I have experienced some of the best gigs in Europe, backed by the community station Radio Z, in the punk club, KV in Nuremberg. This subcultural alternative venue is now situated at the Nazi Party Rally Grounds in the former military barracks, which were first built and used by the the SS, and then the US army. Now it is home to artists and community groups. Many declared at first the unsuitability of the building as it was in a bad state with no heating, no toilets and no electricity. But, as usual the punks did not bother and were the first to move in with candlelight leaving the last squatted wooden building – with the legendary hole in the ground as a toilet – behind for destruction and for redevelopment. I am sure the former neighbours are delighted, as the toilet was quite smelly actually. In fact so smelly that the local cafes and restaurants opened up their bathrooms and put signs up saying “We very much invite and appreciate the visitors of the local punk club using our toilets for no costs at all.” Now that’s something you don’t see very often. Personally the toilet just seemed to me as a punk precaution to keep the yuppies away from their brilliant gigs.
The venue is small but so crowded that sardines in a tin have definitely more space. The first beer is tremendously expensive with €3 basically to fund any potential police fines which will accumulate during the evening.
These fines are regularly dished out for breaking the curfew regarding the opening times of clubs and discotheques. Any beer afterwards costs about €1 or 1.50 for half a litre. The collective is always on the lookout for new members with no police records, as the fines will be cheaper, they explained as they try to rope me in.
And no, you don’t need a license to sell bottled beer in Germany. That’s why there were so many locals sitting on beer boxes in the pedestrian zone late at night during the latest football world-cup. In fact, beer is legally regarded as staple basic food in Bavaria. True, really! You have it live from someone who comes from a city with 20 000 inhabitants and four breweries.
Aehm, but anyways, the volunteer run club organised gigs with Latino-Ska Punkbands “Karamelo Santo” from Argentina, “Panteon Rococo” from Mexico, “Vela Puerca” from Uruguay, and “Banda Bassotti”, Polit-Ska-Punkband from Italy. The gigs organised feature bands from all over the world – the travel costs are distributed equally to all venues sharing the tour in Europe, which are quite a lot situated closeby and make the trips worthwhile regarding the continent. Unfortunately not so in Britain as channel hopping is still too expensive for the few venues which are too far apart, as are living costs and petrol.
Panteon Rococo, a ska band with eleven members, come from a poor neighbourhood in Mexico City, but are selling their records now in gold numbers. On their latest CD “Anjos un Panteon muy vivo” even Subcommandante Marcos from the autonomous areas in Chiapas makes a guest appearance. The band also played on the legendary march of the Zapatistas Commandantes from Chiapas into the parliament of Mexico City in 1997. From their work, Panteon Rococco founded a cultural centre which supports young bands. More info: http://www.panteonrococo.com/ (spanish) or CDs via http://www.uebersee-records.net/ (english)
“So, what else is in at the moment hip on the continent?” The smily, enthusiastic stallholder of Jump-Up Records points me to a Russian Dance Music Sampler, then the “Beyond Istanbul – Underground Grooves of Turkey”, “Suburbian Bucharest – Mahala Sounds from Romania” and “Mestizo Music – Rebelion en America Latina”. “Mestizo” was originally a swear word, but has now become a label for a transnational Latino music style which is always associated with social and political commitment. The CD was created by a group of people who met at the European Social Forum and asked themselves what protest sounded like in Russia and whether there were anti-globalisation bands in Turkey or Argentina. The CD mainly features Ska, reggae, Salsa, Rock, Hip-Hop and Cumbia music, which is often perceived as fun and party music. The lyrics however talk about sinking wages, growing poverty, life on the streets and the effects of privatisation of public services and free trade.
It has been published by Articulation “culture in social movements” which is a registered NGO based in Verden. The accompanying information is presented in English and German, pictures by Oxfam.
More information and orders available under http://www.articulation.name/ – cost of the CD is 15 € circa £10. A four-stars review of the sampler has also been already published in The Independent.
The Russendisko sampler tries to abolish the clichee of the melancholic Russian soul and present an alternative culture. Lots of people really enjoy the weird, unpolished and sometimes awful sounding music, but which, in the end is really good to dance to. says the founder of the Russian Disco Wladimir Kaminer. The Music in this compilation is indescribable. The Band Red Elvises for example are presented as: The King lives! In California! He sings in Russian, plays the bass-balalaica and is of Sibirian descent! Their wild Rock’n Roll sounds very American but has nevertheless something distinctively Russian about them. Spitfire are playing Russian Ska, the band Leningrad Punk and Nogu Svelo! (Cramp in the Leg) just unusual eccentric fun music with lyrics in their own invented language. Ne Zhdali plays a mixture of rock’n roll, punk, klezmer and jazz. Even the Guardian wrote an appraisal of the compilation: What started as a party became an international hit and created a lively interest in Eastern European music. It is akin to a mix of ska played on the accordion, or grunge with a reggae riff thrown in. And most of the singers sound like Frank Sinatra with a three-day hangover and a 60-cigarettes-a-day habit. Which pretty much sums it up. After the initial success of their parties and Cd in 2003 Wladimir and Yuriy published three more CDs and just now the guys have opened a club called Rodina in Berlin. http://www.myspace.com/russendiskoberlin
The specialists in international alternative Music, the Munich based Trikont record label, also offer Black & Proud – The Soul of the Black Panther Era album, South African alternative Hip Hop and Rap music in Mzansi Music – Young Urban South Africa and rap music from Senegal, Mali and Gambia.
This label offers an unexpectedly mind-blasting creative variety from Finnish Tango to American Yodeling to Vietnam Roady Music , Cajun Swamp Music and political country songs .
Some of the CDs aim to preserve historic song material and remembrance as for example with the Rembetika-Songs Of The Greek Underground 1925-1947, or preserve the music which was composed in the concentration camps or compile songs of steelworkers, woodworkers or the wobblies (members of the IWW union), Afroamerican Prison Music and tell stories via music like in The Nashville Sit-in Story: Songs and Scenes of Nashville Lunch Counter Desegregation (by the Sit-In Participants) in a sampler.
A friend however recommends The World Inferno F.S. – they are soon gonna play in Nuremberg! and despite being called East Coast Super Sound Punk of Today, the New Yorkers cover old and new songs with a variety of instruments in a fast, unusual but danceable pace.
Irie Revoltes are also very hip at the moment. A band from Heidelberg featuring two francophile brothers amongst the nine members, Mal Eleve and Carlito sing mainly in French about current affairs dipped into a heavy slant of left-wing politics. They often also play on anti-rascist and anti-fascist events and demonstrations. Their music sounds like a mixture in between reggae, ska, rap and hip-hop.