Kanto (Canto)

In Turkish the term kanto is used to describe a cheerful and very lively song and dance performance, a form which experienced a peak of popularity between 1870 and about 1910.

The word kanto comes from the Italian cantare, to sing. The term was used from 1850 onwards in Ottoman Empire, when an Italian travelling theatre group used dance and song programmes when performing in Istanbul. The term kanto allowed making a distinction between this new form of song and the old, traditional Turkish Ottoman songs.

In a kanto performance women appeared on stage, dancing and singing, and sang amusing, provocative, naively-suggestive songs in an easy-to-understand language. Later, duets with a male singer were added to the programme. Peruz Terzakyan was the founder of this new form of entertainment during the Ottoman Empire.

A kanto show meant that in the Ottoman (men's) world of entertainment, women now came on stage not just in opera, operetta and the theatre, but in a new artistic genre of an entertainment character, wearing, for the first time, revealing - for those days - costumes in public.

Peruz Terzakyan's stage costumes were described like this: She wore short, sleeveless dresses with a low neckline. Her knees were visible. The costumes were pink, yellow, sapphire and light green, embroidered with sequins and beads and the hems of her skirts were decorated with tassels. In addition she wore pink stockings and embroidered shoes.

Peruz Terzakyan founded the kanto group Sahne-i Alem. She was thus also the employer and supporter of other kanto singers, such as Flora, Violet and Küçük Virjin.

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