“Here everyone has the right to show their art and to express themselves. That’s how it should be.” A sentence that seems self-evident. Hearing it from Natalia Klitschko, it gains weight. She is the (amicably separated) wife of Vitali, the estranged wife of the Mayor of Kyiv, and she is a singer. The importance of music in times of war, the importance of war for music, hardly anyone knows about it as much as Klitschko. She emphasizes how special an event like the Reeperbahn Festival is, a grand celebration of art and expression, an international gathering, with hundreds of concerts and conferences, readings and screenings.

    A sign of peace and freedom

    She got the longest speaking time at this opening of the festival, which again comes up with high production values ​​and an elaborate stage show in the Stage Operettenhaus. Of course there is music, lots of music, for example by the Ukrainian rapper Alyona Alyona, by the British pop singer Ellie Goulding, by the young Zoe Wees from Hamburg. But this Wednesday evening it’s always about the war: Peter Tschentscher, Mayor, speaks in his introductory speech about wanting to set an example for peace and freedom with the festival; Amy Gutmann, the US ambassador, enthusiastically expresses American solidarity with Ukraine (“Let’s give it up for Ukraine!”), and festival director Alexander Schulz points to the very practical challenges that the war in Ukraine creates for the music industry – because rising energy costs present organizers and artists with huge difficulties.

    So it is clear that the importance of the Reeperbahn Festival lies precisely in its function as a platform, as an opportunity for artists from all over the world to show and express themselves – and as a marketplace and place for networking. How can we make the music industry better? Fairer, more ecological, more sustainable? Or, against the background of the energy crisis: more efficient? This will be discussed in the next few days.

    “I brought you someone!”

    The biggest surprise comes towards the end of the opening. Jan Delay is announced, screens move to the side and reveal the stage. Delay: “I’ve brought you someone!” – and it’s the patron saint of the Reeperbahn, the good spirit of the awesome mile: It’s Udo. And the two play (what else?) “Reeperbahn”. “I wish you a great Reeperbahn Festival!” whispers Udo and briefly takes off his sunglasses.

    After the event, I realize that I forgot my headphones in the hall. The security people guide me to the back exit, where lost things are collected, maybe the headphones are already there. I speak to a nice woman from the Operettenhaus, who immediately starts a radio call to her colleagues and starts a search operation. While I’m waiting there, an elderly gentleman steps outside. He wears sunglasses and a hat and is much smaller than I thought. His car drove up. We, who are outside, intuitively form a trellis. Udo walks through, gives me a fist bump, looks into my eyes.

    The nice woman comes back: no headphones.

    At the end of the night, back at the hotel, I see them on the table. I didn’t even take her with me. How nice that I thought for a moment that I had lost her.