The first recordings in America for commercial release in the Turkish language were 20 songs made by Columbia Records in New York on February 13, 1912. Further sessions were made in October of that year. Another ten songs were recorded in September 1915. Three sessions were made in February, July, and August of 1916. Between September 1912 and Febraury 1916, 44 songs were recorded in total. This collection presents less than half of that production. They are presented here in strict chonological order in which they were recorded. All are first takes. The performers were entirely Armenians, Assyrians, or Syrian Christians to the best of our knowledge.
Tracks 1-6 were recorded Feb 13, 1912
Tracks 7-8 were recorded Sept 30, 1912
Tracks 9-12 were recorded Oct 24, 1912
From mid-1916 onward Columbia increased its production of recording of immigrants from the Ottoman Empire generally, producing scores of records in Turkish, Arabic, Armenian, and Ladino, and its main rival Victor Records entered the game, producing its own recordings of Ottoman immigrants, until 1919 when both labels ceased to market domestic recordings to those ethnicities. Shortly thereafter, small, independent labels, including most notably that of the Armenian entrepreneur M.G. Parsekian quickly filled in the market gap.
These recordings were made acoustically. That is to say, they were made through purely mechanical methods, a decade or more before the introduction of the microphone. We have made only light restoration to the sound and present the performances largely as they were found on deeply flawed discs. We assume that their historical interest will be appropriate to the venue, making them available to those interested at a negligible cost.
Credits and titles are given as they were on the original disc labels and within the files consulted by Richard K. Spottswood for his discography Ethnic Music on Records: A Discography of Ethnic Recordings Produces in the United States, 1893 to 1942, Volume 5: Mid-East, Far East, Scandanavia, English Language, American Indian, International, which has also provided most of the information around which I have based this collection.
Harry Kezelian has provided the following translations from the Ottoman Turkish script on the original disc labels:
1. Norar & Dikran - 'Ushak Kanto, Guzel Yarim
4. Saba Ghazel
5. Dikran Effendi - 'Ushak Ghazel, Raziyim Her Ne
6. Karekin & Dikran - Hijazkiar Sharki, Iki De Keklik
7. Hussein Bishrev
8. Hussein Ghazel
Similar material (with a few tracks overlap) can be heard on the To What Strange Place B-Sides download compilation.
released March 2, 2015
Compilation by Ian Nagoski, Baltimore, Maryland, March, 2015, revised Feb 2016.
Thank you Leo Sarkisian, Abboud Zeitoune, Steve Shapiro, and Rich Pell.
Some rights reserved. Please refer to individual track pages for license info.