Mehmet Öztekin, 73, also known as known as "Papa Gramophone," is Istanbul's last gramophone repairman. He has a shop in the Grand Bazaar where he continues to practice his profession with great enthusiasm.
Repairing and producing gramophones for more than 50 years, Öztekin has so far given voice to countless broken gramophones from Turkey as well as from various places around the world. He has so far produced more than 10,000 gramophones and last year, he repaired a gramophone produced in the U.K. in 1928 that was a gift to Turkey's founding father Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Öztekin said he is still in love with his profession, which he learned from his father when he was only 6 years old, adding that he has been producing and repairing gramophones since his childhood.
"Back in my day, masters used to train children as apprentices. So we grew up in a master-apprentice relationship. Our parents were not really in need of the few pennies we made. Rather, it was widely believed that a child was required to receive a vocational training alongside school education. For years, there have been various vocational schools including art institutes. It was said that 'art is a golden bracelet' [meaning a timeless skill]. So I fastened that golden bracelet with a string to protect it from falling off," Öztekin said.
Öztekin said he is resilient to the current digital technologies: "With advancing technologies, many profession diminished along with their masters, which has always frustrated me. I am always open to new technologies, yet the harms done by technology must be discerned. How will families make their ends meet and raise their children if manpower is excluded and replaced by robots?" he asked.
Öztekin expressed that he has gramophones at his shop that date back to 1914 and 1928. "We entered the World War I in 1914, while the previous years also witnessed wars. [The wars] ended only after Turkey's War of Independence in the 1920s, after which we had the time and budget to spend on gramophones. Not many homes had gramophones back then. Generally, merely one household in an entire neighborhood had a gramophone, which could not be touched by anyone but the most senior member of the family," he recalled.
Repairing the gramophone gifted to AtatürkÖztekin said he cannot remember the number of gramophones he has repaired so far: "Gramophones from all around the world were sent here for repair. The most impressing one among them was the one belonging to Atatürk, which was sent last year by the Yalova Municipality. Repairing it was a very stressful task. I was thrilled to repair the gramophone that was once touched by him. It is currently in Atatürk's Mansion located in Yalova."
Öztekin also stated that he has been making a living from this profession for almost the last six decades and sent both of his children to university, adding that the gramophone generates the most natural and pure sound possible, unearthing the clearest form of music.
Öztekin has also trained two apprentices in the field. "I have so far produced around 1,500 records and more than 10,000 gramophones. Some 3,000 out of the 10,000 have been sent to abroad, while the rest of them are in this country, which is a delight for me. As I repair the old broken gramophones here, their owners remembered the past with tears in their eyes," he said.