Matze is lucky enough to stumble over Turkish musicians again and again. Quite literally, when he is in Istanbul, he always meets people who are part of the Istanbul indie scene. This time he met the rap group “Tahribad-ı İsyan”, who recently released their debut album, on a rainy Thursday on İstiklal. A fist bump, a few e-mails and a few weeks later he met them in Beyoğlu.
The rap group, founded in 2008, is a product of Istanbul’s Sulukule district. This is a place where in recent years a great uprising took place against the government’s attempts at gentrification. The three group members “Slang”, “Zen-G” and “VZ” met on the streets of Sulukule.
With their first track “Ghetto Machines“, they even got Amnesty International excited. The song was featured on the album “Roma Rights“. This was followed by the video “Wonderland” by Halik Altındere, for which the trio collaborated with the well-known Berlin rapper Fuat Ergin. Both songs are about the gentrification of the district the band are from. They set an example against the demolitions of listed houses and the repression of the local established population.
“There are just so many people in this country who want to leave. In this song we are saying: ‘Stay!’”
Since their performance in 2013 at the Istanbul Biennale, the rappers have been working with the famous musician and producer Kenan Doğulu. With him, they recently released their eponymous first album. Their name means “destruction by rebellion”; the political position of the group should therefore be clear. In their most recent video, “Suç Mu?” (“Is that a crime?”), they call on people to stay in Turkey and fight for their rights.
“There are just so many people in this country who want to leave. In this song we are saying: ‘Stay!’” VZ says. “Tahribad-ı İsyan” wants to be the voice of the oppressed: “You can be Roma. You can be Kurdish. But at the end of the day you are a human being. This is the awareness we want to awaken in our fans,” adds Slang. “It is important that Roma children see us in the video, for example, so they see that they can achieve something, too.”
Whether this message can reach a wider audience through rap is another question. “Turkey still has not found its own form of hip hop,” says Slang. “People perceive rap as something foreign. They see it on television and suspect it’s only about sex, weapons and drugs.”
According to the group, the rap industry has to be built up, there needs to be more concerts. The media also plays an important role, of course. Slang, VZ and Zen-G hope to gain more of a presence through the media: “We’re not saying everyone should be listening to rap. Only those who can get something meaningful out of the lyrics and the beats,” explains Zen-G.
At the end of the day, the three musicians are full of hope and love for hip-hop. “If I said I was only making this music as a form of protest, I would be lying,” says Slang. The group has not only been inspired by famous American rap legends like Tupac and Eminem, but also by German rappers Islamic Force and Fuat Ergin.
At the mention of Germany, Zen-G interrupts: “I am totally obsessed with Berlin! I want to live there when I’m older.” The guys have even spent time with Killa Hakan in Berlin. While Zen-G enthusiastically talks about Xatar – the “Ibrahim Tatlıses of German rap” – VZ asks about the meaning of “Haftbefehl” (a German rapper, whose name means “arrest warrant” –ed.).
“First, we need to stimulate change here before we begin to represent something abroad.”
This international interest is not a one-way street. Some of the group’s songs or videos have been translated into English and German, so that a foreign audience has more access to their music. “Yeah, we like it when our songs are subtitled since it lets more people understand their meanings.” But before the band spends proper time in Germany and Zen-G settles in Wedding, there is a lot to do at home: “We need to stimulate a change here before we begin to represent something abroad”.
For years, Tahribad-ı İsyan has been working with children and teenagers in Sulukule and the rest of Turkey. The trio has travelled to the south-eastern cities of Van and Suruç to give hip hop workshops. According to Slang, this is an essential part of the group’s work. “We do everything we can to give hope to children who feel helpless.”
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