Rap As A Form Of Cultural Diplomacy

Germany’s young Muslims are turning to hip-hop to express their feelings

July 08th, 2016

By the early '90s, Turkish-Germans, the country's largest minority, became a powerful voice in German hip-hop. German-Turkish rap essentially came into being in the 1990's as a direct correlation with the rise of anti-immigrant feelings in Germany and violent attacks upon Turkish immigrants in the country. Hip-hop quickly became a voice for this marginalized sector of German society and consequently the number of Turkish-German rappers has multiplied vastly.

In Germany, hip-hop acts as a source for Muslim immigrants to express their thoughts of lonely anthems of exclusion and alienation. Over the decades however, as the number of Muslim immigrants to Germany grew, the country’s hip-hop artists have adopted a much harder, more strident tone. German hip-hop has its center in the heart of Kreuzberg where songs like “Fight the Power” were created speaking to people who felt outside of German society.
Advanced Chemistry was one of the first groups to start rapping in German, and even though its music borrows heavily from New York hip-hop, the group’s lyrics tell a German story. Despite having German citizenship, the group’s members, who have immigrant backgrounds, rap about not being considered as real Germans. In the song “Fremd im eigenen Land” (“Foreign in my Own Country”), they explained that despite having a “passport with a golden eagle,” they were among the few who must show their passport when traveling or being questioned  “Where are you really from?”
The need to be taken seriously and given respect pervades much of the music of immigrant rappers. Over time, as German rap has moved on from the underground to the mainstream, expression of respect in rap ahs evolved. If Advanced Chemistry was talking about having their identity not questioned at every turn, today’s German rappers are becoming more forceful, creating their own worlds where they run the show.
More recently, groups like K.I.Z, Antilopen Gang, and Zugezogen Maskulin have turned the tables using harsh language to point the finger at German politicians and even mainstream society for turning their back on refugees arriving in the country. More than one million refugees arrived in the country last year.

Is music a viable instrument in cultural politics? Music represents one of the most fundamental aspects of every culture, because it has the ability to represent a nation’s cultural values and political ideologies. Music’s diplomatic potential is illustrated in its ability to reach beyond the common medium of political meetings and forums, in which discussions are scripted and certain outcomes expected. We can at least say that it represent a viable tool for creating a common ground upon which to build a more positive relationship among different cultures.


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Jessica Sama, CD News