Arts + Culture

Sultans Of Sound Selection: African Vinyl Treasures In Istanbul

We explore the African influence on Turkish music and go record digging in Istanbul.


On the European side of the city, DeForm Muzik, owned by Tayfun Aras and partner Ozan Maral, is a vinyl collectors dream complete with superb selections and plenty of listening stations. When you walk through the doors, you could be greeted with some far out sounds such as the ex-Soviet vocal quartet Gaya, Indonesian Kroncong music, or maybe some Japanese 80's music like Hikashu. Most shoppers are coming in to feed on the healthy collection of Turkish rock from the 60's-80's such as Baris Manço, Cem Karaca, and Erkin Koray. The shop has great jazz and world music sections where Okayafrica dug out some favorites:

- Herbie Mann, 1967 album Impressions of the Middle East, "Turkish Coffee"

- Alhaji Sikiru Avinde Barrister, Iwa

- Okay Temiz, Oriental Wind

- Johnny Dyani, Witchdoctor’s Son

- Living is Hard: West African Music in Britain, 1927-1929. Out of the EMI archives, a compilation featuring folk music and recordings from visiting and resident West African musicians

- The World is Shaking: Cubanismo from the Congo, 1954-55. Also part of the EMI archive compilation series, the album has rare photographs and was restored in Abbey Road Studios

- Danses et chants Bedouins de Tunise

- The funky saxophone of Cameroonian Manu Dibango"Big Blow"

*Photo by Tasha Goldberg

Across the sea, on the Asian side of Istanbul, following a narrow passage of book vendors lays another pot of gold for the lover of wax: Zihni Muzik. Family run, the shop offers not only a great selection, also a interesting dialogue in tracing sound pathways around the globe. Okayafrica picked through the bins and came across these treasures:

- Tinariwen, Tassili

- Okay Temiz Trio, Turkish Folk Jazz

- Nigerian Babtunde Olatunji, Drums of Passion

- Senegalese Touré KundaCasamance au Clair de Lune

- Manu Dibango, Makossa Man

- Manu Dibango, Ambassador (recorded in Jamaica)

- Ralph MacDonald, Sound of a Drum

*Photo by Tasha Goldberg

Perhaps the most impressive of all the Turkish record shops is Zoltan's Strange Boutique & Record Store. Okayafrica sat in on a Sunday afternoon listening session with owner Emek Tulus, catching part of the soundtrack of the city. Emek has a respectful and pure approach to the business, describing himself as “…not just a dealer who tries to make more money… a music lover, trying to collect some great records from my personal experiences for the customers.” His impeccable musical style and taste are refined, yet able to unearth the classics in a relatable way. As a kid who began as an illustrator, he still gets that starry look when describing the first album he bought, Jefferson Airplane with Ron Cobbs’ sleeve art. Growing up in Istanbul, he was attracted to the heavier punk sounds that soundtracked liberal left politics and helped to contributed the collection of album art during the illegal publishing of Turkish punk 1977-96. These days, Emek has navigated the hallways of world sounds, playing as a DJ around Europe. Emek has a special love for jazz, describing the flavor in Istanbul as a bit avant-guard. Emek explained the mystery in free form jazz, nodding to the greats of long play records. He highlighted the mature taste of music in Istanbul, playing a few albums that were released in Turkey before hitting the US and Europe due to the city’s bankable love for the soul, funk and jazz and world music.

Nigerian trumpeter/singer/percussionist Ray Stephen Oche released Revelational Music in Turkey. Okayafrica pulled these top picks from his bins:

- Fela Ransome-Kuti and the Africa ’70 with Ginger Baker

- Franco Luambo and the O.K. Jazz

- Lonnie Liston SmithAstral Traveling *Smith visited Emek's shop and told him the story of first touching the Fender Rhodes electric piano when recording with Pharaoh SandersThembi where the song "Astral Traveling" first was recorded. This album was released two years later.

- Thelonious Monk, Straight, No Chaser

Baris Manco, 2023

- Mustafa Kandirali (Turkish belly dance music)

- Turkish rockstar Erkin Koray, Elektronik Turkuler

- Cuban-born percussionist Candido Camero, The Thousand Finger Man

- Moroccan Orchestre National SahraouiEl Wali

Istanbul will always be a city of layers, ancient parts preserved in time under the huffs of hookah smoke with always a new sprouting dimension underway. The city offers more than monuments and staggering shopping stalls at the Grand Bazaar. The city offers a solid education in sound selection.

 

*Photo by Tasha Goldberg

Check out more photos here.

Story by OKA contributor Tasha Goldberg. Find her here.

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Photo credit should read AFP via Getty Images

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