The hidden history of Turkish independent labels in Germany from the 1960s to the 1980s

Contribution by Cornelia Lund (fluctuating images, Berlin) and Holger Lund (DHBW Ravensburg) for the Colloquium | Independent Music Labels: Histories, Practices and Values, Instituto de Etnomusicologia – Centro de Estudos em Música e Dança (INET-md), Lisbon, 23.06.2021, 15:30 CET, online

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The international colloquium will be held online via zoom on the 22-25th of June 2021 with a soon to be announced program schedule. Starting from broader discussions about the relationship between the local and the global in music production, this colloquium proposes a discussion on the impact of independent music labels with a focus in contexts, such as the portuguese, that are similarly located outside the main production centers. We will take as a starting point some recognized (yet open to scrutiny) assumptions about independent labels in the field of music production: the dissemination and making available of local musics and artists in opposition to the hegemony of global (mostly Anglo-Saxon) artists and genres released by major/multinational record companies; the valuing of aesthetic and artistic dimensions in music making at the expense of its commercial potential; the forms of organization and work that are innovative and adaptable to the changing contexts in the record sector, particularly in the new millennium. This is an inter and multidisciplinary colloquium taking contributions from disciplines such as musicology, ethnomusicology, sociology, anthropology and history, among others, and focusing in the following themes: independent labels and the dissemination of music genres and styles; new organisational practices in independent labels; ideologies and values in independent labels; the Portuguese context: from Estado Novo to the New Millennium. It will also establish a dialogue between the academy and the record sector with the presence and participation of independent label managers.

The hidden history of Turkish independent labels in Germany from the 1960s to the 1980s

Starting with the so-called migrant “guest workers” in the early 1960s, the largest Turkish community outside Turkey formed in Germany, growing up to three million people today.

Yet, German music history is mainly written without considering Turkish music in Germany, and when it comes to Turkish record labels in Germany, they are almost totally neglected. The first German independent label to be acknowledged in the history of the German record industry is usually Trikont (founded 1972) – although it is not true. In fact, the first, biggest and commercially most successful independent record company in Germany was Türküola. Founded by Yılmaz Asöcal in Cologne in 1964, Türküola and its sub-labels released more than a thousand singles, albums and compilations by Turkish artists, selling millions of records and cassettes, primarily to the Turkish communities in Germany. And Türküola was only one of a much greater number of independent Turkish record companies in Germany with e.g. Minareci (founded in 1969) and Uzelli (founded in 1971).

As these labels had no access to the German record industry’s relevant official distribution channels (hit charts, media, stores) they had to invent their own distribution channels, with grocery stores and general stores as main selling points and Turkish newspapers as media displays.

Combining perspectives from media and cultural studies as well as musicology, we propose to analyze the discourse (or the lack of it) about these labels and the music linked to them in order to understand why these independent labels were blocked from the official distribution channels and why they are written out of cultural and music history until today. After nearly 60 years of Turkish music made and produced in Germany there is still no comprehensive history of Turkish music in and from Germany let alone a history of its music labels. A fact, that has to be researched, questioned and discussed.