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“Global GROOVE” Workshop Programme
“Different voices working with and against each other”

“Global GROOVE” is a workshop programme for music journalists around the world
“Global GROOVE” is a workshop programme for music journalists around the world | Illustration: groove.de

GROOVE music magazine and the Goethe-Institut are holding a programme of workshops for journalists around the world. The organisers Laura Aha and Kristoffer Cornils spoke with “The Latest” at Goethe about “Global GROOVE” and their dream for international music journalism.

By Daniel Welsch

In your announcement of “Global GROOVE”, you mention the standstill the cultural scene is now in due to the coronavirus pandemic, but also new digital culture and dialogue formats that have emerged since it began. How much was the creation of “Global GROOVE” influenced by this situation?

Kristoffer Cornils: Both Laura and I lost our jobs because of the economic aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet we both believe that culture can play a leading role as a social catalyst and that cultural journalism is crucial for this in the way that it mediates, but also commentates and asks critical questions.

In the design of the programme, it was important to us to include people from the fictional region of the so-called Global South. Things have changed there immensely in the last ten years. For example the scene around the Nyege Nyege label in Uganda is hugely popular in the West. But this is mostly through the eyes of western journalists, who in turn get their information from PR firms in the global north. We want to give people from these regions the chance to tell these stories themselves so that something changes in the structure of the discussion about culture and so that it is conducted internationally on equal footing.

Laura Aha: In very practical terms, the pandemic has revealed that there are many ways for us to network digitally. We want to use these opportunities, think bigger and develop this project globally. Also because the situation caused by Covid-19 affects culture equally everywhere, we thought it was exciting to share ideas around the world.
You received around 170 applications for the ten places in the workshop series. What parts of the world did they come from?

Laura Aha: In the selection of the ten participants, we tried to reflect all of the regions represented. We have participants from Turkey, Guatemala, Mexico and the United States, from Egypt, Kenya and South Africa, from India, Hong Kong, and a participant from the Philippines who now lives in Vietnam. 

Music journalism – not only here in Germany – is still very male dominated. How was the gender ratio in the applications?

Laura Aha: Surprisingly balanced. From time to time we made quick estimates and we were at a ratio of 60:40 – so somewhat more men than women.

What criteria did you use to select the ten participants in the workshop series?

Kristoffer Cornils: That was really tough because almost all of the applications were good. It helped that we required for ourselves that the participants be as geographically widespread as possible. I also paid attention to at what point in their career the applicants are. Are they already too far advanced?

Others, by contrast, persuaded us with their pitches for the features in the second part of the programme, because they outlined very precisely what they want to write about. We had the feeling that this was exactly the right person to tell this story.

For you as organisers, what is the biggest challenge in this international digital workshop programme?

Laura Aha: It was definitely difficult to find the right objective for the workshop, to word the philosophy behind it so that no misunderstandings arise. It shouldn’t sound like white journalists from the West are trying to teach people from other parts of the world.

Kristoffer Cornils: The participants have very different socio-economic backgrounds, and regional cultural differences also play a role. That gives us all the chance to learn an awful lot here. Because, of course, we all have some idea of how music journalism works, but our idea is totally shaped by cultural, economic and other factors such as those that prevail in Central Europe and the United States.

That’s why we’ll communicate very clearly to the participants: Please contradict us! Because some participants are already quite advanced in their development and have as much experience in this work as we have. But they may have different experiences. We want to talk about and compare these on equal footing.

Are there any criteria for good music journalism that apply across cultural, scene and language boundaries?

Kristoffer Cornils: I don’t even know if my definition of good music journalism is the same as Laura’s. Because what is it that makes music journalism good? In my work, I discuss aesthetic issues less and less and instead focus on music industry backgrounds. In my opinion, that’s very important, but I also appreciate it when an article explains to me why this one album is so amazing.

One type of music journalism can never be good in isolation; only multiple voices make music journalism good at all. Even if I don’t like some music magazines’ tone of voice and choice of topics, I would always defend them because they contribute something else to the discourse. What defines good music journalism is when different voices work with and against each other.

Laura Aha: The question of good music journalism is also about representation. Especially since this project ventures into regions we’re not familiar with, we need people from there who can explain the culture to us. Not people from the UK who travel to Indonesia or South Africa and report about them. To me, that’s what good and desirable music journalism that is also sustainable would be.

The “Global GROOVE” project is divided into two parts: After the ten workshops, the participants will write their own feature about a local electronic music scene. How will you support and advise the participants in this phase?

Laura Aha: It will be just like an ordinary editorial collaboration; we’ll treat the participants like freelance writers.

Kristoffer Cornils: We’ll each take two or three participants under our wing. We’ll have support from Alexis Waltz, the editor-in-chief of GROOVE, and Maximilian Fritz, also an editor of GROOVE. Then, we’ll be there through the whole process as a contact person for the participants and try, when the rough drafts of the articles are sent to us, to edit them as well as possible, to improve them and to talk them over with the participants.

One aim of the project is to make local voices more globally audible. How can that be achieved in music journalism even beyond this project?

Laura Aha: We want to establish long-term collaborations with the participants in the workshops. Perhaps a few of them will expand our circle of freelancers, although GROOVE obviously can’t become a global magazine – we’re too small for that.

Kristoffer Cornils: Our problem is an economic one. I could set up an international platform, find ten people from all over the world who would submit a monthly report from their local scene, and then everyone could read it on this platform. But that would only work with funding and that’s not available on the free market. Still, we need to establish a form of international music journalism that works differently. That’s my dream: a large platform with teams all over the world, as decentralised as possible, but still under one roof. It’s not feasible, but we can dream a little, can’t we?