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Istanbul Mehmet

Sahra and Kirkor Signature Rides

Dark, warm tones with varying degrees of dryness.

The Istanbul cymbal company was originally established by veteran cymbalsmiths Mehmet Tamdeger and Agop Tomurcuk to provide traditional-style Turkish cymbals that were made using centuries-old processes. When Agop passed away, the company split into two separate entities: Istanbul Mehmet and Istanbul Agop. Each boasts a dense catalog of top-quality instruments for a wide range of sounds, whether echoing classic designs or pushing the envelope with more contemporary concepts. Mehmet recently added two 22″ rides to its Signature series, the Sahra and Kirkor, which balance the dark, nuanced sounds of traditional Turkish cymbals with the control and clarity required by today’s drummer. Let’s check them out.


The 22″ Sahra ride cymbal is medium-thin and has a dark, unlathed finish. The bow is randomly hammered with multiple layers of 1cm-wide marks. The bell has a slightly conical shape. This ride is designed to provide a low-pitched, dry, and controlled sound, which translates into clear, dark stick articulation and a pleasantly warm but contained wash. The bell has a rich, deep, and slightly integrated tone.

The Sahra ride is named after a famous desert in the Middle East, so we expected that this cymbal would have a super-dry sound. What surprised me, however, was how musical and versatile it proved to be. Yes, the decay is controlled, but it’s not a lifeless ride that’s all attack and no body. The Sahra has tons of personality, with rich, dark overtones, a woody attack, a very musical, deep-sounding bell, and decent crash capabilities.

I ended up using the Sahra as a primary ride on several medium-volume club gigs that required me to play everything from “Manic Depression” to “Tenor Madness,” and it sounded simply incredible in every style. I especially liked that I could crash it on the edge for a puff of impact, and then go right back to riding the bow without losing any clarity. The bell has a pleasingly clear but dark and integrated tone, and it was easy to control. Matt Chamberlain’s distinctive ride sound came to mind as I was testing the 22″ Sahra, which has a rare combination of dark, complex tones, clear articulation, and controlled sustain.

Kirkor Kücükyan

The 22″ Kirkor Kücükyan ride is Istanbul Mehmet founder Mehmet Tamdeger’s tribute to one of the master craftsmen who taught him the ancient art of Turkish cymbal making in the 1950s. (Mehmet worked under the tutelage of Kücükyan as well as Kerope Zilcan at the Zildjian factory in Istanbul, Turkey.)

Like the Sahra, the Kirkor ride is medium-thin and has a dark, raw finish. It also features wide bands of lathing, which increase the wash and give the cymbal a very cool appearance. The randomly applied 1cm hammer marks on the Kirkor are a bit softer than they are on the Sahra, but the bell is identical.

The Kirkor ride is designed to provide dry, dark stick definition, warm, complex overtones, and a warm, smooth sustain. The raw bell provides a clearer tone for a touch of extra cut. The Kirkor isn’t as dry as the Sahra, but it has a similarly dark, rich, and articulate tone. It has additional sustain, which makes it less controlled while also allowing for a more fully developed crash.

The Kirkor and Sahra worked very well together in a simple two-cymbal setup for jazz, fusion, and classic funk/R&B situations, as well as for moderate-volume club dates and recording sessions. I preferred to use the Sahra as the primary ride, and the Kirkor was positioned in the crash position so I could hit it on the edge for big, bold accents or shift over to it when I needed a slightly wider ride sound with more dramatic undertones.

Michael Dawson