Music & clubs

Istanbul Ghetto Club: Neukölln’s cryptic ravers

With a sound between acid synth and a Mediterranean wedding, Neukölln's masked musical crew know how to party. We caught up with them ahead of their set at Krake Festival.

Image for Istanbul Ghetto Club: Neukölln's cryptic ravers

Masked Neukölln collective Istanbul Ghetto Club have forged a sound that’s somewhere between acid synth and a Mediterranean wedding. Photo: Laura Polańska

The 2021 edition of Krake Festival gets underway today. Featuring four days of gigs, club nights, live streams and call-ins, this small-scale city festival has always had a larger-than-life attitude thanks to its signature sense of humour and heavy-hitting lineup.

Of all the acts involved this year, few fit the bill so snuggly as the ever-cryptic Istanbul Ghetto Club. Their signature sound floats in the surprisingly large and seductive space somewhere between acid synth and a Mediterranean wedding. 

Ahead of their performance this weekend, we catch up with the mysterious masked unit to see what makes them tick.

Can you tell us about the origins of how you met and started collaborating?

Welcome to Istanbul Ghetto Club, I will be your servant to answer the questions today.

In answer to your question, maybe it’s hard to imagine but we met how human beings meet in Berlin, in WGs, Spätis, concerts, exhibitions, openings and Berghain. Not on Tinder though.

What’s behind the name Istanbul Ghetto Club?

If we deconstruct it word by word; as you know Istanbul is not Constantinopolis anymore. Ghetto is a less painful place where we are gentrified slowly, maybe Neukölln since we started here.

And the club? Berghain, the one and the only.  

Istanbul Ghetto Club is a playground, from rave culture to acid house, Afrobeat to techno. 

How different is the atmosphere of live performance in Berlin compared to Istanbul? Is your music received differently?

We have never played in Istanbul as Istanbul Ghetto Club, it’s a taboo in the holy book of Istanbul Ghetto Club – the day hasn’t yet come. We first have to conquer the world.

Your music is a mix of different styles, what would you say are your biggest influences?

Istanbul Ghetto Club is a playground on our side, from rave culture to acid house or from Afrobeat to techno. 

Of course, we have been exposed to Anatolian, Greek and Middle Eastern tunes since our childhood, it’s natural and organic within us; we do not force ourselves to mix any styles. There is no recipe, we are born to do it, this is also how mixed we are.

Image for Istanbul Ghetto Club: Neukölln's cryptic ravers

“We choose to set ourselves free,” say Istanbul Ghetto Club about their on-stage mask wearing. Photo: Kiki Piperidou

One of the most compelling elements of Istanbul Ghetto Club is the mystique. Why do you perform in masks?

Everybody wears a mask, even your Späti Abi. He might smile to your face but do you know what he says behind your back? (We know.) 

We choose to set ourselves free by breathing behind the mask. And, as a bonus, less oxygen provides a different kind of brain high, which is precious. 

You guys have to give it a try.

A part of that is the erotic edge that your performances have. People are used to that energy in club music, but not necessarily in music with influences from other cultures. Why do you think that’s so surprising to some people?

It’s also surprising to us, because what we secretly plan before going on stage is to go with the flow and survive, nothing else. 

People are forcing themselves to put everything in certain boxes and this is what we don’t do. 

We obviously enjoy displacing all these unnecessary boundaries with our existence and an unintentional sarcasm that probably comes from our improvised way of living. 

A robot can be a belly dancer and a belly dancer can do a robot dance. If you put this feeling in a cage it will die, so Berlin is the place to let it fly.

Neukölln is not Europe. It’s neither east, nor west.

You’ll be streaming live from Sameheads, a Neukölln venue known for interesting artistic mixes that seem to match your particular energy. What is Neukölln to you?

Neukölln is not Europe. It’s neither east, nor west. It should be another country because it definitely doesn’t belong to Germany, and Sameheads is so precious, we feel at home there.

What’s coming up next for Istanbul Ghetto Club?

Track by track, an album is on the way. 2022 is the year. May the seatbelt be with you.

Krake Festival, 11-14 November, Anomalie Art Club. Check out our preview here.