My name is Rafi, a Syrian-Palestinian musician. Growing up, I knew about Omar Souleyman, but in the Middle East his music is considered cheesy, or maybe only for weddings. After moving to Berlin I got to discover that he represents a unique phenomenon in the Western world. I was surprised by his popularity here, his success and fame amongst hipsters. ...

“Kaybola” means something like “Let’s get lost” in Turkish. It is the second album of Istanbul trio Islandman. The idea is to create for the listener rich soundscapes, layered with elements culled from around the world – be it the Turkic realm (Anatolian folk-rock), Bulgaria (women’s folk choirs), Bali (gamelan music) or Mongolia (throat singing). Tolga Böyük is the personality ...

“A soundtrack of freaks, gangsters, pimps and punks of the era.” So Uzelli Kaset bills their newly  released compilation of Turkish electric saz music, called Uzelli Elektro Saz (1976-1984), curated by Murat Ertel – the lead singer and saz player of Istanbul psych band BaBa Zula – with his wife, Esma Ertel. And as the blurb suggests, the LP is being ...

        And so it was that -- filled with a tremor of excitement --  I embarked on another trip to Belgrade,  that wild, loud, brawling, lawless and free city in the Balkans, where the kafanas flowed with rakija and the streets were filled with beautiful girls in knock-off Versace and silicone tits.  Some called the bus line the “Gastarbeiter Express” because it hit ...

    In Vladičin Han,  the South Serbian town, where Marko Marković hails from, nearly everyone plays brass . “Growing up I didn’t have a choice,” says Marko. “The trumpet chose me.” Marko Marković (30) is the son of Balkan brass legend Boban Marković, five times winner of “Best Trumpeter” award at Guča, Serbia’s annual summer-time brass music blow-out.   Almost before he ...

The story of Dudu Tassa and the Kuwaitis is an amazing one. How Israel’s most famous Mizrahi rocker Dudu Tassa revived the Iraqi music of his grandfather and his brother, which had fallen into neglect in an Israel that had turned its back on Arabic music, forging a new “Iraq & roll” for audiences in Israel and abroad. Dudu was supposed ...

When it comes to Istanbul’s nightlife, many usually think of Taksim – that  stretch of European Istanbul, north of the Golden Horn, intersected by the Istiklal Caddesi  a pedestrian thoroughfare which slices  through the district of Beyoğlu from Taksim square in the north to Tünel Square in the south.   Here, and in its dozens of tributaries and small, dark side streets, was where – ...

Martin Scorsese, Keith Richards, Johnny Depp and Robert De Niro are impressed by her voice.Aynur Doğan — or Aynur, as she is popularly known -  is probably one of the most famous Kurdish singers today.  Many will remember Aynur’s appearance in Fatih Akin’s 2005 Istanbul music documentary, Crossing the Bridge, in which she sings a haunting Kurdish lament in an old Istanbul hamam. ...

In my neighborhood in Wilmersdorf the black-and-white photocopied   portraits in memory of the ten foreigners who were killed cold bloodedly on 19 February in Hanau by a gun wielding neo-Nazi terrorist had hardly been up a day before they were scratched out and defaced totally. Elsewhere around the city one finds the pictures similarly vandalized. And so goes the memory of ...

Pavel was one of those Czech Western freaks you came across now and then in Prague. He wore an oversize Texas belt buckle, tooled cowboy boots and  listened to Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams Jr. to let his hair down after work. He knew more about America, than I – his English teacher – did, that’s for sure, and once ...

I wanted to ask you about the new album. What does it mean, “Derin, Derin”? “Derin, Derin” is kind of like, “Deep and deeper”. If you have seen the cover, then you would understand better, I think.  There’s a tree on the cover. Yes, it’s a tree. But not only a tree. There’s the earth and there is also an ...

Was the döner kebab really invented in Berlin? Or is this just an urban myth? Çağan Okuyan’s art-book, “Kebab Project” goes some way towards answering this question. In the end, however, the search leads to more questions than answers, and the origin of the döner kebab remains as elusive as ever. Çağan’s book – the first of its kind – ...

"Saban Bajramović, the late, great, gravelly voiced, high living Roma blues legend was born in Niš, a nondescript, bleak, industrial town in east Serbia, from where he embarked on a musical journey around the world that would bring him fame and the chance to earn – and lose – a small fortune." Šaban BajramovićIbrahim Kaya Šaban grew up in a ...