Navigation – Plan du site

Constructions of Spaces of Music in Istanbul: Scuffling and Intermingling Sounds in a Fragmented Metropolis

Constructions d'espaces musicaux à Istanbul: sons désordonnés et entremêlés dans une métropole fragmentée
Volkan Aytar et Azer Keskin
p. 147-157

Résumés

Les espaces musicaux d’Istanbul mettent en évidence la richesse d’une structure sociale hétérogène liée à des vagues successives de migration et à la fragmentation croissante issue de la mondialisation. Istanbul est un pont entre l’Est et l’Ouest mais aussi une marge que divers groupes - des modernistes aux islamistes - tentent de contrôler, transformant la rue en champ de bataille symbolique. Des styles musicaux variés provenant de la ville et de la campagne - et les combinant souvent - (arabesk et taverna - liés à la contestation des années 1960 dans les gecekondus, qui chantent la pauvreté des déracinés - fantezi et pop turque), des formes "engagées" de musique populaire (d’extrême gauche, nationalistes, voire islamistes), tout comme des formes globales revisitées localement (rock, jazz, hip-hop, salsa, techno etc.) ont créé des lieux d’écoute et de conflit. L’étude des liens entre sons, construction sociale de l’espace et identités urbaines permet de dépasser les oppositions faciles (traditionnel/ moderne, local/global) inadaptées à un pays non-occidental comme la Turquie. Les processus de "glocalisation" y sont plus fluides, complexes et interconnectés, et n’ont pas conduit à une homogénéisation culturelle car la musique s’est adaptée et remodelée localement. Le quartier de Péra/Beyoglu est l’exemple de cette progressive transformation, depuis l’occidentalisation du XIXe s., puis la volonté de la jeune République de créer un nouveau citoyen laïque dans le nouvel État-Nation, jusqu’au rôle de vitrine moderniste des régimes militaires néo-libéraux que joue la ville depuis les années 1980. Istanbul se fragmente et s’hybride et Beyoglu est devenu une constellation d’hétérotopies foucaldiennes juxtaposant en un même lieu des paysages musicaux incompatibles mais qui fonctionnent en relation à l’espace. Exclusion et ségrégation n’y ont donc pas disparu.

Haut de page

Texte intégral

"Did it start with Bergson or before? Space was treated as the dead, the fixed, the undialectical, the immobile. Time, on the contrary was richness, fecundity, life, dialectic"
Foucault, 1980, in Soja 1999, p. 10

"Music is an omnipresent, almost atmospheric, property of public space in the city, in cafés, night-clubs, baths, brothels, shops, buses, taxis, and dolmus (shared taxis), providing a continual counterpoint to the rhythms of everyday life"
Stokes, 1992, p. 1

"[F]rom the moment the [Turkish] Republic was founded, music was given pride of place in policies relating to culture and art, a kind of ‘target’ as leaders sought to fashion a new sort of citizen and a new nation-state"
Tekelioglu, 1996, p. 196

  • 1 An earlier version of this paper is based on our conference presentation at the annual meeting of t (...)

1We claim that one needs to chart the symbolic meaning of Istanbul’s urban space as it stood on a complex human geography throughout its history1, by also taking into consideration short-term episodes, twists, ruptures and discontinuities, or muting the specificities and contingencies of human or social actors. This temporal/spatial approach will be complemented with a discussion of the major developments in economy, politics, culture and society both in Turkey and in Istanbul.

2The history of Istanbul does not stand as an isolated urban history, but a history of both an Imperial and post-Imperial experience, and a history of a marvelous social arena full of conflicting, diverging and converging symbolic meanings. To read Istanbul’s histories (or stories) provides us with powerful insights leading to many sub-stories and narratives and clarifying many of the prolonged cultural and symbolic rifts in Istanbul.

  • 2 See, for example, A. S. Çoruk’s Cumhuriyet Devri Türk Romanında Beyoglu (1995) where he presents go (...)
  • 3 Here, we borrow from and extend Appadurai’s notion of various "scapes" as discussed in his Modernit (...)

3Most of those narratives, we would claim are based on a feeling of volatility, coupled with anxieties over urban space and places. The traditionalist conservatives of the ailing Ottoman Empire and the new Republic were worried about the impact of westernization that gained pace since early to mid-19th century. Spatial polarizations pitting "traditional" and "modern" neighborhoods and districts were a frequent topic in conservative literary and social imagery2. Modernizers themselves equally experienced similar feelings of anxiety and volatility, however. Seeing westernizing reforms as the only solution to the problems of an ailing Empire (and later the new, promising Republic) and its major city, modernizers felt uneasy whenever "backward" masses targeted the enclaves of their stapled lifestyles, whenever the "reactionaries" tried to shut down or transform the city’s spaces of entertainment and consumption, and whenever the pauperized or the nouveaux riches tried to sneak in the places they really did not belong to. We argue that it is in the superimposition of those conflicting narratives of the city’s history one could find hints to comprehend the complex musicscapes3 of Istanbul. Now let us provide some "moments" of clash and symbolic representations within these musicscapes in order to exemplify the various and at times conflicting constructions of spaces of music in Istanbul.

Figure 1: Les différents quartiers d'Istanbul

Figure 1: Les différents quartiers d'Istanbul

Urban reform and modernization: symbolic scenes of the cafe, kahvehane and meyhane

4If we would start discussing Istanbul’s attempt of reform itself - which some of her human actors espoused in order to be prepared for the coming of a new age of a more inter-connected world, threatening its previous structure - it is best to take the Tanzimat period (1839-56) as a more or less meaningful point. This period covering institutional measures to "Reform" the Ottoman régime was intended towards revitalizing the Empire by creating a state and an administration to which Christians, as well as Muslims could feel loyalty.

  • 4 Later renamed Beyoglu.

5The experimental district of Pera4, in this sense, was a creative force in urban reform, surpassing far beyond its role in transmitting the European conceptions and techniques of municipal administration to the other sections of the city and to the provinces (Rosenthal, 1980). Pera both worked as the reformers’ scrapbook for the new conjuncture that the Empire was then facing, forcing the state officials to recognize European powers’ protection over its own non-Muslim subjects; and a pivotal point of western modernization to have a hitherto unattained level of impact upon heterogeneous Ottoman society, altering its former balances and creating new tensions in it.

  • 5 Here, it is worth noting that Beyoglu, on September 6th and 7th 1956, was one of the fundamental ta (...)

6Pera emerged as an enclave, a stronghold of "modernizing" tendencies, a locus of training, if not recruitment, for the western-minded reformist state élites who were for most of the time in conflict with traditionalist Palace members. It also was an entertainment enclave of non-Muslims, especially Jews, Greeks, Armenians and Levantines (although their residences were not necessarily limited to this section of the city), which, from the Tanzimat period on, with the pretext of the foreign protection on them, were increasingly seen as the "fifth division" of the foreign impact and intervention, especially in the conservative discourse5.

  • 6 M. Altun claims that alaturka entertainment was based in households, or male-dominated coffeehouses (...)

7Pera, with its numerous meyhane (wine houses) owned and operated by non-Muslim minorities was a colorful district, one of the focal points of entertainment. A. Ince claims non-Muslim entrepreneurs of that time could be seen as "cultural intermediaries" à la P. Bourdieu, acting as cultural mediators (due to their commercial and cultural contacts with the West) for Muslim and non-Muslim bourgeoisie alike (Ince, 2002, p. 107). An account of the Istanbul cafés during the late nineteenth century provides some useful evidences to the cultural cleavages, the tensions between élite cafés at Pera and popular traditional kahvehane, that is, Turkish-style coffeehouses (Georgeon, 1992). Similarly, M. Altun claims that in 19th century Istanbul, alafranga (a la franca, meaning modern, western-style) entertainment patterns were introduced and gained currency in the face of previous, alaturka (a la Turca, meaning Turkish-style, more traditional) forms6. However, other studies also remind us of the fact that alaturka and alafranga patterns did not necessarily signify binary opposites, and especially as they were experienced, allowed a lot of fluidity and contingency (Duben, Behar, 1991).

8Istanbul, in the early decades of 20th century, found itself in a situation of significantly heterogeneous social structure while the City was at the same time, became the immediate haven for tens of thousand Turkish and other Muslim refugees. Istanbul became, this time geographically too, the western border of a fallen Empire. Istanbul’s ethnic geography was radically altered due to important historical developments started earlier, but intensified during the first two decades of the twentieth century.

Nation-state formation and the cultural policies of the new tukish republic: concert halls, ballrooms and the halkevi

  • 7 See Çoruk, in ibid, passim.

9The First World War and armistice years, followed by a temporary occupation of Istanbul by the allied forces while strengthening the cultural/ideological rifts within Ottoman society, introduced new cleavages with refreshed political connotations. The national liberation struggle, mainly tailored in Anatolia, face to Istanbul’s relative silence, was a symbolic act to evidence this former’s political and social maturity. In spatial terms, within Istanbul, the "contradictions" (real or imagined) between Beyoglu and "traditional" neighborhoods were also emphasized during this period. Beyoglu emerged especially in the conservative and nationalist imagery as a new Byzantium, with its decadent entertainment establishments catering to those who had become rich or richer through "war profiteering" and with its non-Turkish populations who were seen as supporting the occupiers7.

10After the liberation, apart from launching state-controlled, centralized national developmentalist social and economic policies, the new Turkish Republican elite carried out policies of top-down cultural modernization, and of what O. Tekelioglu calls, in the sphere of music, the "West-East synthesis" (1996). A. Ince similarly argues that in the Republican period music and entertainment sectors were shaped according to the reformist tradition of the nation-state (Ince, 2002, p. 107). The top-down, state-controlled synthesis discusses by O. Tekelioglu incorporated various projects, such as banning of radio broadcasting of Turkish music of Ottoman origin (due to its identification of the Palace, a relic of the past); the suppression of Tekke Müzigi (ceremonial music of some Islamic sects), and religious music overall (which could partly explain the absence of religious music in urban spaces during the Republican era); the promotion of polyphony among the masses through the extensive use radio waves; launching of the government-sponsored ballroom dances (Tekelioglu, 1996, p. 197), where western-style dances such as waltz were staple items; and the standardization, collection, polyphonization and archivization of the Folk (or People’s) music.

  • 8 Especially the "Republican Ballroom Dances" were to become highly symbolic events and spatial repre (...)

11A re-spatialization of the music and entertainment localities went hand in hand with the top-down cultural policies. In the Republican era, the new and dominant spaces of music, then, were to become the State Conservatories teaching government-controlled westernized, polyphonized musical styles, Concert Halls and Ballrooms8, the "People’s Houses" (Halkevleri) where the newly Turkified Folk music was taught and spread out to the public, and the state radio and television stations that dominated the airwaves. In Istanbul, in particular, the Atatürk Kültür Merkezi (Atatürk Cultural Center) with its concert halls, among other facilities located in Taksim (near Beyoglu), was among the most important spatial expressions of the state-led cultural and musical modernization and westernization policies.

  • 9 Those symbolic limitations seem to be still in effect. In October 2003, during the celebration of t (...)
  • 10 It is interesting to note, in this juncture, how joining-in to the spaces of music acted as symboli (...)

12The symbolic power of inclusion and exclusion worked effectively as well. Turkish experience with top-down modernization entailed quick paced fiats decreeing what, and what not to wear, as well as enforcing modern etiquettes of comportements. Music spaces, especially of those underwritten by the reformist state were important gateways for entering into formal modernity9. Following official spaces, private spaces agreed to enforce same symbolic limitations, especially against those who were not "learned" enough10. The unquestioned hegemony of the officialdom, however, was to change after the 1960s and into 1970s, when arabesk music and its spaces became increasingly widespread.

Contesting the urban spaces of music: arabesk, dolmus, and the gecekondu

13Population movements had been a constant characteristic of the Turkish demographic change since the beginning of the Republic. Since at least the late 1940s, the effects of the mechanization of agriculture and market integration that provoked an increasing pressure on smaller-scale farming were the main reasons for the immense rural to urban migration (Karpat, 1976; Kıray, 1998 [1972]). This has speeded up after the 1960s, and has created conditions for rapid urbanization, increase in urban population, and urban transformation and change. Istanbul, in this period, was one of the major cities receiving bulk of the rural migration (Öc, 1974; Danielson, Keles, 1984).

14Most migrants converged around the newly formed residential settlements such as the gecekondu neighborhoods located at the peripheries of Istanbul, as well other major cities. These were squatter towns, with the word gecekondu literally meaning houses built "at night", to denote their informality and illegality. Devoid of most social services, including effective and accessible forms of public transportation, these neighborhoods were catered by the shared taxis or the dolmus. These two spaces were usually thought of as the loci for arabesk (Stokes, 1992), implying that this type of music belonged to the migrant, urban poor. Characterized as listened to in the dolmus, by the gecekondu dwellers, arabesk stirred a controversy also because it was seen as challenging most of the conventions of the dominant cultural policies of the Republic.

  • 11 Raki is a highly popular, anise-based Turkish alcoholic drink similar to Arak and Ouzo. It is custo (...)

15Although its earlier roots and shaping influences are well documented, the arabesk music is most closely associated with the post-1950s developments, and most chiefly, the rural-to-urban migration. M. Stokes defines it as "a music of the city and for the city […] It describes a decaying city in which poverty-stricken migrant workers are exploited and abused, and calls on its listeners to pour another glass of raki11, light another cigarette and curse fate and the world" (Stokes, 1992, p. 1).

  • 12 M. Stokes in his 1992 study also discusses new spaces of music such as the dernek (club/society/ass (...)
  • 13 In arabesk lyrics, the theatrical drama usually pits a ‘poor guy’ up against a ‘cruel world,’ a ‘he (...)

16Shaped by myriad influences as the Arabic music heard on the Egyptian radio, the Indian film music and the "free interpretation" movement in Turkish music (Tekelioglu, 1996) and incorporating highly "bluesish" lyrics, it is sometimes seen as symptomatic of the reaction against the top-down modernization and westernization cultural/musical policies12 of the Turkish Republican elite. Most importantly, its allegedly eclectic, non-artistic (meaning, non-high-brow) and kitschy musical structure, and fatalism-inspiring lyrics13 are the elements of arabesk most criticized by the Republican elite. At a mainstream sociological level, it purportedly represented the culture of the "half-urbanized" culture of the migrants unable to fully adapt to the "civilized" culture of Istanbul.

1980s onwards: a conservative “catharsis” and an “emancipated Istanbul”

17The year 1980 symbolized a more or less clear-cut expression of a "break" in the political and economic history of Turkey. This date has been considered by numerous analysts, as a turning point that had separated the two distinct courses of both the Turkish politics and economics. The 1980 military coup "ushered in a régime […] resolutely applied the orthodox policies counseled by the IMF in the hope of restructuring the economy toward greater openness and liberalization." (Keyder and Öncü, 1994).

18This also signified the moment of Istanbul’s "emancipation" from the conventional boundaries of the political and economic boundedness, its superior territorial attachments: "ANAP’s political strategy became increasingly focused upon major metropolitan centers as both showcases of the new era of internationalism, and as the most likely bases of its clientelistic networks and electoral appeal. Istanbul naturally emerged as the privileged recipient of this attention" (Keyder and Öncü, 1994). Local government reforms were designed to sustain a particular level of urban autonomy to assign local governments a necessary flexibility in their actions (Heper, 1987; 1989). Istanbul, in this sense, emerged as a "showcase" of the Monetarist New Right policies and their local level reflections; entrepreneuria-lism and conservative and neo-liberal urban reforms, oriented towards arming this city with necessary comparative advantages in her struggle to rise at the hierarchical urban taxonomy of the "World City" network.

19Istanbul in this context was transformed from a major base for large-scale, manufacturing firms into Turkey’s globalizing center for finance and banking (Keyder and Öncü, 1994), has increased its hold over the Turkish economy (Pérouse, 1998), and has become the preferred location for multinational corporations attempting to make roadways into the Turkish market (Pérouse, 1999 and 2000). In the meantime, the number of branches of multinational companies increased dramatically. All these developments were connected to the recent transformation of Istanbul into a globalizing city, increasingly subject to global flows of capital, goods, as well as culture (Keyder and Öncü, 1994; Öncü, 1997; Keyder, 1993; 1999).

New spaces of music since the mid-1980s: diversification and hybridization

20How to, then, comprehend the new musicscapes in Istanbul since 1980 on the basis of above developments? Since academic studies are very scant, we could first consult popular depictions which are rich and colorful. Especially after the mid-1980s in Istanbul new forms of popular iconographies emerged, mentally dramatizing two "generic’ poles of two distinct "urban figures". One was, the figure of the entel (a derogatory use of the word "intellectual"), hanging around the streets, attending the Entel Bars (a unifying label used to describe music establishments where jazz and other "high brow" types were listened to) artistic/intellectual activities; expositions, concerts, panel-discussions and so-forth. He (sic, since entel is predominantly thought of as a male figure) enjoys jazz, classical music, he has an "élite" (and most of the time popularly ridiculed) lifestyle (although that did not necessarily mean he was rich economically) and uses a mostly complex ("odd") vocabulary. He may be presented, with a slight exaggeration, as an Istanbul flâneur, but his is much like a "learned, imitated-flânerie". His favorite location is, of course, Beyoglu. He seeks to stand for western "civility", "sophisticated urban citizenry", although he is frequently ridiculed.

  • 14 Kıro reportedly connotes a pejorative and deformed use of the word, ‘kurdish’. Gıro, a Kurdish word (...)
  • 15 For a very good study of the power of humor in constructing and representing urban identities in Is (...)

21The other "generic" pole, is the maganda (an invented word) or with its less frequently used variant, kıro14; possibly a migrant urban poor, hanging around the streets just like the entel, but this time, to sexually and verbally "abuse" women and men with long-hair, spitting in public, listening to arabesk or taverna (a more "hedonistic" sub-style of this former) in smoke-filled pavyons or kıraathane (neighborhood-based coffeehouses). He is the haunter of the evacuated streets in the night (not to graffiti the walls, but to look for "professional transsexuals"). He is the "uncivil" urban jerk. He is in so contradiction and conflict with the entel, that, their imaginary stories were frequently portrayed on the pages of comic books and humor magazines, during the late-1980s and 1990s15. Entel and maganda stand as representing the clientele of distinct and polarized spaces of music, entertainment and leisure.

22However, a closer look at the social constructions of spaces of music in Istanbul gives us important insights showing the narrowness of the above dichotomization of urban generic poles, as well as spaces of music that cater to either. Istanbul’s spaces of music have become increasingly myriad. By the mid 1990s locations of music in Istanbul diversified and the musical types that were produced and consumed by different and distinct social and cultural groups started to borrow from each other.

23Due to Istanbul’s globalizing orientations and changing demographics, as discussed above, a new service sector composed of music/ entertainment establishments emerged. Since mid-1980s, new entertainment spaces and establishments catering to various groups in Istanbul started to multiply and diversify. We propose to place music and entertainment establishments and spaces within a more general framework of "pleasure-oriented environments" (Carr, 2002, p. 972) in an increasingly consump-tion-oriented setting of Istanbul. Now let us look into the different spaces that were constructed and how those spaces stand separate yet interconnec-ted and highly entangled. Our claim is that the sounds produced in diverse spaces continue to shape each other and intermingle and scuffle alike. In order to discuss this, let us now turn to the changing humanscapes in Istanbul in the last two decades or so.

Global fusings, remaining distances

24The globalizing orientation of Istanbul as discussed above was also mirrored in the changing population configuration, and the transformation of the urban space. Increasing deterioration of the income distribution in Istanbul provoked social polarization. Istanbul’s urban space became increasingly fragmented and was divided along new fault lines. A new globalizing stratum of the population emerged in Istanbul (Aksoy, 1996). Those employed in the globalizing sectors of the economy were moving towards "world class incomes" (Kandiyoti, 2002), while the poorest strata were increasingly marginalized, and left out of the process of articulation into the world economy (Ercan, 1996 in Erkip, 2000).

  • 16 We should note, however, that not the entire clientele of those events or establishments could be d (...)
  • 17 High-skilled and educated individuals, find employment as high-paid music and entertainment workers (...)

25Within the upper and upper-middle classes, too, there emerged new fault lines, and consumption (and by extension, choice of musical styles and spaces) increasingly became instrumental in drawing symbolic boundaries, and social distinctions à la P. Bourdieu (1984). Those involved in the globalizing sectors of Istanbul’s economy increasingly developed "global tastes" in music, art and entertainment. This group we claim is the main stratum catered by the new "upscale" spaces of music, such as jazz, blues and reggae establishments, Istanbul Music Festival, Istanbul Jazz Festival, Akbank Jazz Festival, and new techno and gay clubs16. We should also note that the laborscapes associated with these new spaces are also "upscale" and "global"17.

  • 18 It should be noted that the rise of ‘world music’ went hand in hand with the proliferation of resta (...)

26One could also claim that the rise of music festivals and the stratum they cater to was also paralleled in the emergence of establishments such as Babylon, Maslak Venue, Parkorman, and Mydonose Showland. Most of those establish-ments were launched to organize frequent live appearances by non-Turkish musicians, concerts that bring together global and local musicians, or big-budget productions or concerts by Turkish pop stars. The global rise of "world music" was also mirrored in Istanbul with appearances by Natacha Atlas, Raul Paz, and others, and "crossover", experimental fusion concerts and albums flourished rapidly18. Especially Roma musicians who were not previously "taken seriously" by the music and entertainment establishments beyond their role as occasional "informal" performers mainly dependent on customers’ tips, were "rediscovered". A new respectability was assigned to Roma musicians. Nowadays, it is quite customary to come across with albums or concerts bringing together Amsterdam Klezmer Band with the Galata Gypsy Band, or Brooklyn Funk Essentials with Laço Tayfa. A new "gaze" towards Istanbul’s "own ethnicities" as musical subjects may be said to have developed in this city’s new spaces of music and entertainment.

27However a question remains as to whether these experimental, fusion-oriented musical efforts and the spaces of music they create substantively bridge the social distance between the entertainment economies of Beyoglu and Maslak (where many crossover-promoting establishments are housed); and Tarlabası, Ahırkapı or Sulukule (lower-income neighborhoods from out of many Roma musicians are recruited to play with western bands) or not. For example, Tarlabası is just a block off Beyoglu and its Roma and Kurdish residents are vitally yet quite informally connected to Beyoglu’s entertainment economy as street sellers, street musicians, and fortune tellers. On the other hand, media descriptions and popular attitudes continue to blame both groups for constituting Beyoglu’s criminal economy, such as drug dealing, car parking "mafia" and street theft networks. Living under the shadow of criminalization, many Tarlabası residents may not be enjoying the fruits of the new musicscapes unlike their friends or relatives who were recruited to play at Babylon.

  • 19 Indeed, in 1998, left-liberal daily Radikal lauded Asmalımescit as “Istanbul’s SoHo” (in A. _nce, 2 (...)
  • 20 It is worth noting that during the 1980s and 1990s conservative residents launched a campaign to dr (...)

28Creation of new spaces of music and new - or recycled - laborscapes that followed them also finds echoes in the emergence of new tastemakers, and transformation of urban space. A. Ince discusses the emergence of Babylon, for example, in terms of the rising importance of "cultural intermediaries" in Istanbul’s musical and cultural scene. She argues that Babylon operates as a "trendsetter", while Pozitif, the production company (with its associated record label, Doublemoon) that is behind it, works as a "tastemaker" (Ince, 2002, p. 109). One could also claim that Babylon and other venues, as well as art galleries, cafés turned Asmalımescit section of Beyoglu into a new "in", or "hip" neighborhood where new, cutting edge practices of entertainment, art and culture are experienced19. Indeed, Asmalımescit was effectively gentrified especially occupationally and this part of Beyoglu that was formerly home to drug dealers, sex workers and small scale manufacturers was "cleaned up". Residential gentrification is also frequent in neighborhoods close to Beyoglu, such as Cihangir, adding to the anxieties and tensions over urban space20.

Sticking to the same tunes at unbecoming locales: parvenus and their spaces

  • 21 Pita bread served with ground meat, spices and other ingredients. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Tur (...)

29In the meantime, concurrent with the rise of globalizing sectors, in more "traditional" sectors such as construction, small-scale retailing, and others, there emerged a stratum of entrepreneurs who saw their lot improved within the span of fairly short amount of time. With their spending power increasing rapidly, they were still charged by the weakening Republican cultural elite as well as the globalizing upper and upper-middle classes for constituting a nouveaux riches, parvenus stratum, sticking with their "old ways" in culture, or, at best having a degenerative "mix-and-match" attitude. Seen as "magandas with money", they were ridiculed for eating lahmacun21 and drinking whisky at the same time, while listening to arabesk and taverna while watching the beautiful Bosphorus shores at expensive restaurants and night-clubs, most chiefly at Tarabya, an upscale neighborhood by the European side of the shores.

  • 22 A. Akay (2003), for example connects the wider acceptance of Arabesk to more general societal trend (...)

30In Istanbul’s new humanscapes, Arabesk is no longer - if it ever completely was - the music of the gecekondu and the dolmus. Apart from informing and shaping the current form of the "Turkish Pop", (as many pop stars themselves increasingly seem to admit) arabesk is now listened to by wide segments of the Istanbulites, beyond the migrant, urban poor. Upscale arabesk locations flourished, and they increasingly cater to the upper classes, the nouveaux riches, middle classes and others alike22. Appearances by arabesk stars, Ibrahim Tatlıses, Mahsun Kırmızıgül, Müslüm Gürses, and others in concerts and other venues are highly mediatized events, with many members of Istanbul’s jet-set attending. We should note that Gürses also released albums and singles including remakes of songs by pop and pop-rock stars such as Tarkan and Teoman, and was increasingly appreciated by larger segments of Istanbulites. This middle, upper class and jet-set acceptance of the arabesk became so entrenched that some hard-core fans of Müslüm Gürses who felt that he was "selling out" and gradually leaving his "voice of the pauper" image behind, launched a boycott against him.

  • 23 Etiler is an upper-class neighborhood located on the European side of Istanbul that house many tave (...)
  • 24 Kumkapı which is in the historic peninsula is a neighborhood usually associated with its colorful n (...)

31The taverna which may be seen as a more recent sub-set of arabesk (one could remember the claim that it is at least more "hedonistic" in its lyrics) has created its own spaces, socially similar to earlier meyhane or pavyon, where usually individual singer-instrumentalists entertain their audiences by singing and playing an electronic keyboard. Although the taverna-goers were originally seen as making up a non-sophisticated nouveaux riches bunch, this claim is harder to sustain with the proliferation of establishments that cater to an increasingly diverse clientele. Yet, not only previous distinctions and animosities keep on their durability and strength, new divisions within people playing and listening to the same music style, but only in different neighborhoods appear. Recently the taverna-fantezi star Ismail Türüt uttered, "You would find our [tough] guys in Tarabya, but in Etiler it is the softies [read, 'queers']"23. Taverna is now both a musical style and a type of music/entertainment/dining establishment. One could find taverna-dominated urban dots all around Istanbul, but most prominently at Tarabya, Etiler, and Kumkapı24.  

Eat, drink and sing about social justice and good old rural times

32Among new musicscapes, the Türkü Bar constitutes a very interesting example showing the specificity of Istanbul. Türkü Bars (literally meaning the "Ballad Bars") flourished since early to mid-1990s. Although those dot all around Istanbul, many Türkü Bars are located in Beyoglu, as well as in Üsküdar and Bakırköy. While those were initially launched by few Alevi entrepreneurs, recently owners and employees seem to constitute of a heterogeneous mix. The music types played in those establishments are the Turkish Folk Music (thus, the "ballad" denotation) especially as played in earlier dersane and dernek, and what came to be known Özgün Müzik (this odd rubric literally translates as the "Original Music"), as well as Protest Müzik.

33Özgün Müzik was launched and developed since the early to mid 1980s, as a politically "engagé", folk- or pop-based type. At times denigrated as Sol ("left-wing") arabesk (most chiefly because of its purported substitution of arabesk’s "cruel world" symbolism with "the order", read, capitalism), its earlier proponents were current and former leftist political prisoners and activists such as Ferhat Tunç and late Ahmet Kaya (who passed away in self-imposed exile in France in 2001). Even more openly political is Protest Müzik, famously represented by leftist bands such as Grup Yorum, Grup Munzur, Kızılırmak, and Grup Baran, among others, some of which were frequently charged by the mainstream media and security forces for being associated with illegal Marxist-Leninist or Kurdish separatist organizations.

  • 25 Legendary leftist urban guerilla executed in 1972 after the military coup.
  • 26 Socialist actor and director well known internationally for his Cannes award winning production, Yo (...)
  • 27 Perhaps the most famous Turkish Communist poet, died in exile in Moscow in 1963.

34As social spaces, those places are highly symbolic. Türkü Bars are usually decorated with Che Guevara, Deniz Gezmis25 and Yılmaz Güney26  posters, pictures of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk conversing with peasants, poems by Nazım Hikmet27, baglamas and kilims, and other memorabilia hung all around the walls. T. Ersen claims that many Türkü Bars in their interior design attempt to "recreate" a rural environment in the context of the city. With their stuffed farm animals, and pictures of panoramic valleys, rivers and mountaintops, they try to represent the innocent, simpler atmosphere of the "lost" village for their urban clientele (Ersen, 2002, p.39). Indeed most of the Türkü Bar regulars seem to be those individuals uneasy with the pop and rock dominated music and night out scene of Istanbul. They may be said not to appreciate as much new global-oriented fusion either.

35The usual clientele of Türkü Bars constitute of students, low or lower middle class individuals, among others. Folk dancing by male and female customers alike frequently accompanies playing and singing by small bands of professional musicians. Experienced almost in a "cathartic" way, singing along, or dancing denote important and meaningful experiences for the Türkü Bar customers. Indeed recreating the cool air of the rural high plateaus under the constant breezes of the air conditioners, and providing the customers a "reliable ground on which to dance in a shaky urban setting" (Ersen, 2002, p. 39), the Türkü Bar became a key experiential space for "alternative" entertainment.

36One interesting development has been not only the multiplication of these bars, but also increasing diversification and changing political nature of Özgün and Protest Müzik themselves. More recently, a move towards launching Islamist and far-right wing versions of these was witnessed. Concurrently, less "political" and more upscale Türkü Bars multiplied, catering to a clientele somewhat similar to taverna-goers. On top of Beyoglu, Bakırköy, and Üsküdar, in upper class neighborhoods such as Etiler, Türkü Bars started to emerge. This development is further evidence that no pre-set meaning could be inscribed to, and kept fixed for spaces and musical styles themselves.

Expressing life, music and fun "outdoor’

  • 28 The new constitution promulgated in 1982 brought forth strict limitations on rights to free assembl (...)

37Another recent development in the social construction of spaces of music in Istanbul has been the rediscovery and reclaiming of the "outdoor’ as an experiential and vital place. Street festivals, open air concerts, outdoor weddings and beach parties all could be seen as part and parcel of this development. These acts of rediscovery and reclaiming should be thought of in relation to the changing social and political nature of the "outdoor’ in Turkish urban settings. One of the first fiats of the military regime in 1980 was to institute curfew. Although the curfew itself was lifted in time, the idea of curfew, with its authoritarian limitation against "being in open spaces’ seems to have remained deeply engrained in Turkish experience28, especially in urban places. Manifestations, meetings, marches, and protests have faced harsh responses from the security forces.

  • 29 We should note that similar campaigns have had a long history in Turkey. Labor campaigns of what so (...)
  • 30 Note that after the capture of A. Öcalan, the leader of the separatist PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Part (...)

38As a ground-breaking development, in 1990s, usually women-led relatives of the "disappeared’ people and/or political prisoners have launched a long campaign to reclaim some urban places whereby they organized weekly manifestations to draw publicity to their cause29. Similar to the campaign of the women of Plaza del Mayo in Argentina, "the Saturday Mothers" (Cumartesi Anneleri) became associated with the Galatasaray Square in Beyolu, one of the locations they were me eting every Saturday, and frequently facing arrests and forced dispersal. Initially a marginal campaign limited in participation to those denigra-ted as "left wingers," or "those supporting the terrorists" the legitimacy of them reclaiming the urban spaces increased in time. In society at large, and even in those circles refuting their cause, their methods have become a "model" to be followed30.

  • 31 Government officials and security forces frequently banned, postponed or changed venues of concerts (...)

39Partly due to the "catharsis" as mentioned before whereby many hitherto "marginal" identities founds unorthodox ways to express themselves, partly due to path opened by the "Saturday Mothers," among others, the limitations on the use of urban spaces were increasingly questioned and were de facto bypassed usually in less confrontational ways. In practice, non-political events had more chances to get organized outdoors, although official bans or limitations were present on them as well31. Celebrations of the victories by Turkish soccer teams internatio-nally have always been "tolerated" by the officials, as with some outdoor pop concerts especially if they did help out channeling mass energies towards non-political ways, or if they could be used to "heighten national consciousness" (thereby to co-opt them). However, the increasing use of outdoor urban spaces for music and entertainment purposes point out to a development that could not be simply explained in terms of their functions for the continuation of the status quo.

  • 32 Remains of the fortress on a section by the European shores of the Bosphorus built by Mehmet the Co (...)
  • 33 Gülhane is a recently renovated public park in the historical peninsula, near the Topkapı Palace an (...)
  • 34 A. Düzkan notes that especially Kurdish weddings in poorer neighborhoods are “as entertaining as a (...)

40Some open air concerts like those organized at Rumeli Hisarı32 may be highly mediatized and commercial events, but some others like those "People's Concerts" taking place at Gülhane Parkı33  provide genuine opportunities to the urban poor, those marginalized to join-in to the new spaces of entertainment especially when others were effectively closed to them due to high cover, high food and drink prices, and bodyguards acting as "gatekeepers" admitting only those who are dressed up nicely or accompanied with their female friends. In a similar development, some municipal governments, and professional organizations launched street festivals and carnivals, like Beyoglu Bulusması, Beyoglu Festivali, Tünel Art Festival, providing free open-air concerts, dance shows, and Ramadan-long open-air banquets, fests and music shows at Eyüp, Sultanahmet and other districts. Outdoor weddings also became important ways to construct spaces of music and entertainment. Singing and folk dancing may be turning weddings as non-commercial, informal yet rich and colorful "spaces of hope"34. Indeed this could be said of many new outdoor musicscapes in Istanbul. They may be carving out spaces of hope in the face of official bans and limitations, attempts at co-optation, commercialization and mediatization.

Localization of modernity, and glocalization: whither heterotopias?

41In this paper, we have attempted to chart the historical and spatial development of Istanbul's spaces of music by providing a rough picture of this city's diverse and changing humanscapes. We argue that deeply entangled with, shaped by and in turn shaping the major political, economic and cultural changes in Turkey, Istanbul's humanscapes sit on the very heart of the construction of spaces of music, or musicscapes. Although even many Turkish scholars (not just "western" Orientalist and modernizationist approaches) still continue to employ facile dichotomies of tradition versus modernity, and local versus global, we argue that concepts such as M. P. Smith and T. Bender's "localization of modernity" (2001) and R. Robertson's "glocaliza-tion" (1995) more aptly serve the describe the constructions of spaces of music in Istanbul.

42On the one hand, among other things, the history of Turkish cultural modernity could also be read as an attempt to construct meanings for music and its spaces. However, as M. P.Smith and T. Bender argue, "[…] place-making from above by top-down modernizing regimes" articulates with claims-making politics […] from the middle and from below" (2001, p. 1). Top-down place making also faces challenges by such claims. The emergence of arabesk and its spaces, and the politicization and transformation of Turkish Folk Music and creation of alternative, more "civil societal" spaces such as the dersane, dernek and Türkü Bars, and the rediscovery and reclaiming of the "outdoor" are evidences of these. Moving beyond the dichotomy of tradition versus modernity, we would propose that Turkish modernity has been particularly localized in Istanbul's spaces of music through a constant process of negotiation, re-negotiation and transgression.

43On the other hand, post-1980s developments in construction of spaces of music provide enough evidence to talk about Istanbul-specific processes of glocalization and hybridization. Seemingly separate and even conflicting music styles and spaces of music continuously scuffle and intermingle in Istanbul, learn from and transform each other. After the 1980s, Istanbul has seen the emergence of myriad hybrid identities and "crossover" musical events, with a Kurdish Arabesk singer (Ibrahim Tatlıses) singing Pavarotti's arias, young women with headscarves attending rock and Turkish hip-hop concerts, a Brooklyn-based Funk band performing with a Turkish Roma band. It is within this context that Robertson's argument not to see globalization merely as a homogenizing process, and his insistence on the importance of the way globalization is localized and how local also shapes globality makes more sense. However, as he also suggests and increasingly is the case in global marketing, glocalization equally means a strategic choice whereby "difference sells" and the concept captures the way in which homogenization and heterogenization intertwine (1995). From this perspective, Brooklyn Funk Essentials performing with Laço Tayfa, or the Amsterdam Klezmer Band performing with the Galata Gypsy Band are glocal in both senses.

44We would like to close our discussion in where we started it, namely in Pera/Beyoglu, Istanbul's foremost and most historically rooted music/entertainment/art district. One could claim that the Pera/Beyoglu is akin to "a constellation of Foucauldian heterotopias" capable of juxtaposing in a single real place several spaces, several sites that are in themselves incompatible" but "function in relation to all the space that remains" (Soja 1999, p. 240). Indeed, rural and urban, poor and rich, the Turk, Kurd, Arab, and Roma (as well as any remaining Christian and Jewish minorities), Sunni and the Alevi frequent Beyoglu for work and leisure purposes. This "side-by-sideness", however, is real but not without limits. Madra argues that this sharing of places in Istanbul is just for definite and limited temporal instances where people become "time-companions" more than they are "space-companions" in a substantive sense (1992). This is due to the fact that this sharing of spaces is underwritten by a harsh occupational and residential segregation. The rules of the inclusion and exclusion are still defined according to class, occupational group, the region of origin, ethnicity and religious affiliation as well as social status and prestige.

45In socio-political terms this translates as the crystallization of what some analysts call the "Istanbul League", a neo-liberal (mental) alliance of western-minded intellectuals, industrialists, and politicians, bound with the logic of globalization, oriented towards transforming Istanbul into a "first-class world city", detesting populism and archaic patronage relationships. This "League" implicitly demands (at least visible) exclusion of the urban poor, the homeless, the minorities and other "undesirables" to improve the economic attractiveness and overall cultural image of the city. Some of the "undesirables", especially the homeless transgress this exclusion, "living" (trespassing) in the very rich neighborhoods, shopping malls and concert halls they were asked to leave. The members of the "League" who are disturbed by this presence may be said to either choose to ignore or effectively expel them. If Istanbul's spaces of music were to become heterotopias in a true sense, these exclusionary symbolic inscriptions of meanings would have to be dealt with, and one would need to imagine ways in which difference could be celebrated, not muted or merely sold. This way, one could think about the musicscapes in Istanbul as spaces of hope.

Figure 2: Musiques du monde et musiques turques dans le café "On the Rocks"

Figure 2: Musiques du monde et musiques turques dans le café "On the Rocks"
Haut de page

Bibliographie

Akay A., 2003, Istanbul: Bir eglence megapolü, (Istanbul: An entertainment megalopolis), Cogito, Spring, n°35, p. 181-196.

Aksoy A., 1996, Küresellesme ve Istanbul'da istihdam (Globalization and employment in Istanbul), Istanbul, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, 46 p.

Appadurai A., 1996, Modernity at Large: Cultural dimensions of globalization, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, xi-230 p.

Ayata A., 1997, The emergence of identity politics in Turkey, New Perspectives on Turkey, n° 17, p. 59-73.

Behar C., Duben A., 1991, Istanbul households: marriage, family, and fertility, 1880-1940, Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University Press, 300 p.

Bora T., 1999, Istanbul of the Conqueror: "The alternative global city' dreams of political Islam, in Keyder Ç. (ed.), Istanbul: Between the global and the local, Lanham, Boulder, New York and Oxford, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, vii-202 p.

Boratav K., 1990, Inter-Class and Intra-Class Relations of Distribution Under "Structural Adjustment": Turkey during the 1980s, in ARICANLI T., RODRIK D. (eds.), The Political economy of Turkey: Debt, adjustment and sustainability, Basingstoke, Macmillan, xii-278 p.

Bourdieu P., 1984, Distinction: A social critique of the judgment of taste, translated by Richard Nice, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, xiv-614 p.

Carr, 2002, The tourism-leisure behavioural continuum, Annals of Tourism Research, vol. 29, n° 4, p. 972-986.

Çoruk A.S., 1995, Cumhuriyet devri Türk romanında Beyoglu (Beyoglu in the republican-era Turkish novel), Istanbul, Kitabevi, 414 p.

Danielson M., Keles R, 1984, The Politics of rapid urbanization: The government and growth in modern Turkey, New York, Holmes and Meier, xviii-286 p.

Duzkan A., 2002, Istanbul'da Kurdî dügün: Bayram gibi eglenceli, miting kadar heyecanlı, (Kurdish wedding in Istanbul: As entertaining as a fest, as enthusiastic as a political demonstration), Istanbul, n° 43, p. 110-113.

Erkip F., 2000, Global transformations versus local dynamics in Istanbul: Planning in a fragmented metropolis, Cities, vol. 17, n° 5, p. 371-377.

Ersen M.T., 2002, Özgün mekan: Türkü bar, Atlas Istanbul Özel, January, p. 39-51.

Georgeon F., 1992, Le café à Istanbul au XIXe s., Études Turques et Ottomanes, n° 1, p. 14-40.

Goldberg E., 1991, Was there an Islamic "city"?, in Kasaba R. (ed.), Cities in the World-System, New York, Greenwood Press, xii-206 p.

Heper M. (ed.), 1986, Dilemmas of Decentralizing: Municipal Government in Turkey, Bonn, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, 128 p.

Heper M. (ed.), 1987, Democracy and Local Government: Istanbul in the 1980's, Walkington, Eothen Press, vii-64 p.

Heper M. (ed.), 1989, Local Government in Turkey: Governing Greater Istanbul, London, Routledge, viii-92 p.

Hobsbawm E., Ranger T., 1983, The Invention of Tradition, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, vi-320 p.

Ince A., 2002, Çesnicibasılıktan Taste Maker'lıga, Istanbul, n° 43, p. 106-109.

Kandiyoti D., 2002, Introduction: Reading the fragments', in Kandiyoti D., Saktanber A. (eds), 2002, Fragments of Culture: The Everyday of Modern Turkey, New Brunswick, Rutgers University Press, ix-350 p.

Karpat K., 1976, The Gecekondu: Rural Migration and Urbanization, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, vi-292 p.

Keyder Ç., Öncü A., 1994, Globalization of a third-world metropolis: Istanbul in the 1980's, Review, vol. 17, n° 3, p. 383-421.

Keyder Ç., 1993, Ulusal Kalkınmacılıgın Iflası, Istanbul, Metis, 158 p.

Keyder Ç. (ed.), 1999, Istanbul: Between the Global and the Local, Lanham, Boulder, New York and Oxford, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, vii-202 p.

Kiray M., 1998 [1972], Kentlesme Yazıları,  Istanbul, Baglam, 188 p.

Kitsikis D., 1989 [1986], L'Empire Ottoman, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 128 p.

Madra B., 1992, Mekandaslar ve zamandaslar savası (The war of the space companions and time companions), Istanbul, n° 2, p. 96-98.

Öncü A., 1997, The myth of the "ideal home" travels across cultural borders to Istanbul, in ÖncüA., Weyland P. (eds.), Space, Culture and Power: New Identities in Globalizing Cities, London and Atlantic Highlands, N.J., Zed Books, viii-208 p.

Öncü A., 1999, Istanbulites and others: The cultural cosmology of being middle class in the era of globalism, in Keyder Ç. (ed.) Istanbul: Between the Global and the Local, Lanham, Boulder, New York and Oxford, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, vii-202 p.

Perouse J.-F., 2000, L'internationalisation de la métropole stambouliote, Varia Turcica (Méditerranée et Mer Noire Entre Mondialisation et Régionalisation), n° 34, p. 153-179.

Perouse J.-F., 1999, Istanbul, capitale du nouveau monde turc? Revue Française de Géoéconomie, n° 9, p. 45-53.

Perouse J.-F., 1998, Istanbul, grande inconnue et métropole malgré elle: premiers repères, in Petites et Grandes Villes du Bassin Méditerranéen, Palais Farnèse, Rome, École Française de Rome, 604 p.

Robertson R., 1995, Glocalization: Time-space and homogeneity-heterogeneity, in Feather-Stone M., Lash S. Lash, Robertson R. (eds.), Global Modernities, London, Thousand Oaks and New Delhi, Sage Publications, ix-292 p.

Rosenthal S.T., 1980, The Politics of Dependency: Urban Reform in Istanbul, Westport, Greenwood Press, xxix-220 p.

Smith M.P., Bender T., 2001, The localization of modernity, in Smith M. P., Bender T. ( eds.), City and Nation: Rethinking Place and Identity, New Brunswick and London, Transaction Publishers, ix-244 p.

Soja E., 1999, Historical geography of urban and regional restructuring, in Postmodern Geographies, London and New York, Verso, 266 p.

Sönmez M., 1996, Istanbul'un Iki Yüzü: 1980'den 2000'e Degisim, Ankara, Arkadas Yayinlari, 192 p.

Stokes M., 1992, The Arabesk debate: Music and musicians in modern Turkey, Oxford, Oxford University Press, xi-266 p.

Tekelioglu O., 1996, The rise of a spontaneous synthesis: the historical background of Turkish popular music, Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 32, n° 2, p. 194-218.

Tokatli N., Boyaci Y., 1998, The state and the corporate private sector in the recent restructuring of Turkish retailing, New Perspectives on Turkey, n° 18, p. 79-111.

Haut de page

Notes

1 An earlier version of this paper is based on our conference presentation at the annual meeting of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music – US, in Cleveland, Ohio in October 2002. The research upon which this paper is based was partially funded from the MEAwards Program in Population and the Social Sciences, the Population Council, WANA Regional Office in Cairo. Volkan Aytar would like to thank MEAwards Program for their support.

2 See, for example, A. S. Çoruk’s Cumhuriyet Devri Türk Romanında Beyoglu (1995) where he presents good examples of this imagery. Seen as a highly westernized district, Beyoglu is frequently contrasted to "purely" Muslim and Turkish neighborhoods such as Fatih, Aksaray, Beyazıt and others. With its non-Muslim minority-owned enter-tainment and shopping establishments, Beyoglu is depicted as a modern, degenerate, and extravagantly "mondaine" part of the city. Consider the anxieties over the symbolic encroachment of modern lifestyles represented by Beyoglu, as well as cultural ruptures and rifts it supposedly brings forth in the following passages: "[…] He heard the foreign melodies sneaking out of the shop, and could not help but thinking […] how alien these were to his land" (from Peyami Safa’s 1924 novel, Mahser, p. 116); "You could easily come across with differences similar to those between New York and Kabul, between [Beyoglu] and [Fatih]" (from Peyami Safa’s 1931 novel, Fatih-Harbiye, p. 30); and finally, "Beyoglu is the unconquered Istanbul" (from Mithat Cemal Kuntay’s 1938 novel, Üç Istanbul, p. 44). This vision, however, is not limited to the conservative imagery. In one of the most striking examples, in 1928, Kemalist writer Yakup Kadri Karaos-manoglu wrote a novel about armistice years’ Istanbul, entitled Sodom ve Gomore (Sodom and Gomorrah). In left-wing imagery, Istanbul appeared frequently as a decadent space dominated by "aristocratic" and "bourgeois" interests. Former Socialist writer Çetin Altan famously called the city, "the Dukedom of Istanbul".

3 Here, we borrow from and extend Appadurai’s notion of various "scapes" as discussed in his Modernity at large (1996) to discuss the shifting and fluid humanscapes of music in Istanbul.

4 Later renamed Beyoglu.

5 Here, it is worth noting that Beyoglu, on September 6th and 7th 1956, was one of the fundamental targets of the Turkish nationalists and Islamists when a violent popular attack was carried on ethnic Greeks living in Istanbul, after an alleged vandalizing attack on the house Atatürk (the founder of the Turkish Republic) was born in Thessalonica, Greece, was "broadcasted" at chauvinistic Istanbul newspapers. Later, the incident proved to be an undercover plot reportedly planned by some agents of the Turkish government, to create a mob pressure upon Greeks of Istanbul, to forcing them to leave. This event is seen as signifying one of the important turning points that significantly transformed the humanscape of Istanbul. This assault signaled the beginning of massive displacement of Istanbul’s ethnic Greeks to Greece. Later, Beyoglu became a major target of a non-violent "moral" attack and economic boycott carried by some Islamists, in the years 1994-1995. The district was accused of becoming a source of "Crusade" as most of the shopping centers and restaurants were celebrating the New Year’s Eve. A concurrent and meaningful incident occurred in 1994 after the newly elected "moderate Islamist" mayor of Beyoglu decided to "clean up" the districts’ entertainment esta-blishments by banning and limiting service of alcohol. Following a media and public outcry the mayor decided not to go along with his plans (although we should note that the alcohol ban was instituted and still remains effective in establishments owned and operated by the Greater Municipality of Istanbul). All three instances, we believe, were symptomatic in explaining the particular durability and strength of the symbolic contestations of space in Istanbul.

6 M. Altun claims that alaturka entertainment was based in households, or male-dominated coffeehouses, and did not occur in outdoor, urban spaces as much. In religious holidays, special outdoor picnics were organized, and these signified few occasions when men and women gathered and entertained together.

7 See Çoruk, in ibid, passim.

8 Especially the "Republican Ballroom Dances" were to become highly symbolic events and spatial represen-tations of the new Republican cultural policies. Like in Ankara, in Istanbul, Taksim, too, outdoor ballroom dances were organized by the bureaucratic elite, and attended also by the newly emerging Turkish bourgeoisie.

9 Those symbolic limitations seem to be still in effect. In October 2003, during the celebration of the 80th year of the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey, a political crisis erupted after the President refused to invite to the Presidential reception the wives of those ruling (‘mode-rate Islamist’/conservative AKP) party legislators whose heads were covered. Turkish laicité seems to still hold determining power in deciding who is and who is not admissible to the official and public spaces including university and high school campuses.

10 It is interesting to note, in this juncture, how joining-in to the spaces of music acted as symbolic ‘rites of passage’ for the newly emerging Turkish bourgeoisie. Espousing western dress and behavioral codes as well as learning to enjoy westernized musical forms, Turkish bourgeoisie received an effective training in the officially-decreed cultural repertoire. Later, after the 1940s and 1950s when rural-based businessmen flooded into Istanbul for commerce, networking and entertainment reasons, their ‘crude’ behaviors were to be ridiculed in novels, newspaper articles and so forth. These ridiculed hacıa_a types (denoting their ‘devout Muslim’ [hacı=Mecca pilgrim] and ‘feudal’ [a_a=agha, feudal landlord of sorts] roots) were to be catered by new establishments called pavyon (a ‘night club’ of sorts) where more popularized, less ‘high brow’ versions of Turkish Art Music, or fantezi was played. These were escapist locations also providing female escorts. Pavyon and fantezi music were instrumental in the later formation of arabesk and its spaces. See below.

11 Raki is a highly popular, anise-based Turkish alcoholic drink similar to Arak and Ouzo. It is customarily consumed as an aperitif, or it accompanies dinner and it is usually a staple drink for ‘nights out,’ or long feasts and banquets.

12 M. Stokes in his 1992 study also discusses new spaces of music such as the dernek (club/society/association and their lounges) and dersane (informal places of [music] learning). Signifying music education establishments stemming from the ‘civil society’ many of these were in line with the official cultural/musical policies, and were usually localities where one would learn the ‘Turkish Folk Music,’ as opposed to arabesk and to play Turkey’s most ‘Turkish’ instrument, the ba_lama (a long necked lute, somewhat similar to buzuk and bouzouki). It should be noted, however, that some of the dernek and dersane since the 1970s became politicized spaces where leftist activists reclaimed Folk Music and ba_lama as ‘people’s music and instrument’. This may partly have to do with the strong association of ba_lama with Anatolia’s Alevi (a heterodox and politically progressive Islamic sect) culture. Alevism is usually seen as a ‘left wing’ formation, as a suitable breeding ground for progressive, left wing ideologies. For a further discussion, see below, under ‘Protest music’.

13 In arabesk lyrics, the theatrical drama usually pits a ‘poor guy’ up against a ‘cruel world,’ a ‘heartless’ woman, oppression, poverty and alienation, situations which the person has no easy way out. For a very good anthropological and ethnomusicological study, see M. Stokes’ 1992 work.

14 Kıro reportedly connotes a pejorative and deformed use of the word, ‘kurdish’. Gıro, a Kurdish word that possibly served as an ‘inspiration’ for kıro means ‘brother,’ ‘a good guy,’ or ‘man’.

15 For a very good study of the power of humor in constructing and representing urban identities in Istanbul, see A. Öncü’s 1999 work.

16 We should note, however, that not the entire clientele of those events or establishments could be defined as ‘globalizers’.

17 High-skilled and educated individuals, find employment as high-paid music and entertainment workers or entrepreneurs. Turks with some experience in studying and living abroad, high-skilled foreigners, and others are among those individuals. Istanbul’s ‘night-out,’ high-society, and lifestyle magazines such as Time Out Istanbul and Istanbul Life (note that the titles of those two Turkish-language publications are in English), as well as Sunday supplements of major daily newspapers such as Sabah, Milliyet, Hürriyet, Radikal and others already frequently feature stories about African-American blues and jazz musicians, American, Asian, European and highly skilled and innovative Turkish restaurateurs, DJs, bartenders, chefs, diet advisors and personal trainers working in that sector. Located on the top of the sector, they form the crème de la crème of Istanbul’s entertainment and musicscapes. We should also note that on the bottom of the same laborscapes, migrants, legal and illegal immigrants as well as longer-time ‘minority’ residents, are employed mainly in low-paid jobs. Although those jobs mostly require low qualification and human capital, this is not necessarily the case for all jobs concerned. For instance, Turks, Kurds, those recently coming from former Socialist bloc, as well as the Roma (who historically were making up an informal entertainment labor force) are employed in establishments as caterers, entertainers, and as support staff.

18 It should be noted that the rise of ‘world music’ went hand in hand with the proliferation of restaurants and cafés serving tastes from all around the world. Multiplication of various ‘ethnic’ cuisine restaurants which usually carry expensive menu items is most emphasized in upper income neighborhoods such as Te_vikiye, Ni_anta_ı, Etiler, Akatlar, Ye_ilköy and others. Istanbul’s ‘night out’ magazines and liberal daily newspapers frequently present articles on ‘Sushi-mania,’ ‘Bagel-eating as a new trend,’ or the newly ‘-in’ or ‘out’ ethnic food items and mixed drinks.

19 Indeed, in 1998, left-liberal daily Radikal lauded Asmalımescit as “Istanbul’s SoHo” (in A. _nce, 2002, p. 109).

20 It is worth noting that during the 1980s and 1990s conservative residents launched a campaign to drive the transvestite employees of Beyo_lu’s then numerically dominant night clubs (pavyon) out of their Cihangir apartments. Resident not only managed to ‘clean up’ the neighborhood by forcing most of them out, but also effectively pressed the local government to rename some hitherto ‘notorious’ streets to do away with the ‘past’. However, new tensions seem to have surfaced since mid-1990s when Cihangir became one of the top destinations of the new gentrifiers, such as those employed in the media, educational institutions, or the globalized sectors of the economy.

21 Pita bread served with ground meat, spices and other ingredients. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Turkish pizza,’ and now a staple food item, it was initially usually associated with the Kurdish Southeast, or the ‘half-urbanized’ culture of the migrants.

22 A. Akay (2003), for example connects the wider acceptance of Arabesk to more general societal trends, and to what he calls the emergence of an “Arabesk bourgeoisie” since mid-1980s (p. 183).

23 Etiler is an upper-class neighborhood located on the European side of Istanbul that house many taverna establishments alongside European and American-style cafés, night clubs, and upscale restaurants.

24 Kumkapı which is in the historic peninsula is a neighborhood usually associated with its colorful nights-out industry dominated by many meyhane, and taverna,

25 Legendary leftist urban guerilla executed in 1972 after the military coup.

26 Socialist actor and director well known internationally for his Cannes award winning production, Yol.

27 Perhaps the most famous Turkish Communist poet, died in exile in Moscow in 1963.

28 The new constitution promulgated in 1982 brought forth strict limitations on rights to free assembly. Local and central authorities as well as security forces were given wide powers to permit, ban, postpone or change venues of marches, manifestations, or other sorts of open air activities. Frequent, mostly random, and at times targeted ‘identity-card checks’ by the police on the streets added to this officially-instituted atmosphere of fear.

29 We should note that similar campaigns have had a long history in Turkey. Labor campaigns of what some people called ‘workers’ spring’ in mid to late 1980s was organized with quite creative and colorful methods as well. However, the Saturday Mothers’ became one of the key, most visible and most high profile campaigns that deserve to be noted as ground breaking.

30 Note that after the capture of A. Öcalan, the leader of the separatist PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), a new group took to the streets briefly, calling themselves the ‘Friday Mothers’ (Cuma Anneleri) to draw publicity to the plight of those members of the Turkish security forces killed, disabled or wounded fighting the PKK. Through the 1990s, Islamist women also launched outdoor protests against the official ban on headscarves strictly instituted in high school and university campuses as well as government offices. Concurrently, feminist activists organized marches to fight violence against women, asking gender equality, and reclaiming urban spaces fearfully closed to or limited the participation of women, among other things. In May Day and other parades gay activists become increasingly visible, although some reportedly observed ‘uneasiness’ on the part of some leftist groups and individuals. In few instances, left-wing and Islamist groups managed to come together to defend “everybody’s human rights” regardless of political orientation.

31 Government officials and security forces frequently banned, postponed or changed venues of concerts “due to safety and security concerns”. Most of those banned were ‘political,’ protest music concerts, but many other non-political events faced frequent difficulties as well. Some limitations on rights to free assembly have recently been lifted or relaxed as the Turkish government seeks to institute democratic reforms on their path to seek membership to the European Union.

32 Remains of the fortress on a section by the European shores of the Bosphorus built by Mehmet the Conqueror prior to the capture of the city by the Ottomans in 1453.

33 Gülhane is a recently renovated public park in the historical peninsula, near the Topkapı Palace and Sultanahmet Square.

34 A. Düzkan notes that especially Kurdish weddings in poorer neighborhoods are “as entertaining as a fest, as enthusiastic as a political demonstration” (2002, p. 110) Note that singing in Kurdish (since Kurdish was banned until recently) in weddings provided one of the few opportunities to cultural expression.

Haut de page

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: Les différents quartiers d'Istanbul
URL http://geocarrefour.revues.org/docannexe/image/238/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 20k
Titre Figure 2: Musiques du monde et musiques turques dans le café "On the Rocks"
URL http://geocarrefour.revues.org/docannexe/image/238/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 293k
Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Volkan Aytar et Azer Keskin, « Constructions of Spaces of Music in Istanbul: Scuffling and Intermingling Sounds in a Fragmented Metropolis », Géocarrefour, Vol. 78/2 | 2003, 147-157.

Référence électronique

Volkan Aytar et Azer Keskin, « Constructions of Spaces of Music in Istanbul: Scuffling and Intermingling Sounds in a Fragmented Metropolis », Géocarrefour [En ligne], Vol. 78/2 | 2003, mis en ligne le 05 juin 2007, consulté le 24 août 2017. URL : http://geocarrefour.revues.org/238 ; DOI : 10.4000/geocarrefour.238

Haut de page

Auteurs

Volkan Aytar

State University of New York at Binghamton
TESEV, Bankalar Cad n°2
Minerva Hankat: 4. Karakoy, Istanbul 80020 Turquie
E-mail: volkanaytar@yahoo.com

Azer Keskin

State University of New York at Binghamton
Binghampton, NY 13902
E-mail: akeskin(at)binghampton[point]edu

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

© Géocarrefour

Haut de page