Ladies and Gentlemen,
since Alex Schulz has already welcomed you all, I would like to skip the greeting and come straight to the point.
First, I’m really glad – and I think the entire city of Hamburg is really glad – that we have been able to support this festival actually from the very beginning: From 2006 onwards, we were part of the sponsors of the festival and we are continuing proudly year after year after year because the development of the festival and its rising relevance are so apparent.
This year especially marks a very big leap forward in the festival because the Federal Government will join us with spectacular power. We are very glad that Günter Winands from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media is with us today.
The Reeperbahnfestival is a festival that is by far more than just a festival taking place in Hamburg and showing musical acts. It’s actually the most relevant festival for the music industry and for music as an art form here in Germany, if not in Europe – the Reeperbahnfestival is for the music business what the Berlinale is for the film or what the Frankfurt Book Fair is for the literature.
We are very proud to be a partner in this endeavour and to help the organizers of this festival. We know that we can only support ideas that already exist and we are very proud that those meaningful ideas develop and grow here in Hamburg.
Alex Schulz already mentioned one of the festivals topics, the initiative “Keychange”, which also shows the relevance of the Reeperbahnfestival.
This program is remarkable. It is supported by the European Union and the European Commission with the aim to foster gender equality in the music business. The Reeperbahnfestival was chosen to be the cornerstone of this initiative. It is supposed to make sure that women throughout Europe are represented equally in the music business. This is something that is very necessary and a central concern. It is necessary to stand up for and to support this aim.
Since we were talking about country music, I want to mention a very interesting act appearing in the US at the moment from which we can learn a lot about what is possible when music takes up the idea of gender equality.
The band “The Highwomen” are an excellent example. I don’t know if you heard of them – probably a few of you have because you are in the music business.
These are four women who are among the best country musicians: Brandi Carlile, who won three Grammys, Amanda Shires, Natalie Hemby and Maren Morris. They formed a “supergroup” as you call it and they did so because they were so angry and so outraged about the fact that basically no women were represented in country radio in the US.
They entered the US country charts last week at number 1 and they entered the Billboard charts in the top 10.
This shows very clearly what is possible if you team up and tell your story. “The Highwomen” are actually very closely intertwined with people we know from the Reeperbahnfestival. One of their first concert experiences was at the Newport Folk festival together with Linda Perry, who was with us last year and also with Jade Bird who won the Anchor in 2017.
This band is fascinating because it’s not just about technicality. It is also about the narrative power of music and the stories that are being told.
When you listen to their first album, you will notice that it is an entirely feminist country album – probably the first one there is. They even rewrote the famous song “The Highwaymen” from the 1980s. You all know Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and so on as “The Highwaymen”. But “The Highwomen” tell the narratives and stories of female heroes in the past.
This is something we need to look at more closely: The power to tell stories that haven’t been told before and that need to be told in our societies today; stories of the ones that don’t show up in public, stories of the ones that represent the values that we want to be represented. This is the most important power music has as an art form in our societies.
I mention this because this is actually what is at the core of this festival – it represents diversity in its purest form: We can basically see every form of music there is. We can stumble upon things we never knew we were looking for and we can discover that they are great.
The most fantastic thing is that at the festival, we experience diversity in community. This is something that is indispensable and important for our societies. We need to be diverse – we need to acknowledge that everyone is unique and spectacular in their own selves, but we also have to make sure that as a society we can live diversity as a whole. Of course, this applies not only to musicians but to politicians as well.
We have to ensure that we remain democratic and liberal societies and that we maintain arts and music that can flow freely in any imaginable way possible. I think that those four days of the Reeperbahnfestival ahead of us will show us what is possible if we trust in the strength of music as an art form, as a form of diversity and as a form of experiencing diversity in community.
So as every year, I’m not only looking forward to the business occasion of the Reeperbahnfestival, which is great, because we in Hamburg have always liked good businesses. But what is even more important is that we actually tackle issues that reflect what is going on in our societies at the moment. We need to support that everyone finds out how powerful and valuable it is to experience ourselves as a diverse community. Then we can show the world how to actually deal with populism and how to ensure that our societies remain diverse.
So, I’m offering all musicians the opportunity to get involved in this cause and to ensure that we keep our societies open and free.
And by that I wish you all a very great festival. Have a blast!