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 ...

The dolmuş – a Turkish minibus share taxi – jumps and bumps along the uneven road while furry dice with the word “Mashallah“ on them dangle from the rear-view mirror. Outside, there are arid, parched hills, pistachio and olive trees as far as the eye can see – a precursor to the great deserts of Syria and the Middle East. ...

Not a whole heck of a lot has changed here at Kottbusser Tor – or Kotti, as it is affectionately called by Berliners - over the past twenty years. People have come and gone, some new places have opened up and some old places have closed. But Kotti remains to this day, the secret heart of west Berlin (like Alexander Platz remains ...

A month ago I was declared dead by the Turkish media. Literally.  An Instagram posted this bit of misinformation, and as a result I received condolences on my social media portals. It wasn’t me who died, rather arabesk soul singer Volkan Bekar, who recorded  “Yalan Dolan” on the compilation “Yeralti operation” together with Mr. L in 1996. One of the most gifted – and ...

Anadol claims to be influenced by traditional Turkish pop, “such as Anadolu rock and Arabesk music from this country where I grew up. There is a connection to Folk and also French pop or Flamenco, Middle Eastern melodies and orchestration, Greek adaptations, Kenny G. solos, American guitars.” Having said this, when it comes to her own improvisations, Anadol is miles apart from her professed affinities. Anadol ...

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 ...

I had a spot of trouble at Gayhane once. This was during  those crazy five years between 2005 and 2010, when I was riding the Balkan wave, living out my midlife crises with large quantities of booze and untold substances.  Back then I wasn’t just interested in Balkan, but also Oriental, specifically Turkish music. I loved everything from halay beats to ...

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 ...