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x0x The cymbals of Istanbul

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  • TRH
    [See more about cymbals at: http://turkradio.us/k/zil/ ] x0x The cymbals of Istanbul By KAGAN AYBUDAK The story were going to tell is a true fairytale. The
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 4, 2007
      [See more about cymbals at: http://turkradio.us/k/zil/ ]

      x0x The cymbals of Istanbul


      The story were going to tell is a true fairytale.
      The story of the traditional 17th century Istanbul
      cymbals, produced according to a secret formula.

      There are in Istanbul certain truths that remain
      fairytales yet real.

      Among them are things not repeated to everyone,
      secrets known only to select people. Our fairytale
      is one of those. A true fairytale that began 376
      years ago.


      When the pounding of the hammers ceased, the Great
      Master of Cymbal-making, Zilciyan Usta, prepared
      his fire and his secret alloy of the future. At
      the first light of dawn on its journey into the
      foundry flames, the secret alloy beaten by
      countless hammer blows, was transformed into a
      book of mysteries that contained within it
      Istanbuls thousand sounds.

      Into a book of mysteries to be read by those
      acquainted with fire, love and tradition: into the
      traditional, Istanbul-made cymbals.

      The opening lines of this fairytale were written
      in a foundry in the basement of a church at the
      southwest corner of Istanbul somewhere between
      Yedikule and Samatya. An apprentice to an Armenian
      bell-maker from Kayseri would melt tin and copper
      here in the same pan in a process that would
      spread as a tradition throughout the entire world.

      In time, the apprentice who spent his childhood
      amidst the clank and din of the foundry operations
      became Zilciyan Usta, whose name was synonymous
      with the highest quality church bells. Of whom
      they said: K. Zilciyan, master of bells whose peal
      is heard from the citys opposite shore, of bells
      that never crack in a lifetime, master of
      hand-made bells.


      Learning the family craft, son Avedis took over
      the foundry from his father.

      The fine points and skill he acquired from Kerope
      Usta led him to a serendipitous accident that
      would turn him into a 400-year-old legend.

      The alloy obtained from the traditional mixture
      that he prepared one day when he was alone in the
      foundry came out differently from other times.
      More resistant to the blows of the hammer, more
      easily shaped without breaking. That was the day
      the formula was discovered for cymbals which,
      rather than a deep gong, produce a high-pitched
      whishing sound, lighter and purer than church
      bells. From that day onward, the technique became
      a trade secret, passed down from father to son and
      revealed to no one outside the family. The quality
      of the sound produced by this special alloy spread
      far and wide, eventually reaching the sultan. At
      his behest it began to be used as a weapon of
      sound by the Mehteran or Ottoman Military Band,
      which produced sounds like the clashing of swords
      and shields in war. Avedis Ustas tiny foundry
      began producing cymbals for the worlds largest
      army. The Mehteran, which, far more than a
      military company employed only in wartime, also
      performed at various functions, was soon unable to
      play any cymbals other than those of Avedis Usta,
      whose fame quickly spread throughout the empire.
      And given the need the empires religious
      communities and musical entertainers also had for
      bells, the fire never died out and the pounding of
      the hammers never ceased day and night at Avedis
      Ustas foundry.


      The Great Master was long dead and gone, and the
      formula of the secret alloy continued to be handed
      down from generation to generation. But such are
      fairytales, and in the 19th century an Ottoman
      sultan appeared who did not like mehter music.
      When the sultan gives an order, what can the
      people do? Soon fewer and fewer customers were
      ordering bells from Anatolia. The master in those
      days was also named Avedis. Finding the solution
      in selling his cymbals abroad, he set out on a
      long journey West, seeking foreign buyers for his

      He even received an award in Europe in 1851. When
      he also died in 1865, his brother Little Kerope
      took over the business. His cymbals too became
      much sought after by the bands and orchestras of
      Europe. By 1927 Levon and Diran were running the
      family business in Istanbul. But that was the year
      when everything changed. Cousin Aram Zilciyan
      received an invitation from his relatives in
      America. Having no son to whom he could pass on
      the craft, he decided to risk the arduous journey.

      Meanwhile in a foundry near Yedikule, Mikael Usta,
      who had taken up production in the footsteps of
      Big Kerope, began stamping a large K on the
      cymbals he made in the Great Masters name. He went
      on producing extraordinary cymbals, but there was
      a problem. Residents of the neighborhood were
      disturbed by the pounding of the hammers. Bidding
      farewell to the quarter where the foundry had
      stood for over a century, the usta moved it to

      The legendary K. Zilciyan cymbals which drummers
      seek in vain to find even today, continued to be
      sent to America until the orders ceased in 1977. A
      year later Mikael Usta was unable to sell any more

      The day came when for the first time in centuries
      the sound of the hammers ceased and the fire went
      out in the foundry. Broken-hearted, he was forced
      to close it down. Within a year the last great
      master in Istanbul, Mikael, had also died, and the
      clash of cymbals was no longer heard in the city.


      But every cloud has a silver lining, they say, and
      three years after the masters death Mikael Ustas
      experienced assistants and boyhood friends Mehmet
      Tamdeger and Agop Tomurcuk established a foundry
      to carry on the craft. These two unique
      individuals, from outside the family but privy to
      the secret, resurrected on its home soil the
      traditional production of cymbals that had gone on
      for four centuries.

      Melting their secret mixtures with fire, and
      pounding their hammers with love, they stamped
      their cymbals with the 7000-year-old traditional
      name of these lands: Istanbul. Dont think that our
      fairytale ends here. For in Istanbul, the only
      city in the world where hand-made cymbals are
      produced, this tradition lives on in the workshops
      set up separately by Mehmet Tamdeger and Agop
      Ustas sons, Arman and Serkis Tomurcuk. And in the
      workshops called Bosphorus, Turkish and Anatolia,
      set up by the masters who split off from them.

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