Çengelköy pier

Friday morning.

The ferry pier of Çengelköy doesn’t get as much traffic as the public transport hub ports of Kadıköy, Eminönü or Karaköy. The morning I took the ferry to Emirgan there were only about fifteen other passangers besides me that hopped on board at Çengelköy. The route zig-zags from one side of the Bosphorus to the other stopping at the smaller piers unlike the bigger vapurs that plough between the main hubs. I think there are people on the boat that just come to enjoy the breeze and views.

This is a simple recording of the general ambiance on deck while we are still connected to the pier. After 1’00 you’ll hear the sea water splashing and echoing beneath a small catamaran tied to the pier (in the second picture), something I tried to get to the foreground by stretching over the railing. Listen to the recording here:

Labour day

at Taksim

The morning of first of May in 2010. I sense that there is something wrong with the soundscape when I wake up in a room by the road uphill to Taksim square.

The empty road

I look out the window and see what’s wrong: no traffic. There isn’t a single car or bus on the road. No rolling tyres, no murmur, no beeping, no accelerating, nothing.

All roads to the square have been closed to traffic. This is the first time the workers’ unions are officially allowed to march and enter the Taksim square 30 years after the bloody massacre of 1977. Approximately 150 000 demonstrators and celebrators are expected.

I turn on the TV, there’s a live broadcast, a reporter among the marching crowds interviewing Cem Özer who was present also at the 1977 Labour day march. He stresses the importance of today’s march: for whom he represents it is sacred. At the end of this recording I direct the microphone out of the window. Now there is the crowd on its way marching uphill to the square.


To the streets then!

Waiting for access

Before being able to enter the square there are a rigorous security checks with metal detectors from all access points. The presence of the riot police is strong but calm. At least for now. The lines are long and the marchers warm up by shouting call and response slogans. The atmosphere is enthusiastic and victorious:

Parking the van


When entering the square there is a van trying to make its way in the growing crowd. A man on the roof with a megaphone is telling the driver which way to go so and the people next by to give way. The sound of his voice is in sharp contrast with all the enthusiastic voices soon to be heard from the loudspeakers near the main stage.


Another union marching in


Soon enough the sound levels at the square are baffling. The estimate of the number of people present is around 100 000. We see a helicopter fly above us but don’t hear it. A telling indicator of the roar of the huge set of loudspeakers dangling from cranes. (I am only able to record with the lowest recording level of my Edirol R-09, wearing earplugs at the same time.)

Not only audio though, acoustic sound sources were doing their best too. Here come the United Metal Workers with accompanying davul and zurna!


The national anthem Istiklal marsi was played from the loudspeakers just before the introduction of the Friends of Ruhi Su choir next in the programme:

Dispersing crowds


After hours of speeches, singing, commemoration and politics the crowds slowly start to disperse. The police, with their tear gas, water cannons, tanks and all sorts of weaponery I don’t even recognize, gaze upon the festive masses.

We retreat to a restaurant to the back streets of Istiklal caddesi with friends and continue celebrating the Labour day singing songs of solidarity, communism, workers rights, equality, Che, Bella ciao, the lot. A company at a table next to ours joined in singing in Kurdish. One song particularly touching was the Ruhi Su song “Şişli Meydanı’nda üç kız” (Three girls at Sisli square) commemorating three girls killed in the 1977 massacre:

(… Beş yüz bin emekçi vardık)
Taksim Meydanı’na girdik
Öyle bir İstanbul gördük
Sorarlar bir gün, sorarlar

Sabahın bir sahibi var
Sorarlar bir gün sorarlar
Biter bu dertler, acılar
Sararlar bir gün, sararlar

Al gözlerim seyir eyle
Birin bırak, birin söyle
Bu yeryüzü ilk kez böyle
Bir İstanbul görüyordu
Kucaklayıp sarıyordu.

Countryside frogs

It was a warm summer evening in May. I’m standing on a porch of a friends country house North of Istanbul. She’s having a picnic party. Behind me is the house and behind that a crowd of 50 people singing türküs, playing baglamas, eating salads, pies and köftes and skipping rope. On this side of the house you can only hear the frogs. It’s strange. As if I was in a different place alltogether.

There must be some other creatures sounding out with the frogs. I spot the obvious dog. Somekind of insects maybe? Too bad I’m lousy with birds so I can’t recognize the ones on this recording. An owl? I try to count the frogs when they stop for awhile and then start again, there is at least four. But there must be more hidden in the undergrowth…

Listen to the croaking:

Singing at the animal shelter

Yedikule, a weekend in April

When I was a kid I remember there was much more stray dogs in Istanbul. Packs of quite intimidating, growling and often sick dogs. Nowadays there are new policies concerning strays and the situation is a bit better as they are vaccinated, neutered and tagged with electronic chips. The attitude towards dogs has also changed even though most are still afraid of them.

My friends’ choir Mavi Nota attended a fundraiser at the Yedikule dog shelter for the abandoned, sick and wounded. The rainy day had gotten most of us wet and cold. The dogs (about two thousand of them) were some inside their dog houses, some mingling with the people in the crowd, some upset, some in a good mood. They were a sad sight but obivously doing much better than before arriving in the shelter. There was one with only three legs, she was one of the more jovial ones. Some children were trying to get their parents to adopt a puppy. Maybe a few found a new home during the day.

Listen to the fundraiser with the choir singing an Asik Veysel türkü “Dostum”:

To help the Yedikule animal shelter please contact/donate here: Official website in English

Soundcheck at Hagia Eirene

Sultanahmet, midday in April.

The Hagia Eirene (or Aya İrini) church is located inside the Topkapı palace walls. It’s a chilly April day. 1629 years ago the church was getting ready for the First Council of Constantinople. Now it is getting ready for the opening gala of the international poem festival “Şiirİstanbul”.

Chairs are being arranged, PAs checked, people building up the lights and testing them. One of the numbers during the evening is a reading of one poem Nazim Hikmet wrote to Taranta Babu in Rome 1935. To give the performance a bit more context there will be an audiotrack of Mussolini’s “Vincere” speach in the beginning of the performance. The balance and timing needs to be sorted out. The vaults of the byzantine church echo with the transphonics of history.

Listen to the soundcheck:

Nightly waves and daily flows

Sunday night in May

Last May I was counting traffic in Kuzguncuk. The method was to count everything passing me (people, cars, cats, bicycles ect) for 10 minutes on the hour, around the clock. This was to demonstrate in an orderly fashion the changes in the everyday rhythms of the main street in Kuzguncuk. Who was on the move at the break of dawn, who at dusk, what was the time most kuzguncuklu come back home from work, when do the cats and dogs go about their business, how does the villagers flow in and out of Kuzguncuk and with which vehicles.

Between the counting me and my friend who was acconpanying me on this lenghtly exercise sat down to the small square by the Bosphorus and drank tea. There were others too enjoying the warming evenings and Sunday calm, watching and listening to the black view dotted with lights and shades and the two rowing boats lulling on the waves. You can hear the waves splashing against the stone pavement and the distant hum of the cars crossing the Bosphorus bridge. The building in the picture is the restaurant “Ismet baba”, windows still closed (it was not that warm after all).

Waiting at the car

Çamlıca, Thursday afternoon

This is one of the most everyday soundscapes one can imagine in Istanbul, for me at least. Sitting in a car, waiting for something, anything, and listening to the traffic rolling by.

This recording was made in Çamlıca. It was supposed to be a quick stopover by the side of the street (they always are), but turned out to be a bit longer. You can hear the blinker / turn signal “beep beeping” on the foreground. The rolling of the tires, music from the passing car windows, polite car horns and people passing by ect make an surprisingly hi-fi soundscape. It was a pleasant urban spot soundwise. Listen to the beeps, bleeps and swooshes:


Kozyatağı, Wednesday afternoon

Just when you thought there couldn’t be anything interesting to hear at a shopping mall specialized in “home making”… how wrong I was! This is probably the most hilarious recording I’ve made during these weeks. At least I had fun while recording this, hopefully it transmits somehow.

The recording starts outside the main door, from the parking lot. As I slowly walk into the gigantic hall and am being welcomed I encounter all kind of more or less bizarre sound events around me. You can scent the fever of constructing and decorating with the people running around the wide corridors, looking up up along the huge shelves. Forklifts, cardboard, cutting, hammering, announcements on loudspeakers and commercials on TV sets, all kinds of materials being handled, people evaluating everything around them.

While on the subject of shopping I must admit to something pathetic that I felt a few weeks ago: I went to Ikea, the Swedish furniture mall, and suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to sit on one of the leather couches on show and to pet one of the book shelves. I have those models at home in Finland, you see, and a small voice inside my head kept asking “what are all these people doing here, this is my territory”. A strong indication of nascent lunacy or an example of how a Finnish person sees Swedish desing somewhat comforting at a brink of cultural shock in Turkey. Ikea was by the way much more quieter a place…

Listen to the sounds of shopping, building and construction at Bauhaus:


At the mosque

Göztepe mosque, Sunday afternoon.

I had the opportunity to participate to a ceremony that was arranged 40 days after the funeral of a relative of a friend of mine. This prayer ceremony is called the kırkı, literally meaning the “40th”. It started right after the midday prayer on a Sunday.

The voice of the imam is heard downstairs while the women enter the mosque from a small door at the back left of the building (the sign for it is seen in the picture). I cover my head with a scarf, take my shoes off and climb the wooden stairs to the second floor, haremlik, a mezzanine with a small latticed balcony from which the women folk can get a glimpse of what is happening under the main dome, selamlik, mens space. Some elderly women sit eyes closed at the balcony floor and are rocking themselves gently indicating religious concentration in listening to the imam after he starts the prayer with a strong melismatic voice. The loudspeaker is also turned on at the mezzanine after a while. It had been forgotten and was closed when I entered the haremlik.

Soft carpet floors mellow down sounds of people walking calmly on bare socks, greeting and hugging one another, some sobbing, some arranging their shoes in plastic bags and putting them on a shelf. The hum of the traffic seeps softly from the white curtain windows with the occasional chirp of sparrows. Listen to the atmosphere before of the ceremony:


Sarıyer, Sunday afternoon.

Once in Sarıyer you should eat börek, the place is famous for them.
We visited the Sarıyer Meşhur Hünkar Börekçisi. The savory flaky pastries are filled with either minced meat, pine kernels, raisins and spices or cheese. And they are delicious, soft and chewy.

The börek is baked in an tubelike shape, then cut to small bite size pieces, tucked to a paper box and weighed. The lady on the recording ordered a portion of one kilo. Listen to the delicious cutting of the börek and smooth service:

Corridor sounds at ITU

İstanbul Teknik Üniversitesi,
Taşkışla, Saturday afternoon.

I have spent the last three Saturday afternoons at the ITÜ Taşkısla campus. This is where the architecture department is, apparently, as there are some sketches and models on display on the corridor. I’m waiting my friend to finish her choir practise. Walking in the corridor, sitting at the benches, drinking tea at the campus cafe, or strolling at the court yard catching up with the cats.

Inside the stone, concrete and marble give the hall corridor an echoing charachter, the cool whites and greys add to the place an air of calmness. The corridors are almost empty on week-ends. This Saturday the weather was sunny and beautiful so I decided to wear my high heel shoes for the first time after winter (the symbol of summer for me). Listen to the sounds me walking around with my ‘clip-clops’ and the choir practising türküs at the lecture hall on the right:

Here’s some ambiance from the courtyard. A lonely construction worker.

Teachers’ room

Kuzguncuk primary school,
Wednesday morning.

I had an opportunity to talk to the students at Kuzguncuk primary school about the sounds they like and dislike. I visited three classes, thanks to their wonderful teacher, Aslı hoca. She has the most adorable students. We had a lot of fun together talking about different kind of car horns, sounds of water and differences between washing machine and hoover sounds.

The teachers’ room had a beautiful view over the Bosphorus. The school itself is an old yalı with high ornate cassette ceilings made of painted leather. I spent the recesses at the room, drinking coffee while a teacher next to me read a newspaper and another one read his email on the shared computer. On the other room there was a man talking on the telephone, at the hall there was a woman’s voice, I heard a word here another there. But on the third floor there was a true riot going on. The building, old and wooden, creaked and clattered under the feet of the upstairs students as if it was alive. It was presumably a math class (poor teacher… one sympathizes). Listen to the ambiance:

Traffic lights

Kabataş, Saturday afternoon.

There was a small man inside the traffic light post. He was looking after us pedestrians very keenly.

  • ‘Lütfen bekleyin’ (Please wait)
  • ‘Şimdi geçebilirsiniz’ (Now you may cross [the road])
  • ‘Altı, beş, dört, üç, iki, bir’ (6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1)
  • ‘bip – bip – bip – bip’ (him talking to the cars that answered)

Listen to his directions:

All we hear is… radio gaga

Kadıköy, August 2009, afternoon at an apartment flat.

Last August I was feeling a bit bored one day. It was raining and there wasn’t really that much to do. I thought that maybe there would be something on the radio and I was right. Everything was on the radio…

Here’s a six minute potpourri recording of all the FM radio channels audible at Kadıköy rolled slowly from the lowest kHz to the highest:


And here’s a list of words that caught my attention while listening:

— Konuşmasam taş olsam genede oynarmısın benimle (Bülent Ortaçgil sings)
— İstanbul kiyilarinda, sen gittim ben gidemedim, sen unuttu (song)
— Operatörleri özel sifreleri, onlara hiç gecmicez, şarkilarını
— bazi dini  — sormuştum ve ikide kahkaha
— send me a card oh friends are (song) — ayakkabiniz tertemiz  — tat makarna (commercial)
— sulama sistemlerini — when ever you’re ready (song) — gercek
— aşık olur — işte bir — dialog ha ha — başıma neler geldi
— razıyım yapayanlız — in the midnight hour — öyle sevdim gidiyorum — güzel bir şarki radyoda
— istanbul fm (radio jingle) — yani — babasinin rizasina — allahda razi olur

If your attention grasps anything more from it please write a comment.

Emirgan mosque

Emirgan shore, midday.

I was going to the Tulip festival and just got out of the ferry, when I heared the öğle (midday) ezan from the Emirgan mosque. The mosque itself is a beautiful and delicate wooden building painted in white, very much in tune with the other old buildings on the shore. The traffic on the shore had a lingering rhythm, too.

Listen to the recording:

At 0’19 of the track there is a sudden sound of a concrete element crashing down at a restoration site next to the mosque (nothing severe happened, though, fortunately) and at 1’00 you can hear the muezzin turn off the minaret speaker. Tship!

PS. Also, some very nice ezan recordings from different parts of the world (Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey) and the five different makams to be listened to here (comparing the different styles made easy).

Trabzonspor supporters

İstiklal caddesi, afternoon.

Football. No way you can live in Istanbul and not stumble on it. You can try to ignore it but eventually you will hear about it. If not via television, radio or eavesdropping, then via the supporter groups that take the streets before the game.

Last week there was a game between Galatasaray (I guess) and Trabzonspor. The visiting team supporters, probably a few hundred of them, wearing blue and burgundy, walked through Beyoğlu chanting and clapping their hands. People stopped and watched them go by, smiles on their faces, taking pictures. Some of the fans have probably come a long way from the Black sea coast city Trabzon (we are talking hours and hours on the bus). Just to see their team play, and of course: to make some good supporting noise!

Listen to the fans pass by:

Constantinople Ecumenical Patriarcate

Fener, Friday afternoon

Last March, a few weeks before Easter, I went to hear a service at the Greek Orthodox Patriarcate, located at Fener. The walled complex has seen a lot of history, some of it very violent since the 17th century. To get to the Church of Saint George you must go through metal detectors that protect the clergy.

The congregation present that day was formed of elderly people, some local, some from nearby, some who came as a tour group from abroad (Germans is my guess). We all waited in silence for the clergy to enter, whispering, sitting at the creaking wooden benches. After the clercy entered, dressed in their black cloacks, the congregation stood up and the service could begin. The service consisted of a chanting dialogue between the clergy and the Psaltis Cantor (representing the people). Nothing was read in a normal speaking voice.

Listen to the very beginning of the service:

Tulips and a skipping rope

Tulip festival, Emirgan park,

There’s no sense in describing the Istanbul Tulip Festival to someone who hasn’t seen it. All I can say is that there are fragrant tulips everywhere, a lot of them. Some things you just have to see for yourself. (And the same goes without saying to sounds as well, to hear them with your own ears.)

The soundscape in the park however was quite different from the visual intake. Colourful, yes, but not as serene. The park is very popular this time of the year. Among the gloriuos and lush tulips there were teenaged girls skipping rope. Bir-kii-üç, haydi! “One, two, three! Come on!” The rope hitting the pavement is accompanied by giggles and laughter. On the background there are whistles of the park guards and families having a picnic, strolling around. One small boy is enjoying the thick, cool grass by rolling over it and patting it with his hands. He stops when he sees me, looking a bit shy, realizing he’s among others in a public park.


at home, Thursday afternoon

I was washing dishes today when I heard something unusual from outside the window. Kittens! Squealing kittens, tiny tiny meaows. Some neighbours were present, wondering what should be done with them. The mother cat was following the situation very closed from a few meters. (I hope they didn’t give the kitties any harsh verdicts. I am a cat person, you see. I’d prefer them to be left alone.)

This was no miracle as the cats in our yard have been fighting and mating fiercly for weeks day and night waking up the whole neighbourhood. There is something peculiarly funny about the sounds of some cats having a fight in our yard. Maybe it’s the sudden change in the dynamics. The nonintentional comedy. Some of them just have to most hilarious voices, accents or what ever you could call them.

I didn’t have the chance to take a close-up picture of the kitties so here’s a picture roughly pointing to their direction. With a tulip (it’s the Tulip Festival time, more on that later).

At the hairdressers – kuaför

S & B, Çengelköy,
Thursday, midday

Since I was a little girl I had realized that going to the hairdressers was something essential to the women living in Istanbul. In Finland we were used to cutting our hair by ourselves (I cut my friends’ hair, they cut mine ect), not to talk about the manicures and pedicures (what luxury!). So at the beginning of every summer my mother took me to the kuaför in Selimiye and  I could choose the style I wanted. For me it was more of a chance to experiment something that couldn’t be done at home so the results were various. Very entertaining.

A few days ago I went to cut my hair, and recognised the familiar sounds and scents. The keynote sound of hairdressers, the fön, huffed most of the time accompanied by the radio and small chatter of ladies having their nails done:

The sound of scissors clipping my hair was something that maked me feel just a bit pampered. And while modeling my hair, Metin bey flattered me, admiring the looks of my face (as a good kuaför should, of course). The leasurely afternoon was well spent. Listen to the clip: