At the German Expo Pavilion in Shanghai, one could easily see how hip-hop is transcending borders. The pavilion called the "balancity" featured hip-hop during a month long program with graffiti, break-dance and music.
Hip-hoppers at the German pavilion in Shanghai
Hip-hop beats echoing around the area in front of the German pavilion have been attracting scores of young Chinese people. They are excited and sing along loudly with the artists. "It is different here in comparison to Berlin," says Rafael Schall from Berlin, who is blown away by the response. "Here you can really get the people high on music, dance with them on the stage and really go ballistic. People really go crazy here."
Schall is one of 50 German hip-hop artists who have come to Shangai to perform at the German pavilion. Together with 50 Chinese hip-hop artists they have turned it into a laboratory of urban youth culture.
Shanghai singer Cha-Cha says the project is "quite a cool thing"
Giving space to young people
Marion Conrady, spokesperson of the German Pavilion explains why Germany has chosen to present itself at this world fair in this way. "Hip-hop is a youth culture, which can also be seen in cities represented in words through graffiti but also in the form of various performances. With the help of our 'balancity' pavilion at the Shanghai Expo, we are trying to show the versatility of a city. And in a city, giving space to young people is as important as it is to provide space for high or elite culture."
Graffiti is important for hip-hoppers all over the world. And one can also see this at the German pavilion. At the graffiti corner there are not only huge pictures, but also graffiti T-Shirts, umbrellas and bags for the visitors. But in Shanghai one hardly gets to see any graffiti. Stan Wu works with the "Invasion" magazine in Hong Kong. He explains why so few walls are painted in Shanghai. "We first had the Olympics and now we have the Shanghai Expo. So the government and the city are trying to wipe out the whole country. Zero tolerance of 'dirty' surface, you know. So there is no chance that you will see a lot of graffiti in the city."
MC Wesley from Beijing in the 'balancity'
Power of graffiti
Asia's largest graffiti competition "Wall Lords Finals 2010", which was held on Sunday at the Shanghai Expo was also a part of the German hip-hop project. It was initiated by Akim Walta from Berlin, who has been active in the hip-hop scene there for almost 30 years.
Walta talks about a graffiti project by German artists in Shanghai. "Our boys also painted something for the residents here. What was interesting was that they tried to come into contact with the locals. And suddenly the sad grey street became colorful, with some connection to the locals. And in the course of time there was some problem and we were asked to remove the graffiti. But then, little children and families stood up for us and said that we had come from a far away land and the graffiti was a gift for them. They said it was their picture and they did not want it to be removed."
Walta has been to China many times and has been involved in various graffiti projects. He hopes that the hip-hop project at the Shanghai Expo is not the last one.
Author: Matthias von Hein/jb
Editor: Grahame Lucas