BERLIN DAYZ - RUSSENDISKO with WLADIMIR KAMINER: There was a considerable ex-pat German showing for the night, covering a broad range of ages from the mid-lifers to the younger uni crowd, who seemed to know what to expect at a Russian slash East-West Berlin nightclub. But I was in the dark.
There was something happening at the Berlin Bar on Thursday night. You could tell by the orderly line of people snaking down several floors of wooden stairwell out on to Corrs Lane past the bouncer. It was a German thing, so no one was allowed in until exactly 9.00pm. Within half an hour though, all restraint was gone, replaced by a surprising amount of jumping, bouncing, sweating and dangerously-high leg kicking going on.
The legendary (if you know your Berlin nightlife) DJ Wladimir Kaminer was performing a one-night only Australian special of his RUSSENDISKO, a highlight of the Berlin Dayz Festival.
Behind the desk, Wladimir Kaminer looks like he might be George Clooney’s charismatic Russian gypsy half-brother. As he played the extraordinary line up of oompa lumpa mixes, he was like a mad conductor, hands waving over the deck. He crooned along into the mic, mimicked playing trombone, punched the air, struck wild poses for flash photos and signed his autograph. At his side was his wife Olga, an uber-cool bundle of energy with a sharp black bob.
Wladimir Kaminer is better known to many, not as a DJ but as an author. Born in Moscow he moved to Berlin in 1990, drawn as so many were to the riches of the West. His short stories and books written in German, like his musical tastes, draw on a mood of punk realism, slam-writings of rock-n-roll literature with titles such as My German Jungle Book, Everyday Heroes, Karaoke, My Life in the Allotment, There was no sex in Socialism
There was a considerable ex-pat German showing for the night, covering a broad range of ages from the mid-lifers to the younger uni crowd, who seemed to know what to expect at a Russian slash East-West Berlin nightclub. But I was in the dark.
Russian disco, it turns out, is a wild blend of Russian traditional rhythms stirred into a Ska-punk thump with lots of brass, fiddle and accordion highlights. Most of the tunes were by Russian bands in Russian, and are unknown to Western, let alone Melbourne audiences. That I couldn't understand what the songs were about and the odd word seemed to rhyme with Borscht made no difference, the music was infectious.
Many of the tracks Kaminer played had an 80s familiarity but there were also Spanish florishes, touches of surf rock and UB40-like reggae. Yet, the big hits of the night were daggy favourites; a re-mix of the 80s hit ‘Moscow’ by Ghensis Khan, which had arms pounding the air and the floor bouncing like a trampoline; and a LOL reversioning of ‘Venus’ famously covered by Bananarama. This was music to let loose too, raucous and wild; for jigging, stamping, and clapping to as the beat swirled faster and faster.
When I finally staggered out the door off the turbulent floorboards, the crowd still stomping, jigging and swaying behind me, I half expected to find snowdrifts and men in fur hats. Kaminer had transported a small part of Melbourne’s Chinatown into a throbbing Russian discotheque for the night and it was a fabulous trip.
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Berlin Dayz German-Australia Arts Festival
Thursday 4 Novermber, 9:00pm
16 Corrs Lane, Melbourne
For more (in German) see www.russendisko.de/
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