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Mesut Cemil
tanbur, cello, Ottoman, Germany, Constantinople
Wednesday, August 25, 2010 21:02 GMT

Mesut Cemil was the son of Cemil Bey, the greatest tanbur player who ever lived. During his father's lifetime, Mesut Cemil did not presume to rival him; he played only other instruments and left the tanbur alone.

But when Cemil Bey died, his son devoted himself entirely to that instrument. He practised and improvised, and developed a new style of tanbur music, sparer and less ornate than his father’s.

He began to imagine a new richness, not of ornament, but of the mix of voices. He wanted to experiment with voices in the bass, which had no precedent in Turkish classical music, and he decided he needed to learn from another tradition. So in 1921 he went to Berlin to study cello with Hugo Becker.

Famous for his performances of the Bach cello suites, Becker was the cellist in Artur Schnabel’s piano trio. He was the foremost cello teacher of his day.

Becker taught cello to Mesut Cemil for three years. When Mesut Cemil felt he had understood how the bass worked in western music, he returned to Istanbul to resume his experiments with the tanbur.