ISTANBUL – Turkish Daily News
A Gypsy punk band touring Turkey broke away from its formal schedule yesterday to stage a surprise appearance at Sulukule, the embattled Istanbul neighborhood that is the oldest Roma settlement in the world.Gogol Bordello, a band originally from Ukraine but including members from a host of countries, visited Sulukule in a show of support against an urban transformation project underway that is blamed for ignoring the current Roma inhabitants of the area and threatening them with homelessness.
Sulukule is being demolished since February. Fatih Municipality continues the transformation project despite the objections of many. Sulukule Platform, an organization working to save the quarter, contacted the band long before it arrived in Turkey. One of the platform's representatives Neşe Ozan said Gogol Bordello's members and their families had once been in the same situation as Sulukule residents. �The band is here to show Roma people they are not alone and they want to support the act to save the gypsy culture and the district.�
Gogol Bordello's soloist Eugene Hutz, in the Sunday concert, said, �The incidents happening in Sulukule happen in many places around the world. Do people want more McDonalds' and hotel chains? Or is it more logical to protect a country's culture and historical structures? The choice is yours.�
There were many people, including locals, journalists, tourists and municipality authorities waiting in Sulukule for the world famous band yesterday.
One of them, a 55-year-old woman, born and raised in Sulukule, Gülsüm, a little chubby and talkative, has even attended TV shows to save her homeland. �I won't leave my house no matter what the municipality offers me, I don't even want a palace,� she said. According to her, Roma people won't be able to assimilate if they move to another place.
Austrian Astrid Heubrandtner was among the audience waiting to see Gogol Bordello. Heubrandtner came to Istanbul in January to shoot a documentary film about Sulukule. �Istanbul is one of the most interesting cities in the world, but having Sulukule as one of its districts makes it even more attractive,� she said and added, �I think people should feel proud of having a district like Sulukule.�
Soloist Hutz complained that nobody really knows what is happening in Sulukule. �I spoke to many people about the district during my trips to Turkey and I understood that people don't know much about the history of the district,� said Hutz. According to the band members, the right move would be �to protect� not �to destroy.� Hutz stated that it is sad to decide upon annihilating a historic place and culture.
Sulukule Mayor İsmail Altıntoprak emphasized that there should be a carnival organized to promote Sulukule's culture and music. �This way the gypsy culture can be promoted to the whole world and we can protect the population,� said Altıntoprak. Gogol Bordello promised to take part in the carnival as long as such an event is achievable.
Who is the band?
Formed in 1999 Gogol Bordello comes from New York's Lower East Side. The band is known for its theatrical shows, inspired by gypsy music. The core members are immigrants from eastern Europe. The band's name comes from Nikolai Gogol, who "smuggled" Ukrainian culture into Russian society. The band released its first single in 1999, followed by four albums so far. Last weekend was the band's third visit to Turkey, where it is admired and has a number of fans.