A short disclaimer from myself before we delve into the stores: As I am currently on a world trip and luggage weight is of the utmost importance, I have been limiting myself to looking strictly for 45s, and mostly Soul, Funk, and Disco at that. It took some self control to not peruse the LPs in any serious fashion. As a result I can't write with any confidence about the quality and variety of the LPs, apart from saying that a quick scan of the racks showed me that there is indeed a vast variety of music on offer.
Istanbul is divided up into two major sections: The European side (The west), and The Asian side (The east) separated by the Bosporus Strait (Which can be easily crossed by ferry or subway). There are a number of record stores on both sides, so you will want to investigate how to cross the strait and how to make you way around the streets. I was staying in Beyoğlu on the European side so it made sense to begin with the stores in my local area, of which there were quite a few. Many of the record stores I visited on the eastern side of Istanbul can be found in Kadıköy - a shopping district favoured by students for the many cafes and book shops. Downloading an offline street map for my smart phone made traversing the maze of streets a breeze. I used Ulmon maps, a free iPhone app which allowed me to pin locations of record stores to the map, and uses satelites to keep track of where I was without needing a wifi connection (Make sure to check the links for each store below for their locations). The streets on the European side can be quite steep and the distance between stores can be a little decieveing, so prepare to work up a sweat. Other essential pieces of kit were bottled water, and hand sanitizer.
The European side
Kontra Plak was my first destination and turned out to be a fruitful start to the journey. The store has a nice selection of collectable original and re-issued European and American music, yet didn't yield much in the way of local Turkish music (At least not with my limited knowledge of Turkish Funk & Psych). However I did pick up a few 45's which were 12 Lira each and gave me a good bench mark with what I might expect prices to be at other stores, including The Real Roxanne's Bang Zoom, A go-go 45 from Prince Charles & The City Beat Band, and Maze's Twilight. Details to find Kontra Plak can be found here.
With a promising start to the day, the next store De Forme Musik also proved to be worthwhile. A healthy variety of international 45s and definitely a few sure shots. I picked up a score of Soul Funk 45s including Loleatta Hollaway's Runaway, A turkish pressing of the Dynamic Corvettes Funky Music Is The Thing, and a freakishly labeled cover version of Barry White's Trange Funky Cames And Things (yes, you read that correctly) by Jay Dee. The store also had two piles of local Turkish music which at the time of my visit was being processed for Ebay. I was told that those same piles also contained some reggae although I didn't see any when I scanned through one pile. However, I walked away with six 45s in total, and the day was looking good!
Plakhane sold a mixture of records and second hand Hi-Fi equipment, spread randomly over two levels. With a selection that mostly covers American and European music it did have a few pieces I was interested in. The 45s (Which can be found on both levels in a variety of spots) were in various states of condition, and mostly consisted of soft rock and late eighties euro pop. However, I was happy to find a copy of The Real Thing's Can You Feel The Force, and a cover version of Last Night A DJ Saved My Life (Which had an even better instrumental version on the flipside labeled DJ Delight). None of the records were priced, and I was amused and slightly annoyed when the staff looked up each title on discogs to gain the value of each record. I discarded a few finds, and settled a price on others. It's worth mentioning that the staff were happy to leave me upstairs by myself and were also happy to rig up a listening station. Plakhane can be found here.
Analog Kultur apeared closed when I first turned up at the shop. Peering through the windows into the dark shop I could see plenty of vinyl, and some guys hanging around in a back room. Some young children who were playing in the street at the front of the store sensed I wanted to get it, and motioned that I should knock on the window. Knocking payed off as I was ushered into the dark store by the staff, and I noticed the backroom was infact a music studio. They didn't have much in the way of English speaking music on 45, but they did have a great selection of local Turkish music, so I got them to lace me with some killer Turkish funk 45s. I'm still not entirely sure if the shop was open to public, but the four guys inside were very friendly and open to chatting about the local music scene even, though I think I might have interrupted their studio session. My experience in the store was very laid back and felt like I was hanging out in someones house. Drinks were offered and the guys had a jam in the studio whilst I used the DJ set up behind the counter to go through some of the 45s.
For those interested in finding local Turkish music it is worth visiting the Antiques district south of Beyoğlu (on the way to the ferry). There you will find countless small stores filled with a jumble of pretty much anything and everything including a lot of vinyl records. Many of the storekeepers in this area don't speak english and the records can be in very bad condition, with many 45s out of their covers. I took a chance on one store in particular who had several stacks of Turkish 45s in a reasonable state, although frustratingly the old store owner insisted on using the turntable himself when I motioned if it was possible to listen to them. After scanning through a small handful of 45s and discovering that they weren't really what I was after I thought it rude to leave empty handed, and decided to settle on a couple that had interesting cover graphics. I balked when the owner wanted to charge me well over one hundred lira for three 45s. Much to the owners annoyance I decided that leaving empty handed was definitely the better option.
The Asian side
Zihni Müsik is located in Akmar Pasaji - An arcade that specialises in Academic textbooks, english readers, and a couple of record stores. The store owner was very friendly and spoke english well. Although the store had quite a number of 45s it didn't yield anything I was particularly interested in, consisting of mainly 80s and 90s pop music (Although it did have a few stacks of local Turkish 45s which were being processed for ebay at the time). The owner did comment on a recent Japanese collector who come armed with a portable player, which gave me the sense that this particular store had been rinsed out by many international visitors. For collectors of LP's this store is definitely worth visiting as it has one of the largest selections I had come across in Istanbul yet.
Another store (Of which I was unable to identify the name) located in the same Akmar Pasaji arcade a few shops down from Zihni Müzik also had a large selection of original vinyl LPs of mostly collectable Funk, Soul, Rock, and Metal. The 45s were stacked in wall shelving hidden behind some hanging LPs, and consisted almost entirely of local Turkish music (There was a small section of Beatles, Rolling Stones etc). The owner was slightly perplexed when I asked to go through the 45s but left me to my own devices once he saw that I was meticulously viewing each one. There were no listening stations that I could see, but the store is definitely worth checking out.
Rainbow 45 was perhaps the nicest arranged store I had found yet, with a great selection of LPs. The owner was very friendly and the store had a very relaxed yet professional feel to it. Whilst the 45s selection was fairly limited (consisting of roughly half local Turkish music) I did walk out with 2 finds at a very reasonable price, including a 45 of Imagination's Burning Up that had eluded me all through my European journey.
There are a number of antique shops further down the same road, but unlike the Antique shops on the western side these shops had quite a lot of vinyl in relatively good condition. One record store amongst the antique stores Plakçı Hamit had the largest selection of vinyl in the area crammed into a very small space. The shop had a considerable selection of Turkish 45s as well, but very little of anything non-Turkish and once again no listening station. However, I was happy to find a Gino Soccio 45 in good condition.
My final destination was Vintage Records near Moda Cadessi. The store had a mixture of collectable retro antiques and a lot of vinyl compacted into a relatively small space. Whilst the LPs consisted of a variety of sounds, the 45s were entirely local Turkish music and yielded no gold for me on this visit. I left the store empty handed and reflected on how little I had found on the eastern side of Istanbul compared to my previous days visit through the western side. I'm certain that if I had given into my urge to look through the LPs I would have found much more of what I was after - An itch that I was not willing to scratch considering I am just over halfway into my world trip.
Whilst I did get the feeling that many of these stores have been frequented by international collectors, and my time in Turkey didn't turn up as many titles as I had found in other European countries, I must admit that I did pass on many good records that I already owned in my collection. Overall, I was happy with my finds and keen to listen again to the few Turkish 45s that I did pick up during my stay in Istanbul.