The shriek of the clarinet cuts the air and suddenly all the young bucks hit the floor, linking pinkies and dancing halay (Turkish circle dance). As the wedding band runs the gamut of popular wedding songs, the bride and the groom take center stage. Now and then a guest comes up and showers the bride with dollar bills, while the kids run ...

The first I had heard of Taner Akyol was in connection with Derya Yıldırım, the young saz player and vocalist fronting Grup Şimşek, an international band, which have made some waves both here in Berlin and abroad for their groove-laden arrangements of Turkish songs from the seventies.  Derya Yıldırım is a fine example of the neo-Anatolian sound whose other main ...

About homosexuality and Islam Mehmet doesn’t mince words. “It’s impossible, in and of itself. It’s a contradiction in terms,” says the twenty-five-year- old Turkish mobile-phone salesman from Wilmersdorf. “It’s rejected by our religion flat out. But here in Germany you are confronted with it on a daily basis. Unfortunately, you can’t sound off about it. Someone’s going to take it the ...

One Friday not long ago I met with Ero Behrić and Alen Hebilović – two erstwhile figures in Berlin’s Balkan party scene –  in a Turkish café on Oranien Straße, half an hour before cuma – Friday prayers – at the Bosnian mosque on Adalbert Straße near Kotti. They always had cuma at two o’clock at the Bosnian mosque, which was a convenient thing for ...

It’s a nice thing to be able to walk through the streets of a Turkish neighborhood and not have people stare at you all the time or mob you for autographs. David Bowie must have felt this way in Berlin in the seventies, alone and anonymous for a change – a bit like Ceza, (pronounced “Jeza”, and meaning “punishment”), the ...

Berlin is a swamp: literally, figuratively, and etymologically (Brlo - old Slavic for swamp). It will suck you down if you are not careful - and sometimes you just need to escape to save your soul.  I have been plotting my escape for a while now, even without knowing it. Sometimes I think Belgrade would be a nice place to get ...

Birol Ünel (18 August 1961 – 3 September 2020) is dead at 59. His death is not exactly breaking news. He died  three months ago of cancer. I found out about it only now, and I can hardly believe it. Kreuzberg barfly, disheveled rabble-rouser, man possessed – an only slightly less extreme version of his lead role in Fatih Akin’s ‘Gegen ...

“Nothing passes Schöneberg 30,” raps Schöneberg rap star and Lokalmatador Alpa Gun. It’s just a couple of blocks, but  between Kleistpark and Kurfürstenstrasse, Yorkstrasse and Pallas, stretches an embattled Schöneberg neighborhood which is as ghetto as Berlin gets. Home to generations of Turks and Arabs, the neighborhood is currently fighting rising rents, junkies and ever growing prostitution scene. Schöneberg 30 ...

I grew up in deep West-Berlin, right where the city peters out into suburban villas and pinewood forest, on the outer fringes of Wilmersdorf. This was as far away from the “ghetto” as you could get.  The real so-called “ghetto” – by Berlin standards – lay elsewhere, in those mean,  grey immigrant streets of Wedding, Kreuzberg, Neukölln and Schöneberg, where the ...

I am sitting with my mother on the top of a double-decker bus in Schmargendorf. It is night and the streets are wet with puddles of glittering lights and autumn leaves, and I am eating Chinese rice crackers.  This is my first memory - a Berlin memory – a memory of a city I would come to love and hate; ...

Shortly after the release of his last album, Afropentatonism, I met with vocalist, guitar and bass player, Alhousseini Anivolla at Alexanderplatz for a Berlin Bazzar photo shoot. It was a bright and  sunny day in August. Alhousseini showed up inconspicuously clad in jeans and button-down shirt and spent a good ten minutes changing into his traditional garb, wrapping his head meticulously in a black ...

The first time I heard about Hammed Khamis was from a Turkish Sufi named Selman, who frequented a tekke in Schöneberg I sometimes went to. He didn’t mention that Hammed was a professional thief turned journalist and book author. I would get this later. Rather, he said Hammed was a fixer – someone who expedited the work of journalists wishing ...

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 ...