Berlin-Tokyo-connection

It’s been already 4 months since I visited Japan, but I can’t get this place out of my mind. Eating out Japanese food, drinking matcha instead of coffee and listening to Japanese jazz & funk in Berlin can help only partially, as I miss this place so much! And I only scratched the surface. However, in a way I do think that these cities are somewhat connected in the way they bridge 24/7 craziness with awesome and orderly urban planning, let alone big errors in their history and reinventing themselves after all.

So it’s high time to publish at least some of my photos taken during my 15 days travelling around and visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Koya-San, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Nagasaki, Gunkanjima, Yokohama and Nikko. Indeed, scratching the surface but there is so much to see almost everywhere!

When I landed in Tokyo, although jet lagged and overwhelmed by 22nd century inventions (TOTO included), I already felt I will love the place. I’ve chosen a good time to visit: Indian summer felt warm, but not too humid, which can be a problem if you visit Tokyo during summer months. I decided to share my time and energy between the crazy neighbourhoods like Ikebukuro, Akihabara and Shinjuku and peaceful places like Ueno Park, Asakusa or Hamarikyu Gardens.

But usual unusual places like owl shrines, directions to ‘Sunshine’, noisy pachinko spots and cat cafes were stealing my attention continuously. Crowded Tokyo makes anything possible: J-pop merging with dark techno, commercial centres located next to sacred shinto places. And its cities for some reason stay almost sterile.

Not only safety and cleanness impress tourists, also train and subway connections make you feel very small. But not lost – it’s actually very difficult to get lost in Japan, even if you don’t know the language. Everyone is helpful, patient and information is usually available in English… to some extent. For some reason I always felt I was missing out a lot, if not being ‘lost in translation’.

Among the most remarkable things I’ve done in Tokyo I listed: visiting geysha bar with my sexologist friend Masayoshi, trying to fry our own okonomiyaki with Gosia – a friend from Poznan I only managed to meet in Tokyo after years, and visiting onsen in Tokyo Dome with Kyoto-born and Spanish-speaking Yasue followed by a feast of ‘Japanese tapas’. All of that, was shockingly (!) good!

My personal highlight would definitely be digging the vinyl crates around Shibuya and Ebisu and finding some rare gems at Jazzy Sport Music Shop, to start off. And buying XS-sized Issey Miyake clothes that fit me on a ridiculous sale.

For some people the size of Tokyo is overwhelming, but I have to admit, after finding my way throughout the city, I felt pretty comfortable commuting between the neighbourhoods. I guess it’s the proportion between the amount of concrete and the green spaces that makes Tokyo such a healthy living organism. Also, I was told that it never stays the same: due to space limitations, the buildings are rebuilt approximately within 10-20 years, so chances are, that when I visit it next, I won’t recognize some of my pictures.

Day and night differ so much though. Bars between Shibuya and Shinjuku in a weird way remind me those from Berlin, and during my stay even Tresor Festival took place in Tokyo.

It all leads me to a conclusion: the discovery is never complete but there are dots that one can connect easily. It felt impossible to write a single entry about Tokyo, and after reading a few books, I know there is no such thing like a closed chapter that can be written about this city. I feel the same about Berlin, although on a different, everyday scale. Time for my last matcha latte today!

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Dancing thru the dark

 

I have to admit that 2016 was very abundant in terms of the art I saw: the exhibitions that made me think and the concerts I’ve attended. I do think a special focus for me is anything surpassing the boundaries in the contemporary art, with a focus on interpreting the classics and referring to the current musical trends.

I am not a professional dancer not an artist myself, but I do love exploring both (if this was not clear by the content of this blog yet). Here in Berlin I make sure to track especially anything by Sascha Waltz und Guests (from ‘Travelogue’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to ‘Le Sacre du Printemps’ and ‘Koerper’). This dance company has been showcased this year at Radialsystem V, Berliner Festspiele and Deutsche Oper.

Another highlight of 2016 was definitely the exhibition of Pina Bausch‘s works and deep dive into the history of her dance company, accompanied by the ‘Palermo, Palermo’ show only this month.

What I find special about the dance theater, is not only the physical, but also symbolic expression and freedom it brings. I have already confessed that for me personally letting go through dance is liberating and simply making me stronger, even if these cold and dark months have been exhausting.

Just like in the ‘Seasons’ march’ by Pina Bausch, there is a rhythm, which everyone has to find on its own, and at the end of the day, all the movements may feel similar. The work around repetition and symbols was one of the typical approaches in her Tanztheater, and I think it caries some universal truth. ‘Everything I do, I do as a dancer, everything, everything’ she said once. And I believe that dancing not only through the night/the season/and the darkness but also through the whole live can be a very good idea.

29th Nov

29th Nov is a special day in Berlin, which could probably be added as an extra day off (there are very few Public Holidays in this city anyway!). What happened on that day I have no idea, apart from what I’ve googled now. Apparently Godzilla received its star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but I’m not sure this could be a trigger for creating some of the craziest, quirkiest and most creative label for techno videos.

Last year I was lucky to celebrate 9 years of 29th Nov films on the already legendary Boiler Room party and looking forward to its 10th anniversary.

Maybe it is a coincidence, but it seems there is some strange tradition of throwing 29 hour long parties in this beautiful city. Apart from celebrating 29th Nov, almost each year The Long Now is celebrating the seasons change with a 29 hour show in Kraftwerk.

Since November is the month when the days are getting unbelievably dark, cold and gloomy, having started my 3rd year in Berlin, I fall back into living out of the amazing offer that this city has for music aficionados like me: be it jazz concerts, contemporary dance classes or amazing line ups every week(end).

Or binge-watching Youtube videos, since GEMA has finally allowed most of the content that was out of reach for German IPs for years, due to its famous lawsuit. I can totally recommend randomly choosing 29th Nov videos, and you will not be disappointed. I have consciously chosen some of my favourite ones below, although I could easily start a campaign of posting one video every day for the rest of the month.

Till then, the will be enough reasons this month to celebrate. Commemorating the freedom that brought the fall of the Wall, first snow in the city (apparently next Tuesday already) or Prince Charles (the club, it is) anniversary with some amazing DJs coming up like Theo Parrish or Moodymann. Plus hopefully Donald Trump losing the elections very soon. In any case, happy 29th Nov everyone!

Sound Sculpture in Szczecin

Last month for me was exceptionally full of events in Berlin during the work week, and shorter or longer getaways during the weekends. Similarly like last year around springtime, I felt tempted to explore not only Berlin and Brandenburg, but also the coastline.

Triggered by the concert of one of my favourite Polish electronic music producers in the newly built Philharmonic Hall in Szczecin, together with my friend, we decided to spend a weekend in Szczecin, the biggest Polish city situated next to the North-Eastern frontier.

Typically people would go there on the way to some other locations: like for instance Polish seaside towns or even more popular summer festivals, like Plötzlich am Meer. The train ride to Szczecin would take us less than 2 hours and cost… less than 6 EUR, if you manage to find your ‘Berlin-Brandenburg-Ticket’ group, which is almost a ritual part of this route. Otherwise, if you don’t feel like socializing, you can stick to a special fare, individual ticket for 10 EUR.

Szczecin itself has its specific charm. On one hand, it’s probably one of the most spacious cities in terms of territory: situated by the bay, river and countless lakes, it is indeed huge. Given its difficult, war, post-war and heavily industrialised history, it also seems derelict or unproportionally uncrowded comparing to its size. This has a lot to do with the migrations to other bigger cities or neighbouring Germany. So obviously there are places one shouldn’t visit after the sun goes down.

However, there are some sparkles of creativity in reconstructing the city, and bringing more cultural events. The area surrounding the castle and the promenade is full of interesting street art and the city tries to attract different people by hosting cultural events such as Kontrapunkt, or at least inviting unusual artists like Skalpel for the electronic music showcases in the extraordinary set up in the Philharmonic, which is worth visiting itself.

I enjoyed this visit greatly, given that I was pointed many recommendations by my friends originating from Szczecin and the concert exceeded my expectations.

If you like history, scratching beyond the surface, and discovering the beauty in the atypically interesting architecture, yet you’re bold enough – visiting Szczecin sounds good in combining it with one of its cultural events.

 

 

Techno symphony for Berlin Metropolis

Berlin, the acclaimed city of music, film and creative industry in general, received a very special gift last week.On 8th March 2016, Jeff Mills presented the premiere of his soundtrack for the ‘Symphony of the Great City’ within the Cinemix series. I have to say, that I am still speechless after his performance in a small studio cinema in Hackescher Markt. I am far from being a psychofan, but sitting not even 2 m away from the turntables of the maestro made it for unforgettable experience.

While the original movie is interesting enough to watch anytime, falling under the cinematic Berlin to-dos, the special history and link between Jeff Mills, Underground Resistance, the industrial revolution, and finally the bridge of techno music for Detroit and Berlin, made the Cinemix premiere one of its kind. Legend of the early Tresor years captivated the mood, rhythm and musical landscape of the city, and I bet no one could rewrite the soundtrack better than he did, given his unique connection to Berlin.

Previously we could watch Jeff Mills’ Cinemix production of Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’, as below:

It is incredible, how relevant techno OST can be even after 90 years of the original movie premiere. During the screening of ‘The Symphony of the Great City’ I was stunned, how much the city changed, and at the same time, how much the energy remained the same. Alienation, industrialization, and on the other hand: consumption, excessive and extravagant social/night life describes the early years of 20th Century in Berlin much as the hype these days.

So in case you are curious to check the movie, here is the original footage of the Symphony of the Great City. I can only hope that Jeff Mills’ OST will become one of the most important, timeless masterpieces, universally defining Berlin as a cosmopolitan, dynamic and forward-thinking city.

This is my church

Kraftwerk stands for the ‘power station’ in German. And there are quite a few of them remaining in the centre of Berlin nowadays, including the overpraised Berghain. Its worship makes it for one of the strongest religious movements these days and it’s only a matter of time when the local authorities will start charging for the techno tax, in my humble opinion. But there is also an actual Kraftwerk in Mitte, used only for specific venues, such as The Long Now / Atonal or currently: CTM.

So while awaiting the Deep Web performance and Robert Henke’s concert, I decided to share the set of photos that comes from the 2015 edition of Berlin Atonal festival. During some five hot days in August last year, I was lucky to praise and dance to some amazing artists, such as Ugangan Methods (Ancient Methods + Regis), Shackleton, Alessandro Cortini, Kanding Ray, Varg, Shed, Samuel Kerridge, Lakker (who presented the amazing Tundra works), and many others. I remember the very powerful opening with the voices of the Chor der Kulturen der Welt in this mighty space, as well as the screening of ‘Industrial Soundtrack for the Urban Decay’ by Amélie Ravalec and Travis Collins. 

The light and sound installations set up in the basements and various labyrynths of Kraftwerk were also ery hypnotizing, almost sleepwalking ambience. So after all, I wonder why isn’t it a spot for regular events? I guess the overwhelming size of it, and the magical atmosphere of it just doesn’t match a regular Klubnacht. I think though that if Berghain is a parochial church, Kraftwerk is the cathedral, following the sacred metaphore.

So, see you at the black (laser?) mass on Sunday!

Special thanks goes to: Aldona Weicher, the author of the featuring photo and lately my favourite profile cover. You captured me, the place and the closing moment perfectly!

Berlin Radio

When I was a kid, I remember being haunted by a recurring nightmare that I am being exposed to a radio that can’t be turned off and forced to listen to very bad music and news 24/7. After years of autoanalysis, I obviously put the blame on my parents who made sure that I receive a proper music education from the early years: exposing me to piano and singing classes few times per week. So at the age of 8 or so, I composed my first VERY abstract ‘track’ on my synthesiser. Later I discovered it had something to do with Theo Parrish early experiments. And thus, I developed very low tolerance to bullshit and mainstream sounds.

Music has determined many of my life choices, including the places of residence and travel destinations. And as for my childhood nightmare, last year I discovered someone flipping it into a dream. Aybee, US-origin DJ, filmmaker and producer, currently based in Berlin, created a very interesting story of a journey of a radio throughout different neighbourhoods of the city. I was very happy to see that the radio was broadcasting very deep sounds that were simply ticking the right knobs of my brain. As well as that the people paid attention to it, contrary to the stereotype that Berlin is a cold city full of very indifferent people. But well, to be fair, this radio met people like Ari, Fred P or Levon Vincent on its way. It also passed my house a few times, no wonder why.

All of these DJs are regularly playing in various venues and combine that unique Detroit-Chicago-Berlin flavour. Be it techno, be it soul, be it house or whatever you call it (as I hate labels, I prefer – following my dear friend Enclave – using colours or temperatures to describe music), if I found this radio on the Michaelbruecke, I’d adopt it for life. Just check it out (Aybee is playing regularly in Panorama Bar or Tresor, too) and fall in love with Berlin once again.