An Interview with Raggabund “Everyone should come to Germany”

Raggabund in Buenos Aires: “Latin America has always been an island of inspiration”
Raggabund in Buenos Aires: “Latin America has always been an island of inspiration” | Photo: Goethe-Institut Argentinien

It wasn’t just a tour of Latin America; it was a tour de force: thirteen cities in one month. But the Raggabund band members who travelled to South America at the invitation of the Goethe-Institut were very pleased at the end. We caught up with the musicians in Bogotá.

You call yourselves Raggabund. What does the name mean?

Caramelo: It’s a blend of the words reggae and Vagabund. We’re like musical vagabonds and our music is based on reggae. Not exclusively; we combine lots of elements like hip-hop, Latin, cumbia, electronic... Luca also digs rock... It brings a lot of styles together.

What does it mean for you to be a multicultural band?

Caramelo: I feel it’s an enrichment, of course, when different cultures get together and create something new. But I ultimately see it as a normal development. People have always shared; they wandered about and exchanged lots of experiences. And I think we can use music to reflect what is being discussed so much right now in Europe, even though there are isolationist tendencies. We represent a new kind of Germany, a new kind of Europe.

What did Germany contribute to your music?

Paco: A great deal. We have lived in Germany since we were small. Most of our musical inspiration is German. We live in fascinating cities, Munich and Berlin, practically the melting pots of multiculturalism. For us, being able to live in Germany is a huge opportunity. We think everyone should come to Germany so they can also have these opportunities.

What about Latin America?

Paco: Of course, Latin America has always been an island of inspiration. Ever since we were little it was always “Our home is a Latin American home.” As soon as we shut the door behind us, we were in Latin America. We heard salsa cumbia, a lot of Columbian rhythms and that influenced our music. Also a lot by the old stars and the travels.

What difference does it make to sing in German, English or Spanish?

Paco: Every language is its own universe for me. We grew up multilingual, speaking Swiss German, Italian, High German and Spanish. We began with Spanish music and we noticed that the people don’t understand it all, then we started singing in German. German is a distinct language; you can express things very well with it. Spanish is far more poetic. When I sing about “your lovely eyes” in Spanish it sounds romantic. In German it sounds cutesy and like Schlager music. We’ve learned to combine the two. It’s come so far that we even translate the songs. We translate songs we wrote in German into Spanish.

What can you tell us about your new album Buena Medicina?

Michele: Buena Medicina is a result of our many years working together. We wanted to finally pack our mutual experiences in an album. Since we recorded everything with the band it has a very analogue and earthy, hand-made sound.

Caramelo: Yes, and on this album, we increased the number of Spanish songs. We hope that the message in our package will be good medicine for people.

How did your tour of South America go?

Paco: This tour is very intense. We only spend a few hours at each stop so there is not enough time to discover all of the riches of these countries. That’s a reason to come back. Now, we’re in Colombia and we’re all really happy. Yesterday we went to a Champeta concert and that really was an inspiration, too. The people here are so different than they are in Europe. We Europeans could really learn a lot from the people’s natural joyfulness.

In Bogotá, your concert was part of the celebration of 25 years of German reunification. What do you remember about that event?

Caramelo: I can remember always asking my father, “Why is this country divided?” It’s not easy to explain that to a child. My father then always simply said, “Son, the two countries will find their way back together.” But he couldn’t tell me whether we would live to see it. Fortunately, we did.

Paco: Most of all, I thought it was wonderful that such a peaceful revolution was possible in Germany – in a country that was responsible for two world wars. We hope that Germany is aware of its special responsibility and knows how dangerous nationalism can be. Nationalism existed in both the east and the west and sadly, it is still sometimes perceptible.

Carolina Tafur conducted the interview.