A concert that took place in Bern a few days ago was interrupted following the discomfort felt by spectators to see white musicians with dreadlocks playing reggae music. For their part, the Young UDC will file a complaint against the establishment for breach of the anti-racist criminal standard.
On July 18, the group Lauwarm, whose repertoire ranges from reggae to world music with lyrics in the Swiss German dialect, did not return to the stage after the intermission of the concert they gave at the Brasserie Lorraine in Bern.
The reason: Several people in the audience felt “uncomfortable” to see the members of a white group wearing dreadlocks and African clothes and playing reggae music. They denounced cultural appropriation.
A complex subject
The Brasserie Lorraine, organizer of the event, has since had to come under severe criticism. On Tuesday evening, she posted a statement on social media and said she was surprised by the magnitude of the wave caused by the July 18 incident.
“We do not claim to have done the right thing by interrupting the concert. But letting it continue would also have been frowned upon. We could also say that we were overwhelmed,” she wrote in the press release.
According to officials, the subject is extremely complex and should not be limited to simplistic questions such as “who can wear what dresses and what hairstyles”. They now want to lead a discussion “that produces an analysis of its own, and want to go further by including in the discussion the consequences that colonialism has left behind”.
Critics need to come out of the shadows
Interrupting the concert was “clearly not pleasant”, one of the band members Lauwarm told the Blick. “People who have criticized have not come to us. The group will continue as before. We are convinced of what we are doing and we enjoy it.”
The group hopes “that we respect each other” and that everyone does not only defend their culture. After all, we live in a multicultural world, which is enriching.
Other artists, like soul singer Seven, have also spoken out about the incident. He expects people who asked to interrupt the concert to come forward. “Who are you? What bothered you? It matters because maybe I should quit soul music too and white rappers quit rapping too,” the Swiss singer posted on Twitter.
Ongoing criminal complaint
The debate over cultural appropriation is not new, but it is currently very much alive in many places. “Coming from the United States, 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 “Der Bund”, Isabelle Jacobi, in an analysis.
And the case will have a legal follow-up since the Young UDC Switzerland announced Thursday on Twitter that they were going to file a complaint against the establishment for breach of the anti-racist criminal standard.
Another case in Germany
Foreign media, especially German ones like “Der Spiegel” or “Focus”, also reported the incident in Bern. A similar case occurred a few months ago in Germany, when white musician Ronja Maltzahn was banned from a concert that should have taken place as part of a youth climate protest.
Activists from Fridays for Future (FFF) justified this cancellation by the hairstyle of the singer. Dreadlocks have become a symbol of resistance in the United States for the civil rights movement of black people. “So when a white person wears dreadlocks, it’s cultural appropriation, because as white people, we don’t have to deal with history or the collective trauma of oppression in because of our privileges,” the climate advocates wrote.
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