Pop culture | Turkey

“The music is full of sorrow and longing”

The project “Intimacy of Longing” uses interviews and mixtapes to tell the stories of Turkish women who migrated to Germany. On the link between music and homeland

The picture a blonde woman in a red dress, seen from the side. She is standing in front of a record shelf with record player on top of it. She holds a record in her hands and is looking at its sleeve.

Kornelia Binicewicz with her record collection 

How did you come up with this topic?
Labour migration, and especially migration from Turkey to Germany, is very often told from a male perspective. Women are usually depicted as oppressed wives. However, one third of the first generation of labour migrants were unmarried, educated women. Their stories have been ignored so far.

You want to rebalance the narrative and use the theme of music to do so. How does that fit together?
I always start my projects with music. The choice of music always reveals something about people. I contacted acquaintances in Germany, who in turn put me in touch with women from the first, second and third generations of migrant workers. I interviewed them, asking them about their lives and about their connection to music. This resulted in several very emotional and biographical conversations and two mixtapes.

“Most of the women have drawn new strength from the initial loneliness and longing – and have built a life here that would probably never have been possible otherwise”

What does the music on these mixtapes tell us?
One artist heard by many of the women is Yüksel Özkasap. She herself was one of the first Turkish women who came to Cologne in 1966. Her music is full of sorrow and lament about the unexpectedly hard life she finds in Germany - and also deals with the loneliness and longing, i.e. “Gurbet”, of the emigrants. That hits a nerve.

One song is entitled “Almanya'da Ölenler”, in German “Those who died in Germany”. What is it all about?
On the one hand, it’s symbolic: You have the feeling of dying because you are so far away from what is close to your heart. At the same time, songs like these also reflect the physical deprivation of many migrants, for example those who became seriously ill or even died due to the gruelling conditions in coal mining.

What moved you most about the project?
The fact that most of the women do not regret their decision to come to Germany in retrospect. They have drawn new strength from the initial loneliness and the deep longing that their favourite musicians sing about - and have built a life here that would probably never have been possible otherwise.


Kornelia Binicewicz created a mix tape “Intimacy of Longing” (Soundcloud) which contains music assembled from historical records. Together with the women she interviewed, Kornelia Binicewicz assembled a second playlist Intimacy of Longing (Spotify). 

The interview was conducted by Atifa Qazi