Soundcheck hit the ground running our first day in Berlin. After taking a little time to orient ourselves to the surrounding neighborhood (we're staying in Mitte, in the heart of the former East Berlin) we made our way to the House of World Cultures, where we taped a pair of interviews: with the cabaret singer and bandleader Max Raabe and the music journalist/DJ/producer Kay Meseberg.
One of the big themes we've encountered is the concept of nostalgia: In a city where there's so much emphasis on the future (seen in the many construction sites around town) there's also Ostalgie -- the phenomenon of looking back fondly to life under the former communist regime. It plays out in some unusual and ambivalent ways in music: rock clubs that housed in former communist party meeting places, or musicians who reference the pop music from East Berlin during the '80s. As Meseberg told us, there is a sense among some Berliners who grew up in the Eastern Bloc during the final years of the Cold War that a certain energy and rebelliousness from that era's (mostly underground) music has been lost -- however much they don't miss the political system that led to it in the first place.
Also fascinating from our day was The House of World Cultures, which offered a fitting backdrop for our interviews. Built in 1957 with funding from the American government, it was intended as a symbol of the friendship between the U.S. and Germany. Aesthetically, it's shaped like a big clam shell and kind of reminiscent of something out of the Jetsons. These days it's frequently used for art exhibitions on global cultures. There is a big festival of NY music and art taking place currently and the nice people there who hosted us seemed happy enough to have some flesh-and-blood New York visitors in their midst.
PS: Stay tuned for photos of our journey tomorrow!