Ottoman Empirical Evidence: the Beginning of Recording in the Years of Decline


From Ian Nagoski:

From the beginning of the 14th century through the following five hundred years, the Ottoman Empire spread from Anatolia north through the Balkans, east through Persia, south through Arabia and west across nearly the entire North Coast of Africa, expanding across just slightly less land than the Roman Empire at its peak. After collapsing slowly through the 19th century and early 20th century, the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 dissolved the last of the Empire and formalized the successor state of Turkey. The cultural and political fallout of five centuries of Turkish administrative and cultural domination over the Eastern Mediterranean lands will continue through generations still to come.

Coincident with the waning years of the Ottoman Empire was the birth of the sound recording industry, and thousands of recordings were made of the music of the Turks and the ethnic minorities that they governed within the Ottoman territories. Two juicy websites offer substantial collections of the sounds of the musical art of the Turks and Arabs before the radical cultural shifts of the early and mid-20th century (and two decades before the invention of the microphone!), all gratis.

Twenty-two stunning recordings made in Constantinople and Cairo ca. 1906-07 are available for download here: Collection of Turkish and Arabic Zonophone Discs
And twenty-one cylinder recordings made ca. 1900 (!) of Turkish and Arabic music are available here:
University of California, Santa Barbara Collection of Middle-Eastern Cyliders

To top it all off, there is plenty of the great master Cemil Bey to be had on the internet, but this flabbergasting fiddle performance from the 10s on YouTube is absolutely not to be missed. (I have no explaination for the groaning, atonal, gestural passages which bear stunning resemblance to “radical” developments in mid- and late-20th century jazz and Western classical music, although I’d be grateful for any information on this piece that anyone can offer.)
Tanburi Cemil Bey – Janik Nini

Categories: Ian Nagoski, Uncategorized | Tags: | 6 Comments

About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2023: I publish an email newsletter called LANDLINE = Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca.

6 thoughts on “Ottoman Empirical Evidence: the Beginning of Recording in the Years of Decline

  1. hello
    I have listened to the clip and it is of a classic lullaby followed by a baby cry melody. I remember it from my childhood.

  2. Hi Ian,
    I forwarded this to a Turkish friend who was amazed that any recordings of traditional (or as they call it, classical) music existed before the ’20’s. She also mentions that there were a few Camil Beys from back in the day – its a common name, and Bey just means Mister.

  3. Between 1900 and 1910 the Gramophone Company (later renamed Victor in the US and HMV in the UK, now a part of EMI in UK and Sony/BMG elsewhere – still the biggest record company on earth) made just a few less than two thousand records in Turkey (4,400 in India, nearly 1,200 in Egypt, 500 in Burma, etc etc). Amazing how things get left behind although this has to do partially with the chaos of two world wars, the ever-constant demand for novelty and so-called “high fidelity” pushed upon/ thirsted for among the music-listening public and the problem of ever-extending copyrights being pushed by big entertainment companies like Disney… A whole can of worms…

    Cemil Bey (1873-1916) was absolutely every bit as much a classical musician as, say, Claude Debussy (1862–1918). Some six hours of his recordings are available through the Traditional Crossroads CD series.

  4. Pingback: Around the Net Week 10 | undomondo

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