Montag, 4. Juni 2007

Kreuzberg is part of the hip hop nation

A very abridged version of Mark Naison's report of our conference -- the Panel on "Soundscapes"

"My head is spinning after the three days I spent in Berlin. I came
to deliver a paper on the Multicultural Roots of Bronx Hip Hop to an international conclave of scholars in Urban Studies, but spent as much time in the immigrant neighborhoods of Berlin as I did at the university and discovered, first hand, how much hip hop has become the chosen vehicle of expression for disaffected and disfranchised youth throughout the world. The experience I had in Kreuzberg - Berlin's largest immigrant neighborhood- had such a powerful effect on me that I decided to bring the spirit of Kreuzberg, and the Bronx neighborhoods my paper was about, into the conference by "performing" my paper with a rapper and an African
drummer rather than simply reading it.
When a Berlin rapper named Johannes showed up who could beat box and free style, I decided to transform my presentation into a three person performance, beginning with a drumming exhibition and a poem from Theophilus [a drummer and slam poet], the reading of a shortened version of my papers to a drum accompaniment, and a freestyle exhibition by Johannes at the conclusion of my paper. To make room for the drum portion of the session, Noel decided to cut the written portion of his paper in half.

Needless to say, this session, as we had planned it, was not the most conventional expression of German, or indeed American academic culture, but we all felt it was something we needed to do after what we had seen and experienced the last two days.

How did it work? Well, Noel’s presentation set a wonderful tone. No one present probably believed that sounds recorded in urban spaces could particularly interesting or revealing, but the sounds Noel chose opened everyone’s minds, and ears. Then I moved into my presentation by saying that hop hop arose in the Bronx in part because public spaces in the Bronx were filled with percussion and the sound of drums, and then called on Theofilus to give a demonstration. He en presented a poem, with his own drumming as background, called “African Drum” which brought to life the message my paper was presenting, followed with a moving thank you to the Conference organizers for allowing him to express himself in a country where he often felt like an outsider. Then as I began to read my paper, Theophilus accompanied me on the drum, following the rise and fall of my voice, and the paper’s message with great sensitivity and skill. When when my paper was over Johannes leapt on the floor- literally- and began free styling in English, French and German to the accompaniment of Theophilus’s drum. When the session ended three minutes later, the audience looked utterly stunned by what they had witnessed, but a number of people came up to us and said how much they enjoyed what they had seen.

But the session wasn’t over. After Susanne closed the conference by thanking all of us for coming, she turned the meeting over to an Afro-German rapper she had invited who dazzled the audience with a series of three extraordinary raps that had everyone shouting and clapping. The speed of his delivery, the rhythms he created with his words and body movements, and the passion and anger and pride he expressed in the totality of his sounds and movements, gave the scholars in that room a glimpse of hip hop’s power to give young people who feel marginalized, stigmatized and trapped a voice. It was one of those moments where art and scholarship and politics became one.

After all, isn’t that what Conferences are for?"

Dieser Artikel ist ein Update zu: Konferenzreport

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