Robert Soko: It was Tokyo, November 2015, and the crowd was going mad like only the Japanese knew how. People from Japan – those who were coming to our parties in Europe – I had found very lively and very grateful. They loved Balkan music, though you had the sense they didn’t quite know what it was all about. They ...

Robert Rigney: Robert Soko is in Croatia at the moment and unable to make it to the interview. So it’just me for now. Do you know Robert Soko? Rodehihi: Yeah, yeah. He played with Pyramidos one night. Robert Rigney: I’ve been looking at videos of Pyramidos on Youtube. I particularly like your rendition of “Niška Banje”. Why did you decide to cover ...

Robert Soko: So, Chiku, our goal is to interview you about your affinity for Balkan music, and then the Balkan scene in Japan in order to get some weird details out of this world. Chiku Yutaka:  Yes, yes, yes. Robert Soko: The first question – quite a predictable one – how did you stumble upon Balkan music? Chiku Yutaka: I used to DJ punk ...

My mentor at the Reyhane dergah – the Sufi tekke in Berlin, where I remained for two years - was a Turk named Ahmed. He was my age, born in a town near Istanbul, who had moved to Germany in his twenties, first living in Stuttgart, and then coming to Berlin. Ahmed spoke perfect German, despite being surrounded all the ...

(back to part I) Sauntering up Balkanska ulica I noticed her verging towards me, a black-haired girl in a black dress clicking along the cracked pavement past cheap shops selling cheap wares, swinging a tiny patent leather handbag. She sidled up to me and said: “Do you have any gum?” Guma, she said. I said I didn’t speak Serbian. And then ...

Istanbul is  a world unto itself, with a population (between 15 and 20 million) that is larger than many countries. Just picture it: six times bigger than Berlin, about the equivalent of ex-Yugoslavia in population, with crass discrepancies between rich and poor, Asian and European, modern and traditional, religious and secular. If you live on the European side you have no idea what ...

Eyüp Sultan mosque (Eyüp Sultan Camii) is perhaps Istanbul’s holiest spot, outstripping even Hagia Sophia in sanctity. The standard bearer of the Prophet Muhammad, Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, who  took part in a failed siege of Constantinople in 674 – and after whom the mosque is named -  is buried here. On top of the grave stands a nineteenth century mosque, an historical ...

It was 2004, and I decided to approach the Balkans from another end, this time through Bosnia. As I set forth from Berlin, I had a wavering vision of minarets and the old Turkish Baščaršija dreaming of Istanbul. I was impressed by the Bosnian notebooks of weird eastern motifs and secret Muslim villages  of Austrian artist and novelist,  Alfred Kubin. Prior to ...

For some years now Anatolian rock has established itself as the grooviest sound on World Beat dance-floors. Taking a tip from Turkish folk rockers from the 70s like Bariş Manco, Erkin Koray and Selda Bağcan, Dutch/Turkish psyche outfit Altın Gün have achieved immense resonance  with their funky arrangements of Anatolian rock numbers. In his latest move, Balkan pop-star, Shantel, has teamed ...

I have to say that Kolektif Istanbul was one of the reasons I moved to Istanbul in 2011. A year or two before I packed up and left I caught a gig of theirs at Kreuzberg's Ballhaus Naunyn, which was supposed to wrap up the theater festival, Diyalog. The band rocked the house with their brand of “Turko-balkanic progressive wedding ...

Kreuzberger Nächte sind lang, as the song goes. Kreuzberg nights are long. And nowhere was this truer than at Zigan Aldi’s “X-berger Nächte” parties every Saturday night at the Cake Club on Oranienstraße, where the Turkish DJ and part time taxi driver, spun his a mix of Balkan, Latin, Swing and Oriental beats, the party totally cooking, until six in the ...

                                      Snow dusts the ground on Ada Ciganli, Gypsy Island, a popular get-away on the banks of the Sava river, a short taxi ride from the center of Belgrade, where, after  a brief walk through darkened woods we reach a creaky wooden gangway leading to a rickety wooden houseboat with a sign in Cyrillic. Lighted windows blaze into the winter night and ...

How did you get your break? My first break, after playing the local Balkan stuff in the hood, you know, was playing a klezmer gig. That was what broke me. That was with Harold Seletzky. He brought me to a whole other world. Up  until then I was stuck in Ridgewood. Harold Seletzky is no longer around, but he was a ...

Yesterday I biked around the Wannsee, to Potsdam and back to Berlin. Then I went to Isigym, boxed a little and rode my bike to Centrala just as the bar was beginning to get crowded. I pulled up on my bike in lederhosen shorts, blue Serbia  jersey and black wraparound shades - my usual summer attire. Szilvia stood behind the bar. ...