The Saint Ghetto Festival started in 2008 and was intended as a one-off event to bring together music from Paris and Switzerland. The three-day event and the name were so well received that the program group at the time decided to stage Saint Ghetto again a year later, but this time with an international line-up.
Already during the planning it became clear that this would be the Dampfzentrale’s international Music Festival in the years to come. Since then, numerous musical legends and cult figures, as well as newcomers and outsiders, have taken to the stages of Dampfzentrale on a long weekend in November.
L’Rain | Smerz | Light Years feat. Caterina Barbieri, Bendik Giske, Lyra Pramuk, Nkisi & MFO | Lost Girls | Aïsha Devi | Maria w Horn | Lafawndah | Omni Selassi | Jerskin Fendrix | IOKOI | Vanishing Twin | TR/ST | Ghostpoet | Test Dept | Eartheater | Shackleton presents Tunes Of Negation | Kyoka | Jungstötter | Merz | Current 93 | DAF | Anna von Hausswolff | Circuit Des Yeux | Jenny Hval | Lolina | John Bence | Algiers | Hermann Nitsch | Dorian Wood | The Residents | Edward Ka-Spel & The Silverman | Zola Jesus | Gazelle Twin | Buriers | Mick Harris presents Fret | The Bug vs. Dylan Carlson | Ventil | Dillon & Choir | Mykki Blanco | Raime | Marie Davidson | Richard Dawson | group A | Baby Dee | Neneh Cherry & Rocketnumbernine| Bianca Casady & The C.i.A. | Bohren & Der Club Of Gore | Olöf Arnalds | The Space Lady | Wrangler | The Necks | Mohammad | Ben Frost | Triptykon | Dean Blunt | Wildbirds & Peacedrums | Atom™ | Laetitia Sadier | Sudden Infant | Anika solo | Laibach | Sparks | OM | Palais Schaumburg | Merz feat. Sartorius Drum Ensemble | Lubomyr Melnyk | Sensational meets Koyxen | Uz Jsme Doma | Tuxedomoon | Rhys Chatham’s Bern Project | The Legendary Pink Dots | Esplendor Geometrico | Hildur Guðnadóttir | David Maranja & Z’ev | Sven Kacirek | Marc Almond | Anika | Hauschka | Esben And The Witch | Carla Bozulich | Ja Panik | Natalie Beridze | Dave Phillips | The Fall | Charlemagne Palestine | Bobby Conn | Steven Stapleton | Qa’a | Lydia Lunch’s Big Sexy Noise | Die Goldene Zitronen | Ghédalia Tazartès | Little Annie | Cobra Killer | André Duracell | Philippe Petit & James Johnston | Brigitte Fontaine | Pierre Henry | Hermine
The legendary Parisian neighborhood Saint-Germain-des-Prés served as a reference, as this area on the left bank of the Seine was the melting pot of the most experimental and radical European avant-garde of the post-war period. It was here that the underground principle was invented on the ashes of Dada and Surrealism – with all its facets between music, drugs, dance, painting, film and politics, and thus the fuse of punk culture was lit.
The acronym Saint Ghetto stands for «Saint-Ghetto des prêts» a term chosen by the lettrist Gabriel Pomerand to ironically describe the legendary artists’ and intellectuals’ neighborhood of Saint-Germain-des-Prés as a petty-bourgeois debt hell.
The Dampfzentrale music team liked all these references and so had appropriated the term. Over the past 14 years, Saint Ghetto has had a lasting impact on musical events outside the mainstream in Bern. For next year’s 15th edition (the 2020 edition was fully planned but didn’t take place due to Corona), the festival will now undergo a name change.
Very few people know the origin of the festival name «Saint Ghetto». Dampfzentrale never bothered much about an explanation and was content to have created a brand that has enjoyed a fabulous reputation far beyond the country’s borders for many years. But it is now high time to discard this combination of two words with dubious connotations.
The new name will be announced with the start of the 2022 edition of the festival.
Deep love running through it
Kae Tempest’s broad artistic output in the fields of poetry, essay, spoken word, rap and composition always combines an urgency that can hardly be put into words, and at the same time Kae’s words reflect the complexity of the world in an incredibly precise and, as it were, poetic way.
Kae Tempest’s ability to point out the problematic entanglements of our reality through small stories and snapshots of life is unique. At the same time, there is always a sense of meaning – the yes to life, the beauty of being, the love of people.
The Line is a Curve (2022) is Kae Tempest’s fourth album. It’s about letting go, surrendering to feelings rather than running from them in the midst of shame, anxiety, pressure and isolation. The more pressure on a person, the greater the potential for release. “Embracing the cyclical nature of time, growth, love. This letting go can hopefully be felt across the record. In the musicality, the instrumentation, the lyricism, the delivery, the cover art. In the way it ends where it begins and begins where it ends,” writes Kae Tempest about The Line is a Curve.
Kae Tempest is from Lewisham in South London and writes poetry, essays, songs. The first three solo albums Everybody Down (2014), Let Them Eat Chaos (2017) and The Book of Traps and Lessons (2019) were all widely acclaimed and received several awards and nominations. In addition to music-making, Kae Tempest also published the best-selling novel “The Bricks That Built the Houses” (2017) and the essay publication “On Connection” (2020).
Joy and disorder of sensory overload
The trio Phelimuncasi comes from Durban, South Africa, the hotbed of Gqom, a new style of music that has been attracting international attention for a few years now. This subgenre of South African Kwaito is characterized by a minimal, raw and repetitive sound and, in contrast to much of electronic dance music, dispenses completely with the 4/4 beat and is instead more closely associated with Chicago footwork in terms of its degree of abstraction.
If Gqom is usually music loaded with vocal samples but still instrumental, Phelimuncasi create a no less gruff and unruly song version of Gqom, with vocals mostly sung in IsiZulu dominating the sound picture. Their 2022 album Ama Gogegla was released by the currently most important African label for electronic music, Nyege Nyege Tapes.
Boundaries of the human voice / how to turn it into a machine
A collaboration as one can only dream of: Belgian instrument maker and bricoleur Jochem Baleus aka Slumberland has teamed up with Tuvan singer Sainkho Namtchylak to dream up a timeless, stylistically unclassifiable music.
Sainkho, who decades ago was considered the defining international pioneer of overtone singing in contemporary music, has long been confined to the improv scene, which almost by decree is ideologically closed to the irrefutable merits of groove. Here she now meets an autodidact who, influenced by Krautrock and electronic music, fabricates a kind of organic-mechanical proto-techno.
The cross-generational duo creates music between song and track, between club and art music. Their first album will be released in November.
Apocalyptic projections of a post-human future
Marina Herlop breaks away from the classically oriented traits of her previous albums and reveals herself in a lively, polymorphic form on her mesmerizing new album Pripyat, released this summer on Berlin’s style-defining label PAN (Eartheater, Beatrice Dillon, Pan Daijing).
The Catalan composer, singer and pianist combines her incisive vocal artistry, undoubtedly reminiscent of the great Kate Bush, with electronic pop artwork inspired by the Carnatic music of South India, infused with at times hypermodern borrowings. The result is a multi-layered and fascinating work, which, influenced by the human voice, points both to the past and to the future.
Pripyat‘s pop songs, constructed almost exclusively with electronics and voice, are performed in Bern by a five-piece band. She interrupts her solo tour together with Animal Collective for the exclusive Saint Ghetto show as a quintet.
Bridging heart and sound
Angel Bat Dawid is a composer, clarinetist, pianist, vocalist, activist, educator, DJ, and arguably one of the most charismatic presences within both the Chicago and international contemporary avant-garde and jazz scenes.
Her debut album, The Oracle, released in 2019 on International Anthem Recording Co. (Irreversible Entanglements, Makaya McCraven, Ben LaMar Gay, jaimie branch, among others) (and incidentally recorded entirely on her cell phone) vastly expanded the reach of Dawid’s output and has been called «a vibrant, spiritual, free jazz document of black life as it stands today» by Pitchfork.
Also worth noting is her work with her septet Tha Brothahood, which resulted in the 2020 album LIVE and (like 2019’s The Oracle) filled and topped several best-of lists. Furthermore, Dawid is actively involved in a center for young people undergoing court proceedings, where she teaches her «Great Black Music» course.
Virtuosity, musical versatility, immediate presence, quick wit, playfulness and charisma always make Angel Bat Dawid’s live performances a unique, highly lively experience.
Blissful bridges into the unknown
The London producer succeeds like few others in weaving threads from various musical styles such as R&B, IDM, UK Garage, Soul, Footwork, Jazz or Pop with noticeable ease into a mesh that can be experienced both moving in the club and lying on the couch. The tracks on her 2021 album Reflection, released on Hyperdub, are united by a refusal to live up to any expectations of club music.
The tracks often unfold on zig-zagging paths, making you stumble, cross bridges to nowhere, slide around on melodies – and all this in a constantly changing tempo. For all their experimental pretensions, James’ compositions are also always characterized by an immersive and intimate pull that sharpens perception and triggers feelings of happiness.
In October, James releases her third album, Building Something Beautiful For Me, on Phantom Limb, which pays homage to U.S. composer Julius Eastman. Under her alias Whatever The Weather, James released her debut album this spring.
Obsessed with hyper-presence and physicality
Ka Baird are an American composer, sound designer, and trained pianist and flutist. Their performatively powerful, at times disturbing live performances use electronics, flute, and idiosyncratic vocal-breathing and microphone techniques.
Baird create a physically haunting, dense sound performance in the indefinable border area of experimental music and musical performing arts – and this not without humor. Their albums are released on the Rvng Intl. label, which has also brought the work of Holly Herndon, Lucrecia Dalt or Helado Negro to an international audience.
Paradoxical characters / Elevator pitches
«Bully Fae is a musical act comprised of stand-up comedy, poetry, dance and music» was read in an interview on the release of the album Defy A Thing To Be (on the Matmos label). It is correct that the art figure Bully Fae Collins appears primarily as a performance artist and only in second or third line as a music act.
Defy A Thing To Be was described by Bully Fae in the live performance as a «dreamlike punk-drag show that tells stories of queer empowerment». Years have passed since we became aware of the abstract, pointedly minimalist and lyrically crude rap songs, during which the plan to bring Collins to Bern failed.
Recently Bully Fae has moved from California to Berlin and with that we can finally make the years old plan come true.
The multi of the endless
Valentina Magaletti’s musical biography is long. She was one half of the duo Tomaga, plays drums in the band Vanishing Twin, leads the joint project Moin with the electronic duo Raime, has released an album with Julian Sartorius from Bern, is a member of the band UUUU (with musicians from Wire and Coil, among others) and can currently be heard on international stages with her new dub project Holy Tongue.
For Saint Ghetto, she gets behind the turntables and lives up to her reputation as a voracious record collector.
The calm within the loud
Coby Sey has been shaping the fascinating and thriving DIY creative scene in South East London as a producer, singer and DJ for several years, including as a collaborator with Mica Levi, Tirzah, Babyfather, Klein, Kwes and as part of the artist collective and label CURL.
A curious «Finally!» was heard rushing through the music scene this summer when Sey announced his debut album Conduit, due out in September on London label AD 93. Live instruments, sample-based productions, experimental elements and voice characterize the recordings on Conduit, fusing motifs from hip-hop, drone, jazz and grime into an overall atmospheric structure. Deceleration in the midst of sensory overload of a big city life, loud and quiet, poetic and simply also very beautiful.
On stage, the dreamlike compositions sometimes mutate into a heavy, not always tangible dancefloor energy, instrumentally amplified and supported by Alpha Maid, Momoko Gill and Ben Vince.
To affect people’s bodies
Few bands use their voice and platform as hauntingly as Divide and Dissolve. The intensity of their doom-soaked, drone-tinged soundscape reflects the struggle of the two musicians, Takiaya Reed and Sylvie Nelhill, as well as the struggle of their indigenous ancestors against the systematic oppression of BIPoC.
Their shared goal is clearly stated on the about page of their website: «to secure Black futures, liberation, and freedom; demand Indigenous sovereignty; uplift people of color’s experiences; and destroy white supremacy».
Attributing Divide and Dissolve’s output to sludge, doom or stoner metal should be taken with a pinch of caution, as Reeds and Nelhill do not identify with the traditions of these genres. Rather, they use certain elements of these styles – in particular, the heaviness and simultaneous depth – because they have an immediate effect on the body.
Released in 2021 on Invada Records (Portishead, Beak>, Anika) and produced by Ruban Nielson (Unknown Mortal Orchestra), the album Gas Lit is arguably the heaviest body of sound Divide and Dissolve have released to date.
Myriad forms of love
Kìzis, an indigenous Canadian trans musician, surprised last year with an album that breaks all boundaries by its length alone. Tidibàbide contains 36 songs and lasts exactly 3 ½ hours, as a physical sound carrier it appeared as a triple CD. The album features over 50 musicians, including pop musician (and Arcade Fire collaborator) Owen Pallett, cellist Mabe Fratti, LGBTQ+ activist, musician and singer Beverly Glenn-Copeland, and Nick Durado, pianist in Copeland’s live band.
At their concerts, Kìzis performs with a four-piece band that helps execute their wide-ranging soundscape between exuberant synth pop, expansive experimental sessions, autobiographically-driven storytelling and North American Alonquin-inspired pow wow songs.
From lushly orchestrated and driving to pastoral, spiritual and rapturous to dancefloor-ready, anything is possible in Kìzi’s world, which is fascinatingly able to both overwhelm and embrace listeners not only in its length but also in its breadth.
Feel for the fusion
Belia Winnewisser masters combining her flair and enthusiasm for pop music with references from the experimental sound design niche without it feeling like an arbitrary fusion of two poles, but rather a signature of her own.
The Zurich-based musician proves on her second album SODA, released in 2021 on the Lucerne-based label Präsens Editionen, that she has nothing to prove to anyone. The diverse facets and imprints of her current and former indie and pop projects such as Silver Firs or a=f/m are just as palpable on SODA as Winnewisser’s affinity for sound design and club music, which she also lives out as a busy DJ.
Add to that her strong and engaging live presence, and it is hardly surprising that Winnewisser is one of the few Swiss artists whose work is also noticed outside the national scene.
Voice, body and object play the main role in the work of Icelandic performer and choreographer Inga Huld Hàkonardòttir.
The piece «Again The Sunset» was created in collaboration with the Belgian artist and musician Yann Leguay, exists in various versions, and found its way from the performance stages into the noise and experimental scene. Hàkonardòttir and Leguay have performed at the Lausanne Underground Film & Music Festival and at the Sonic Protest in Paris, among others, and are now showing their physically impressive musical performance in Bern for the first time.
The producer from Salford City, Manchester, aya, caught the attention of the international music scene with her highly immersively produced and intimate debut album im hole, which was released last year on the London label Hyperdub. With her likewise highly immersive, idiosyncratic and fascinating live show, she played at various renowned festivals in Europe and also at the first edition of the EXPOP Festival at the Dampfzentrale. On the evening of her live show at Dampfzentrale, she later spontaneously stood in for Bonaventure, who had to cancel her DJ set at short notice due to illness. Now we are looking forward to an officially announced DJ set by aya at Saint Ghetto 2022!
Exploring the ordinary
Jenny Hval did something rather atypical on her sixth album Classic Objects, released at the beginning of the year: the Norwegian interdisciplinary artist and writer, whose earlier works dealt with themes such as gender, sex, body and power in a critical, highly conceptual and experimental way, explores for once herself – her ordinary, standardized, even domestic side.
While her previous albums always defied the standards of shimmering pop ballads, in which spoken word, ASMR showers or noises led to delicate, somber compositions, Classic Objects is a lot warmer, more sedate and consequently actually more classic. Each song has a verse and a chorus. There are fewer moments of complexity, but catchy, beautiful melodies and the clear presence of a band structure. Hval’s idiosyncratic storytelling signature nevertheless remains palpable, as does her multi-faceted, distinctive voice. Classic Objects, then, is in a sense Hval’s version of a pop album.
Hval cites isolation during the pandemic, where she began to question the role of art-making and was thrown back on herself, as the reason for this change in focus. She realized she didn’t need complicated constructions; her observations of life are engaging enough. In this sense, Hval’s dazzling pop triumph is ordinary in the best possible way.
Further, Jenny Hval is the first artist to appear at the Saint Ghetto Festival for the third time, this time with a five-piece band, following her 2018 and 2021 performances (with Lost Girls).
Junge Eko is the new name of Zurich-based singer and musician Catia Lanfranchi, who even under her previous pseudonym Eko Nori was still in the relatively early stages of a solo career in experimental pop music.
However, she has been known to a wider audience for a few years now as the composer and singer of the outstanding band Kush K, which manages like no other in this country to find a place between radio presence and underground credibility that does not require any bending or compromise.
Kush K’s debut album Lotophagi was named album of the year in 2020 by the industry association IndieSuisse. Lanfranchi’s solo work aims in a more ethereal direction by focusing on voice, organ and electronics, but gives more space to her experimental side. In October, her first album will be released on the high-profile BlauBlau Records label.
Up in Flames
“Piano Burning” is a performance piece by New Zealand composer Annea Lockwood in which an irreparable piano is set alight and played until it bursts into flames – a highly poetic and moving experience. The piece originated from the need to make a good recording of fire for a projected dance work and also pianos were being discarded and trashed not far from where Lockwood was living at that time – October 9, 1968. She also thought it likely that if their strings were over-tuned, they would resonate when popping.
Piano: Judith Wegmann
|Doors, Studio Mondial, DJ Set||19:00|
|Slumberland feat. Sainkho Namtchylak||20:00|
|Studio Mondial, DJ Set||23:45|
|Doors, Studio Mondial, DJ Set||19:00|
|Bully Fae Collins||21:15|
|Angel Bat Dawid||21:45|
|Valentina Magaletti, DJ Set||01:15|
|Studio Mondial, DJ Set||02:45|
|Doors, Studio Mondial, DJ Set||19:00|
|Inga Huld Hàkonardòttir & Yann Leguay||22:30|
|Divide and Dissolve||00:15|
|aya, DJ Set||01:15|
|Studio Mondial, DJ Set||02:45|
|Doors, Studio Mondial, DJ Set||15:00|
|«Piano Burning» by Annea Lockwood||18:30|
The last festival concerts will last longer than 01:00 on Friday and Saturday, with night program until 4:30. We recommend the following accommodations for visitors from further away who cannot make it on the last trains or do not want to continue until the first train: