On the surface, the Fête de la Musique and Neukölln seem like strange bedfellows. The trendy, rapidly-gentrifying Bezirk feels like the polar opposite of the mission of the Fête — to bring the media and the visitors into contact with new spaces, new ideas, new people.
When the Neukölln council got in touch to propose the idea, lead curator Björn Döring admits, “honestly, my first thought was: well, no, you can’t.” and yet “Neukölln has many different faces and we are all guilty of focusing too much on just one of those.”
So, with that in mind, in honour of this year’s anniversary edition of the Fête de la Musique, we are going to take a deep dive into one of Berlin’s best known and least understood areas.
This neighbourhood has always stood apart from the rest. Originally called Rixdorf, the village once belonged to the Knights Templar (whose eight-pointed cross can still be seen on the Neukölln emblem). In the modern era, the district was renowned for its left-wing radicalism and, in 1929, was the site of the famous Blutmai massacre when police shot indiscriminately at civilians, firing 11,000 rounds of ammunition, then blaming the disturbance on the Communists.
In recent years, Neukölln has maintained its distinct identity. One of the more culturally diverse areas of the city, with a distinct Turkish and middle-eastern influence in evidence in its many restaurants, cafes and markets. There are some hidden treasures too: Körnerpark, for instance, has got to be one of the nicest parks in the city.
But what about the sound of Neukölln?
Neukölln’s sound is as diverse as the kiez itself.
For some, it’s the soft DIY sound popularised by venues like Tennis Bar, Internet Explorer, Sameheads, or Loophole.
Then there’s the four-to-the-floor dance styles of Christa Kupfer, SchwuZ, and the gone but not forgotten Grießmühle. Or, how about Istanbul-import Arkaoda?
Neukölln is vast, but any concert at any of these venues is never more than a 10-minute stroll from U-Bahnhof Boddinstraße.
Yet, the whole point of the Fête de la Musique is in highlighting the character of the music and the district as an inclusive, communal cultural experience for all.
With that in mind, the most important venue to be at is the Gemeinschaftshaus Gropiusstadt, which is the beating heart of this year’s festivities and the place where you will really get to know what the Fête is all about.
As for venues, on the 40th anniversary of this unique music festival, Bat-Yam Platz is the place to be where you can catch the percussion ensemble of the Neukölln Musikschule open the entire event. A local act made up of local musicians, it’s about as Fête de la Musique, as it gets.