Singing New Zealander poet and writer Sandra Sarala has been a part of the Exberliner family – as a freelancer, organiser and performer – since 2002. She currently hosts the performance series Berlin Compass at Club der polnischen Versager.
In early spring 2002, the Hackescher Markt Kiez was darkly grungy, Prenzlauer Berg still had a diverse age demographic, and in a brave new currency, €5-6 was standard admission at live gigs. I’d escaped from economic crashes in Asia and Russia and living in relative financial poverty in pre-EU-embrace Poland and the Czech Republic. New in town with basic Deutsch, I saw Berlin as the land of plenty where I could unite personal cultural communities, expand linguistic ability, find an audience for my performance poetry and archaic East European singing, and work for reasonable money.
A Zitty classified ad looking for freelance writers led me to a Jablonskistraße office, a chat with Nadja and to writing my first pieces for the fledgling magazine, beginning with a write-up of a fellow New Zealander’s gig for the mag’s first issue. All my worlds seemed to be magically coming together. When the recession hit in 2003-04, I wrote articles about the shadow economy (Jan 2004) and about how ‘scary’ Poland was (for Germany) upon EU enlargement in May 2004.
Meanwhile I co-founded and left the ensemble Polynushka, sang a Ukrainian wedding lament at two of the publishers’ wedding in a 500-year-old stone church in France and gave the notoriously ill-fated-at-cooking third one a lesson in roasting a chicken. I worked with Nadja and Cecile Rossant curating Exberliner’s Monday salon series (now Wednesdays at Kaffee Burger) and received ongoing support from the magazine in promoting my and friends’ creative work.
As the decade ended, the town filled with ambitious hipster USAers, many of whom are now leaving. I got richer and poorer, and Berlin’s Schnauze got a glossy skin. Somehow despite inflation and via our current economic crisis, the ridiculously low admission price for brilliant live shows remained the same or dropped lower. I performed at Exberliner’s Mondays, Wednesdays, 24-hour Bed-In and Exberliner Meets Borderlines, and I wrote about dental tourism, sexist ad culture, Jews, diets, BDSM, death... In a decade, Exberliner’s staff, location and face have all changed, but its core savvy has stayed; it’s a singular entity that has less wrinkles with age.