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Culture

Fighting Right-Wing Extremists with Music

Being on the far-right fringe is 'in' these days -- at least in certain eastern German states. So the club, Culture on the Road, is stepping in, fighting intolerance, violence and racism through music.

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Culture on the Road caters to many different youth scenes

In eastern Germany, skinheads and others attracted to the far-right are not in the minority. For example, in local elections in Saxony in 2004, almost one out of every four first-time voters chose the rightwing NPD party. One reason for the party's good performance in the elections is that it provides jobs to the young.

The club, Culture on the Road, is trying to take on and embrace the diversity of youth culture. It doesn't matter whether it is punk, hip hop or black metal -- anything is better than the right fringe. The club offers information, holds discussions and workshops keeping in mind, the style, music and political background of the diverse youth movements.

A record as a tool

It is DJ training class at a special school for the learning-disabled in Blankenhain in the eastern German state of Thuringia. And instead of math homework, the students sit curious before two turntables. Peer Wiechmann shows the students how to lay a record down and find the right beat.

"You take your hand and lay the record, here and there," he tells the kids. "At first, try to be relatively even so that you produce a real beat. And after you feel more secure, try and lay another down and get another beat to overlay on the first."

Everyone gets a change to try it. Bastian, 14, is really getting into it. "It is really interesting to do it yourself," he said. "And also to get tips and learn something new from someone with experience.

Weichmann answers all the kids questions, shows tricks. But he also knows that he is no DJ.

Youth culture is tolerant

Wiechmann comes from the Weimar-based Network Against Rightwing Extremism who issued the contract for the event. Afterward, he picked up his team in Berlin on the way to Blankenhain.

Verein für Jugendkultur e.V. Projekt Culture on the Road

The project aims to engage young people in meaninful discussions

"We have a strong sense of camaraderie and commitment," he said. "And we try to capture the children through music and dance. Youth culture is essentially by its nature tolerant, diverse and international. That is what we communicate and everyone seems to like that. "

Culture on the Road is a colourful team of 15 young people. Several members of the group have studied political science and are especially familiar with right-wing extremist ideology. Others come from different youth scenes such as hip hop, techno or metal. An American member of the group played in a punk band for years. She offers day-long workshops with music.

In the east, hating foreigners is normal

Silke Baer is responsible for the concept. She wants with the project above all to reach those young people in the new eastern German states, where she says that the group has learned through experience that "seeing foreigners as the enemy is an absolutely normal thing."

"We go into this region and talk with kids about youth culture through political discussions," she said. "In this way, we try to bring them closer into the democratic fold."

That most youth culture comes from abroad is one point, she says. Another is the history of such movements. For example, hardly any kids know that the punk movement of the 1970s arose out of the high unemployment in the younger ranks in the UK. This is something that Baer knows only too well.

Archiv der Jugendkulturen, Projekt Culture in the Road

Culture is one way to reach those hard-to-reach young people

Sociologist Michaela Glaser from the German Youth Institute in Halle says that these types of youth projects are indispensable.

"The important thing is that there is first access to the young in order to be able to work with them," she said. "And it is just these projects, in our experience, that help the young become more open and be ready for future conflicts."

Not a one-time thing

And it is also important to be consistent and not have such projects be a one-time occurrence otherwise they will be in vain, said Glaser. That is a danger in many communities with empty cash registers who have already stricken youth programs from their tight budgets.

Corinna Hundshagen, the director of the Blankenhain school says that her staff wants to remain on the ball.

"I have already spoken to Peer Weichmann and requested that at the very least, he should remain in contact," she said. "We want to do certain projects still with our local youth club. We have made a start and now we have to see how we can move forward."

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