Unkapanı and Old Bazaars

Technology is rapidly evolving in the present day; even the concept of tape reminiscent of ancient times is unknown to today’s youth. For this reason, we need to explain what a long play record is to today’s youngsters who do not even know the tape in order to tell where the name of Unkapanı Plakçılar Çarşısı (Unkapanı Bazaar of Records) comes from. Of course, how the concepts of flour, record, music and bazaar come together is a different and challenging matter. That’s why we’re going back to the top and will tell you all the details of this historical city, Unkapanı.

Where does the name of Unkapanı come from?

Istanbul, which became the center of trade in the Ottoman times, is home to many different bazaars, although the most famous one is Grand Bazaar. A variety of supplies such as coffee, cotton, silk, honey, flour, etc. were weighed on the very large scales called “kaban” from the Arabic language. The name “Kaban” becomes “kapan” in time. The name Unkapanı is given to the bazaar where the flour is brought to the market and weighed on the scales.

Grand Bazaar in Istanbul
Grand Bazaar in Istanbul with unidentified people. It is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops

Unkapanı and Commercial Life

Unkapanı, which is located very close to the seaside of the Fatih district, was used especially for weighing the loads brought by ships bearing barley and wheat. The state imposed some rules on the goods to be priced under fair conditions. This prevented the sale of goods for a fraudulent high price. The officials called “Yiğitbaşı” were appointed for the selling of the goods, which were set at a fixed price. Thus, the goods weighed on the scales were sold to tradesmen.

Unkapanı and Old Bazaars
Unkapani, Istanbul, Turkey. People sitting in the cafes by the Valens Aqueduct.

The building and Bazaar took different names according to the property being weighed on the scale. Names such as grease scale if grease was weighed and honey scale if honey was weighed were given. Gradually, the number of closures increased and the region became a commercial attraction. Ottoman architectural tradition was maintained here and a small mosque, almshouse and madrasa were built around the bazaar. In time, the region that marked the import trade of Ottoman, which we call Unkapanı, is formed.

Unkapanı Bazaar of Recods

Unkapanı, which was at the center of commercial life, especially in the last period of the Ottoman Empire, was especially interesting in the 1980s, when it became the center of the music industry of the country.

Unkapanı and Old Bazaars
Broken tape stereo in unkapani ruins.

In 1950, the commercial life of Istanbul became increasingly active. In particular, many new textile production facilities were built. A new Dry-goods Dealer Bazaar was conceived in the Sultan Hamam, which is home to drapers. IMC – İstanbul Manifaturacılar Çarşısı (The Istanbul Dry-goods Dealers Bazaar) was implemented in 1960. An extremely grand opening took place and featured a speech by Suleyman Demirel, the Prime Minister of the period, which was broadcast live. However, things did not continue as expected. Dry-goods dealers did not like the new market. They didn’t want to leave the old neighborhood and would not move to İMÇ (The Istanbul Dry-goods Dealers Bazaar).

At the same time, the record label of the music market in the period began to settle slowly in the 5th and 6th blocks of the Bazaar in Unkapanı. Previously, the recorders in Sirkeci district were fed up with the crowds of the region and searched for a quieter place. The new market, Unkapanı Plakçılar Çarşısı, embraced its identity.

Unkapanı and Old Bazaars
Dry-goods dealers did not like the new market. They didn’t want to leave the old neighborhood and would not move to İMÇ.

Recorders had a hard time in the economy until they settled in Unkapanı, and then the music industry started booming. The long plays were then replaced with tape. Unkapanı made many notable tapes and became famous, especially between 1980 and 2000. Events related to Unkapanı Plakçılar Çarşısı were given a great deal of press at the time.

Unkapanı in Today

By the end of the 1990s, the tapes were replaced by CDs. Then the MP3s appeared. No more cassettes or CDs were produced once listening to music on the digital platform became popular with young people. In the 2000s, Unkapanı Plakçılar Çarşısı was transformed into a historic and nostalgic space.