The Turkish word gazino can be translated as nightclub or cabaret. This type of venue mixes altogether food, drinks and musical entertainment. Its origin dates back to the beginning of 20th century, it was at that time a rather elite night out that catered to Turkish intellectuals and non-Muslims living in Istanbul’s central district Beyoglu.
Gazino culture’s evolution is closely tied to the social changes that occurred in Turkey in the twentieth century. During and after the Second World War, a new class of enriched landowners from rural areas came to settle in Istanbul: “The elite gazino customers, who were mostly natives of Istanbul, were supplanted by nouveaux riches from the countryside. This societal shift was reflected in the addition of the folk music as a fabricated urban genre into the gazino repertoire”, writes composer and scholar Munir Nurettin Beken in an academic paper about gazino culture.
Then, from the 1950s, the massive migration of a low income workforce from Anatolia led to the development of vast informal neighborhoods in the industrial outskirts of Istanbul and the emergence of a new musical style called arabesk that soon found its place in the urban nightlife.
The gazino scene is very diverse, containing within it a variety of genres: fasıl, Turkish art music, folk music, arabesk, Turkish pop music, belly dancing and comedy. Although gazino culture has been on decline for the past decades, it still persists. Gazinos can still be found Turkey’s biggest cities, the market is musically and socially segmented, attracting mostly a middle-aged male clientele from the lower to the upper class depending on the venue.
These black and white posters are from the gazino culture heyday of the 1960s and 1970s, when the most famous singers of the time performed in gazinos and attracted big crowds. The legendary singer and actor Zeki Müren held a regular show at the prestigious Maksim Gazinosu: “Besides his legendary costumes, Müren also introduced a variety of other innovations to the presentation of the gazino show. His dramatic entrance on a swing, and his effects like snow flakes falling from the ceiling were reminiscent of the famous American pianist Liberace (1919-1987), well known for his Las Vegas shows and television programs around the same time”, writes Munir Nurettin Beken.
The past years have seen a renewing interest among urban youth for the nostalgic times of the gazino and variety shows golden age that are often featured in the movies of Turkish cinema golden age, known as the Yeşilçam era.