Culcha Candela: ‘We respect everyone who’s cool’

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With roots in Uganda, Colombia, South Korea and Poland, the Berlin-based band Culcha Candela call themselves a “mini UN General Assembly.” On their latest album, the group continues campaigning for respect and tolerance.

DW: The title of your new album is “Candelistan.” What does that stand for?

Matthias Hafemann (“DJ Chino”): “Candelistan” is an imaginary land. We used to have a forum by the same name on our website. When we were looking for a title for our colorful hodgepodge of songs, “Candelistan” seemed to hit the spot. It’s a place where everyone is nice to each other. That’s the most important rule: “Be nice!” If you can do that, you’re welcome to join right away, there’s no restricted access. It’s a place filled with tolerance and respect – an attitude we’d like to spread.

What have you got that other bands don’t have?

John Magiriba Lwanga (“Johnny Strange”): Diversity is our thing, it sets us apart: We are extremely colorful in many ways – culturally, and as individuals. And still, although we are by no means a homogenous mass, we work together. We come from different perspectives, we’re like a tiny world. If we can’t make things work on a small scale, we can’t make them work on a large scale. That’s our vision of “Candelistan”: no matter what religion, skin color or sexual preference – we respect anyone who’s cool.

Culcha Candela band membersThe members of Culcha Candela call themselves “an example for successful integration”

So you benefit from your diverse roots?

Omar David Römer Duque (“Don Cali”): We give people a glimpse of the world as it could be: different people from different countries who can create something and live peacefully together. If everyone were to follow that path, we would no longer need borders anywhere in this world. That’s what we always say in our show: “Take a look around at all the people of all colors. We want colorful, you want colorful – so let’s just start sharing and paying attention to mutual respect.” We want people to understand that it’s doable.

DJ Chino: Our characters, our social and cultural upbringing – that diversity in itself makes for variety. We’ve learned to use this variety and not see it as an obstacle. We focus it all, and then we move forward with it. I believe that’s our actual strength.

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