It was 1997.
I was completing my military service.
I had many things in my mind during this period when I served as an officer cadet. Things I wanted to do, pieces I wanted to play, many different projects. The first thing I did during my weekends off was to visit bookstores to follow new publications. Kalan Music and Ada Music CDs usually caught my attention among the new releases. However, classical music CDs weren’t produced in Turkey back then and the handful few that got released were only fort he sponsors. I thought that something must happen to push the production of classical music CDs in our country as well and they should be produced and sold in Unkapanı.
My workday would and at 17:00 on Fridays as I served, and I occasionally would hop on a bus to visit my family in Istanbul. I called my dear friend Aziz Şenol Filiz a few weeks prior to my visit and asked him to kindly set up a meeting between myself and Kalan Music. Şenol told me the meeting day following this conversation and I found myself in Istanbul on a Friday evening yet again. I finished my preparations the next morning and went to Unkapanı for the first time in my life at 11:00.
It was an unusual environment for me; a room filled with smoke, a noisy space, a chaotic place with no way to follow who went in and who went out. I was expecting an imposing guy behind a desk, but I was greeted by a dirty-bearded young man in jeans to my surprise. I introduced myself. I started talking but I couldn’t finish a single sentence; people would intercept the conversation; he would tell people in the other room something and the chaotic atmosphere just continued on. I thought he wasn’t paying me attention and stepped back. He asked me when my military service was ending at the end of the conversation and I replied. He said, “Get it done and come over”.
I received my discharge papers 4-5 weeks after this event. I called in before I visited again. The atmosphere was exactly the same as before. I said the same thing again, he wasn’t listening to me, his attention was elsewhere; many people entered and exited the room. Hasan was paying attention to other things but he stopped doing so as I was about to leave. He spoke to me as he looked directly into my eyes. I thought he wasn’t listening to me, but he took in every word I had said and left me in awe as he gave me his feedback with a full understanding of what I wanted to do to the minutest detail. ‘I will support your project, nobody else will do so because this is an artistic project, but you will include two pieces of my choosing to this project. One of them will be the A 1 track of the cassette and the other will be the at the last piece’ he said. Cassettes were still around back in the day. I asked which pieces and he replied ‘Sarı Gelin’ and ‘Heyamo’. He got all the recordings of these pieces ready for me, asked me to listen to them and then to start the project. I started writing arrangements the same evening at home, and I finished writing SarıGelin towards the morning. I slept a bit and then wrote Heyamo the next day. I got together with Mehru Ensari and we rehearsed these works. I recorded all the pieces on a cassette and put together a long selection. Hasan let me pick the rest of the repertoire. He phoned and arranged Raks Marşandiz studio. It used to be the only studio with a piano in Istanbul back then, it had a baby grand piano. I met up with Mehru and went to Marşandiz Studio. Late Cemil Koral came over to see the piano and tuned it, adding that it will only stay in tune for 4-5 hours. It was snowing that day. I was recording in such a studio environment for the first time in my life. Two microphones were arranged for the piano and the violin. Murat Uncuoğlu (He became a famous DJ later on) did the recording. I named this series of 18 tracks recorded on DAT cassettes ‘Minyatürler’. We completed the whole recording in 4.5 hours as the piano was going out of tune and we had no way of tuning it ourselves. We recorded 18 pieces in 4.5 hours and booked in a session with Muammet Tokmak for editing a couple of days later.
The session with Muammer took 2-3 hours. He was really happy because editing process normally took him a few days but we played all the pieces from start to finish like a concert. This enabled him to be done in 2-3 hours. We went to Kalan Music the next day to listen to the recordings as soon as they were ready. Hasan listened to Sarı Gelin, and then listened to it again 6-7 more times. He was satisfied, he was a perfectionist; he wanted to be efficient but paid extra attention to perfection. He was flabbergasted when he learnt that we finished the recording session in 4.5 hours. He was in awe, saying ‘I put artists in a studio for a CD and they finish in 1.5 months, how did you do this?”. Hasan really liked the CD, he worked on it himself; the graphics, photos, descriptions, design, distribution, promotion and etc. Sarı Gelin became a classic for me. I thought Minyatürler album would only sell about 1000 copies. 60.000 copies of the album were sold within 3-4 years and became the highest-grossing classical music CD in Turkey.
Hasan was a visionary. He was a unique person. We loved each other as friends and brothers from day one. I talked little, I would visit Kalan to recharge some positive energy. He stood by me during my hardest days. When I was depressed, when I was happy; he was always helpful and generous. He asked me to do something one day, a project. I asked him what it was. He answered. I told him ‘I am not ready for this’. He replied ‘Then get ready’. I started reading books about what he asked of me, I took notes and did studies. But I couldn’t finish it, other CDs got in the way. Minyatürler opened the doors of Anatolia to me. We visited almost all cities with Mehru. We always received standing ovations in Sivas, Konya, Kayseri, Ordu, Mersin, Samsun, Adapazarı and many other places. Hasan is the architect of this expansion. We created this together. He is in every single note I play. How will I play again after this, it is so very hard.