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Interview by İlknur Kaptan


Istanbul, having a rich musical heritage, and the Ottoman Empire, which settled in Istanbul as its capital city, succeeded in making this magical city a centre of attraction for artists of every period. The changes caused by the Tanzimat (Reformation) period also manifested themselves in the field of music, and the non-Muslim women of the time started performing the first examples of canto in Istanbul.


Peruz Terzakyan became the first known representative of Istanbul cantos. Born in 1866 in Sivas, the beautiful voice would become the artist sought for the stages between 1870 and 1912.


Terzakyan was followed by her daughter Eftalya the Mermaid, who was born in 1891 in Istanbul. Eftalya, whose real name is Anastasia Yeorgiadu, started her music education during the boat trips of her father Mr. Yorgaki, who was a gendarme captain who also played the Turkish saz (stringed instrument) brilliantly. Marrying Sadi Işılay, the famous violinist back then, Lady Eftalya made her first records between the years 1923 and 1926 in France.


Although Muslim women used to perform music in indoor musical councils earlier, they also began to appear on stages after 1923 when the stage ban on Muslim women was lifted.


Two sisters born in Thessaloniki; Lady Neyyire (Neyyire İpekçi) born in 1895 and Lady Lebibe (Lebibe İhsan Sezen) born in 1896, settled in Istanbul in 1920 leaving behind the fire of the Balkan War. The sisters took Turkish music lessons from Udî Nevres Bey, and recorded nearly 120 songs on phonograph records, individually or together, from 1928 to 1937, most of which accompanied by instruments of Udî Nevres, Mesut Cemil and Nubar Tekyay. They never took to the stage or sang on the radio. These two mysterious voices, which were known for their records, would be the light for the women dancers after them.  


The start of radio broadcasts in 1927 and the easy availability of recordings of the famous voices of the period made it possible for people to listen to music at their homes as well. This also caused withdrawing of Direklerarası[1] and canto slowly behind the curtain.


Lady Fikriye, who came to the world in Istanbul in 1903, became the first female vocal artist to broadcast on TRT radio, which was opened in 1927. The song "Gel Okşa Beni (Come and Touch Me)" which she sang in the operetta called Ayşe performed in 1929, was recorded on a record by the "Sahibinin Sesi Recording Company".


Then a girl was born in Kadırga district of Istanbul in 1917: Safiye Ayla. She started her career as a teacher but later became a vocal artist and made her first record in 1930, singing Yesari Asım Bey's songs titled “Sevda Yaratan Gözlerin ("Your Eyes Growing Love)" and “Bekledim de Gelmedin (I Waited But You Didn't Come)”.


Immediately after Safiye Ayla, another vocal came to the world in 1916 in Istanbul to leave her mark: Lady Hamiyet. She started working in clubs as Safiye Ayla's staff in the famous Londra Beer Hall in Beyoğlu in early 1932. She was selected the Voice Queen of Turkey in 1932. When the Surname Law was enacted, Lady Hamiyet took the surname of "Yüceses (Exalted Voice)" with encouragement of famous musicians Sadettin Kaynak and Selahattin Pınar. Later, she made albums for the recording companies such as Sahibinin Sesi, Columbia, and Odeon, which all broke selling records at that time.


Hamiyet Yüceses was followed by other talented singers: Semahat Özdenses (1913 – 2008), who is also the composer of the unforgettable songs like Akşam Oldu Hüzünlendim Ben Yine, Her Mevsim İçimden Gelir Geçersin, and Dün Gece Mehtaba Dalıp Seni Andım; Müzeyyen Senar (1918 - 2015), Sabite Tur Gülerman (1927 - 1989), Behiye Aksoy (1933 – 2015), Sevim Tanürek (1934 – 1998), Nesrin Sipahi (1934), Belkız Özener (1936), İnci Çayırlı (1935), and many others…


They are the calligraphers who wrote our unique artistic heritage on records. The sadnesses, yearnings, joys, of a time and so on...


The early 20th century became the years when phonograph records began to be slowly played in Istanbul. The rapidly-spreading phonograph record industry brought together the artists, preventing disappearance of the invaluable voices in the infinite.


About a hundred years later, Dilek Türkan made the album called "AN (THE MOMENT)". The album features unique features that touch the soul of the past. Part of it was prepared completely under the conditions of year 1918. When the album cover opens, you are pleasantly surprised. Dilek Türkan voiced the works from 2018 on the left side and those from year 1918 on the right side. I had a short hesitation to decide which one to listen first; 2018 or 1918. Frankly speaking, I chose the 1918...   


We interviewed Dilek Türkan about that era and its magic voices and her new album "AN".


[1] Direklerarası is the name referring to the columned bazaar, which is part of the Islamic-Ottoman social complex commissioned by Nevşehirli Damat İbrahim Pasha on 1728 and 1729 in Fatih county of Istanbul, and to the street (today's Şehzadebaşı Caddesi) on which this bazaar is located. Having played an important role in the commercial life of the city, Direklerarası became a meeting point in the 19th century especially during Ramadan, becoming the center of entertainment, cultural and artistic activities.