Hakan Atala, the owner of Lale Plak, is one of the most knowledgeable music connoisseurs in Istanbul. If you’re interested in discovering great sounds, local or foreign, we highly recommend you make a stop at Lale to chat with him.
SoUL: Let’s talk about your shop first. When did this business start?
Hakan: Many years ago! We actually go back to 1954, to be exact May 13, 1954. My dad and uncle had a shop in Beyazıt first; and in 1954 they decided to move here. In those days, they used to sell mainly office supplies in their shop. Then they started selling tapes and records, as well. But it was always a mix until I got involved.
SoUL: Can we talk about the transition from selling office supplies to music? How did that happen?
Hakan: It happened after I got involved. I wanted to focus the business on music, which I really enjoyed. In the beginning of the 90s, I renovated the store and we became solely a music store.
SoUL: It sounds like a radical idea? How did your dad take that?
Hakan: Yes, it was a radical idea. My father was getting older; so I asked my family to keep him out of the shop for a few weeks. In those 10-15 days we made the shift. When he came into the store later he really liked what he saw. For him it was like passing on the flag to the next generation.
SoUL: What does music mean to you?
Hakan: Music is where all cultures meet. One can learn a lot about different geographies thru music… About people and their cultures… It’s one short cut to understanding the world. Music is the mirror of society.
SoUL: What music do you recommend a visitor to listen while they’re in Istanbul?
Hakan: When I visit a foreign country I try to find local sounds that are unique. So, in that same manner, I’d recommend that a visitor listen to Aşık Veysel, as an example for the 20th century folk music, or find out about our Sufi music which is going back to 13th and 14th centuries. There is also fusion music that is becoming popular representing the 21st century and we have samples of that here, as well.
SoUL: How about the collection here at the store? What can visitors find here?
Hakan: We have about ten thousand CDs in this store ranging from classical to traditional Turkish music. Our collection on jazz and classical music is quite large; and we also have a separate section on Sufi music. When a customer asks us for our recommendation we actually play the CDs here so they can hear what they’ll be buying before they purchase. In addition, many musicians make a stop here when they’re in town, and we have them autograph their CDs, some of which are for sale here in the store, as well.
SoUL: And finally what are some interesting places that you recommend people visit when they’re in town?
Hakan: I personally like the stretch between Galatasaray High School and Tünel. In the old days, I used to send folks to the Galata neighborhood but that’s all discovered now. These days, in addition to Galata, Tomtom (a street crossing Istiklal) is also very interesting and I like going there for a walk myself.