Mahmud II.
Sadullah Agha followed the footsteps of Itrî and under the influence of Itrî he had integrated lyricism to his compositions, which are considered to be among the greatest pieces of the classical repertoire. He developed a style that is pertinent to classical rules but is more lyrical. His influence on all composers of his period can be seen. Around thirty works of Hacı Sadullah Aga, who had composed hundreds of works, has reached the present day. Compositions and semais are dominant among these works. All of these works are secular and mostly literal works. His works contain a high level of lyricism and musicality. Especially all of his works that formed the Bayati-Araban set are among the most beautiful examples of the classical music repertoire.
The following works are among Hacı Sadullah Aga’s major works that have reached the present day: “Bayatiaraban I. Beste” (Padişahım, lütfedip mesrur u şad eyle beni), “Bayatiaraban II. Beste” (Bülbûl-i dil, ey gül-i râna senindir, sen benim), “Bayatiaraban Ağırsemai” (Raks eyleyecek naz ile ol âfet-i mısri), “Bayatiaraban Yürüksemai” (Diller nice bir çâh-i zenehdânına düşsün), “Suzidil Ağırsemai” (Beni ey gonca-fem bülbül-sıfat nâ- lân eden sensin), “Şedaraban Ağırsemai” (Nedir murad-ı dil-i kûy-i yâr, biz biliriz), “Muhayyer Ağırsemai” (Hâl-i siyeh-i gerdeni, nazik tenindedir), “Arazbar Buselik Yürüksemai” (Al gönlümü âyine-i mânadır bu), “Hicaz Yürüksemai” (N'ideyim sahn-ı çemen seyrini cânânım yok), “Muhayyersünbüle Yürüksemai” (Şâhım hemişe lûtfun umar bu fütadecik), “Tahirbuselik Yürüksemai” (O gûl-endam bir al şâle hürünsün yürüsün), “Hicazkâr Şarkı” (Gel seninle yarın ey serv-i revan /Olalım mahfîce Göksu’ya revan).
Sadullah Aga, who is among the elite composers of Classical Turkish music, lived his last years by secluding to the residence given to him seven years before his death by the sultan and died at the age of seventy eight. He has semais and great songs in Bayati Araban, Huseynî Aşiran, Şehnaz and Tahir Buselik maqams. Hacı Sadullah Agha’s life was the subject of a film called “Üçüncü Selim’in Gözdesi”. Münir Nurettin Selçuk, the famous composer and singer, played the Hacı Sadullah Aga role in this film that was shot in 1950.
REFERENCE: İbrahim Alaeddin Gövsa / Türk Meşhurları (1946), Rahmi Kalaycıoğlu / Türk Musikisi Bestekârlar Külliyatı (4 cilt, 1979), Avni Anıl / Anılar ve Belgelerle Musikimiz (1981), Mehmet Nazmi Özalp / Türk Musikisi Tarihi (1986), Büyük Larousse (c. 16, s. 10031, 1986), Yılmaz Öztuna / Büyük Türk Musikisi Ansiklopedisi (1990), Ahmet Şahin Ak / Türk Musikisi Tarihi (2002), Vural Sözer / Müzik Ansiklopedik Sözlük (2005), Ana Britannica Ansiklopedisi (c. 18, s. 587, 2005), İhsan Işık / Ünlü Sanatçılar (Türkiye Ünlüleri Ansiklopedisi, C. 5, 2013) - Encyclopedia of Turkey’s Famous People (2013).