1.   Audience Aesthetics

As Pierre Bourdieu has noted, social position often determines aesthetic preference (Bourdieu 1979).  This observation is no less true in Turkey than in France.  Bearing in mind the historical reputation of different venues, going to a pavyon, taverna or gazino may automatically confer some social position on the individual, whether he/she belongs there or not.  An individual may distinguish him/herself and may define and assert his/her social identity through the differences in these choices (Bourdieu 1979: 172).  Both the repertoire and the consumers it attracts can be viewed in the aforementioned scheme of three social and musical domains (Alaturka, Alafranga, and Arabesk).  Expectations of the consumers from all the different domains are fulfilled by the management at big gazino-s like Caddebostan Maksim.  The gazino itself is an Alafranga space, but the audience can be characterized as a mixture of Alaturka and Arabesk.  Smaller entertainment hall types (e.g., saz, taverna, etc.) usually focus on single musical domains, to serve individuals from specific social domains.

Consumers of the Gazino

At the beginning of the twentieth century, in the waning days of the era of modern reforms in the Ottoman Empire (1808-1918), gazino customers were Turkish intellectuals and non-Muslims of the Beyoglu district of Istanbul.  After the foundation of Turkish Republic, Turkish intellectuals and statesmen continued to be regular customers of gazino.  According to Öztuna, for example, important personalities from the art world, such as Yahya Kemal Bayatli, and from Turkish politics, such as Hasan Ali Yücel, used to come to the historic Tepebasi Gazinosu (Öztuna, personal interview, 1997).  Tepebasi Gazinosu accommodated the best traditional performers of the time and some regular customers would come to listen only to these legendary musicians performing the Ottoman suite genre fasil at the beginning of the show.  After eating their dinner, they would leave before the rest of the show started.  This scene changed after World War II.  

Rapid economic growth during the post-World-War era created a class of rural immigrants who acquired wealth and settled in Istanbul (Shaw & Shaw 1977: 408). During the Democratic Party era (1950-1960) especially, large farm owners increased their incomes considerably (Zürcher 1993: 234-37).  They first emerged during the Second World War as war profiteers.  Istanbul natives named this new rich class from the rural areas haci aga (Öztuna, personal interview, 1997).  They bought real estate and became permanent residents in Istanbul after the War.  They also became regular customers of the Istanbul gazino-s.  On the other hand “the wartime inflation rate (350 per cent between 1939 and 1945) . . . threatened urban incomes and even caused a decline in bureaucrats’ salaries” (Keyder 1987: 110); thus, the elite gazino customers, who were mostly natives of Istanbul, were supplanted by nouveaux riches from the countryside.  This societal shift was reflected in the addition of the Folk Music as a fabricated urban genre into the gazino repertoire.

And, these [nouveaux riches] started to spend a lot of money at the gazino.  They started to leave big money at the gazino.  And they wanted a different kind of music; I mean, for instance Haci Arif Bey, Dede Efendi, and others, did not appeal to them, because they knew neither the vocabulary in the lyrics, nor those embellished melodies, and so forth (Öztuna, personal interview, 1997).

The audience who came to hear fasil music disappeared from the gazino-s by the end of the 1950s, partly for the economic reasons mentioned above, but also because they could accommodate their musical needs through the radio, concerts and records.  The Istanbul State Radio was re-established before the end of the first half of the century and the production of 78 rpm records also burgeoned around the same time.  While some artists continued to work at the gazino-s performing Turkish Art Music, some joined the Istanbul state radio and, at least while they were there, remained faithful to the Classical tradition.  Radio fasil-s were also performed by eminent musicians of the time.

Meanwhile, an audience for Turkish Art Music had already been formed in Istanbul.  Gazino stars like Müzeyyen Senar, Hamiyet Yüceses and Zeki Müren were some of the most significant soloists of this genre in the 1950s and 1960s. 

At the same time there were new waves of migrants coming to Istanbul, especially in the 1960s and 1970s:

The 1950s saw the start of mass migration from the countryside to the towns and cities.  Over a million people left the land and by the end of the decade the major cities were growing by ten per cent a year...Whole satellite towns of these so-called gecekondus (built at night) sprang up, lacking an infrastructure: they had no water, electricity, roads or sewers (Zürcher 1993: 237).

As an organized body of voters, the gecekondu inhabitants, who appeared to be a “fast growing but  unskilled workforce” (Zürcher 1993: 237), gradually affected politics in their favor (Zürcher 1993: 283).  Eventually many of them obtained electricity, water, and sewers as well as official acknowledgment of their properties, as promised by the politicians.  They were able to sell their properties to developers and gain huge profits, and many gecekondu districts along with their inhabitants were incorporated into the city of Istanbul. 

As soon as they could afford it, former gecekondu inhabitants became part of the frame of gazino customers.  Their consumption of Arabesk music from inexpensive commercial tapes (often pirated) was also reflected later in the gazino show.  For further information about urbanization in Istanbul, see, Karpat 1976, Keles 1973, and Tümertekin 1972.

Today, regular patrons of the gazino are often business owners, businessmen, and people from the wealthier segment of society.  Domestic tourists from other provinces of the country are also important customers.  They usually end up spending much more money than the regular customers. With a windfall of cash from the sale of their harvests burning a hole in their pockets, they are eager to have one big night on the town before returning home, and the waiters are only too eager to help them with extra overpriced drinks and treats that will culminate in an unexpectedly astronomical bill. 

Occasionally, some foreign tourists with limited budgets may come to a gazino as guests of regular patrons.  However, since most foreign tourists regard Istanbul as the land of belly dancers, left to their own devices many end up in one of the night clubs, such as the Karavan in the Taksim-Elmadag district, which target tourists with gaudy neon signs displaying a belly dancer. 

The audience for the cheaper early show, matinee, is drawn from middle-class families from a variety of backgrounds with a regular limited income.  Going to a gazino is a special occasion for a middle class family or a circle of friends.  They usually do not take a bus to go to a gazino; they at least take a dolmus (jitney) if not a taxi-cab, which might cost even less for a group of four.  They get dressed up and prepare to sacrifice a portion of the family’s regular monthly income.  The inexpensive matinee is often the only time that a middle class family can afford to go to a gazino.  They order the fixed menu and get their picture taken as a souvenir of the gazino experience, as well as a proof of having been there.  It is even better if they can get a picture taken with one of the soloists.

Social Dynamics And Audience Interaction

Like the French bourgeois or petit-bourgeois cafés and restaurants described by Bourdieu, the gazino table constitutes a private space for the occupants (2)Gazino customers, always more than one person per table, enjoy the service and show, and interact with each other in a voluntary social isolation.  They do not interact with the other people in the hall, and may ignore the other tables.  Customers, however, respond actively to the performance and may inspire others with their actions.  In particular, dancing on the table and yelling verbal comments at the performers may incite more audience reaction.

The interaction between the audience and featured performers is a vital part of the gazino experience.  Otherwise there would not be much difference between listening to a performance in a gazino and watching it on television.  The interaction is usually in the form of a gesture with a smile or sometimes also a verbal comment, as well as kissing, hand shaking, etc.  Unlike a traditional fasil singer, hanende, a soloist reacts and responds to the audience; she/he actively participates in this interaction between the audience and him- or herself, by talking in the middle of a song and doing other things that he or she would not necessarily do on a television program or a serious concert. 

Good soloists always pay close attention to interaction with the audience.  For example, Zeki Müren states:

I would go early to the backstage of the gazino.  I would learn what the ladies and gentlemen or comedians performed, and evaluate the reactions that they have received.  I would learn from the manager or the stage manager which famous customers were at the gazino, the known or unknown persons in the front row, and who brought flowers.  Then I would sit in the backstage and prepare a list of the people who sent flowers.  With nice compliments to the customers in my list, I would give my thanks for the flowers (Zeki Müren Autobiography in Gür 1996: 51).

During my field work, Muazzez Ersoy would always address the audience after the first song, never before.  She appeared to be very relaxed, and joked with the instrumentalists.  In the same way, Ibrahim Tatlises also seemed very relaxed, perhaps because of the glass of raki (a Turkish alcoholic bevarage) he brought onstage.  Soloists often tease musicians, although sometimes musicians appear uncomfortable and annoyed by this kind of behavior. Occasionally she invited the audience to sing “all together”  (hep beraber) during the refrain of popular songs.  In such situations, the audience participated either by singing or just clapping along with the soloists.  The audience seemed to react more to the lyrics than the music.  Young children would also give her flowers during the show,  and deliver scraps of paper with their parents’ requests.

In order to take part in this interaction, there is often competition among the audience to get a better table at the gazino (yer kapma mücadelesi).  Ordinary customers cannot make reservations for a table in a specific location, but early customers may get a better choice of tables.  There are, however, a few tables reserved for distinguished guests of the owner, such as bureaucrats, generals, etc.  These tables may be in the front row, especially at the very edge of the sahne (stage), where one can see the performers and receive attention from the singers; or they may be in a private box (loge) on the side of the stage.  During my fieldwork, however, only a few customers came early to obtain a better table when the Fasil started, and none of these "early birds" seemed to pay any attention to the Fasil.  Since there is very little interaction between the Fasil performers and the audience, the Fasil seemed to function as Muzak for most of the audience.

Aesthetics of the Gazino Audience

The audience’s aesthetic expectations from a gazino experience are different from their consumption of the same products in other contexts.  The Gazino audience is usually prepared to be exposed to a number of extra artistic products that they do not normally consume; thus their taste for music and other art forms may not be satisfied throughout an entire show at a gazino.  While an individual may have control over such needs as food, clothing, and other cultural preferences like newspapers, sport, radio and television stations (Bourdieu 1979: 184), the gazino experience does not provide such a spectrum of controllable choices.  The music, like the food, is presented as a fixed menu.  Although a segment of the audience of the early gazino listened only to the fasil and did not tolerate other genres, today when an individual who comes to a gazino to listen to and experience the show of, say, an Arabesk star, by necessity ends up tolerating other genres, including the soloists or even the assolist.

The audience evaluates art and reflects its aesthetic judgment in the gazino show in different ways.  Gazino genres--Fasil, Turkish Art Music, Folk Music, Arabesk, Turkish Pop Music, belly dancing and comedy--seek audience reaction in the form of applause, cheering, loud verbal comments, singing along, and so forth.  Different aspects of different genres incite such reactions.  For example, even in a Fasil performance, the right selection of repertoire by the bashanende (head-singer) may encourage the audience to sing along with the ensemble.  In the same way, a soloist of the lighter Turkish Art Music genre may induce such a reaction as well as loud verbal comments as a result of an unexpected pause on a high note, which would not be acceptable in a Fasil performance.

The audience’s evaluation of art is affected by their past experiences of art.  The value of art in the three domains of gazino music--Alaturka, Alafranga, and Arabesk--may be determined by such factors as its authenticity, age, and labelling.  Thus, an old piece, composed during the Ottoman period by an eminent composer may occupy a special place in the repertoire.  The commercial value of art in the gazino world, however, requires some additional qualities: familiarity, direct audience interaction, and a unique gazino presentation give an essential commercial value to a gazino performance that distinguishes it from performances in other contexts.

Gazino has always been a mirror of other domains of music/art production, such as the commercial recording industry, television, the movie industry, etc.; thus audience familiarity with the art work  in a gazino is the key element.  Bourdieu recognizes this experience as a decoding process by the audience, which is familiar with certain aspects of the art work: 

A work of art has meaning and interest only for someone who possesses the cultural competence, that is, the code, into which it is encoded.  The conscious or unconscious implementation of explicit or implicit schemes of perception and appreciation which constitutes pictorial or musical culture is the hidden condition for recognizing the styles characteristic of a period, a school or an author, and, more generally, for the familiarity with the internal logic of works that aesthetic enjoyment presupposes.   A beholder who lacks the specific code feels lost in a chaos of sounds and rhythms, colours and lines, without rhyme or reason (Bourdieu 1979: 2).

Changes in the gazino show are related to changes in “the code” carried by the consumers. Political, economic and social changes superimposed radical changes in the aesthetics and resulted in aesthetic islands in the map of the Turkish society.  An obvious example in the gazino world, as well as Istanbul’s music-making scene in general, is the Arabesk genre, whose appearance parallelled sociological changes in Istanbul.  Therefore in the Istanbul perspective, valuation of music according to the standards of its time (Bourdieu’s “period eye”), was largely replaced by a different set of aesthetic imports brought by the Anatolian migrants.  Carrying “the code” or finding their aesthetic roots in Arabesk, a new class of consumers demanded to see their Arabesk heroes (3).

Thus the encounter with a work of art is not 'love at first sight' as is generally supposed, and the act of empathy, Einfühlung, which is the art-lover's pleasure, presupposes an act of cognition, a decoding operation, which implies the implementation of a cognitive acquirement, a cultural code (Bourdieu 1979: 3).

Familiarity carries even further meaning in the gazino program, however.  This decoding process is not only “familiarity with the internal logic of works” in such qualities as the makam, instrumentation, performance style, etc., but with the repertoire, i.e., specific works.  Therefore, gazino consumers do not need to exert energy for the “decoding operation” of the art works, instead they enjoy (or not) slight improvisational differences or artist’s comments on the songs which are already well known through commercial recordings and television.  The Gazino as an institution presents genres of entertainment which are accepted as art in other institutions like the commercial recording industry and television.  Thus gazino generally does not determine what art is today, though as an institution of publicity, the Maksim chain of gazino-s may introduce new artists periodically.

The audience in general may label a performance as art or non-art depending on the context.  For example, although most Classical music listeners regard the gazino context as non-artistic, there is an automatic supposition by audiences in general that a performance is artistic if the context is a concert setting.  An interesting comment by a gazino Fasil singer demonstrates the significance of the context. While a Classical performer, Necdet Yasar, promotes a Fasil performance in a CD by the Necdet Yasar Ensemble (4) as an artistic production, for example, one gazino musician noted that a certain bashanende on this classical CD performs the exact same repertoire and style that he does in the gazino.

This example also brings up the issue of how a musician transforms him/herself in order to appeal to the aesthetic needs of different audiences.  Performers frequently function in both commercial and non-commercial worlds of music-making, but they do not necessarily alter their individual performance styles for different contexts; e.g., radio, gazino, recording, etc.  For example, the Ussak taksim performed by Özcan Korkut at the Caddebostan Maksim Gazinosu would be perfectly acceptable in a Classical program at the State Radio.  Musicians perform a specific repertoire in a gazino context, however; and the degree of personal transformation of the musician within the same artistic form may indeed be negligible.  The differences between gazino and concert performances surface usually in the macro-level contextual properties of music, such as the setting, orchestral and harmonic texture, and the acoustic nature of the sound, but the gazino attitude towards improvisation in precomposed works is as important as the musical context.  The gazino setting provides perhaps a greater opportunity for traditional musicians to improvise in a highly heterophonic texture.

The system of values within the gazino audience is determined by a delicate balance of economy and social prestige.  Certain parts of the gazino show reflect these two types of power.  While Arabesk reflects economic power, traditional genres like Fasil or tango reflect the social prestige of Alaturka and Alafranga.  An individual’s economic power may buy the best seat in the gazino; social prestige, however, still comes with one’s interest in more traditional genres, such as the Turkish Art Music.  The gazino consumer gets educated by tolerating other genres that have historical dimensions.  Thus, in Bourdieu’s parlance, gazino patrons reproduce the “eye” (or in this case, ear), not always for their generation but perhaps the next (5).

There may also be an artistic criticism of the gazino experience by the audience after they leave the gazino.  This immediate--usually positive--criticism is often made on the way home or at home in the form of bragging to a neighbor or a friend.  Art may, however, have different meanings for consumers, artists, and management in a gazino; and they may apply different means of measurement to a work of art.

The Audience From The Musicians’ Point Of View

Gazino musicians care about audience reaction and they make the appropriate adjustments in their performances.  The audience may react through being attentive, cheering, singing along, applauding, clapping in tempo, commenting, or crying out.  By reacting to certain parts of the program, an audience may leave an impression on the musicians.  Hence, the social standing (“kalite:” quality) of an audience is often evaluated and articulated by musicians and reflected in their performances.  Through these reactions over time, musicians form an opinion about the audience’s aesthetics.  All of my older informants seemed to be aware of a recent change in audience aesthetics.  This change is often perceived by them as a dramatic qualitative decline in taste (zevk) and the word dejenerasyon (degeneration) comes up very frequently in describing the new audience.  One of the informants' first responses to a direct question about the audience aesthetics was one word (and a long silence): rezalet (disgrace).

The audience’s lack of the “act of cognition” for a specific repertoire--hence, their lack of reaction--is often noted with the remark, “they did not understand.”  Therefore, many performers who have the authority to shape the repertoire make spontaneous changes in the program.  They try to follow the most recent changes in audience aesthetics through commercial recordings, and they make additions to their repertoire.  For example, there has been a dramatic increase in songs from the folk music repertoire in the gazino show since the Tepebasi Gazinosu of 1930’s.  Indeed, most older informants from the Alaturka genres state that today’s audience takes more pleasure from folk musical forms like türkü, maya, etc.

Musicians in formal situations refer to the audience as dinleyici (listener) or, rarely, seyirci (spectator).  However, another term, used frequently in informal situations, reflects the view of some professional musicians toward the audience: keriz (6) (roughly, “suckers”).  This slang term circulates especially among Gypsy musicians of the piyasa—commercial music making market—but has been adopted by others as well.  Another related term, kerizci (7) (the one who does the keriz) means “musician” in the piyasa world as well as “cheating gamester” in other contexts.  Even the musicians are amazed at their own ability to enchant the audience so effortlessly.  Certain musical techniques are used for this purpose, including melodic variations, and improvised ornamentations.  These techniques are also called keriz and performing in this manner is called “playing with keriz” (kerizli çalmak), “throwing keriz” (keriz atmak), kerizlemek (to keriz) or “doing keriz” (keriz yapmak). 

Having a vocabulary of keriz-es is essential for a gazino musician.  For example, one ud player from the piyasa who was an apprentice and did not possess a complete vocabulary of keriz-es complained: "I play all right but I cannot make them cry ‘God!’” (Çaliyorum ama Allah dedirtemiyorum!).  These improvisational techniques stimulate the audience’s mind in a magical way; thus, in a way, a musician (kerizci, sharper) tricks the audience (keriz, credulous).

According to most informants, today’s audience is bored very easily.  To keep the attention of the audience, for example, hanende-s have to know what to sing for a specific audience.  If they observe symptoms of boredom, a change is required in the program.  Different genres employ different techniques for change.  Most Alaturka genres use keriz, but they may also shuffle the repertoire as well.  For example, during the Fasil, an Agir Aksak (slow Aksak) Sarki may be percieved as too boring; thus the bashanende may jump to another faster tempo (hareketli) Sarki.  According to a hanende informant the young generation (genç nesil) likes songs in such usul-s like düyek, yürük aksak or curcuna.  In other contexts, changing the direction of songs in the repertoire may be done by switching to another makam.  The same informant made an analogy to the traditional Meddah (story teller), in which the Meddah would check out the state of the audience while he wiped the sweat from his face.  If the audience was bored, he would change the subject, or the dynamics of his voice. 

Musicians As Audience: Aesthetics of the Sahne Versus the Kulis

The primary context in which gazino musicians meet and make music is, of course, the stage (sahne). There are certain similarities between private gatherings and gazino stage performances (especially Fasil), and the difference is essentially contextual not musical.  As they do at private gatherings, musicians often play for each other in most Alaturka genres in the gazino; and they are so experienced (or practiced) that they do not seem to feel any stage fright or even excitement before, during, or after the show.  So, in a way, they also experience a private gathering on the stage; thus, a gazino fasil could be called “a staged musical gathering,” and the audience just happens to be there. To most musicians, the ordinary audience is something ambiguous and temporary, but their colleagues are not.  On the other hand, during my field work, several musicians expressed their concern about my presence in the gazino and forewarned others to perform better. 

The other part of the gazino which may accommodate musical gatherings is the back stage, kulis (Fr. coulisse: wings, back stage), which includes a number of places in which a musician can hang out and get ready for the show.  Figure 1 illustrates Murat Erköse playing his ud in one of the back stage performances.

The gazino kulis functions in a variety of ways.  Musicians prepare for the show in private rooms designated for different groups and soloists.  The Alaturka house band, the Alafranga house band, the soloists, etc., each have their own private rooms. Kulis rooms contain mirrors, lockers, a table and chairs. Before the show starts the musicians get dressed, tune their instruments and warm up in the kulis, although during the summer time some musicians enjoy a cup of tea in the yard with a view of the sea of Marmara.  The kulis occasionally accommodates musical gatherings in which musicians may act as an audience as well. For example, during my field work I was handed an ud (fretless Turkish lute) and asked to perform for the Alaturka house musicians. 
Figure 1: Murat Erköse

I played a taksim and an instrumental composition from the classical repertoire.  Later I played two more pieces with the bowed tanbur player, Özcan Korkut, and a violin player from Urfa, Niyazi Bey.  In the middle of the first piece, a Gypsy clarinet player, Barboros Erköse, joined with his clarinet. During this musical performance, both solo and as a group, other musicians immediately formed an audience. They also reacted to the performance as an audience, but their reactions were somewhat different from the gazino audience in the hall.  They expressed their aesthetic judgment through some non-lexical vocal sounds like “oh!,” or “ah!”  They would also smile, laugh, or say “Allah-Allah!” for certain parts of the performance.  I also took their desire to perform with me as a confirmation of their positive reception.  Generally, older musicians tend to react loudly to a combination of subtle ornaments associated with the practices of legendary performers, while the younger ones reacted to the difficult technical passages with smiles. 

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