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Is Grime Taking Over Berlin?


Grime music is probably the greatest sound London has produced this century.

And its recent resurgence in the UK – thanks to new artists like Novelist and Stormzy – can only be celebrated. After some performances in New York went down a storm, it became clear the idiosyncratic sound had global appeal. Next stop? Berlin.

If you’ve never visited Berlin that you may not have heard of it’s most popular nightlife venue, Berghain. A towering old factory in an industrial part of town, it has long been known as the best club on earth. But it has built that reputation off of weekend after weekend of the best techno and house DJ’s playing, so when the news dropped that top UK grime act Skepta was due to play there a few eyebrows were raised.

So we sat down with Julian, the booking agent with Melt!, who organised the whole thing, to find about a bit more about why:

Was it easing booking Skepta at the Berghain?

Well I always knew that when I put Skepta on in Berlin it would have to be at one of the most spectacular venues, and Melt! has a very good connection with Berghain as we book a lot of acts there regularly. So I wanted to have one of the most spectacular artists in one of the most spectacular venues. I know that they are notoriously picky about putting acts on but when we asked them about Skepta they said they were interested so I knew we had to do it.

It’s a bit strange that the gig is on a Tuesday, is there any reason for that?
Well Tuesday is the night Melt! has a regular show called ‘Certain People’, which is usually more electronic. But that’s when we put on Hudson Mohawke as well, so that’s why we put it on, just as a part of our continued show.

Is grime getting bigger in Berlin?
Well I also helped put on Splash! Festival, which is more urban and traditionally had a lot of grime acts on the bill like Dizzee Rascal and Wiley, and that’s been going for a while. Also other acts like Stormzy and Kano have been selling out gigs in Berlin this year and last year. When I talked to Skepta himself he actually said he’s been playing in Berlin for over 10 years now, so he knows a lot about it. We have had a night here called ‘Grime Time’ that’s been going since 2005 that has had a lot of acts like JME play on it too. I think the Berlin music scene usually mirrors the UK one, like when Drum & Bass was popular in the UK it was here too, and the same with Dubstep.

Berghain is a world famous venue but it’s not usually known for putting on gigs, especially hip-hop or grime ones, so why did you choose that venue specifically?
Well for me it was personal as well as professional. Because personally I thought, “Where would I like to most see Skepta play?”, and the answer was the Berghain. It’s the best venue in the world and one of my favourites. Then also professionally it makes sense because I thought “Who is the most spectacular artist in the world right now?” and, of course, for me it’s Skepta. So it seemed to fit on both levels.

Do you think this will be the start of more grime acts at the Berghain? 
Well at the moment I don’t think there is anyone on the level of Skepta worldwide so probably not, although we are talking to Stormzy about something later this year but it’s not certain where. To be honest it is also down to the Berghain: if the show goes well, the crowd is good and there is no trouble – although I don’t know why there would be – then they’ll be open to more acts playing there for sure.


Know where to stay?

Berghain is a thirty minute walk from Generator Prenzlauer Berg; but if you're heading from Mitte take the tram two stops to S Hackescher Markt then the subway to Ostbahnhof. If you missed tickets to see Skepta in Berlin, he’s also playing later in the year in London, Copenhagen and Amsterdam. If you’re heading there, you know where to stay.