Meet the Master Cymbal Makers of Istanbul

Bosphorus Cymbals, Istanbul
Bosphorus Cymbals, Istanbul | © Bradley Secker / Culture Trip

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Before they crash their way into your favourite song, the world’s best cymbals are handcrafted by talented cymbal makers (or cymbal smiths, as they are known). Though many factories employ machines to do the work, Bosphorus Cymbals in Istanbul, Turkey, creates everything by hand in a fiery technique of dancing flames and molten bronze dating back eight centuries.

Established by master cymbal smiths Hasan Seker, Ibrahim Yakici and Hasan Ozdemir in 1996, Bosphorus has been handcrafting its sought-after cymbals for 22 years. The history of cymbals in Turkey, however, dates back far further than that.

Bradley Secker / © Culture Trip

“Turkey is the homeland of cymbals,” explains Emrah Sipahi, international sales director at Bosphorus. “Cymbals as we know them today were developed here in the 14th century for the Ottoman army marching band. Before that there were Ancient Greek cymbals, but they were much thicker and smaller. The Mehter (Ottoman army) needed a bigger sound, so they made a new design, shaped like the shields of their soldiers, and this remains the basis of modern cymbals.”

Bradley Secker / © Culture Trip
Bradley Secker /
Bradley Secker / © Culture Trip
Bradley Secker / © Culture Trip

In order to become qualified as one of Bosphorus’s cymbal smiths, apprentices must undergo rigorous training before they can even hold the hammer. According to Sipahi, this can take months. To call yourself a master cymbal smith, of which there are only a few around the world, you must be able “to understand any drummer’s request of how they want the cymbal to sound and be able to create the cymbal according to those specifications”, says Sipahi.

Bradley Secker / © Culture Trip

Bosphorus tries to foster creativity among its cymbal smiths: “Workers are always encouraged to try new ideas with their cymbal designs. It never becomes a boring routine,” says Sipahi.

Bradley Secker / © Culture Trip
Bradley Secker / © Culture Trip
Bradley Secker / © Culture Trip

A job at Bosphorus Cymbals is more than a job – it’s like being part of a family. “The company’s owners were the first masters and most of their pupils are still working at the factory as today’s masters,” says Sipahi. “Now, some of their pupils are about to be masters. This succession generates a respectful relationship and hierarchy among the workers. Everybody enjoys the peaceful workplace atmosphere and feels secure with their future.”

Bradley Secker /
Bradley Secker /
Bradley Secker / © Culture Trip

Speaking of Bosphorus’s clientele, Sipahi says: “It’s a lot of fun to work in the music industry. We have many exceptional days at the office where we meet with good drummers and even some stars.

“Also, this company pumps up your creativity and your only limit is the expanse of our own imaginations,” he says. “Who can ask for more?”

Bradley Secker /
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