The LOLA Guide to Pop-Kultur Festival 2019

Three days of meticulously curated concerts, films, talks, exhibitions and more

Liam Kelly

Space is the place at the fifth annual Pop-Kultur festival in Berlin. This means the event’s curators have reached even farther and wider to weave together more than 100 exhibitions, concerts, films, performances, and talks for the highly-celebrated three-day festival.

With a quick scan of the lineup, interested parties will discover upon works from Africa, Asia, Europe, and Middle East. The objective? Remind everyone that culture happens everywhere, not just the same old Anglocentric hubs of the Western world. 

The investigation of how these cultures interact also bring to the fore questions of identity and vision – two recurring themes for Pop-Kultur 2019. In speaking to the press, curator Christian Morin highlighted the inclusion of more Eastern european influences at next week’s event. This is manifested in the work of artists like ANDRAA, who draws from a rich family history stemming from Kosova. The expansion also invites a number of African musicians to the German capital including Nerima Groove, Adello Nqeto, and rapper ByLwansta

Of course, that’s only the tip of the demographic iceberg — the full program promises a dialogue with all four corners of the earth. To get a better idea how such a conversation could pan out, we’ve hand picked a number of different events to check out during the three days. For a full listing of all the festival fare, check out Pop-Kultur’s site.

Wednesday Schedule (21.08.19)

Film:
Everybody in the Place: An Incomplete History of Britain 1984-1992
Jeremy Deller
Kino in der Kulturbrauerei (Saal 8), 19:00 – 20:00

The miner’s strikes in the United Kingdom some 40 odd years ago marks one of the more interesting political countermeasures against the Thatcher administration. Amidst severe austerity measures, miners stood in direct opposition to the National Coal Board’s (NCB) move to close down subsidiaries and mining sites in 1981. Alongside this turmoil emerged acid house and a thriving, British rave culture that some called “The Second Summer of Love.”

In this documentary, artist Jeremy Deller explores the rise of cold, calculating neoliberalism and it’s direct counterparts found in both the miners strikes and the rise of hedonistic, twenty-hour dance hauls. The friction of these two forces reveals the pace of societal change in a country undergoing similar upheaval in 2019. Stick around after the film for a talk with the musician, author, and filmmaker Danielle de Picciotto about the arrival of a similar rave culture in Berlin.

Talk:
“I guess this is a conversation about -memes- or sth like that lel”
Berlin Club Memes meets FEMINIST MEME SCHOOL
Haus für Poesie, 20:00 – 21:00

Yes, memes are everywhere from Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and even appropriated by mainstream brands. Yet, we still know so little about the medium (if we can even call it that). Is it an art form, a tool of subversion, or is it all just for the lulz?

To bridge the gap and bring memes into formal discourse, the individual behind the famed Berlin party scene Instagram account, Berlin Club Memes, will answer a few questions about what the latest in digital communication has to offer. The conversation will be moderated by journalist Caren Miesenberger of FEMINIST MEME SCHOOL.

Concert:
Mykki Blanco
Kesselhaus, 21:20 – 22:10

After a documentary on social unrest, a talk about tactical media, Mykki Blanco’s concert later in the evening is a must. The American rapper and activist has been called one of hip hop’s first queer proponents. That being said, Blanco told The Guardian in 2016 that they never wanted to be a rapper in the first place: “I wanted to be Yoko Ono. I wanted to be an installation artist.” 

With that in mind, expect much more than a concert; Blanco’s performances draw from the world of punk, drag, the transfeminist movement and is a continuously evolving dance between all three scenes. Still, such labels are limiting to an artist as multifaceted as Blanco.

The aesthetic has also gained a lot of ground as their latest album Stay Close to Music, Stay Close to God will allegedly feature artists like Saul Williams, Jonsi of Sigur Ros, Diana Gordon, An Mer Ah Su, to name just a few.

Concert:
Haszcara
Alte Kantine, 22:40 – 23:10

The rap tracks that run through the festival are uncanny. In a blend of old-school rap bars and retro adidas throwback track jackets, Haszcara’s take on the rap world is soaked in respect for the genre. But, don’t confuse this for conformity. In following the festival’s ambitions to break down as many barriers as possible, the hip hop artist is far from traditional. 

The powerful lyricist also resists the femininst-in-rap trope in lines like, “I’m not a poster child of your idea of women / So it’d be good if you’d shut your mouth / I’m not trying to represent a scene / I’m just here to rep myself.” Take that as you will, and check out a rapper focused more on her craft rather than her gender.

Concert/Commissioned Work:
Rosaceae: “A Cause So Heavy”
RambaZamba Probebühne, 23:10 – 23:40

Less of a concert and more a soundscape that explores a very specific form of female trauma, Leyla Yenirce, otherwise known as Rosaceae, leverages dance, performance, visuals, and graphic audio to portray the genocide of the Yezidi population at the hands of ISIS in 2014. “A Cause So Heavy” specifically unearths the myriad ways in which the terrorist group violently oppressed women.

For a sample of what to expect, Yenirce’s EP “Nadia’s Escape” draws directly from the voices of Yezidi women for the Hamburg label, Neoprimitive. She is also a member of another Hamburg-based collective, One Mother, that will be performing at Pop-Kultur this year on Friday at 19:40 at the Maschinenhaus.

Concert:
Karies
Frannz, 00:00 – 01:00

Far from the world of hip-hop, soundscapes, and drag is the post-punk band Karies. Based in Stuttgart, the group lances electric rifts of guitar, heavy bass à la Joy Division, and should be a real treat for those eager to bang heads and fists. With a time slot at midnight, this is one for the most endurant festival-goers.

Thursday Schedule (22.08)

Concert/Commissioned Works:
Jauche: “An Evening with Jauche”
RambaZamba Probebühne, 18:00 – 00:00

Jauche’s place at Pop-Kultur this year takes up a whopping six hours on Thursday night. It’s a commitment for sure, but the performative piece will lay down two microphones, an amplifier, a guitar, and three musicians to do with these instruments as they wish. 

More improvisation than concert “An Evening with Jauche” has no agenda except to explore the minds of Max Rieger, Thomas Zehnle, and Ralv Milberg. Drop by the drone-jam session at the beginning of the evening, and as a nightcap before a series of DJ-sets later on.

Pausen-DJ:
Melissa Perales
Palais, 18:00 – 19:00

When picking through the perfect schedule of events and concerts to attend, it becomes clear that your Rube-Goldberg machine of stimulation will likely run into more than a few gaps. To make up for this time, Pop-Kultur has commissioned a number of celebrated DJs for their “Pausen-DJ” series. Thus, over at the Palais venue, Mellissa Perales, a queen of curation, will help keep your schedule intact and stress-free.

For those in the know, Perales makes up multitudes. She has organized film and music festivals, worked as a booking manager, and even owned a restaurant. Common themes that run through much of her practice touch on trans, non-binary people, and women in music.

Talk:
African Beats & Pieces: “Auto-Tuned Africa: When Technology Meets Tradition”
B.
Paillard, M. Le Daron & P. Owusu-Brenyah
Haus für Poesie, 19:00 – 20:00

Living through the early 2000s meant also having to deal with the rise of auto-tuned song after auto-tuned song. The software has been critiqued time and time again for replacing quality singing with high pitched tones. And fair enough. In Africa, however, the rise of afrobeats and club music has seen a slightly different appropriation of the tool. 

In a talk with AFRO x POP organizer Pamela Owusu-Brenyah, producer Max Le Daron, and Boris Paillard, founder of the “African Beats & Pieces” series, the three discuss how auto-tuning has been a tool of empowerment on the continent. Interested parties can get a first-hand taste of how African artists are using the software later in the evening.

Talk:
Pop-Hayat: “I’ve got 99 problems but being a feminist listening to rap ain’t one”
Ebow, Lena Grehl, Miriam Davoudvandi
Kino in der Kulturbrauerei (Saal 8), 20:00 – 21:00

The Pop-Hayat series is back at Pop-Kultur this year with a number of talks, concerts, exhibitions and other events which pick apart the crossover between the queer club scene and immigration discourse. One such discussion happening on Thursday works through the apparent paradox of loving rap music and being a woman. Historically, the genre has subjugated the female population to a problematic second-class treatment.

Thus, music journalists Lena Grehl and Miriam Davoudvandi sit down with rapper Ebow to discuss how feminism and rap can not only coexist but thrive together.

Concert/Reading:
Mona Mur: “Those Days Are Over”
Panda Theater, 21:00 – 21:50

Somewhere between rap and poetry, multimedia musician Mona Mur and writer/photographer Miron Zownir have worked to create 15 different renditions of something called “Poetronica.” First, a bit on Mur and her background: she’s been making music, art, and everything in between since the 1980s of which the latest was her 2018 album, “Those Days Are Over.” 

For his part, Zownir’s poems, short films, photography, and other writings make up a noir-esque body of work that highlights the gritty nature of the streets in London and New York. The two will tie up for a multi-genre and -medium experience to reveal the dark and curious side of our modern experience.

Concert:
Lyschko (Pop-Kultur Nachwuchs)
Soda Salon, 21:50 – 22:20

The Pop-Kultur Nachwuchs program makes up a network of over 250 different up-and-coming artists and musicians with experts across a variety of fields. The latter helps mentor the young guns in the way of “making it” in the cutthroat music-media complex, while the former soaks in the sage wisdom. Through a variety of workshops, Pop-Kultur Nachwuchs will bring in oracles like CocoRosie, Sophia Kennedy, and Zebo Adam among others.

One such interlocutor and workshop participant is lo-fi, post-punk newcomers Lyschko who will also be performing on Thursday night. For a preview of what to expect, check out their latest EP “Stunde Null.”

Concert:
Shari Vari
Alte Kantine, 22:40 – 23:20

Club sounds and dream pop come together as Shari Vari brings together a timeless synth sound for when you want to nap and dance at the same time. For a sampler of the aesthetic, the duo, Helena Ratka and Sophia Kennedy, dropped an album back in 2017 called “Life Should Be A Holiday” to critical acclaim. 

It should also be noted that Kennedy will step in as one of the mentors in Pop-Kultur’s Nachwuchs program.

Concert:
Shabazz Palaces
Palais, 23:40 – 00:40

More rap and hip hop and still no one is upset. Festival headliners Shabazz Palaces grace the festival this year with their next-generation instrumentals and lyrics. 

Ishmael Butler, formerly of the legendary rap group Digable Planets, and Tendai “Baba” Maraire have been heavily influenced by everything from African drum beats, jazz, George Clinton, Flying Lotus, Thundercat, podcasts, and mixtapes. Expect more of this free wylin’ sound play from the Seattle-based dup; indeed not to be missed.

Concert:
African Beats & Pieces
AWA Khiwe / Nerima Groove
00:40 – 02:30

If you made it to the talk earlier in the day, then why not put theory into practice and dance to the sounds of AWA Khiwe and Nerima Groove?

The Zimbabwe hip hop artist AWA Khiwe, also known as Melanin Queen, will open the session with her take on hip hop. Shortly thereafter, afrobeats and dancehall DJ Nerima Groove will closing out the night’s events. A pair of sturdy trainers is advised as heavy dancing is guaranteed.

Friday Schedule (23.08)

Performance:
Janto Djassi Roessner: “Picture Me Different”
RambaZamba Probebühne, 20:20 – 21:20 

Janto Djassi Roessner offers two showings of his “Picture Me Different” performance in which he carries on one of the festival’s most prominent themes, identity. He draws from a family history in which one grandfather was a missionary in Namibia while his father was a musician and storyteller from Senegal. 

It appears Roessner is just next in line in raconting an intricate story using multilingual interviews, paintings, and music to reveal how fragile our identities and their foundations really are.

No worries if you miss the opener at 20:20. The second performance happens in the same place two hours later at 22:20.

Concert:
Deerhoof
Kesselhaus, 21:30 – 22:20

Deerhoof’s appearance only adds to the list of heavy-weight musicians appearing at Pop-Kultur. Still, the band that has stretched across more than two decades and boasts 14 albums has also managed to avoid any firm labels. Sometimes post-punk, sometimes noise, sometimes remixing a Maroon 5 song, Deerhoof never fails to reinvent itself. 

Stick around Kesselhaus for another 30 minutes after Deerhoof, and you’ll get a chance to enjoy a live set from CocoRosie. What’s not to love?

Concert:
Camilla Sparksss
Panda Theater, 23:00 – 00:00

Pop music will never die, but only because artists old and new continue to take the genre to new extremes. Camilla Sparksss is no different. The Canadian artist lulls listeners into catchy tunes they think they’ve heard before spinning the sound on its head to create something wholly new. 

So, yes it might be “pop music,” but, no, you’ve likely never heard anything like it before.

Concert:
Oum Shatt
Frannz, 00:00 – 01:00

Think post-modern surf rock meets an obsession with Arabic and Turkish sounds and Oum Shatt might be what comes. You might also end up with something completely different. Indeed, even this second imagining would still have slacker vibes written all over it. Clangy guitar and catchy pop hijings would also run throughout. 

But still, why imagine what a surf rock band should sound like, when you could see Oum Shatt jam for an hour?

DJ Set:
Nic Sleazy
Frannz, 01:00 – 04:00

You made it through the whole festival. After all the performances, earth-shattering realizations about how malleable identity really is, and found out that we’re all just stuck on a rock flying through space. Typically, such an existential threat brought on by festival fatigue would mark the beginning of a fully-encapsulating depression. Instead, and what it should merit, is a three-hour dance party with your fellow human. After all, what are the arts for if not to bring us closer?

Finish Pop-Kultur with a no holds bar jam session from Nic Sleazy, aka Henryk Gericke. The famed GDR music collector is sure to serve up a few history lessons from the world of new wave and industrial dance tunes. Nothing like celebrating the past to steer us away from a weird future.

Exhibitions

Running throughout the three days of sensory overload, festival-goers are invited to the three-day exhibition space “Çaystube.” From Wednesday to Friday, curators Nuray Demir and Yeșim Duman will serve up tea, read futures in coffee grounds, and create a place of exchange called “Pop-Hayat.” 

Those looking for a bit of caffeine can also find repose in a number of relevant talks and performances. Nas Tea, for instance, will be up first on Wednesday and Derya Yildrim on Thursday. At the Hof venue, Pop-Hayat will also host “The Black Haired Bomb” exhibition from Moshtari Hilal. The Hamburg illustrator challenges traditional concepts of beauty to expose how these concepts are indeed political barriers awaiting dissolution. 

In the way of formal exhibitions, the Kulturbrauerei’s museum venue will display the photography of Daniel Biskup as well as a panel discussion. Biskup’s work makes up five years of photography throughout East Germany after the fall of the wall. The collection brings to light the distinctions between East and West during a socially liberating time, but also takes care of a subject only beginning to merge with mainstream culture. 

Similarly, the panel discussion on Thursday between Elske Rosenfeld and Masha Qrella dig into how much political identity is defined by hope and the promise of utopia. The two also reflect on what happens when this optimism is taken away and what to do amidst such silence. 

After five years of excellent local and international curation, Pop-Kultur is becoming a high-quality event in an already high-quality town. Teeming with new ideas and creating new constellations, the three-day festival is sure to leave you reeling. And with the Kulturbrauerei being outfitted to be even more accessible to all mobility types, the discourse only appears to be widening its audience. 

For more details about pricing for one day, three-day, or even reduced tickets checkout Pop-Kultur’s site. If you’re still on the fence about whether to go or not, consider this: Summer is over, September is in two weeks, but the sun is still shining. What more do you need?