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Surrender My Life: Istanbul Recordings ca. 1933​-​62

by Şükrü Tunar, Udi Hrant & Company

Karsilama 03:03
Çiftetelli 02:45
Hicaz Taxim 03:12
Doktor 03:01
Ya Muallim 03:02
Canak Kale 02:50
Sekar Oglan 02:51
Zeybek 02:56


Both Şükrü Tunar and Udi Hrant achieved remarkable popularity among Turkish speakers (mainly Armenians, Greeks, and Jews from Turkey) in the U.S. during the 1930s and '40s simply through the dissemination of their recordings. During the 1930s, Victor Records and its Orthophonic subsidiary, run by the Istanbul-born Greek singer and impresario Tetos Demetriades, filled the market gap left by the reorganization of the major record companies during the onset of the Depression that excluded Turkish, Armenian, and Arabic speaking performers (and the vast majority of Greek-speakers) from its domestic recording work by substituting imported recordings. Şükrü and Hrant proved among the most popular among them.

Shortly after the Second World War, the Albanian clarinetist and impresario Ajdin Asllan and his brother Selim began releasing material recorded in Turkey (and elsewhere) for release in the U.S. Among those were many recordings of both Hrant, Şükrü, and their contemporaries, including Rosa Eskenazi. (Much more of Şükrü's playing can be heard on the Canary album Songs and Dances of Greece: Early 1950s Istanbul Recordings canary-records.bandcamp.com/album/songs-and-dances-of-greece-early-1950s-istanbul-recordings )

Hrant's biography has been dealt with several times on various Canary albums including Can All Times Be One?: Solo, Duo & Trio Performances From 1950s Independent U.S. Labels canary-records.bandcamp.com/album/can-all-times-be-one-solo-duo-trio-performances-from-1950s-independant-u-s-labels and The Cleopatra Record canary-records.bandcamp.com/album/the-cleopatra-record . He was born in 1901, making him six years older than Şükrü, and traveled to the U.S. during the period 1950-62, initially to get surgery to restore his eyesight, having been born blind. His recordings and performances had a profound influence on audiences and performers in the U.S. He died in Istanbul in 1978 of prostate cancer, having elected at the age of 77 not to have surgery once he was advised that the removal of his prostate would preclude an ongoing sex life.

Şükrü Tunar was born in 1907 in Edremit, western Turkey. Fascinated with music as a small child, he began studying clarinet at age 7. While he was still a child his father and uncles entered the military, so he was tasked with providing for his family by working various jobs. In 1921, his family moved to Izmir where he studied music, and then, two years later, they moved to Istanbul, where he continued to play and met Kazim Bey with whom he studied theory and technique. He was composing by the age of 21 and, having connected himself with Istanbul Radio, started recording around 1928. Like Hrant, he was a poor young man, barely scraping by for years. From the 1930s onward, he was an exceptionally prolific performer and composer. He was married twice and had two children. Unlike Hrant and Eskenazi, it appears that Şükrü never toured the U.S., although the influence of his records was strongly felt, notably by the New York-born Armenian clarinetist Souren Baronian (b. 1930). On August 15, 1962, while on stage accompanying Zeki Müren, the most famous Turkish singer of the 20th century (whom Şükrü had known since childhood), Şükrü suffered a heart attack that killed him onstage.

One of his compositions is included on the Canary album Let's Add Raki to Wine: Women in Istanbul ca. 1931-46:

All of the performances presented here were issued in the U.S. for immigrant audiences, although a handful were issued as "exotica" or, in the case of the later recordings, for the bellydance fad of the 1950s-60s. The latter-day discs of Şükrü's performances were issued on the Greek-owned New York label Nina into the 1960s, apparently produced by the Turkish pianist and composer Tarik Bulut, about whom there are biographical details on the Canary album In an Egyptian Garden canary-records.bandcamp.com/album/in-an-egyptian-garden .


released November 1, 2022

Transfers, restoration, and note by Ian Nagoski

Recording dates:
Tracks 1-4 & 20 recorded between Nov. 1933 and March 1937
Tracks 5-14 recorded between 1947 and 1958
Tracks 15-21 likely recorded between 1955 and 1961

Şen Kardeşler: 7, 10, 17
Bogos Kirecciyan: 6, 12
Melahat Mardin: 11
Udi Hrant: 13, 14
Şaziye Oktay: 18

Known instrumentalists:
Şükrü Tunar (clarinet) 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20
Udi Hrant Kenkulian (oud) 3, 5, 6, 9, 11, 12, 13, 21
Serif Ieli (oud): 7, 10
Ahmet Yatman (kanun): 5, 6, 7, 9. 10, 11
H. Tatliyay (violin): 5, 6, 9. 11
Ali Kocadinc (darbuka): 5, 6, 7, 9. 10, 11

Discographical data drawn in part from the Database of American Historical Recordings at the University of California Santa Barbara.

Biographical information drawn from Ara Topouzian's unaccountably scarce and excellent CD Şükrü Tunar: Legendary Clarinetist of Turkey (American Recording Productions, 1997)

Cover photo via the archive of Hacettepe University, Ankara.
Thanks to Richard Hagopian
Hat tip to Harry Kezelian and Harout Arakelian

Please note that transliterations of names and song titles are given here as they are spelled on the original disc labels.


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