by Cemal Ünlü
The Phonograph, which is an invention of T.A. Edison, had become to be known in Istanbul by 1895. The simplicity of recording and of its use propelled interest and demand about the instrument. Artists such as Hafiz Sami, Hafiz Osman and others, had increased their prominence by recording their voice to phonograph. There were also recordings of several marching bands of the Ottoman Army and comedic monologues of "Karagöz" (shadow puppet theater) artists. Also Tamburi Cemil Bey, commonly known for his 78-rpm recordings, had recordings on phonograph cylinders.
Turkish recording history started properly with 78-rpm discs. Because the 78-rpm discs had many more advantages over phonograph cylinders with a view to serial production, marketing , repertory and artist selection, record producers were marketing their products emphasizing their superiority. They had realized that the Ottoman Empire would be a good market and Istanbul was chosen its center much like Moscow, Cairo, Milano, Madrid, Athens, Paris, Berlin, and London. The pioneer recording teams simultaneously visited Istanbul with those cities.
In 1900, the first gramophone disc recordings were done in Istanbul. These recordings were made with the help of technicians from E.Berliner's Gramophone Company and other German companies. Naturally these discs had been recorded first by the afore mentioned artists on phonographs. Because of religious restrictions, Muslim Turkish women were not able to record until 1926 -27, after the proclamation of the Turkish Republic. Hence, the first female singers were Jewish, Armenian, Greek and Gypsy-origin Ottoman citizens. No such obstacles existed for male singers and ensembles. Soon enough the royal band at the service of Sultan called "Mizika -i Humayun" recorded several of their famous marches.
As the Ottoman Empire reigned over a large geographical area inhabited by different ethnic and religious communities, these differences were reflected in the recordings as well. Thus Turkish 78-rpm records have build a Turkish recording repertory that represents a rich heritage, with many samples of ethnic music, reflecting changing musical trends, including comical (stand-up like) monologues and dialogues, local folk music and many more. Turkish 78-rpm repertory contains song - sarki, gazel, intro-taksim, instrumentals, fasil-chapter records, operetta, tango, easy listening, parodies and monologues, Karagöz records etc.
The Blumenthal family that had started to market its records in Istanbul, acted as Turkey?s representative for Disc Pour Zonophone and Odeon companies. Hundreds of considerable recordings were made in this period. E Berliner's Gramophone Co. had entered the Turkish market in 1907/08. This company represented by Sigmund Weinberg, who previously represented Pathe, also brought cinema to Turkey.
In the same years, a considerable number of records had been produced by the German company called Favorite Record.
Ahmet Sükrü Bey, the Turkish representative of Favorite Record, signed agreements with the most noticed artists of that period.
In 1912, the Blumenthal Family had establish the first Turkish recording factory and studio called Orfeon Record.
This German-patented factory made recordings for about 11-12 years, including during the WWI years.
A big milestone in Turkish Recording History, like all over the world, had started by recording with electric microphones. The Blumenthal Family sold its factory to Columbia and became a representative of this company in Turkey as well, which continued until the 1970s.