Music & clubs

BLACK Communion: Making a stage for diversity

The event series BLACK Communion at Morphine Raum in Kreuzberg is creating more visibility for the African diaspora within Berlin's Music Scene.

Photo: Black Communion

With several monthly concerts held at the experimental community and event space Morphine Raum in Kreuzberg to date, the event series BLACK Communion has been championing ideas and sounds from the African diaspora. Organised by a team of local experts and tastemakers, including the man behind the Mixtape Menage platform, DJ and musical authority Eiliyas, the series aims to create a stage for greater diversity and experimentation within Berlin’s music scene.

With the series’ last event (for now) taking place in June, we asked Eliyas to reflect on BLACK Communion’s trajectory thus far, and what steps he and his team are looking to take next.

What was the impetus for founding BLACK Communion?

There’s a few layers behind the development of BLACK Communion. From the coded term of ‘Black’ music that was much more prevalent when I moved here, as well as how it was relegated to class. Another goal was an interest in uniting various parts of the diaspora. A lot of it had to do with decentering whiteness in a Berlin event. The bulk of the experimental and explorative music in Berlin tends to revolve around techno, which isn’t bad, but I think variation would be great. My foundation music-wise was always in the realm of soul, hip-hop and jazz.

The first evening is about our identity, and the second evening is having a sonic conversation

I’ve always sought out more experimental sounds to be able to invite individuals whom this resonates with. I’ve also seen a few artists that may be known for one thing but then have this entire interest of sonic exploration that they have no idea what to do with. I started to think of how important it would be to give them a home. When looking at the goals of the event, we decided that we needed more than one night. The idea is to have the first evening, where each artist performs as they normally would, and the second would be improvisation-based. It’s like the first evening is about our identity, and the second evening is having a sonic conversation with the new community.

Photo: Black Communion

How do you go about finding and selecting artists to perform?

It all has to do with the artists’ penchant for experimentation. There was a point on the curatorial team, where we wanted to make sure that we had representation of the diaspora from Africa, the US and Europe.

How have your events been perceived to date?

A lot of it had to do with decentering whiteness in a Berlin event

I think that they have been well received. Morphine Raum is the perfect venue for this, because when you are there sitting in a circle it becomes something where an intimacy between the performer and crowd develops. It enunciates the communion part of the programme. We even took a group photo with the crowd on the last evening just to remember the moment.

What’s your take on diversity in Berlin’s nightlife and music scenes as well as the representation of Black artists?

I feel like Berlin’s nightlife can be a bit limiting

I feel like Berlin’s nightlife can be a bit limiting and, for the most part, leaves a lot to be desired. I really enjoy the Cassette Heads Sessions, things done by Soy Division, Decolonoize and L_Kw. And, of course, things happening at Morphine Raum, SAVVY, Repeat Bar and Panke. In regards to representation of artists in the Black diaspora – well, that could be a much longer conversation with a lot to unpack, but I will say that one thing that I’m incredibly wary of is it becoming a fetish.

I had a moment when putting this together where I had to ask myself if I was opening myself up to that with this project. The answer was more that it was done for the people involved rather than the general public. I found the lack of diversity here quite shocking when I moved here 13 years ago, but I was also coming from Atlanta, which has a much larger Black population. When I first arrived, I literally didn’t see another Black person for more than a month!

Photo: Black Communion

What do you think can be done to alleviate this?

Independent organisation and initiatives. In the years that I’ve been here, I do think that the diversity has shifted positively, but it’s still lacking. So yeah, more.

What can we expect from BLACK Communion going forward?

This month features Kelvin Sholar, Savanna Morgan and Chi aka Robert Machiri. I can’t wait to see what happens when mixing Machiri’s sonic sensibilities, Kelvin’s piano virtuosity, and Savanna’s vocal prowess.

  • BLACK Communion’s next event takes place Jun 28, get tickets here.