Author and one of the founders of Kanak Attak, a movement against racism, İmran Ayata, contributed immensely to introduce Turkish immigrant’s songs in Germany to large masses.
Many heard these songs for the first time, when he, together with artist Bülent Kullukçu, made a compilation named "Songs of Gastarbeiter Vol. 1".
This year, ten years later than the first volume, Vol. 2 is coming out with the songs of immigrants who went to Germany from other countries like Greece and Italy.
We are happy to share the story of “Songs of Gastarbeiter Vol. 1” with Imran Ayata’s words.
Translated to English by Zeynep Beler.
“The 50-Year Sham Marriage”
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Turkish-West German Labor Agreement, the Ballhaus Naunystrasse Theatre in Berlin was preparing a festival focused on Turkish-German relations. The program had the brilliant title of “50 Jahre Scheinehe”, or “The 50-Year Sham Marriage”. Knowing my enthusiasm for music, my friends in the festival office asked me to take over its music division.
It was around that time I read an interview with Bülent Kullukçu in a newspaper. In it, Bülent described collecting “gastarbeiter” music. I, too, was collecting this music, and the first thing that crossed my mind was, “Look at that, another fool. I’d better give him a call.” I called Bülent who immediately said, “Sure, I’ll come in, we’ll see what we can do.”
We organized a night at the festival and had a lovely evening playing tracks from both his archive and mine. The atmosphere in the venue was unbelievable. Amongst the third generation members of the audience were some who wept, I exaggerate not.
“How did we not know of such a thing? This is the first I’ve heard my grandpa’s music…” and so on.
The two of us continued making music for the remainder of the event with remixes we’d prepared of the same tracks; our guests blew off some steam.
Turns out that some people from Trikont Records were also present that night and were deeply impressed. All at once we were signing with them. Preparing this record took a whopping two years because finding high resolution recordings of these songs and obtaining permits took a massive amount of effort.
Ata Canani's Track that was on YouTube, Had Twenty Four Views
Ata Canani had a track that was on YouTube, for instance, which had twenty four views. One night I was talking with Bülent and asked him how many times he’d seen that video. “Maybe five, six times.” And I’d seen it maybe six times too, so that made twelve. We asked ourselves how that could be. That is to say, this project is no Buena Vista Social Club.
Our entire budget for the Songs of Gastarbeiter was seven hundred and fifty Euros. We achieved it through our own means, that is. We had unflagging faith in the project. I for one felt certain that it would result in the tremendous impression that it did.
Dream of Setting Up a Stage Musicians
We also always dreamt of setting up a stage for all these musicians. I traveled to Berlin and got ahold of Gurbetçi Rıza. The man thought I was insane. 30, 40 years ago, he’d recorded and made a few hundred copies of his album, paying out of his own pocket. He couldn’t believe it would be coming out under a German record company all these years later. “Rıza ağabey, Rıza amca, Rıza ağabey, I swear it’s true, just come!” I cajoled. We got him on stage in a club in Berlin. That alone is more significant to me than selling a thousand copies of a record.
At that time, out of practicality, we’d only included the music of immigrants from Turkey. That caused a bit of a misunderstanding along the lines of, “but Gastarbeiters from Turkey weren’t the only ones.” Finally, ten years on, we’re preparing an album that also includes immigrants from countries such as Greece and Italy. Songs of Gastarbeiter Vol. 2 is set for release in October.