Cultural Diplomacy at the Reeperbahn Festival

The music festival in Hamburg is at its 17th edition

September 26th, 2022
Leonardo Vegli, News from Berlin
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After two editions downsized by the Covid-19 pandemic, this year the Reeperbahn Festival came back stronger than ever.

Held in Hamburg from the 21st to the 24th of September, the 17th edition has reached around 41,000 visitors that had the possibility to enjoy almost 400 concerts by acts and artists from over 40 countries as well as 80 programmes from the fields of arts, film and word. But above all the festival is an opportunity for professionals to meet and this year Reeperbahn offered an extensive programme for around 4,300 trade visitors with 200 programme items consisting of sessions, networking events, showcases and award ceremonies.

The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy and Berlin Global were on the field collecting impressions and connections from the music event, proving that cultural diplomacy can be everywhere. In fact, Reeperbahn shows that music is a universal language that breaks down language barriers and cultural differences, promotes cooperation, understanding and mutual respect among people, communities and nations thus contributes to a culture of peace.

Different artists’ showcases made clear the power that music has in building bridges between people. To give a glimpse to the interesting panorama presented we have selected two artists: the Canadian Braden Lam and the Italian-Nigerian Anna Bassy.

Braden Lam, 24 from Halifax, played on Thursday September 22nd at UWE, for the occasion named the Canada House, an initiative organised by Canadian Independent Music Association and the Canadian Embassy in Berlin. The folk singer-songwriter told us how he has found himself thanks to his trip to Germany, tracing and connecting with his family past of emigrants from Düsseldorf. “It was really interesting to go to Düsseldorf and find my family names in the archive. In Canada, we are all immigrants, we colonised Canada and we do not have a nice history towards the indigenous people. Coming here to Germany I found where I am from.” The tragic past of his grandma that fled Germany after the war resurfaced thanks to the singer's research and above all thanks to the opportunity offered by music to travel in Europe. Not only the travel to Germany has helped him in finding his identity, but also from a music production, Germany has been “a special hub of sharing” that fostered creativity and for sure will be reflected in his future compositions.

Anna, 34 from Verona, is in Hamburg as Italian participant selected for Keychange 2022, the international movement for gender balance in the music industry. The crowd at Angie’s Nightclub was mesmerised during her performance on Thursday September 22nd. Her music combines traditional sounds from Italy and Nigeria, where her roots lie, along with soul, folk, pop and electronic production techniques. Started in 2016 as a voice and guitar project, now her music is enriched by the arrangement work of the accompanying band, consisting of Pietro Girardi on guitar, Andrea Montagner on bass and Pietro Pizzoli on drums. Interviewed by us, Anna says that “sharing the stage with other projects presented that evening was inspiring; comparing different experiences and cultural background.” Not only in Hamburg they represented their country, but in January 2022 they also played at the Italian Cultural Institute in Paris. In a political moment for Italy where the right-wing is in government, it is definitely refreshing seeing such an artist as representative of the Italian cultural landscape.

In conclusion, music is a powerful medium through which individuals, communities, and nations can express themselves. It is in festivals like Reeperbahn that we can see the role of music as a force for social cohesion but in some way also the use of music to promote political, diplomatic, or societal objectives. We will certainly not miss next year’s festival from 20 to 23 September 2023!


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