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 ...

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 ...

We had just passed the border and were still twenty kilometers from our destination, but as the Orient Express neared Edirne, the Selemiyi mosque with its floodlit dome and 70 meter high minarets, shone like a beacon into the night sky. This was as it was meant to be. The mosque – biggest in the Ottoman Empire; greater even than ...

The train line from Prijepolje in the south Serbian Sandžak to Podgorica in Montenegro is perhaps the most dramatic in Europe. You go through tunnel after tunnel, skirting the precipice of one of the world’s deepest canyons. The mountains here are indescribably rugged, barely cultivable and scarcely inhabited. Here and there in the midst of this grey wilderness of barren rock you ...

One of my favorite musicians is the Bulgarian/Turkish accordionist called ‘Ciguli.’ Unfortunately, he passed away in 2014. After he died, the Istanbul based Roll Magazin re-published an extensive interview with him. Getting to understand Ciguli’s life and point of view only made me appreciate him more. He talks about his love of Bollywood, the situation of the  turkish ethnic minority ...

Erol Ünal, a young German Turk from Esslingen, near Stuttgart, has come out with a scathing anti-Muslim exposé entitled, Der Abtrünnige – 15 Jahre in Moscheegemeinden. Meine Einblicke in eine Welt von Fundamenalisten und Rechtsextreme, über Radikale bis zu Sufis.  First off, let me say although I disagree with Ünal right from the get-go; taking issue with his tenets, precepts and conclusions, ...

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 ...

At five in the morning a wailing comes up from the valley below as one mosque after another broadcasts the call to prayer, a coagulating chorus joining up together in one unified lament – Allāhu akbar,  Allah, Ash-hadu an-lā ilāha illā allāh, Ash-hadu anna Mohamadan-Rasul ullāh……  It is weird and unearthly, and as I lay in my bed,  listening to this otherworldly ululation coming ...

“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 ...

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. ...