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Culture

Rocking in German

Young German musicians are opting to sing in their native tongue. In both style and spirit, many resemble their predecessors of the "Neue Deutsche Welle" (German New Wave), which rocked out German-style in the eighties.

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"2raumwohnung" are making German lyrics popular again

Instead of cranking out cookie-cutter pop hits in English that currently dominate Germany's airwaves, a growing number of young Germans are choosing to sing auf Deutsch. They are picking up on the tradition of acts such as Nena, Trio and Falco -- who helped make music with German lyrics in the late 1970s and early 1980s popular.

Deutsche Welle interviewed the members of "2raumwohnung," Inga Humpe and Tommie Eckart, who along with bands like "Wir Sind Helden" are launching the second wave.

The name "2raumwohnung" (2-room apartment) has a lot of symbolic meaning related to German history. How would you explain the name to your fans abroad?

Tommi: The name originally comes from the fact that we're two people and this is a two person project. But then, of course, there's this funny situation: due to the Wall and the division between east and west, the language was also divided. Now, 15 years after the fall of the Wall, there are still differences, and Germans from the east and west have different ways of describing a two-room apartment because they prefer to use different words for room: " zimmer" in the west and " raum" in the east. We took this linguistic anomaly to be a synonym for Berlin, and since we are from the west we incorporated the "raum" into our name to represent a kind of connection.

What is your relationship to the German language like? Foreigners often describe the language as hard, but in your music you make it sound light and soft.

Inga: That's true. After I sing in German, I also think the language is quite hard. We take great pains to make it sound softer. But we also have a bit of experience singing in English. Now we have decided to record some of our songs in English, like "Sexy Girl" and "Spiel mit," which is on the premium version of our CD. And just yesterday, we recorded an English version of "Wir sind Anderen."

I recently heard from Toni Kater, a Berlin musician who is on the same label, that when she first met both of you, she identified your band with the "Berlin scene." Do you identify with any "scene" at all, and to what extent is your music tied to the city of Berlin?

Inga: With the "scene" no, but definitely with the city. There are so many "scenes" in Berlin, but the city is an important source of inspiration for us. Without Berlin, we probably wouldn't exist. Berlin is so big and multi-faceted, and there's so much freedom here that many different varieties of music can develop. It's nice, I think, to be connected to the soul of this city. I will always be in love with Berlin.

When you write your songs, do you have a specific public in mind?

Tommi: We try to make the kind of music we would enjoy and compose songs we would want to listen to, even if we weren't writing it ourselves. That's also how we approached the new album: even if we hadn't made it ourselves, would we want to listen to it? At least this is what we always try and do. We don't have a particular person or listener in mind. We simply make music for ourselves and for our friends. I think our fans are not so different than we are.

From which musical genre does "2raumwohnung" draw inspiration?

Tommi: We try to draw upon everything we like. We are just as inspired by Air and Madonna as by Miss Kittin and Märtini Brös. Even older music, like Kraftwerk and music from the '70s, has influenced us.

What are you listening to at the moment?

Tommi: I am listening to lots of Air at the moment, and I love Phoenix. I guess I listen to other things too, like Chet Baker…

The German press recently accused you of being too optimistic and not political enough. Do you have a response to them? And why are you so optimistic?

Tommi: First of all, I think it is very important to be optimistic. When we make music, we are simply in a good mood and people can tell. But I also don't agree that our music is not political. When someone takes their own feelings seriously and shares it with other people, then it is perhaps not -- strictly speaking -- political, but it certainly has a greater meaning for society.

Inga: It was a very deliberate decision to be optimistic and to remain optimistic. I think it's not the best choice -- just because the times are hard -- to whine and complain along with everyone else. Instead, people should ask themselves what they can do to make things better for themselves and for everyone others. I think positive thinking is the basis of that. And besides, I don't really understand why the Germans complain so much -- things aren't really that bad.

Do you plan on touring abroad?

Inga: Yes, lots. We are always getting offers from Brazil and Mexico.

Tommi: Sadly, it hasn't worked out in Brazil. But we've already played in Russia and in Japan and we have plans for concerts in Spain and Turkey.

Look for "2raumwohnung" and other representatives of the new "German Wave" at a venue near you soon.

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