Passion is the driving force behind what compels us to excel. Such energy has laid the foundation at Kontraplak, one of Beyoglu’s newest additions; a record store located just a few minutes’ walk from Galata High School on Istiklal. For Istanbul’s music lovers, this is great news. Just a glance at the city’s roster of musicians and artists performing here this summer will serve as a reminder of how active the music scene is. The two go in pairs: live shows often inspire new interest in getting your hands on some novel music, and now there’s somewhere new to realize that impulse.
While LP’s make up the bulk of the inventory at Kontraplak, CD’s, books, and magazines also dot the shelves here and there, should you have an interest. But for the majority of visitors, the record collection is the main attraction, and it’s brought front and center. Ozan Arpacı, one of the stores main hands, is willing and eager to share his suggestions as he energetically hops behind the counter to drown the place in his latest favorites, all with a little help from a formidable sound system. Since the store’s opening roughly a month ago, Ozan has been rotating one of his recent preferences, a 2009 live album by Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek (who apparently has an impressive backing band).
The space is relaxed and informal, as one might hope to find in a record store. A couch lines the back wall for customers to sit, relax, and let their ears take in the view their eyes wish they could see. A set of headphones and a record player sit in the corner for you to give spin to any album you want to further explore. Rather than a store, you feel as if you’ve entered a friend’s basement and are browsing their personal collection.
Which is not to say the range is limited – quite the contrary, as a matter of fact. The store houses dozens upon dozens of different genres (chamber pop, acid techno, contemporary reggae, etc…), but the quaint space reinforces a feeling of selection rather than sheer mass; quality over quantity. Thumbing through the records, you would be hard-pressed to find something the staff might shake their heads at in disapproval. The classic (and current best-selling) names are all there: The Smiths, The Rolling Stones, Radiohead, and John Coltrane just to name a few. But you’ll also find albums and artists you’ve never heard of (electronic/ambient producer Fennesz comes to mind), and this only adds to the sense of discovery. While CD’s are also on offer, this spot almost inherently retains a vintage character – anyone who lived in the pre-MP3 era will find the same joy here in that worn vibe.
Kontraplak’s opening isn’t so much a sign of Istanbul's reviving musical community as it is an affirmation of the steady dedication that already exists for it. This carries through in execution - you can’t help but notice the little smirk that crosses the staff’s faces when someone starts tapping their feet to a track they’ve just sprinkled over the store – and you’ll leave feeling a part of a community of people who tend to their ear’s desire for nothing other than passion itself. Kontraplak, Yeni Çarşı Caddesi No:60/A 34433 Beyoğlu; (P) 0212 243 8680