Since the chamber music hall of the Philharmonie opened its doors to world music, it has represented many places: a tent, an igloo, a monastic cell, temples, a yurt, a village square, a stage. The architecture of this particular space has repeatedly changed its character under the active influence of music, which in turn changes the character of the audience. On one occasion it was quite contemplative in the face of unfamiliar sacred music, on another, it was stirred by the energy of musical activists from the Sahara and the Maghreb. It also became quite still before the witnesses of endangered music of the Arctic Circle or Afghanistan, and sometimes it has swung along with dances from Algeria or the wind bands of southern Italy.

The departure into the unknown was also a departure into the unfamiliar. Once the spectrum of musical idioms unfolded, they demonstrated more wealth than the globalized label “world music” suggests. Now its time to set off again!

United in their hopes for peace

Mali in West Africa is a musical superpower. It is the land of the griot, with his bridge-harp and lute-like ngoni. For centuries, these singers of legend-based epics have guarded and passed on musical knowledge. Ali Farka Toré, one of the fathers of this music, even calls Mali the home of the blues and says, “You may know the branches, but we have the roots and the trunk.” This concert of the series tells stories from the whole region between Timbuktu and Bamako. Today, it is a contested space, but the voices that we hear from there are united in their hopes for peace. Afro-Peruvian music also has a political background. In the past, black slaves worked in the copper, gold and silver mines along the Peruvian coast. After the abolition of slavery in 1854, the descendants of those slaves settled there. Only rarely did they mix with the indigenous tribes or the descendants of the European colonialists. For centuries they have lived rather as a small, almost closed minority – with their music, which has borne the rhythm of work and life stories through the generations, and without which, “Latin Music” would be inconceivable.

Rich melodic and rhythmic traditions

Preserving traditional music threatened with disappearing and its re-emergence is something we know about from Alpine Europe. Remarkable things have developed there in recent years: Musicians from remote mountain valleys and alpine cities between Slovenia and Occitania have gone in search of new alpine sounds. With a willingness to experiment, they have taken the rich melodic and rhythmic traditions of this cultural region and invented new forms of sound which, as further developments of old songs, sounds and noises, can be overwhelming sad or wild. With typical instruments such as dulcimer, accordion and harp in combination with the human voice, they take traditional European music into new, unknown soundscapes. In the fourth and final edition of Underway this season, we invite you to a musical incantation festival – a Kupala night, as it is celebrated in the expanses of the Eastern European plains between the Volga, Ural, and Don, in the wild landscapes between the Bering, Caspian and Black Seas. The musicians sing and play here of the secret rituals of young lovers, they summon the forces of the water and the sun in the hope of magical self-purification and the healing of man and nature. To this day, these musicians send out a powerful artistic force whose influence is felt by us even in Paris and Berlin.

Roger Willemsen