Music School Fanny Hensel: That’s what diversity sounds like

The musical sounds of Berlin are as diverse as its residents. It is therefore not surprising that some music schools offer lessons beyond the usual range of classical instruments. In terms of sheer diversity, however, the music school “Fanny Hensel” in Mitte is unique. The Arabic short-necked oud can be learned here, as can the Indian sitar, the Turkish saz, the West African djembe, the Vietnamese bamboo flute, the bandoneon and much more.

This wonderful variety of sounds can be experienced on February 12 at the “World Music!” concert. In the heart of Berlin, in the Werk9 near Kochstrasse, lecturers from the “World Music” group play music together with their students. Ten ensembles will present themselves, admission is free.

Musical traditions from all over the world meet

You can experience up close how much the often neglected musical traditions of immigrants from all over the world have shaped everyday urban life. Berlin is often a magnet, place of refuge and inspiration at the same time. Laura Patchen, who will be heard at the concert on the tabla, the Indian drum, moved to Berlin in 1977. By chance, the native New Yorker met tabla master Kamalesh Maitra here and became a student of the Berliner by choice. Since his death in 2005, Patchen has continued his tradition.

A longtime musical companion was the accordionist and “Klezmer King of Berlin” Jossif Gofenberg, who taught at the Fanny Hensel Music School until his sudden death in April 2022. His tradition of Yiddish singing is maintained here.

The interest in the music of the others is great

Hilaneh Nabil, who had to leave his native Syria in 2014, has been teaching the oud, the Arabic short-necked lute, since 2017. Like many of the lecturers, he sees himself as an ambassador of a rich musical tradition that is little known in this country. According to Hilaneh Nabil, multicultural Berlin is exactly the right place for this.

Interest in other musical traditions is independent of nationality or ethnicity. As the sitar teacher Sebastian Dreyer notes: “The motivations of the students are as diverse as they are.” Music enthusiasts with previous knowledge of classical instruments are just as much among them as complete beginners, children as well as seniors. For example, Hilaneh Nabil’s first oud student was a 70-year-old German who had originally learned to play the guitar.

Side by side becomes togetherness

The diversity of the students is also confirmed by Siddik Doğan, who has been teaching at the music school since 1986. At the concert, he and his ensemble can be heard playing the saz, the traditional Turkish long-necked lute, also known as the bağlama. The choir he directs, in which Germans sing together with Albanians, Kurds, Iraqis and Syrians, will perform songs in Turkish.

For department head Frank Schneider, it is not just the coexistence that is important, but also the coexistence of different musical traditions. At the concert, the lecturers therefore form their own ensemble as “Masters of Mitte”: Among other things, they play jazz clarinet, bandoneon and Vietnamese vaulted board zither together.

The “Fusion Ensemble” conducted by Antoine Boecker, which can be taken as a course at the music school and has its first appearance at the concert on February 12, is similarly exciting. The participants learn various improvisation techniques on their respective instruments. At the end of the course there is a jointly created piece.

The concert “World Music!” is not only proof of the unifying power of making music together, but also of the everyday diversity of Berlin. As Frank Schneider enthusiastically admits, “Most importantly, you show what musically exists – and it’s next door!”

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Source: Tagesspiegel

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