One doesn’t ‘adopt’ Berlin; the city adopts you. If you’re lucky. It’s just one of those things.
The city did just that for a group of wandering musician-gypsy-festival organisers from India recently. In Germany as a panel of ‘music experts’ from the region, the group was in Berlin and then Cologne in August as part of an initiative undertaken by the Goethe Institute in conjunction with the well-known electronic music festival/professional music fair, C/O Pop.
As is wont to happen when a group of dynamic individuals all working towards the same end, albeit in different, if complementary fields, comes together, this group wasn’t content to sit back and merely watch proceedings unfold, talking to festival organisers from across Europe and c. to see what could materialise by way of collaborative enterprise between European (German, more pertinently) and South Asian musicians/event organisers/record labels. They wanted to perform. And perform they did.
Archana Prasad, an artist from Bangalore who ‘plays’ with ‘Lounge Piranha’ in the capacity of a visual artist (or ‘VJ’) had something to do with this. An independent local art gallery, ‘PutiKlub’ in the uber-trendy Western area of Kreuzsberg had exhibited Prasad’s work when she was in Germany earlier this year. She contacted them again, saying she was back as part of a group of musicians and artists who wanted to organise an audio-visual installation/presentation while they were in Berlin. Manolo, the owner of the gallery, jumped at the idea.
Thus was born ‘Nameless Now’, which saw electronic musicians Samrat Bharadwaj, Varun Desai and Prashant Pallemoni from India, RnB singer Randhir Witana from Sri Lanka and mandolin player Faisal Gill from Pakistan come together to lay down and create a musical score onto which Prasad, projecting onto a wall of the gallery converted into a gigantic screen, ‘played’ with images “suggested by the music these guys created”.
Jamming with each other – letting the one and then the other take centre-stage – the act’s main protagonists did their thing, wowing the assembled Berliners (and a motley crew they were as well – Turks, Mexicans, Middle-Easterners and Spaniards, among others, rubbed shoulders with the more indigenous members of the audience), as only they knew how.
This example, so typical of the city, serves to highlight the openness of Berlin’s attitude; its assimilative state of mind – everything that constitutes the city’s cultural consciousness, which consists of so many, many parts, each one generously embraced.
Berlin is living proof of the veracity of Calvino’s claim: Here is a city that constantly reinvents, rewrites, and in so doing, reiterates itself. This it does by dint of its unique ability to not simply make room for the ‘other’ to its norm, but by suspending with the very idea of a norm, thus abolishing in the same fell swoop the need for a creation of the ‘other’.