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; ...

Scene: Friday afternoon on Sonnenallee, otherwise known as the “Gaza Strip”. I am sitting at a table outside an Arabic baklava joint, drinking  a thin coffee out of a paper cup. The sidewalk is hopping with Arabs come from all over to do their shopping at Arabic supermarkets and greengrocers and I am waiting for one the street’s most colorful characters ...

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 ...