Music & clubs

A music nerd’s guide to Pop-Kultur 2021

With 120 artists across four days, this week’s lineup is huge. From German hip-hop to Middle Eastern music with a twist, we give you the highlights.

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With 120 artists across four days, Pop-Kultur’s lineup is a lot to take in. Let us be your guide. Photo: Dena / Pop-Kultur

Pop-Kultur is back for real for its seventh iteration. With 120 performances packed into just four days, it might just be worth spending a couple of those precious vacation days to stay out late. Pop-Kultur is known for its exceptional curation, but this year still feels like a bumper edition: a too-hot-for-TV special of the lesser-spotted songbirds of Berlin playing in the sun, not on screens.

Revolving around Prenzlauer Berg’s Kulturbrauerei complex, the festival is both indoors and outdoors. You can still catch most of the best acts if you play it smart. On Wednesday, August 25, it’s got to be Erika de Casier, the R&B starlet who whispered her way onto the scene with her sublime ear for melody. Hers is a phantasmic talent, a yearning, breathless sound that, no matter how many times you listen, always leaves a mark.

Then there’s the Deutschrap phenomenon LAYLA (August 26), who has had a frankly transformative impact on the genre. And what can be said? It bangs. Femme-forward and proud, her music pulses and flows with aqueous bass, razor-sharp lyrics. She owns her space, and yours. Next, Ozan Ata Canani & Petra Nachtmanova (August 26) use sound to present their experiences as Gastarbeiter. The lives of migrants in Germany, and their children, have followed different paths, but they still share certain experiences. Both musicians use the saz (similar to the Western lute, or Middle Eastern oud) to find a bridge between each other and their complex relationships to the concept of home. Both will also perform individually (Nachtmanova on August 27, Canani on August 28).

At its core, Pop-Kultur is an exhibition of the meaning and breadth of pop music and culture. It’s a glowing advertisement for the musical landscape of Berlin and much-needed megaphone for its ever evolving ensemble of artists.

Pop-Kultur, August 25-28, Kulturbrauerei