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Motif series "Migration history in images"

“Guest worker” music between self-empowerment and commercial success

In addition to the hard work in Germany, music and cultural productions were important components of their free time for many “guest workers”. Through this they came into a connecting exchange with like-minded people. The history of recruiting migrant workers from various countries bordering the Mediterranean also influenced the music industry in Germany. Migrant workers have developed into a lucrative target group within the music market. The Cologne label Türküola was successfully aimed at the first generation of migrant workers; Albums of sentimental, arabesque "guest worker singers" sold millions of copies. At the same time, German pop singers like Udo Jürgens in "Greek Wine" were inspired by the music of the "guest workers", and "Oh Lady Mary" by Peter Alexander was actually written by Metin Bükey ("Samanyolu").

The song "German Friends" by the songwriter Ozan Ata Canani was released in 1978. It refers to the famous quote by the Swiss writer Max Frisch: "We called for workers and people came". Canani thus reflects the dilemma of immigrants in Germany at that time who were brought into the country as workers but who were somehow undesirable as people. Incidentally, Canani expresses his feelings in this song in German. So members of the German majority society could not ignore his message. The track was rediscovered in 2013 by Imran Ayata and Bülent Kullukcu and newly recorded by Ata Canani as part of the compilation "Songs of Gastarbeiter, Vol.1".

From heartache to social criticism

Many songs sang about the pain of being away from home. Others addressed miserable working conditions in German factories. Metin Türkoz sang ironically the German foreman with "Guten Abend, Mayistero" and thus created moments of relief and self-empowerment. Political and sentimental strands were often linked in music, as in Yüksel Özkasap's "Zalim Almanya" (Germany, the tyrant), which is not only a sad love song, but also addresses her poor social situation as a singer. Sociocritical protest songs, or songs about international solidarity, were of particular interest to many highly politicized migrant workers from the 1960s and 1970s.

"Freedom for Greece"

Many Greeks, but also some other members of the student movement from 1968, Melina Mercouri is still considered a heroine to this day. After the singer publicly spoke out against the military dictatorship in Greece (1967-1974), she was expatriated there. Thereupon she replied on television: "I was born as a Greek and will die as a Greek. These people were born fascists and will die as fascists. ”During a tour in 1968, a. in Essen a concert with the motto "Melina Mercouri sings for Greece". Mercouri donated the entire proceeds to the victims of the Greek dictatorship. She became a musical and political role model for many people and finally took over the post of Minister of Culture of Greece in October 1981, seven years after the fall of the military dictatorship.

Order and legal notice

This and all other motifs from our series "Migration history in pictures" are available as postcards from us at the DOMiD office. You are welcome to pick them up or order them at: presse@domid.org. We would be happy to send you a set free of charge. In our anniversary year 2020 (30 years of DOMiD), a total of twelve motifs with stories from our collection will be created. DOMiD has endeavored to find and contact all rights holders regarding the motifs. If this is not successful in one case, we ask potential rights holders to contact us.

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