Yalla, Lass feiern! Festival

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On the 15th of June the third Yalla, Lass feiern! festival will take place in Moabit – this time in Kulturfabrik. We met with two of its organizers, Daniela Kuich (D) and Yazan Al Smair (Y), and got some insights into the upcoming festival.

Interview by Victoria Kravtsova

What kind of festival is Yalla?
D: I think it is a festival for exchange. Here, new and old Berliners have an opportunity to come together and celebrate.
Y: The idea was to bring people from all the different contexts to one place. We thought about what kind of place would be good, as just meeting in a bar or a café seemed cliché. Throwing a big party appeared to be much better, so we asked different local artists if they want to come together and play music. Most of them were refugees trying to find their way in Germany, so for them it also became a possibility to perform. But the bigger idea was to let people from different cultures come together, talk and have a good time at a safe space where no one was going to judge them by their skin color, sexual orientation or the place of origin. All sorts of people coming together to have fun and make friends – this is the point.

For whom is this festival?
D: New Berliners, old Berliners – Europeans, migrants, refugees – everyone. The only thing that should be clear is that there is no space for any kind of discrimination.

Why this name, ‘Yalla’?
Y: Actually, everybody knows ‘Yalla’ – that’s an Arabic word. I am Syrian, so we use it all the time. It means ‘Let’s…’.
D: The whole name is ‘Yalla, lass feiern!’ – ‘Let’s celebrate!’.

Why Arabic?
Y: The festival is not about the Arabic world only, we have artists from different places – Middle East, Europe, Asia and so on – almost from every culture. But the name is Arabic, because the word is familiar to everyone in Berlin, and not only in Berlin – it is more or less known all over the world.
Y: Yeah, the audience is a mixture. And ‘Yalla’ – you hear it everywhere in Berlin, everyone is using it, not only the ones who speak the language.

I know it is already the third time you organize this festival – has anything changed in comparison to the previous ones?
D: We have a new place, KuFa. Before it was at the ZK/U in Moabit, but the festival got bigger over time. Already the first one was quite big, so we understood that we need more space.
Y: Yes, ZK/U became too small, and we saw that there were many people who wanted to come, but could not fit in. Thus, this year it is going to be at Kulturfabrik Moabit.

Who organizes the festival? How did you come to the idea?
D: We are from the ‘Im Garten’ group – it is an initiative of people who like to come together in a garden to grow food and exchange ideas. Before that, me and Yazan met in ‘Moabit Hilft’.
Y: Yes, we were volunteers there at that time, Daniela told me they had a gardening initiative and I joined them.
D: Then we asked people at ZK/U if they could give us a place for the garden and they said something like ‘No, but it would be cool if you guys make a party here’.
Y: And that’s where everything started – we had no idea how we would exactly do it, but there were some other groups who wanted to cooperate – some of them are still with us now, so it was all about team work.
D: In the end, the idea was also to raise some money for the groups, because they all work voluntarily. The money we make at the festival, it helps to support everyone who is involved – the artists as well.

What events will take place during the festival? Maybe you have your personal favorites?
D: We have all kinds of different events, not only music. I am really looking forward to the performance of the ‘Future V’ Vogueing group, for instance.
Y: There will be many musicians and all of them are great. I would highlight Los Spätikaufens from Chile and Shamsa, a Jordanian DJ – I heard that many people come specifically to hear her.
D: We also have a talk from a new group that is opening a Kiezhaus in Wedding devoted to political and community work.

And there is also a film, right?
D: Yes, ‘Raving Iran’ – it is great, many people want to see it.

What are your plans for the future? Will you continue organizing ‘Yalla’?
Y: Actually, each year after the festival we tell each other that it takes too much work to organize it, but then people keep coming to us and asking about the next one. So yes, most likely there will be another ‘Yalla’.

To conclude, why is it important to have festivals like that?
D: For me it is about developing community, getting to know other people both from the neighborhood and outside of it. It is very good that everybody has a chance to come, the prices allow all people to get in. And I want to have more parties like this, because that’s what the city needs. You feel good, you have good music, get to know new bands, the bands have a chance to play somewhere, which is especially valuable for newcomers. It is also interesting to do it without making any profit, but giving the money back to the community through different groups and initiatives.
Y: As a refugee in Germany and a trainer working with other refugees, I think it is very important to have such safe spaces to meet other people who will not judge you, especially while having fun and enjoying good music. I believe the festival is a very good idea, and the people who went there before told me they made a lot of friends and connections during the day. For example, a friend of mine from Syria met a girl from ‘Cooking for Peace’ and is now with them in Leipzig, – he is very happy about that, learning German and getting his education. Such are the connections one can make at the festival.

It is wonderful that you create such a space. Thank you and I am really looking forward to the festival! Yalla, lass feiern!