Our founder, Agop Tomurcuk, was born in Istanbul-Turkey in 1941. Growing up in the Samatya neighborhood of Istanbul, he followed in the footsteps of his older brothers Oksant and Garbis, by beginning work as an apprentice cymbal-smith at the age of 9 at the only cymbal factory in Turkey. Here, Agop learned, and later helped to refine every aspect of the cymbal making process, becoming a master at every process and eventually becoming the chief cymbal-smith, until that company ceased production of their cymbals in Turkey in 1977.
Feeling “like a fish out of water,” after a little over a year spent working various odd jobs, Agop became to determined to continue the Turkish tradition of handmade cymbals on his own. With a little bit of asking around, he was able to locate and buy up much of the equipment and tools he used at his previous company. He rented a small workshop in the Bakırköy-Kartaltepe area of Istanbul, and began to experiment and produce some cymbals with the help of his dear wife, Uskui Tomurcuk. But the limited resources and manpower made things very difficult. “At the end of the day, my father’s cousin once brought him home by carrying him on his back” explains Agop’s son and now company Co-President, Arman Tomurcuk. Eventually, he was able to set up a small, but functional factory and his older brother, Oksant joined the company as chief cymbalsmith. They began by selling cymbals locally to some music stores in Istanbul’s Tünel area, but the prospects of this were limited.
Agop Tomurcuk's friend Mehmet Tamdeğer learned of this new venture and offered to become partners. In 1980 they established Zilciler Kollektif Şti. (in English: Cymbal maker Collective) , initially using a stenciled, painted Zilciler logo on the cymbals. Over the next two years, Zilciler began to grow and export cymbals internationally. The brand name was soon changed to Istanbul, and by 1982, the company was exporting cymbals to the United States. That same year, Istanbul Cymbals made their debut at the NAMM Show in The United States, where legendary drummer Mel Lewis declared “They’re Back!” referring to the sound of his beloved hand-hammered vintage Turkish cymbals. Mel became our first endorser and our association with him has been a great honor for us ever since. In 1984, Agop’s eldest son, and now company Co-President, Sarkis Tomurcuk, officially joined the company. There was a growing demand for the cymbals, and it was difficult to even fill orders. “At the time, we were 9 or 10 persons working in the workshop and my father was very disciplined. My father always forced Arman and I to work much more than anybody else, so that we could understand every single detail about the art of cymbal making. The production process, in those days was much more difficult. “We used to work with charcoal heaters to melt the alloy for casting. After melting, I had to carry a 55-60 kg bronze filled melting pot between my legs with a special lifting device that we had fabricated, and then pour the melted alloy into pans very carefully so that it wouldn’t splash. The temperature inside the melting pot would often exceed 1000 C, so I would first soak my pants with cold water, in order to avoid burning myself. My pants would become dry from the heat before I even began to pour the alloy into pans. The whole thing would take maybe 7 or 8 seconds and my pants would begin to burn if I took too long. This is how we cast every single cymbal at the time. When I think about it now I can’t believe how we managed” says Sarkis.
In 1986 Agop’s younger son, and now company Co-President Arman Tomurcuk officially joined the company. From 1986 until 1996, Istanbul Cymbals continued to grow considerably, and gain the recognition and admiration of many of the greatest musicians, many of whom visited the factory from all parts of the world. “When ı was 14, my father took me see Elvin Jones perform in Istanbul. It was a great concert. Afterwards, we went backstage. I was wearing an Istanbul t-shirt. Elvin saw me and he came right over to me with this huge smile and autographed my t-shirt. I still keep that precious present from Elvin. The next day, he visited our workshop. It was one of the greatest moments of my life” explains Arman. During this era, Billy Hart, Tony Williams, Danny Gottlieb, Jack Dejohnette, Art Blakey, Cindy Blackman and many others came to visit.
In 1992, Arman completed his education in England and returned to Istanbul. In 1993, he attended the Musikmesse trade show, and helped to expand the company’s distribution to 30 countries worldwide.
After Oksant's retirement, Sarkis became the chief cymbalsmith in the company. After a tragic accident, company founder Agop Tomurcuk passed away in 1996. After their father’s death, the two brothers quit the old factory where they had worked for 16 years and formed Istanbul Zilciler in 1997, further distinguishing themselves with the Istanbul Agop brand name and adopting a more progressive approach toward sounds and designs, while staying true to the tradition. By 1998, the Alchemy Series was created to expand our sound beyond traditional Jazz cymbals and better suit a diverse range of more modern and higher volume music.
In 2004, Istanbul Agop opened the first company owned office outside of Istanbul, in Los Angeles, California, USA to further improve our relationship with artists and drummers, and further expand the availability of our instruments. In 2005, we released our 25th Anniversary Ride as an expression of our continuing journey to push the limits of traditional cymbal making, while staying true to the ancient tradition. In 2022, we have the most musical and diverse and innovative cymbal lineup anywhere, supported by a roster of the most influential and compelling drummers of this generation.
In case you have questions please visit out FAQ section or don't hesitate to contact us directly.