The crowd is dancing wildly. Suddenly the rhythm stops, the drums fall silent. Only the trumpet moans, then changes into a looping oriental melody. The drums start again. The crowd jumps up, dancers shout in desperate ecstasy.
This is BalkanBeats, igniting for one night in Berlin each month, in one of the epicentres of the city’s nightlife, a club called Lido. A young, native club crowd mixes with international party people and ex-pats from the Balkans – all join together for a sweaty mash up which rarely stops before sunrise. BalkanBeats' originator, curator and resident DJ is named Robert Soko. He's been the pioneering mastermind behind the decks for more than 16 years now, and in the meantime he's spread his powerful message not only to other European capitals such as Budapest, London, Napoli and Paris but to far flung locales like South Africa and Brazil.
It was 1990 when Robert Soko left his home town Zenica in Bosnia. After travelling around a bit, he ended up in Berlin. The wall had just fallen, everything seemed possible. At that time Soko couldn't imagine that his homeland would soon would turn into the arena of the most cruel war Europe had seen since World War II. In 1992 the Balkans exploded. Hate and revenge shook the region. More and more refugees came to Berlin, many of them still called themselves “Yugoslavians” at a time when their contemporaries split up into Serbs, Croats, Bosnians ...
In 1993 Soko started his party for lost immigrants in the Arcanoa, a punk bar in the sidestreets of Kreuzberg. With roots in many corners of former Yugoslavia himself, he knew that music was the connecting link between all peoples. Together with his friend Rüdiger Rossig, he played Yugo rock’n’roll, punk and ska - relics of a world that had perished. A little later he rediscovered traditional music through films of Serbian director Emir Kusturica. The powerful tunes of Roma brass bands seemed to be composed of the sort of strong emotions that could mysteriously open out to deep, all-embracing love for the world, sad melancholy and overwhelming happiness.
These old sounds, mixed with new electronic beats, hit the party crowd like a lightning bolt. BalkanBeats was rough, full of emotion, weeping and laughing at the same time. Jumping. Handwaving. Shouting. Intoxicating and ecstatic. That's why Robert Soko's BalkanBeats became a style unto itself, now copied by many all over the world. BalkanBeats has the power to transform a crowd of strangers into a circle of friends. This is the message: Unify the people! Move your body. Move your heart. Hajde!
by Mirko Heinemann