( by Melih Duygulu And Cemal ünlü )


In his memoirs, Tantix, a German sound technician who came to Istanbul in 1900 to make gramophone records, went beyond telling about the recordings he was trying to make in Istanbul: with his excellent observation skills and detailed accounts, he attempted to bring to life for the reader the societal and social conditions of the country. Not satisfied with simply making recordings in Eminönü, the German technician wished to record all sectors of society, and especially, Turkish women. However he was unable even to see Turkish women’s faces, let alone record them. He was only able to see “from afar the astonished wide eyes of the wives of unprejudiced, cultured men who came and went from cities such as Paris, Vienna and Leipzig.” The only women’s voices he was able to hear were the squeals of delight as they listened to his records.

During that period, Sultan Abdülhamid II was on the Ottoman throne, and it was the 24th year of his long, oppressive rule, known as the İsdibdat (despotism). Bringing about a series of positive venture upon his ascent to the throne in 1876, Abdülhamid II announced the Constitutional Monarchy and for the first time, formed a parliament. Soon afterwards however he opted for a draconian rule and became one of the most interesting, inscrutable rulers in Ottoman history.

Having destroyed morale completely with his handling of the interminable Ottoman-Russian wars, the sultan shut himself up in Yıldız Palace, and began ruling the country with an ever-increasing paranoia. He allowed no photographs to be taken of him and forbade this with official mandates; but many photographers were traveling to all parts of the country in the name of the Palace, taking pictures of military units, army command posts and state authorities, and assembling albums for the Sultan. This was just one of the interesting methods developed by Abdülhamid II, who never took a step outside the palace but attempted to rule the country single handedly down to the minutest detail. He was afraid of his brother Mehmed Reşad because of his blue eyes, which he believed to bring “bad luck,” and kept him away from the Palace; but provided support for state-of-the-art printing presses for the Servet-i Funun literary movement. “In order to achieve cultural accord between East and West,” he might allow the magazine “La Revue Orientale,” but use any manner of pretexts to send writers and statesmen into exile. A lover of art, he had Necip Paşa, who dedicated marches to him, interred in Sultan Mahmud’s tomb with a magnificent ceremony. He would watch opera and theatre performances alone in the palace and distribute medals and ranks to the players. In 1901, when the first ever circus performed in Istanbul, he forbade the flying of balloons in Istanbul for fear that they were planning his assassination by flying over the palace; and he had no interest in the quest for flight that was being followed the world over. Informers’ reports reached the palace in seconds by means of secret agents, to return to the people as even stricter, more oppressive measures. The natural result of this oppressive period was that as the people become more interested in clothes, jewelry and entertainment, the new fashions were regarded with suspicion by the palace: in 1989, with the pretext that spies and enemies of the Palace could more easily carry out their evil deeds under the cover of head coverings and the çarşaf (chador), these items of clothing were forbidden. Gendarmes waited on bridges, scissors in hand, on the prowl for covered women, and would cut their chadors. These then were the conditions in the “Devr-i Hamidi” (reign of Abdülhamid) Istanbul of 1900 which the German Tantix described.

As far as we know, the German technician most likely made his first gramophone recordings during the summer in front of Yeni Cami (The “New Mosque” in Eminönü). Actually we know that the first sound recording device, the phonograph, was seen in Istanbul ten to twelve years after Edison invented it. In 1884, Ahmet Rasim Bey published the book “Bedayi-i Keşfiyat ve İhtirat-ı Beşerriye’den Fonograf... Sadâyı Tahrir ve İade Eden Alet” (), which he translated from the French and expanded with his own views and thoughts. With this book, he introduced the phonograph to the Turks, and a few years later made it into a readily available item in Istanbul. Before the gramophone and 78s,many artists (including Tamburi Cemil Bey, Hafız Aşir, Hafız Osman and Hafız Sami) recorded their music with this device. But the phonograph did not last long; due to its technical insufficiency it did not reproduce sounds in a satisfying way and did not become widespread. Its limited use also kept it from becoming popularity. As Tantix mentioned in his memoirs, multinational foreign companies, seeing Istanbul as a “market with a future,” began to invest in the Istanbul markets in 1900.

Meanwhile Emil Berliner had worked long and hard to develop a new voice recording device, which he called the “Gramophone” and released on November 8, 1887. Due to certain legal problems in America, where he lived, he was unable to secure a patent for his new invention. Finally tiring of the endless legal struggle, Berliner at least decided to try his luck in Europe, and established a company in London. His brother went to Hannover, Germany, where he set up the company’s first record factory. Berliner then sent people far and wide, from Sweden to India. Making recordings in these countries the technicians gathered information on the regions’ musical tastes and traditions. What they were doing was a sort of “market research” of the day. This research guided the company’s later projects. In time, with the participation in the main company of companies such as Gramophone Record, Gramophone Concert Record, Monarch Record and Disque pour Zonophone, the main company, “The Gramophone and Typewrite and Sister Comapny” gained strength, and became a respected institution throughout the northern hemisphere and in Europe in particular. In 1910 the company changed its name, and adopting that famous logo with the dog, became “His Master’s Voice.”

From 1900 on, the company began sending technicians to the major centers of Europe and Asia, including Athens, Bombay, Cairo and Istanbul. W. Sinkler Derby, who came to Istanbul, produced around 167 18cm records, the first every to be recorded in Constantinople (Istanbul). As we don’t know which company Tantix was working for when he came to Istanbul, or what the fate of those recordings was, we must consider the “first Istanbul recordings” to be those by W. Sinkler Derby. The first commercial records came onto the market in 1903; we have no sound information as to which of these recordings was first. All we know is that the first commercial recordings were printed at the Hannover factory. A letter sent from Germany to company headquarters in London dated July 19, 1900 mentions “Turkish records” and gives some information about them to headquarters.

The molds for these recordings, which were made on portable equipment, were sent to the factories abroad where they were printed, and then distributed to Istanbul and other Ottoman countries. The most important characteristic of these first recordings was that the diverse structure of Ottoman culture was reflected almost exactly on the records. On these records it is possible to find musical examples from the many different peoples, large and small, which made up the population of the Empire. The musical trends of the period, the favorite genres, and this diversity, published within a clearly commercial approach, makes the Turkish 78 repertoire “one of the most interesting and colorful collections on earth.”


From its founding in 1889 and steadily gaining strength, the “Committee of Union and Progress” began to direct its efforts towards politics. After increasing oppression, Sultan Abdühamid found himself in a chaotic situation which he had never foreseen and was forced to announce the 2nd Constitutional Monarchy. The days leading up to December 17, 1908 the day on which the members of Parliament were elected, were marked by continuous protests, strikes and uprising. Free from oppression, students and soldiers flooded the streets. The uninterrupted strikes and incidents of violence reached their peak with the “March 31 events” and an assassination attempt against the sultan on April 13, 1909. A reactionary uprising was finally quelled by an army dispatched from Edirne to bring things under control. Suspected in having connections with this uprising, Abdülhamid was deposed and was succeeded by Mehmed Reşad V. Known as “the freedom” for short, the 2nd Constitutional Monarchy opened the way for many positive trends, up until the Balkan Wars. A gentle person in comparison with his older brother, Sultan Reşad quickly gained public favor. The active role of the Committee of Union and Progress in government administration gave the Sultan much time. Sultan Reşad went out among the people, and became involved with social events. Struggling for the spread of freedom, Mehmed Reşad one by one eliminated the oppression and prohibitions of Abdülhamid’s reign. For example, one month after ascending to the throne, Sultan Reşad he arranged baloon flights in the skies of Istanbul.

In the area of music, the enthusiasm of the Constitutional Monarchy was reflected chiefly in marches. Composers such as Zati Bey, Muallim İsmail Hakkı Bey, and Leyla Hanım, who had once composed marches full of praise for Sultan Abdülhamid, now were now composing marches for freedom and the Constitutional Monarchy. Sultan Reşad went along with the tradition and held a march composition contest in his name. “Public concerts” by the quickly proliferating military bands were another interesting innovation of Sultan Reşad’s reign.

The Favorite Company, which added these marches into its record inventory, thrived between 1909 and 1911, its most successful period. Its director Ahmet Şükrü Bey was also to personally record many “talking records,” which spoke of freedom and harshly criticized the administration of Abdülhamid. The company recorded operettas, as well as Greek and Armenian records, and is especially noteworthy for its recordings of artists from Izmir and Salonica. Another noteworthy company was the American-based Gramophone Concert Record. The Odeon company also released many marches during this period, and with a meticulous policy made records of many of the artists of the period.

In 1911-12, the Blumenthal Brothers, Istanbul representatives of the Zonophone and Odeon companies, established Turkey’s first record factory in Feriköy, where the Şetat Han stands today. The company produced with the Orfeon and Orfeos label. This enterprise, which had great artistic and commercial success despite the Balkan War and 1st World War years, would thrive until 1925, when it sold its factory to Columbia. The Blumenthal Brothers were the founders of Turkish record making, contracting with many of the outstanding artists of the period, foremost among whom was Tanburî0 Cemil Bey, as well as Hafız Âşir, Hafız Osman, Arap Mehmet, Hanende İbrahim and Tamburacı Osman Pehlivan. With their well-established understanding of repertoire, this company’s part in the training of many artists and assuring the survival of many kinds of music to the present should not be underestimated.


If we examine the period’s musical tastes and traditions starting from those of the Palace and its circles, we approximately the following scenario: The interest in polyphonic music which began during the Tanzimat period has continued to increase. The palace ensembles, which included the western Mızıka-i Hümayun and also gave education in Turkish music, showed an Ottoman traditional as well as a Western side. Musical ensembles organized and trained in the western fashion spread throughout Ottoman lands from Salonica to Aleppo. The palace ensemble, Mizika-i Hümayun, matured and gained expertise. The “foreign conductor” period ended, replaced projects under the leadership of conductors who wrote compositions and were masters of their instruments, and made records (1904). Another are of interest for the Sultan and the aristocracy were operettas. Under the effect of the Italian operettas which appeared on Istanbul stages in the mid-19th century, the Turkish operetta tradition began, to spread and become popular by means of the many musical theatre companies, composed chiefly of Armenian musicians. Begun in 1875 by Dikran Çuhaciyan, the Turkish operetta tradition is best represented by plays such as “Arif’in Hilesi”, “Köse Kâhya,” “Pembe Kız” and “Zeybekler,” and rose to its zenith with Çuhaciyan’s famous play “Leblebici Horhor.” This operetta, staged many times by many different companies, also had the distinction of being the most performed play, which for the first time went on foreign tour. The songs of “Leblebici Horhor” were recorded by a variety of different companies. It was the Favorite company, which had the songs from Leblebici Horhor recorded by the Izmir tenor Ovannes Efendi and Benliyen, which assured their survival to the present. The Canto is an important part of another theatrical genre, the tuluat. This type of improvisational comic theatre has its source in the Italian companies which began to be commonplace in Istanbul after the 1850s. The independent songs they used to attract an audience and entertain them between scenes were called Kanto (Canto). From the 1880s on, tuluat plays became widespread on the stages of Istanbul. The great masters of this genre such as Hasan Efendi, Naşit and Dümbüllü collaborated especially with Armenian and Greek artists and included cantos in their p lays. Peruz, who was considered the creator of the Canto, and canto singers who followed in his path including yürüyen Şamram, Virjin, Agavni, Anjel, Man, Amelya and Kamelya, performing in the Direklerarası and Galata Theatres, brought about the golden age of the canto. Depressed by the despotic rule of Abdülhamid, the people of Istanbul filled the theatres in an attempt to entertain themselves and attended many types of plays, from Karagöz to Ortaoyun.

In the entertainment areas such as Direklerarası, Üsküdar and Kadiköy, which had many theatres, the most important musical activity was in the area of the Turkish music genres known by names such as İncesaz, Ahenk and Çalgı. Preferring the name “İncesaz,” Kemanî Tahsin Efendi played with his ensemble in Galata, in the Abdürrezzak Theatre in Şehzadebaşı, and in the Kuşdili meadows. Kemanî Tatyos and his friends performed in the Fevziye Coffeehouse in Şehzadebaşı, the Yeşiltumba in Aksaray and the Osmaniye Coffeehouse in Vezneciler. The Kemanî Salih and Neyzen Tevfik incesaz group performed in Göksu.

Under the name “Ahenk,” Kemanî Akribas Evendi played in the Anadolu Beerhouse, Kemanî Anim Evendi played in the Kılburnu Nightclub in Fener, and an ensemble performing in both Turkish and Arabic played at the “Büyük Gazino” at the quay.

Tatyos’ ensemble played at the Çırçır Suyu nightclub under the “çalgı,” and Udî Mısırlı İbrahim Efendi played at the panayir (saint’s day festivals) in the area of the Church of the Virgin Mary in Göksu.

As is clear from the abovementioned groups, Ottoman citizens of Greek, Armenian and Jewish origin had an indisputably important place in the music scene. Turkish musicians tended not to play in the commercial milieu, preferring to participate in musical gatherings and fasıls between themselves, or to remain in the area of religious and Sufi music.

These areas were the realm of minority musicians who were free of religious or social oppression. It is for this reason that while the first 78s featured only the most famous male artists of the period such as Tamburî Cemil Bey, Hafız Aşir, Hafız Sami, Hafız Osman and Şehab, and meddahs such as Sururi and Aşki, non-Muslim minotirites such as Greeks, Armenians and Jews and Roma also had the courage to participate and make records. Among these artists were Şnork and Karakaş Efendi, Pepron, Şamram and Peruz Hanım, The Roma musicians Nasib, Gülistan and Şevkidil Hanım and the zurna master Üsküdarlı Arap Mehmet.

These pioneers in Turkish recording history were soon to be followed by many other artists who showed the initiative to enter the studio and record.

As concerns traditional genres, they were less-recorded than other types and thus we do not have sufficient material to get a good idea of them. These records contain examples of the “mani”, “semai” and “destan,” genre of folk literature and music, the realm of tulumbacı (fırefıghter) cafes and coffeehouses. The mani-singing tradition in particular were typical of the tulumbacı cafes and their clientele.

Known to have originated in Salonica, the mani was not strictly the realm of Turkish tulumbacıs; we know that Greek tulumbacı teams in Arnavutköy, Tatavla (moder-day Kurtuluş) and Çengelköy also sang mani and destan. During the same period we also see the widespread use of the the Anatolian folk version of mani. There are countless examples of the manıs sung in aşık meetings, separately in male and female gatherings, and antiphonally in village celebrations. Strongly influencing Anatolian Greek music over time, the “mani” became “amane” and “mane,” and came to comprise one of the main branches of Rebetiko music. With a strong interest and affinity for entertainment and music, Greek musicians held an important place in the musical life of Istanbul and Anatolia, especially in the area of “entertainment music.”

Dance music genres such as kasap havası, sirto and çiftetelli (hasapiko, syrto and tsiftetelli) were especially popular with and performed by Greek musicians. In the early 1900s, and especially in Izmir, the Estudiantina groups were very much in demand. Due to the Levantine nature of Izmir, these groups created a genre reminiscent of Italian music, accompanied by instruments such as mandolin and guitar. The Favorite and Odeon companies included many Estudiantina groups among their first recordings. At the same time these groups also played the “zeybek” and “amane” music of the region. It was perfectly natural that Armenian, Greek and Roma musicians participated in the early period 78s, because in large cities and especially in Istanbul, it was performers from these groups that directed the course of music. It is well known that the Armenian, Greek and Jewish minorities formed the “cornerstone” of Ottoman music. In addition to these minorities, who produced many musical masterpieces, the Roma are known for their “popular” musical practice. However among these were some very important musicians as well.

Nassib Hanım was a Roma musician who participated in some of the first 78 recordings as early as 1903. But one of the true stars of the 78 era was Arap Mehmet. Considered one of the great  masters in the history of zurna performance, Arap Mehmet made records of oyun havası, köçek havası and taksim as well as accompanying artists like Gülistan in pieces including şarkı, semai, mani and gazel.

The fact that Arap Mehmet became an extremely accomplished Istanbul artist is a typical indication that folk music was common in this province at the beginning of the century. In this period, in which there was not yet a strict distinction between genres, the zurna, an important instrument in Istanbul folk music, had been used for hundreds of years in the Mehterane (military bands). This instrument, which together with a pair of nağara formed the orchestra for ortaoyunu and other types of theatre, was in the coming years replaced by the clarinet, known in some regions as “gırnata.” The trend of playing music on local folk instruments was abandoned in the towns and cities and folk songs began to be played on “alaturka” instruments. Folk instruments were belittled and scorned, and players of the alaturka instruments, a product of urban culture, became the lead players in folk music performance. This practice lasted from the early 1900s until the 1950s, when the radio ensembles returned to the use of local instruments for the performance of folk music, and restoring it to its original form, recreated a regional atmosphere in the music. Here however, the bağlama played the chief role, and thus began the trend of “adapting every type of music to the sound of the bağlama.” To summarize, in the first 78 recordings preserved many of folk music from the regions either within the Ottoman Empire or in close association with it, from Albanian tunes to the music of the Circassians, Laz and Kurds.

The centers of religious and mystic music were the tekkes (Sufi lodges) and the Mevlevihânes. The Mevlevihânes in particular served for many years as music schools, and played a major role in the training of a great many artists. Among the important sources which nourished Turkish music at the beginning of the century was the Bektashi tradition which especially emphasized instrumental music.

It is a great pity that the mystical tradition is insufficiently represented in these first recordings; records of mystical and religious music number very few and were only able to be made in the Republican period. Thus the voices of the great performers from that period are not available to us today.


After fighting for many years in the Balkan Wars, the Ottoman army entered World War I, and even sent military bands to the front. Growing discouraged in the Çanakkale battles, the musicians were saved by Sultan Reşad, called back as “elite soldiers not easily trained.” The major development of this period was the founding of the Dar’ül Elhan, which could be considered the first civilian conservatory, and the National Opera, established in 1915. Plays written by Musahipzade Celal were set to music by composers such as Kaptanzade Ali Rıza, Muallim İsmail Hakkı Bey and Leon Hancıyan in keeping with the alaturka music tradition, breaking the tradition of the operettas being performed by minority artists. Musical societies active in various quarters of Istanbul assumed an important role in the training of many vocalists and instrumentalists; the fruits of these efforts only began to appear in the Republican period.

The nearly ten year interval between World War I and the Turkish War of Deliverance was a time in which foreign companies — with the exception of Odeon — showed little activity in Turkey. Only the Orfeon factory, a domestic enterprise, was able to produce records. Throughout all these difficulties the Blumenthal Brothers released many reprints of Tamburî Cemil Bey’s recordings, as well as records by artists including Hafız Osman, Hafız Âşir, Hanende İbrahim Efendi, Hafız Yaşar, Tamburacı Osman Pehlivan, Safinaz Hanım, Karakaş Efendi, Haim Efendi, Derviş Abullah Efendi and Neyzen Tevfik.


Above all else, the Republic needed to define itself. In order to become the modern, western country which was its goal, it was inevitable that it would make use of art. The film “Ateşten Gömlek” (Shirt of Fire) was supported somewhat by these goals. The most important innovation of this film was that, with the permission of Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk), a woman played a role. Instead of being played by a non-Muslim actress as was the case in all films and plays made thus far, the role of the Turkish girl in the film was played by Bedia Muhavvit. The Music Teachers’ College, which opened in the new capitol Ankara on September 1, 1924, began operations with the goal of teaching the Republican generations to train teachers of western polyphonic music. the first teachers in this school were the members of the former Mızıka-i Hümayun, which had been transferred to Ankara and taken on a new name, “Riyaset-i Cumhur Musiki Heyeti” (Music Ensemble of the Presidency). In Istanbul, the Dar’ül*Elhan continued teaching both Turkish and Western music. In 1926, music in the Turkish tradition was officially banned, polyphonic western music was sponsored by the state, and a concert was given on March 26, 1927, the 100th anniversary of Beethoven’s death.

Emerging together with the Republic, the ability to make sound recordings with a microphone (1925) was a turning point in record production. This innovation, which considerably improved recording techniques and production, opened the way for many foreign companies to enter Istanbul’s market within a short time. Columbia bought the Orfeon factory, His Master’s Voice laid the foundations for Turkey’s second record factory in Yeşilköy, while at the same time companies such as Polydor, Pathe and Odeon reproduced their recordings in European factories and served to build up a very rich inventory of 78s in very little time. With this positive development, as well as the ability of Turkish women to freely take acting roles in films and go onstage, music of many different genres began to be recorded, from operettas to fantasy, gazel and şarkı. During this period of transformation, the His Master’s Voice, Columbia and Odeon companies recorded hundreds of 78s from 1926–1930. It was during those years that Turkish female artists began to record their voices on 78. The first female artists to record were the operetta singers, which were becoming more and more common during those years. A singer named Fikriye Hanım was the prima donna of the operetta “Süreyya,” and became the first woman to make a record. Other women who recorded in the same years were Nebile Hanım, Makbule Enver Hanım and Nezihe Hanım.


An important element in Turkey’s changing musical tastes were the “Alafranga” and “Rumca” (Greek) records imported by production companies operating in the country. Many types of world music, and classical in particular, began to enter Turkey by this route and came into demand. This brought dances such as the tango, foxtrot and charleston into fashion. In 1932 the first tango with Turkish lyrics, “Mazi,” was recorded by Seyyan Hanım. With this tango by Necip Celal began the era of Turkish tangos. In the following years composers such as Fehmi Ege and Necdet Köytürk reached their zenith, and within this tradition emerged tango singers such as Birsen Hanım, İbrahim Özgür, Celal İnce and Şecaattin Tanyerli.

Another major trend to leave its mark on the time was the “operetta.” Well known from performances at the Istanbul Şehir Tiyatrosu owned by the Rey brothers, operettas such as Üç Saat, Lüküs Hayat, Deli Dolu and Hava-Cıva were recorded and similar plays went onto the stages Istanbul. This trend pioneered the beginning of musical films in Turkish cinema as well.

The indisputable position of the gramophone in everyday life elevated many artists to fame. Deniz Kızı Eftalya, Yesari Asım Arsoy, Lale and Nerkis, Müzeyyen Senar and Safiye Ayla were just a few of the stars who shone between 1930 and 1940.


The dark years of war between 1939 and 1945 were one of the reasons for the increased popularity and spread of the radio. Waiting in long lines, ration coupons in hand for bread, sugar and fuel oil, and spending the nights in mandatory blackouts, people gathered around the radio to try and learn what was happening. This “introverted” period, when students were planting potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes in their school gardens to contribute to food production, was naturally one in which national sentiments came to the forefront. These sensitivities set the stage for the rise of folk music. Ankara Radio had been broadcasting long wave, and as a result of a policy to extend radio broadcasts throughout the country, Istanbul radio had been making experimental broadcasts for many years and, gaining strength and frequency of programming in 1943. It was during these years that the “Yurttan Sesler” (Sounds of the Homeland) program, which drew upon the musical collecting efforts and presented them to the public, gained public favor. Many artists, foremost among which were Münir Nurettin and Hafız Burhan, tried to answer this need and made many folk song records. One of the outstanding events during this period in the area of Turkish music was the reopening of the Istanbul Conservatory,” with the condition that it would “provide a theoretical education without instrumental education.”

In the area of folk music the situation was somewhat different. Two groups emerged: one which was attempting to conduct the cultural revolution of the modern republic and present the voice of the people to the public within a contemporary interpretation; and another which was trying to present the elements of folk music to the public verbatim via records and radio.

Meanwhile, regardless of all else, the people themselves were continuing their own musical practices, which they continue today.

Performers of art music, in order to gain a broader listening public, began drawing from folk music, the voice of the masses. During this period many vocal artists recorded folk type pieces for the first time ever, and some composers, openly displaying their admiration for the vast wealth of motifs and rhythms of folk music, composed songs in a folk song style. Among such composers, the greatest was undoubtedly Sadettin Kaynak.

However it happened, the developments listed above show clearly how important a cultural element folk music is.

Turkey did not actually enter World War II, but was heavily influenced by world events. In addition, the period was the stage for many vital events such as the change to a multiparty democracy. Steadily rising as if expressing the pain of years of neglect, folk music came to dominate all other genres in the 78 repertoire. Meanwhile other developments were taking place in the realm of art music: Film music, especially that of Egyptian cinema, was being “re-created,” with Turkish lyrics, especially by Sadettin Kaynak, and being presented to the public in regular concerts by Münir Nurettin Selçuk. Four great voices were in the midst of their “golden age” in Turkish art music: Safiye Ayla, Müzeyyen Senar, Hamiyet Yüceses and Perihan Altındağ Sözen. Among new artists, women such as Sabite Tur, Suzan Güven, Redife Erten and Mefharet Yıldırım; and male artists including Necmi Rıza, Zeki Müren and Abdullah Yüce were drawing the most attention.

As for the composers of the period, the most popular and sought after were Şerif İçli, Selahattin Pınar, Sadettin Kaynak, Osman Nihat Akın, Sadi lşılay, Cevdet Çağla, Fehmi Tokay, Suphi Ziya Özbekkan and Neveser Kökdeş; Lem’i Atlı, Yesari Asım Arsoy and Refik Fersan were now considered to be the masters, their works continually heard on the radio, in concerts and on records. In folk music, the new names were Celal Güzelses, Malatyalı Fahri, Âşık Veysel, Zaralı Halil, Mukim Tahir, Kel Hamza, Nizipli Deli Mehmet, Tarsuslu Abdülkerim and Bayram Aracı. Though most of the artists mentioned here participated in radio broadcasts, the public was better acquainted with them through the 78s they had recorded.


The switch from a single- to a multi-party system took place in the middle of the century. One of the actions of the Democratic Party government was to send soldiers to Korea. It was with great ceremonies that the Turkish army, which had not fought for 30 years, went for the first time to a foreign war. With this endeavor as well as many more to follow, Turkey was trying to open its doors and participate in world events. New musical genres, and jazz in particular, began to influence Turkish culture. The 1950s also saw the arrival of the Rock and Roll epidemic in Turkey. Young people especially followed the trends in these new types of music through the radio and records; written for dancing and not only for listening, these genres were even more influential and began surpassing traditional forms. Though the radio followed a more preservationist line than the commercial market, it also tried to keep up with this change in the record and market. Concerts in the Şan Sinema given every Sunday by the Istanbul Municipal Conservatory Performing Ensemble had their following, and kept art and folk music alive. The most outstanding ascent during this period was that of Zeki Müren who, formerly famed as a radio artist, began going onstage in cinemas and concert halls. He was met with an enthusiasm the likes of which remained unmatched for many years and his records were snapped up as soon as they were released.

At the same time the country was undergoing a heavy migration from the villages to the cities, and the reinterpretation of traditional culture and presentation of that culture via modern communication methods was creating an “urban culture and music;” a sort of subculture. Led by Zeki Müren, some artists made great changes in an attempt to adapt to this demand.

From the standpoint of sound equipment, the 50s and 60s were an important period, marking the end of the rule of records. First the advent of the 33, 16 and 45 rpms outmoded the 78, which was cumbersome both to produce and to listen to. The 45rpm, which began to be produced in our country only in 1963-64, had the special feature of being playable even in taxis and private automobiles. The newly-established Grafson and Columbia companies were making 78s as well as 45s. But this did not last for long, and the production of 78s ended in 1965.

The last produced 78s were dominated by such top selling artists as Zeki Müren and Müzeyyen Senar.Some of the others included Sabite Tur, Suzan Yakar, Suzan Güven, Mualla Mukadder, Alaeddin Yavaşça, Aliye Akkılıç, Neriman Tüfekçi, Neşet Ertaş, Zekeriya Bozdağ, Muzaffer Akgün and Nuri Sesigüzel.


One of the major events of the 1970s was the entry of the “Anatolian Aşıks” in to the record market. As society’s voice, the aşıks were goaded into action by the political upheavals on the one hand and the increasingly influential economic crises on the other. Hundreds of records of a “socialist” nature were produced. The first leaders of this aşık trend, whose songs were almost all of a “protest” style, were folk minstrels such as Feyzullah Çınar, Ali Sultan, Ali Kızıltuğ, Nesimi Çimen, Muhlis Akarsu and Mahsunî Şerif. These aşıks, whose lyrics followed a mostly leftist trend, were accompanied as well by aşıks from Kars and Erzurum. Among these, the foremost names include Murat Çobanoğlu, Şeref Taşlıova and Âşık Reyhanî. In the recording world, the local artists of the “aşık” type began being referred to as “local artists” or “local folk singers,” and as they continued on their course, their definitions and concepts increasingly blended.

The Anadolu Pop trend emerged chiefly as a product of the 1960s. In the 60s, youth had focused its attention chiefly on western pop music. This trend, which hid no intention of excluding or ignoring Turkish culture, could be considered a “time of searching.” At the end of this period emerged the “Anadolu pop” trend, which took off in the 1970s with an explosion of popularity. The chief causes for the emergency of this genre were the acquaintance with western music and a turn towards folk culture. The blend of these cultures gave birth to a brand new style of music. Chief among the producers and performers of this music were such artists as Tülay German, Erdem Buri, Şanar Yurdatapan, Esin Afşar, Hümeyra, Fikret Kızılok, Cem Karaca, Ersen, Selda Bağcan, Erol Büyükburç, Atilla Özdemiroğlu, Barış Manço and Edip Akbayram. An important characteristic of the Anadolu Pop trend was that besides the element of soloist/singer, a considerable number of ensembles who performed “group music” came onto the scene. The Moğollar, Modern Folk Üçlüsü, Dadaşlar, Siluetler, Kaygısızlar, Dönüşüm, Kurtalan Ekspres and the İstanbul Gelişim Orkestrası were some of the foremost names of the period. In its period, Anadolu Pop filled many 45s, and went down in Turkish musical history as a major trend; but in the 1980s it lost its steam and gradually began to wane from the musical world.


The products of the Arabesk trend, which took root in the 1970s, can be considered a turning point in Turkish musical history. With Arabesk began a new period in which all value systems had begun to be overturned, and its repercussions continue today.

The two important events which would leave their mark on the 1970s were the gazinos (nightclubs) and the audiocassette. With cassettes, the stars which had been made famous by the nightclubs could now enter homes, schools and tea gardens. This same period saw the emergence and spread of magazines which lent significant support to and emphasized this sector, and depended upon it for their own circulation.

The 1980 are remembered as the years when television replaced the gazinos. Even though there was only one channel, television became a place where music of all sorts was performed, and many famous people could appear on one program. One of the noteworthy developments during these years was that the Ministry of Culture began to establish Turkish music choruses. The Istanbul State Chorus, as the first and foremost of these ensembles became known and loved with their Sunday concerts and television programs. This was a new step by the State Turkish Music Conservatory, which had begun for the purposes of education. At this school, which was established in 1976 and produced its first graduates in early 1980, has now trained many outstanding instrumentalists and singers, and its university-level education has continued uninterrupted up to the present.

With the death of Münir Nurettin Selçuk in the early 80s, a new era began: different fields were now strictly defined; artists such as Münir Nurettin, who was a composer, singer and choral conductor, could now be counted on the fingers of one hand. The noteworthy composers of this period included Rüştü Şardağ, Aleddin Yavaşça, Yusuf Nalkesen, Avni Anıl, Selahattin İçli, Muzaffer İlkar, İsmail Baha Sürelsan and Arif Sami Toker. Among the star female stage, radio and choral singers of the 80s and 90s were Emel Sayın, Nesrin Sipahi, Nevin Demirdöven, Mülkiye Toper, Neş’e Can, Behiye Aksoy, Meral Uğurlu and İnci Çayırlı. Top among the male names were Mustafa Sağyaşar, Ahmet Özhan and Recep Birgit. The two foremost singers of religious and secular music were Kani Karaca and Bekir Sıtkı Sezgin. The foremost instrumentalists of the last thirty years are Ney: Niyazi Sayın and Aka Gündüz Kutbay; Tambur: Ercüment Batanay and Necdet Yaşar; Kemenç: Cüneyt Orhon and İhsan Özgen; clarinet: Mustafa Kandıralı and Barbaros Erköse; Oud: Selahattin Erköse and Çinuçen Tanrıkorur; Kanun: Cüneyt Kosal, and et al.
The situation in folk music was as follows: Youth, which had become political during the 70s, was left outside politics following the September 12 (1980) military coup, but still saw folk music as a means of salvation. The Folk Education Centers, private schools, associations and foundations which were active in the areas of folk music and dance became youth hangouts. There was a steadily increasing interest in the bağlama, and even the conservatory teachers who participated in courses at private music schools were unable to meet the demand. It was in this period that groups led by Arif Sağ and including such artists as Musa Eroğlu, Yavuz Top and Muhlis Aıkarsu released a series of cassettes under the name “Muhabbet.” Greeted enthusiastically, these albums led the same artists to make their own albums and some even left their positions at the radio. Private schools begun by these same artists began training student; and most of the commercial musicians of the 90s were products of these schools. The 80s were also a time in which many artists who had been involved in folk music for many years attained star status. Some of these included Belkıs Akkale, İzzet Altınmeşe, İbrahim Tatlıses and Selahattin Alpay. Some of these artists, most of whom were from East and Southeast Anatolia, would later turn towards arabesk and release albums containing both folk and arabesk songs. The great spread of this style and its continued popularity today is a noteworthy phenomenon of end of the century.

The 1990s and the years following are characterized by the emergence of “experimental” works. As an extension of “globalism,” the expression of a changing world, this factor has truly been put to good use by the countries which dominate the world market. In these days, where populism or popular culture is experiencing its “golden age,” the most attention worthy phenomenon is the effort to create “new” music by using folk songs in any way desired. This attitude, which in a sense has been in effect since the first years of the Republic, has continued, with changes and variations during every period, to the present. In summary, it is the idea of drawing on folk music to create a “new, national, modern music.”

History and Periods of
Turkish Music
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Types of Turkish Music
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