"We are all one, pralla!"
The eight-member Prallasoundsystem from Mannheim is currently causing quite a sensation and bringing a breath of fresh air to the music scene with their new type of mix of Balkan music and German sprechgesang. Hip hop, funk, jazz and pop encounter the music traditions of the Balkans and Roma to create the distinct and unique “pralla sound”! On the occasion of their debut EP “Imigranti” released on 6 March 2015, Gypsy Music Network spoke with founder and frontman Pralla Präsident about how the band came together, his Balkan roots and how one can become a true pralla...
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Hi, Pralla. Please introduce yourself. Who is Pralla Präsident and who is the Prallasoundsystem?
Pralla is me (Pralla Präsident) and my partner Kenan Singoli from Bonn. We both produce and write the songs. Prallasoundsystem is the band. We’re a total of 8, but at live shows we can be anywhere from 12 to 15. Mostly we’re just 8 on the road, otherwise it gets too expensive for the bookers.
Would you mind explain what pralla is for those who may not know?
For me, pralla is a nice kind of connection, a lifestyle, an attitude towards life. Even a building, a smell and such can be pralla. You walk past a house that impresses you in some way and you say, “Look at this pralla house!” or you say “Look, that guy seems to be a real pralla!” Just use the word for a year and then you tell me what pralla means (laughs)!
Pralla is how the different people in the band are and how they came together with each other – free of prejudice and open to finding musical commonalities. It doesn’t matter what colour your skin is, where you come from or what language you speak; we are all one, pralla!
You can say that again! How long have you been making music and how did you meet each other?
We have been together just about three years now. In the beginning, I would hang up signs in every rehearsal room from Tübingen to Stuttgart that said “I’m looking for a band that is ready to play a new kind of music” (laughs). I didn’t know what I should write because I didn’t want to give away the fact that I was now doing Balkan hip hop. A couple of musicians responded, but (sorry!) it was a catastrophe. Afterwards I was thankful and still am, that they were there. In searching further, I came into contact with a music professor in Mannheim who brought me together with Benjamin Gerny. When Benjamin showed up the first time to try out, I was totally amazed! I had sent him the songs in advance, just as I had done with all the others before. When he came into the rehearsal room, he took out a small notebook in which the notes to all the songs had been written down and just started in playing. That was something new and exactly the kind of professionalism I was looking for! And the way he played those songs, we could have performed on stage that very evening. Later that night he called me up, all excited, and cautiously asked if I was sleeping already. “No, Benni, I’m a musician and I love working at night,” I said to him. He told me about some other musicians who would be good in the project and asked if I would like to listen to them. I happily agreed, of course. The next day things really started to take off – loads of music students, people studying their instruments, wanted to take part! Benni organised the band further and we rehearsed a lot. No longer choosing samples and such, but with a real band working on the groove, the intensity, the expression. What joy! While that was going on, Kenan and I were hard at work composing new songs. We were all eager to bring our sound, this beautiful new mix, to the stage – Prallasoundsystem was born! I would like to thank once again Keno Seferagic and Stefan Sturm from Jiggy Joint, who actively supported and advised me during the setting up at the time.
How did you end up rapping? You can hear that it is not something you started doing two weeks ago.
I started writing and rapping when I was 12. I listened to rap and hip hop in English and was even rapping in English myself then. Paper and pencil were my daily companions. When I was 16 (I passed myself off as an adult!), I accompanied Stefan Sturm aka Storm to a gig in a club. He placed his mic in my hand and asked if I could take over the hosting for a bit. I was proud and jumped right in. He praised me, gave me tips and so let me gain my first experience as an MC in front of an audience. He asked what I had planned for the coming weekend. “Nothing,” I said and then went with him regularly from disco to disco. I even got paid for it! DJ Bombastico, the former tour DJ for Afrob, called me up one day and said, “Take a look at the Ghosttown DJ website.” Suddenly my profile was on there and I had become a Ghosttown MC. I wasn’t even really aware at the time just what that meant. But I was there with music and loved it! So, I was hosting and recording a number of songs on the side. My first big mix tape was called “Internationaler Staub”. DJ Bombastico, DJ Yooter a heavy hitter DJ and Jesse Al-Malik of the legendary Furious 5 were all on it.
I still love rap today, but musically, classic hip hop was no longer enough for me. Building up heavy beats on an MPC was quick, but I was missing the ‘live’ element, the feeling of hand-crafted music. My voice was the first instrument, but what I really had always wanted was more instruments and more musicians for my ideas and my rap.
Who are your idols in this field, which rappers have influenced you most and is there someone you would particularly like to work with?
I never had any rapper or musician or even athlete as an idol. My role models, my inspiration were always the prophets. When I’m down, when I’m searching for a solution, I always ask myself what the prophets would have done in my shoes. But there are quite a few colleagues I love for their music and I have respect for their achievements. I’m in contact with some of them regarding future projects together. But my lips are sealed as to who they are (grins).
How is it that you can even mix two such very different genres such as Balkan music with hip hop?
For many years, I had had no contact with my family. One day, my Uncle Beko was at the door, he packed me in his car and took me with him to Novi Sad. That’s where I first heard true Balkan music. The sound, the rhythm, the lyrics, the mixed emotions in the music immediately aroused my passion. My other Uncle Babo (and yes, he’s a real boss!) always used to say that I should make music like James Brown and I shouldn’t be so inhibited. My instrument is my voice and I love the groove in music, the heavy bass in hip hop. When I returned to Germany from Novi Sad, I started putting all those pieces together to make the Prallasound! Today it’s as if all this had been waiting for me and it feels really good and right!
Do you also play an instrument? How do your songs come about?
The band gave me a saxophone for my birthday, I’m still learning. Up to now the only thing I can play is “Careless Whisper” (laughs). Kenan Singoli and I write the songs together and do the pre-production. The lyrics often evolve overnight, in my dreams. I wake up, run to my desk and write down whole songs or sometimes just a single verse or hook. Kenan and I then further develop the songs equally in the studio. What finally ends up on the disc is the result of what comes out in rehearsals, at concerts and studio work that involves many. I had the idea for this music and give the direction, but what comes out in the end as Prallasound is a lot of work. It calls for loads of goodwill and I am so thankful for the privilege of being able to make music with this band and this team!
When will your album/EP come out and what can we expect?
We’ve been working very meticulously on the album for a long time. Our EP “Immigranti” is coming out first, on 6 March. We’re all totally excited and are pleased to present the first release of Prallasoundsystem. There are six tracks and a remix on the EP. Some songs such as “America” are from the very early days of Prallasoundystem. Others are brand new such as “Schuld hat der Alkohol”. Kenan and I wrote that one the night before the band showed up in the studio. The next day we recorded it and now it is on the EP. We have yet to do the live premiere!
Is there anything else you would like to mention?
We would like to thank all our fans, companions, helpers and friends, all the prallas who have been standing by us for so long and who love our music! I would especially like to thank Max Moody, my constant companion who has supported me from the beginning: “There are no words to describe how thankful I am to you – we were destined to be soulmates long before we were born.” Good things come to those who wait! First the EP now and then the tour. Prallasoundsystem is hungry and we’re going full throttle, continuing on our path and hopefully, getting even more listeners up and dancing and nodding their heads, having fun and thinking about things - Yasha prallas!
Thank you for the interview. Good luck to all of you with Prallasoundsystem!


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