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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 04 May 2019
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 4 MAY 2019 17 MUSIC How a Greek Aussie DJ attacked in Istanbul has found solace in music and the locals BILLY COTSIS W ith a smile on his face and a bag full of house music classics, Greek Australian DJ JK (Johnny Kassimatis) has been entertaining masses of musicgoers for three decades. I first met Johnny at a party in London, where a mutual friend hosted a bunch of expats. A happy-go-lucky kind of guy, he had just come from doing a DJ set at a club. At the time his Deep London Record Company was starting to kick off, and the former resident DJ of the award-winning World's Best Club Chinawhite in London was in demand to say the least, regularly invited to DJ all over the world from Dubai, Mumbai, and New York, to Athens, Mykonos, and Las Vegas to name a few. "How do you keep your ego in check?" I once asked. He explained that it was all about the music; he enjoyed playing, and never did it for fame, always making sure to have good parea (company) to keep him grounded. In 2011 I recall having coffee with him back at his Canary Wharf apartment overlooking the Thames. As the sun set, little did either of us know that this DJ, with the world at his feet, would come to face a series of struggles in the years to come. As the UK economy continued to fall on hard times, Johnny made the decision in 2012 to try his luck in Athens, a city where he had played as a special guest for over 10 years. But with Greece itself in crisis, he only lasted there for four months, before moving back to Australia to rebuild in his hometown of Canberra and then settled in Melbourne. Before too long a lucrative opportunity to consult in Gabon, Africa came up, where he was flown in as a guest of the President's son to set up a new luxurious venue with four restaurants and a rooftop open-air nightclub. But after a successful launch, Johnny had a bad fall, injuring his leg resulting in a six week stay in hospital, and as a result, almost lost his leg. But during his recovery there was a bright side. He found himself back in contact with an old friend in Istanbul, whom he fell in love with. So when it came time to leave Gabon, moving to Turkey was the logical next step. Everything seemed to be coming together again for the DJ; he was regaining his health and in his element, making friends with locals and new contacts, he set about playing and making music again. The local community had welcomed him with open arms, even more so, he notes, when they found out he was Greek. But his world turned upside down on Friday 10 March, when he was attacked by a 12-member gang after a nightclub set. "I managed to knock out four of them, and I'm really not a violent person," Johnny told Neos Kosmos, “but they eventually overpowered me and pulled out knives. They threatened to kill me if I didn't empty my bank account at an ATM and give them everything I had." Johnny says he co-operated as best as he could under the circumstances, and ended up sleeping at a park nearby in front of a friend's cafe. "I had no keys, phone or money so I really didn't have many options. My friend's security guard saw me sleeping on a sofa outside the cafe and came to investigate. After a brief discussion, he quickly called Onur at 4.00 am, an old friend of mine and owner of that cafe, who came immediately to help me." Following the shocking ordeal, Johnny wrote a post on his Facebook page, informing his friends of what had taken place. But some of the responses he received, especially from friends abroad, were rather distressing - some even accusing him of making it up as a joke. He says he received a number of direct messages from Greek Australians saying there was no place for a Greek in Turkey, and that the attack was clearly a racial one. But Johnny is adamant this was not the case. "It has been extremely sad to see the reaction of many people who I thought were friends, that sent me very aggressive and angry messages, saying that I should not post this story on my Facebook wall," he reveals. "I was randomly jumped from behind by the gang without any communication, and most people in the city agree that I look Turkish anyway." He says that the point of the post was not to attack Turkey and its people, who have as a whole welcomed him; an attack like this could happen anywhere, at any time in the world. That dreaded night, the DJ had just finished up from a formal event for International Women's Day at a well-known historical building. He was wearing a suit for the occasion, and walking down the street. "I assume they just thought I was wealthy. The gang were not young, not drunks, nor drug addicts. The youngest member was maybe 30 years old," he recalls. He is thankful for the generosity of his local friends. In the attack, the criminals stole his new house keys, which still have a tag attached with his address, given he had only just rented it a few days before the attack. "[So] the police recommended I move out immediately as they may come back to attack and rob me again," he says. "My Turkish friends have shown support in the weeks after the attack; I have stayed with eight friends in eight weeks." In a nod to humanity, JK recalls a day, when in a café, he was on the phone to a friend explaining the ordeal when a stranger overheard. They leaned over and offered to buy him a coffee and something to eat, gibing him kind words of encouragement. These experiences, have helped to keep Johnny positive. Like that happy-go-lucky guy I first remember meeting, while couch surfing and recovering from his injuries, he is as entrepreneurial as ever and has started a new weekly radio show. It has often been said that Istanbul can be a difficult place for Greeks to live, especially in the last few decades since the pogrom of 1955. His attack aside, Johnny's experiences have proven otherwise. It is in Istanbul that he has found solace in the support and friendship people, a city he now calls home. With music to comfort him and new tunes to create, the next chapter is eagerly awaited. It has been extremely sad to see the reaction of many people who I thought were friends, that sent me very aggressive and angry messages, saying that I should not post this story on my Facebook wall.
27 April 2019
11 May 2019