We got picked up in the neighborhood of Pera, on the outskirts of Istanbul, by Hasan, co-owner of the company, and his associate, also named Hassan. They picked us up in their diesel-powered volkswagon van from, what seemed the early '90's. It was my friend Ray and I and the two Hassan's, and it was our second day of a 14-day trip.
It's hard to make this a "long-story-short" kind of thing because, for some reason I can recall so many details about that day: our tourist-friendly breakfast, the smell of the van, the conversation about American pancakes (the Hassans loved them!), the grittiness of that factory and the looks on the faces of all those men who were shaping, hammering and lathing those beautiful handmade cymbals. This was the highlight of my trip.
When we arrived at the factory, we were greeted by Emrah, sales director for Bosphorus, and invited into their very modest office/showroom where tea was served. We sat around and talked about the company's history, music, things to come, what I do back in NYC and whatnot. Emrah was telling me how much they love having people come from all over the world to tour their small factory and see their cymbal making process that dates back over 300 years.
My friend Ray, who's an indie rock guitarist and one of my best friends from Detroit was just as intrigued about this place as I was within about two minutes of entering the door. He went from just tagging along to aw-stricken after seeing the showroom with over 400 cymbals of all proportions and smelling that multifaceted smell of smoke and dirt, molten metal and Turkish men. He was also our designated photographer.
Emrah walked us through the whole factory - I would call it more of a workshop - stopping to see a little bit of each process. We were actually in the way most of the time, the shop being fairly cramped with old-world greased up machines, uneven earthen floors, and about a dozen or so workers. Everyone there is a specialist in his/her craft. Some specialize in alchemy in the foundry, some in hammering. There were the master lathers, and those who press and shape the molten blanks into specified sizes. Every single step of making these top-grade, hand-made cymbals (or "Zil" in Turkish) seemed so difficult and takes much patience and experience. And earplugs; you'll definitely wanna wear earplugs.
Ray and I were let into the inner workings of an ancient process of making sacred instruments, for which we didn't belong, but were whole-heartedly accepted. We were both so impressed, inspired and thankful for what we were privy to. It would truly inspire anyone, no matter their profession. It just so happens, these golden discs are the crowning jewel to my, and every drummer's kit. It was one of then most amazing experiences of my life.
Check out Ray's band, The Oscillating Fan Club, HERE!