It really was like old times, seeing cheerful music and smiling faces in the shopping precinct of central Bonn on Saturday. It was One World Festival Day, and bemused shoppers stopped to hear the impromptu music, whilst laughing children stopped to watch giant bubbles blown into the air and marvel at jugglers. All the things that should make a City Centre a happy place were there together. But then, who could not smile when the Kültürklüngel Orkestar is playing in front of you and people are dancing to songs from near and far.
In May The Kulturklüngel Orkestar was co-winner of Nordrein-Westphalia’s Förderprogramm prize for its work towards international integration. They were certainly ideal ambassadors to lead Bonn’s One World Parade and kick off Saturday’s One World Festival. They show perfectly how music, with all its diversity as a form of cultural expression, can contribute strongly towards giving immigrants a sense of cultural identity and social cohesion, as well as creating an environment for intercultural exchange.
Saman Haddad is one of the Orkestar’s founders. Saman’s family fled from Iraq when he was only thirteen years old and he has since built up a semi-legendary status in the Bonn Cultural world based on a very simple philosophy. As Saman puts it: “You don’t have to talk about integration, just do it. Eat together, play soccer together, make music together, dance together. Then integration happens on its own.” He is the sort of person that you meet and don’t forget. He doesn’t forget you either as I discovered on Saturday when he greeted me by name in the City Centre after I hadn’t seen him in quite a while. I congratulated him on the prize and he immediately corrected me that the prize is for the Orkestar and not him. Typical Saman.
It really is fascinating to walk ahead of the Kültürklüngel orkestar as they head through the city centre. The sheer enthusiasm they generate changes the mood of entire streets and squares in minutes. Stressed-out mothers, tired shoppers, even the local fire brigade having a show in the square. Everyone finds a smile it seems.
The One World Festival itself is a voluntary project promoting intercultural diversity through networking, communication and social interaction. Initial focal points are the topics of causes of flight, integration and life biographies. Various themes are discussed: education, the examination of women’s and children’s rights issues, and the strengthening of intercultural associations and initiatives.