Kottbusser Tor – or Kotti, as Berliners affectionately call it – is the secret heart of West Berlin. It is a vibrant street center full of violent and often unpleasant contrasts. It’s a place where Turkish immigrants and hedonists mingle like oil and water, brushing shoulders, but wrapping themselves in separate worlds of their own. It is also the genius setting of Turkish hip-hop.
Here in SO36, the old zip code for this section of Berlin, a Turkish street gang emerged in the mid-1980s and has since become part of the Kreuzberg legend. While the walls of West Berlin were stained with Türken Raus! (Turks out!) Slogans and Turks ban homes, 36 members of the Boys gang sought strength in numbers to fight racists and neo-Nazis.
The 36 Boys would go on to boast an excellent graduate, including world kickboxer champion, acclaimed film and theater director, celebrity chef (the only German in the gang), and a German-Ghanian rap star who later joined and dies fighting for the terrorist organization ISIS, Perhaps one of the most famous Turkish rappers, well known among both German Turks and hip-hop lovers in Turkey, is a man known by the name of Kela Hakan, whose latest song “Fight Kulüp” is currently 68 million clicks and is based on YouTube.
Arriving at Kottbusser Tor by elevated train, you’ll be pulled into the chaotic center of six traffic-packed streets that converge like Cairo beneath a brutal, sprawling 12-story apartment complex from the 1970s, known as Neue Kreuzberger Zentrum, NKZ for short, or Kreuzberg Merkezi by neighborhood Turks. Under it, immigrant shopkeepers run an active trade.
In a modern, cane-like alley of Kotti, Killa Hakan’s parents ran a small grocer, or grocery store, until recently.
“We are the shops, we are the fame, we are the water, we are the land, we are the streets,” Kela Hakan says of the Kreuzberg Turks. “Kreuzberg we are. Kreuzberg wants us. We are stones and sand. We know where we come from. We knew what it was like back in the day. We know how Kreuzberg became where it is today. We are witnesses. Kreuzberg and we are in it together.”
Kela Hakan, according to his own account, had a troubled young man. A gang member and gangster who spent time in a botched robbery of a Kreuzberg jewelry store, he turned to rap in prison when he heard the music of Islamic Power, a legendary early West Berlin Turkish rap group whose song “My Melodie” was a discovery for a generation of immigrant hip-hop youth Young.
When they heard it in the disco, a sample of the arabesque Ibrahim Tatlis, followed by “Kick the melody, kick, kick the melody …” All the Turks turned, took each other, and danced the Halai, an Anatolian folk dance.
Outsiders saw the name as hostile and provocative, but in reality Islamic power has nothing to do with Islam.
On the album cover, aftermarket was a quote from a poem by the Anatolian poet Yunus Emre: “Our name is shame. Our enemy is hate. We do not hate anyone. For us the whole world is one.” In the end, they changed their name to Kan-AK so as not to offend any conservative Muslim.
Islamic Power head boy B, who was weaned to hip-hop films “Beat Street” and “Wild Style”, was weaned at Naunyn Ritze, Germany’s most popular youth club, on Naunyn Strabe, where he rapped in English, spreading the word American old- Hip hop community school. He was a hip-hop guru in Kreuzberg, a mouthpiece and a supporter, whose enthusiasm for hip-hop was contagious.
Kela Hakan said, “I got into music through Boe B. He spotted me. Before that, I was 36. I still am. I was in a gang at the time, I wasn’t interested in music. I had a lot of problems due to misunderstandings. : You and us, Turks versus Germans, blah blah…always troubles, gangs, and then, of course, I was in jail. Boe B was the only guy who said to me, ‘Hey don’t waste your life.’ When I got out, I devoted myself to hip-hop.”
Just like old school, American hip-hop has its founding myths, as does Turkish hip-hop, which has its roots not only in Islamic force music but in a single song by the German-Turkish rap crew Cartel, which bears the name of his song. “The Cartel” has sold 300,000 albums in Turkey and stormed the charts, toppling Michael Jackson in the first class in the summer of 1995, and filling football stadiums in Turkey.
The Kartel, with their bold and wise songs referring to the daily struggles of Turks in Germany as well as expressing a strong sense of Turkish identity (critics said “chauvinistic”), produced a generation of home-grown Turkish rappers. Suddenly it became acceptable to rap in Turkish, and with a healthy dose of patriotism.
“Kartel has definitely been an inspiration to all of us,” said Turkish rapper Siza (which means “punishment” in Turkish), speaking from the basement of a Turkish bar on Oranien Strabe, Kreuzberg’s main street.
“I was 18 when I first heard them. And that was the time I said to myself, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s the way to do it.’ I’d been writing my lyrics before, but Cartel gave me a real boost. I can generally say that hip music The hop made by Turkish immigrants in Germany definitely inspired us.”
Ceza lives at home in Kreuzberg, stays here frequently for months on and off, crashing into the Killa Hakan Kreuzberg stand when he comes by. He periodically performs in Kreuzberg.
It doesn’t bother him that he brings only a few hundred German Turks to his concerts, which pale in comparison to the thousands that come to his shows in Istanbul, where he has collaborated with some of Turkey’s best artists, including Sezen Aksu, Müslüm Gürses, Yıldız Tilbe and Candan Ergtin.
Not only does Ceza make frequent trips to Berlin, Kreuzberg, but Ceza’s sister, Ayben, a rap star in her own right, and the first Turkish female rapper to rap in the Turkish language, is also considering making Kreuzberg her permanent title.
Speaking from a Kreuzberg pub with Volkan T, a Turkish rapper from Frankfurt, who has lived in Kreuzberg since the mid-90s and with whom Ayben collaborates on various projects, Ayben explained to me how she comes to Kreuzberg once or twice a year, staying for several months at a stretch.
“It was my first time with my brother,” Eben said. “It was a European tour. German tour. That was 2005. Initially for business. Then I married my husband who studies here. Then I started coming because of him.”
When asked if she finds Berlin Turks different from Istanbul Turks, she said: “There are differences. I deal with two different societies. One is the artist scene, especially at that time with the Ballhaus Naunyn and Gorki (two cultural institutions in Berlin). Then there is A completely different scene. It is much easier to talk about Turkey here in Berlin.”
Kreuzberg continues to transform from a neglected immigrant district to the coveted szene-viertel (scene district) and clubland hotspot, filled with increasingly upscale bars, trendy cafés and emerging offices.
Whereas in the past, no one wanted to know about the Turks who lived here, today they are seen as strange purveyors of atmosphere.
“Kreuzberg today is very different than it was when I first arrived in the mid-90s,” Volkan T said. “Here in Wrangelkiez there were only two bars. One of them was the bar we are sitting in now. Apart from that, there were no places. Only a Bosnian cafe and a Turkish cafe here. No showrooms and no clothes shops. Around 2002, 2003 it started to change drastically “.
“Of course, a lot of people have moved here building things and they want to do new things,” said Kela Hakan.
“Rents are going up. But if we (the Turks) are not here anymore, Kreuzberg will not be what it was. When the shops are not here, when our parents are not here… For now, Kreuzberg Istanbul is still small.”
More to track …
Bulletin Observer Showbiz, Fashion, Culture
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?