A concert that took place in Bern a few days ago was suspended after viewers felt unease at seeing white musicians with dreadlocks play reggae music. For its part, Young UDC will file a complaint against the facility for violating the anti-racist penal code.
On July 18, the group Lauwarm, whose repertoire ranges from reggae to world music with Swiss-German lyrics, did not return to the stage after the concert break in the Bernese Brasserie Lorraine.
The reason: Several viewers felt “uncomfortable” to see the members of a white group with dreadlocks and African clothing and playing reggae music. They condemned cultural appropriation.
A complex subject
Brasserie Lorraine, organizer of the event, has meanwhile come under heavy criticism. On Tuesday night, she released a statement on social media, saying she was surprised at the scale of the surge caused by the July 18 incident.
“We do not claim to have done the right thing to interrupt the concert. But letting it continue would have been frowned upon. We could also say that we were overwhelmed,” she wrote in the press release.
According to officials, the topic is extremely complex and should not be limited to simplistic questions such as “who is allowed to wear which clothes and which hairstyles”. They now want to have a discussion “that produces an analysis of its own and go further by including the consequences of colonialism in the discussion”.
Critics need to step out of the shadows
Interrupting the concert was “clearly not pleasant,” said one of the band members lukewarm to “Blick”. “Critics didn’t come to us. The group will continue as before. We believe in what we do and we enjoy it.”
The group hopes “that we respect each other” and that everyone isn’t just defending their culture. After all, we live in a multicultural world, which is enriching.
Other artists, such as soul singer Seven, have also commented on the incident. He expects people who have asked for the concert to be suspended to come forward. “Who are you? What bothered you? It’s important because maybe I should stop soul music and white rappers stop rapping too,” the Swiss singer posted on Twitter.
The debate about cultural appropriation is not new, but it is very lively in many places. “Coming from the USA, it has now arrived in Bern and will not disappear any time soon, even if it seems a bit grotesque in the local context,” writes the new editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper “Der Bund”, Isabelle Jacobi, in an analysis.
And the case is being pursued in court as Young UDC Switzerland announced on Twitter on Thursday that they will be filing charges against the establishment for violating the anti-racist sentence.
Another case in Germany
Foreign media, especially German ones such as “Der Spiegel” or “Focus”, also reported on the incident in Bern. A similar case happened in Germany a few months ago, when white musician Ronja Maltzahn was banned from a concert that was supposed to have taken place as part of a youth climate protest.
Activists from Fridays for Future (FFF) justified this cancellation with the singer’s hairstyle. Dreadlocks have become a symbol of resistance in the black civil rights movement in the United States. “So if a white person wears dreadlocks, that’s cultural appropriation, because as white people, because of our privilege, we don’t have to confront history or the collective trauma of oppression,” the climate activists write.
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