Jam Session

One of the perks of being friends with street musicians: you’re often treated to impromptu concerts and jam sessions. Here three members of the Illegal Boys, a Polish group performing around Berlin, rapper Kool Kasai and Malte on accordion got together for a little fun. Being utterly devoid of any musical talent, I’m always amazed how fast and without much of a prologue these guys manage to fuse their different styles into a coherent, convincing whole that makes people stop and listen. 

Camera: Fujifilm X-T10 with 35mm f1.4 lens.

Creatures of the Night

One of the facets I enjoy hugely with the Fujifilm X-T10 camera is shooting at night. Pairing the older 35mm f1.4 lens with the camera’s high, relatively noise-free ISO setting makes it possible to get great results at low light settings.

Here we are again at Berlin’s Südstern. The weather in Berlin has recently once again been very summery, considering it’s already September, which means that we are able to enjoy a few more balmy nights before the onset of the long grey season that once used to be called Autumn and Winter.

Wearing Enigmas…

I have a distinct fondness for tattoos and when I saw this lady sitting in the doorstep of a tatto parlour in Berlin-Kreuzberg, I just had to ask if I could take her photo….

Wearing Enigmas. Camera: Fujifilm X-E2

Südstern continued…

As I keep hanging out around this particular subway station in Berlin, here are a couple more shots of the people who enjoy hanging out there as well….

Olga and Creed
Riscy (photo by Chris)

Kool Kasai Solo (Music Video)

This is the new video I made of Berlin’s subway rapper Kool Kasai, this time doing a solo performance at Berlin’s subway station. We filmed this video on an iPhone. 

See also the first video of Kool Kasai jamming with some friends….

Meanwhile back at Südstern

Several of the musicians that ply their trade in Berlin’s subway system tend to hang out at the Südstern subway station, including rapper Chris aka Kool Kasai and didgeridoo player/ drummer Oliver aka QuasiMono of whom I posted a video the other day. Here are a few more pics from Saturday night.

Christina from Lithuania and Antonio from Italy, a couple who recently moved from London to Berlin and are currently caught in Germany’s intractable bureaucracy while trying to get registered, find a flat and find a job – all at the same time. Antonio is a chef and sings and plays the guitar in a gothic metal band. Christina used to run a gothic shop in Camden.

Oliver and his didgeridoo

Chris and a member of the Polish band Illegal Boys. On Saturday they were performing together on the U7 line, to great acclaim.

Oliver and Friedrich. Friedrich doesn’t play an instrument per say, but he keeps trying out the various instruments of the other performers, and it sounds promising…

Camera: Fujifilm X-E2 with 35mm1.4 lens.

Kool Kasai and Friends

Chris, who goes under the handle Kool Kasai, usually does freestyle rapping in Berlin’s subway trains. Sometimes he teams up with friends in order to jam. He had asked me to film him perform with Eleonora from Venezuela, who sings and plays the Quarto, and Oliver a.k.a QuasiMono, on drum. Here is the video:

I have seen Chris performing in the subway for something like 7 of 8 years, I think. He’s been hanging out close to where I live, and we got talking a few weeks ago, and been having a beer or two together every so often around one of the subway stations. He is one of the most interesting people you can meet around Berlin, talented and smart and with a life experience that belies his relative youth. He’s hoping to move on from subway rapping to more substantial gigs, hence this tryout with Eleonora and Oliver. His goal is to get a spot on a concert series that takes place in Berlin’s Hermannplatz every Thursday during the summer.

Oliver can usually be seen around Berlin playing the didgeridoo. He has produced and published a few tracks that mix the didgeridoo with electronics to great effect. Here they are on Soundcloud: http://www.soundcloud.com/quasimonoton .

I used the Fujifilm X-T10 to film the video; this is the first time I used the camera to shoot video and it shows in a couple of places….

Detritus: Signs of Uneasy Cohabitation

Over the past 12 months, I shot a  series of photographs throughout the Berlin districts of Kreuzberg and Neukoelln, two traditionally working-class districts that are now being gentrified. The series focuses on items – furniture, cloths, shoes, electronic appliances – placed outside on the pavements by local residents.

Berliners always had a tendency to get rid of unwanted items by simply disposing of them in the public space. However, in Neukoelln and Kreuzberg, this phenomenon has become increasingly more prominent as gentrification increases, and as the old working-class (or unemployed) tenants have to make way for the hipsters and the young professionals. Disposing of trash by simply putting it out on pavements and in parks is against the law, of course, and as such constitutes an act of defiance against Germany’s much loved sense of order. This act of defiance may simply be down to lazy nests or economic reasons (you have to pay money to get bulky items properly disposed of), but it can also be seen as a defiant gesture, the departing locals giving the finger to the new arrivals before they leave the neighborhood; or a sign of protests against the prettification and increasing orderliness of the neighborhood – in the same way that graffiti is used as a protest against law and order. Be that as it may, it is this act of defiance that I chose to document with this series. Continue reading “Detritus: Signs of Uneasy Cohabitation”

Not-Quite-Middle Earth

This past weekend I revisited a place where I used to live prior to moving to Berlin: Beaufort, in the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg. The small town is unremarkable but boasts an 11th century castle and, leading away from the castle, a narrow valley which conjures myths and legends. If you ever find yourself in Luxembourg, make sure to visit the place.

Continue reading “Not-Quite-Middle Earth”

Kolkata Travelogue

imageI recently got around to tidying up the Travel section on my web site, and at the same time posted new images from my last trip to Kolkata.

I first visited Kolkata back in 1986 (it was still called Calcutta back then). The trip was a nightmare. The friend I was travelling with ended up in hospital with dyssentri, and instead of travelling around the country, we were stuck in the city which back then was quite horrible. It was extremely overcrowded – people were fleeing the impoverished countryside in masses and ended up as squatters in Kolkata. The city was polluted, smelly and traffic perpetually congested. I literally still had nightmares of the place months after being back in Europe. It took me almost 30 years to go back to the city, but when I did, in 2013, I found a place much changed for the better. It is a lot less crowded, and it is less dirty and hectic than Mumbai for instance. I returned there again in 2014 and 2015, which tells you that now I am quite fond of the place.

Kolkatans take pride in that their city is different from other Indian cities, and indeed it is, even though, as an outsider, I may find it difficult to judge just what that difference is. Kolkata is relatively young, of course; daring back to the 18th century only. It used to be India’s most populous city, until Mumbai overtook it, and during the British occupation, it was the capital of the British Raj. And indeed, it is this British past which characterises Kolkata to a large degree – certainly in its architecture, from the Victoria Memorial on down to the many stately villas, many of them now sadly crumbling or being demolished. The city once boasted a vibrant Jewish community, which numbered 5000 before Indian independence, but is now down to 26 members. Similarly, Kolkata is home to India’s only Chinatown, but the ethnic Chinese community has also dwindled considerably.

The city is named after the goddess Kali, and a friend of mine argues that it this which leads to women being far more empowered in Kolkata than in the rest of India.

The photos I put up are from those three last trips – unfortunately I have no photos left from the 1986 trip. I organised the images into three sets:

  1. The City: as the name implies, photos from around the city. It is not meant to be a travel guide, and many of the landmark sites are missing from the collection. Instead I have included images of those places which interested me the most. My favourite ones were probably the overgrown grounds of the National Library and the equally overgrown Victorian-era South Park Street Cemetery. Also included are photos from two of the three Kolkatan synagogues.
  2. Kolkata At Night: these are scenes from night time festivities during three Kolkata festivals: the Durga Pujas (in honour of the goddess Durga, a manifestation of the goddess Kali), the Kali Durgas (in honour of Kali), and the all-Indian festival of Diwali.
  3. Across the River: images from the area outside Kolkata, on the opposite banks of the Hooghly River, as that particular branch of the Ganges is called –  Chandannagar, an area which once belonged to the French (and Portuguese and Swedes).

For more India travel photos, click here.

For portrait and street photography from India, click here.

Click here to read more on Kolkata’s Jewish community.

South Park Street Cemetery