Featured Photo by Jessica Polar.
The Red Bull Music Academy is an institution fostering creativity in music with the idea to bring together people from different musical and cultural backgrounds to learn from each other. Chosen applicants have the opportunity to hear from the people that have shaped music in the last few decades and into the future. Our Photo Editor Jessica Polar headed behind the scenes at their Academy in Berlin to photograph some of the faces to watch on the OneStep+ camera and shortly afterwards, we caught up with their Co-Founder Many Ameri to hear about his highlights of this year’s proceedings.
You’ve brought together an eclectic selection of music makers and creatives from around the world. Can you tell us more about your process of selecting artists for the Academy as well as curating the festival and some of the highlights?
We’ve had 60 “participants” as we call them, who come to Berlin in two groups of 30 to attend lectures and workshops. These people have been selected from over 4000 applications and more than 100 countries. We have a team listening through all the applications that select the artists we think would really benefit from this experience at the Academy. All of these participants also get to perform as part of our festival, the Red Bull Music Festival. When it comes to the festival, we celebrate music, its culture and the transformative minds behind it. We present all the music that the participants bring from all over the world, as well as more conceptual shows and deep dives into a scene or genre. A good example of that is one show that kicked off the festival here, An Afro-Rhythmic Affair, which was a night that was dedicated to afrobeats. We worked with a local collective, Freak de l’Afrique, to present some of the more interesting artists in this scene from around the globe. We had Megloh, a Deutsch rap superstar with Ghanaian decent; we had a kuduru artist, Titica, from Angola. We also presented a night with Sevdaliza. She’s an Academy alum that was with us for the Paris Academy in 2015, and she put together a really exceptional show.
This is the 20th-anniversary edition of the Red Bull Music Academy in Berlin. How have you seen the cityscape change music-wise, and what are your predictions for the coming years?
Berlin is a very international city, with a huge community of expats bringing their own sounds to the city. It’s the nature of the city to foster creativity – the opportunity that comes with so many small spaces being available. But now there’s a very diverse music scene here, whereas when we first started in 1998 it was mainly techno and house music that were the sounds of the city.
Why did you decide on this particular venue, the Funkhaus, rather than more of a warehouse setting similar to where the first-ever Academy was held?
We are trying to create an environment where a lot of music can be created. The profile of our artists has changed quite drastically from the first year when we were in a warehouse environment – most of these artists play many instruments as well as produce. Given that, it was great for us to be in a place like Funkhaus that has all these studio facilities. It means the inspiration from the lectures can translate immediately into studio sessions.
You’re working with a whole host of young and emerging artists for the Academy. Why is it important for you to champion young and original talent?
They’re the ones challenging the status quo. As an institution, we’re dedicated to finding people that are trying to move culture forward around the globe. What we do is try to inspire them by bringing them together with the people who have done so in the past.
As well as just listening to music visitors to the festival have an opportunity to talk with and around the subjects with the artist themselves and hear more of the background. This exchange of ideas appears to form a basis of the festival concept. Can you tell us more about why you decided to include that more collaborative element in the program?
The lectures are meant to expose our participants to a lot of different approaches to making music – the motivations and challenges that have been overcome by other artists that will inspire their own creative process. From the get-go, we knew we couldn’t really teach people to be musicians, so we would find people that were very talented and create a framework where they would learn through collaboration. That’s also why we have eight rooms for 30 participants. It puts them in a situation where they have to be working together.
What’s your personal top moment of the Academy or Festival this year? And why?
The Sevdaliza show. Seeing her vision come to life made me very happy. There was one song where she was using Auto-Tune, and as she went higher and higher, I was sitting there with a grin on my face thinking, this is probably the best use of Auto-Tune I’ve ever heard in my entire life. Go home Kanye and T-Payne. She really managed to turn this thing into something that helped excel the voice – into something the human voice wasn’t capable of doing, not just trick over a lack of capability. If I were to say a moment, it was that moment – like, “Ah, you really showed them.”