Australian Musicians in Germany Fascination Berlin

Folk singer and songwriter Kaurna Cronin simultaneously playing harmonica and guitar in front of the Berlin Cathedral.
Folk singer and songwriter Kaurna Cronin simultaneously playing harmonica and guitar in front of the Berlin Cathedral. | © Kaurna Cronin

Sydneysider Jeremy Rose is convinced: "Anything is possible in Berlin." For musicians, the German capital is still a playground of inspiration and creativity.

In recent years, Berlin has become a magnet for creative minds and extroverted artists, among them many Australians. According to the Federal Statistical Office, more than 12,000 Australians lived in Germany in 2015, almost 4,000 of them in Berlin – and their numbers are increasing.

Several aspects makes Berlin particularly attractive, such as its location in the heart of Europe or that living costs are still quite affordable compared to other major international cities. While a one-bedroom apartment in Sydney will set you back an average of 2,000 to 2,400 Australian Dollars, a 40-square-metre apartment in Berlin only costs about 600 Euros a month. Relevant factors for musicians who are seeking to make their name in Berlin's art scene and often have to get by on sporadic and rather moderate pay.

Berlin's Creative Energy

Germany's limited size and relatively dense population make the country attractive for musicians: Berlin and Munich aren't even as far apart as Canberra and Melbourne, yet while you'd traverse most of Germany in the process, in Australia you would only travel through a small part of the continent. However, these geographical aspects aside, it is Berlin's creative artistic energy that makes the capital famous beyond the country's borders. Musicians from all over the world are drawn to Berlin. According to Sydney jazz musician and saxophonist Jeremy Rose, in Germany you "feel much more like you're a part of history than in Sydney, where history and heritage are much less celebrated."

Saxophonist Jeremy Rose from Sydney has been travelling to Germany regularly for years to perform there. Saxophonist Jeremy Rose from Sydney has been travelling to Germany regularly for years to perform there. | © Mae Ashworth Photography Australian violinist Daniel Weltlinger, who has European roots and has lived in Berlin for years, similarly believes that apart from its turbulent history, Germany also has a personal meaning that is expressed through its language. "Language plays an important role when it comes to which identity you feel you belong to," Weltlinger says. The jazz musician speaks German and enjoys the fact that you'll hear many languages in the everyday hustle and bustle of the German capital. Australian Jeremy Rose only knows too well what it means to travel to Germany for a musical career. Every year, he makes the trip to Bremen to perform at the "Jazzahead!" festival: "Flights from Australia are expensive and the time difference is challenging. So travelling for the job is one of the sacrifices you make."

Daniel Weltlinger summarises life between Germany and Australia as "complicated". Nonetheless, many interesting contacts from all over the world beckon. They flock to Berlin in particular, where it's easy to spend time in a pub until dawn in good company and casually work out the details of your next music project or found a new band in the process.

Berlin: A Musical Experiment

Berlin is an integral part of the world map of creative hubs these days, Weltlinger says. He thinks the art metropolis acts like a magnet for creative people aiming to realise their dreams. As a result, a massive network of contacts very casually arises amidst bars and clubs where people full of creative potential lose track of time as they discuss their next creative venture.

Violinist Daniel Weltlinger performing with his band "The Asthmatix" at the "Venue 505" jazz club in Sydney, Australia. Violinist Daniel Weltlinger performing with his band "The Asthmatix" at the "Venue 505" jazz club in Sydney, Australia. | © Rudolf Teibtner Berlin's lightly regulated nightlife gives rise to a world that makes it easy to connect with other musicians, combine music genres or even create a new, experimental musical style. "It's extremely easy to connect with people. I suspect Berlin is one of the most outgoing, sociable cities in the world," Daniel Weltlinger muses. He thinks that coming to a churning city like Berlin from a young nation like Australia has an effect on musicians: "It's very inspiring. There's a massive creative energy – an effect of the city itself."

Songwriter and folk singer Kaurna Cronin from Adelaide, who has lived in Berlin and tours Germany every year, also notes that "Berlin is a creative environment that goes beyond music and touches all forms of art. In addition," Kaurna says, "it's quite affordable!" For Australian musicians who need to pay for flights to travel to the closest major city in their home country and pay high rents in places like Sydney, this is yet another aspect that reinforces Berlin's appeal.

Recognition for Alternative Music

Touring musicians who want to reach a broad audience with their music and ideally raise their profile in the process, thus encounter a fundamentally different world when they move from Australia to Germany. "Because of the short distances, travelling from city to city makes touring easy," Kaurna Cronin observes. He has already performed more than 200 concerts, often in regional areas of Germany. For him, the recognition alternative music enjoys in Germany is striking. The young artist is delighted about the conditions: "There's support for non-classical music as well!"

But even if Berlin boasts many advantages, the city is ultimately far from home. And that has an effect on those who leave Australia behind for their artistic career. Daniel Weltlinger gives clear voice to this inner conflict: "When I'm in Europe, I think Australia is a dream, and when I'm in Australia, Europe feels like a dream."