|German electro-pop duo 2raumwohnung Photo courtesy of Astrid Grosser|
By Jon Dunbar
Inga Humpe last came to Korea almost 30 years ago. The German singer performed during the Seoul Summer Olympics in 1988 as part of the collective Teutonic Beats. Now she returns to mark the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
Her electro-pop band, 2raumwohnung, performs Thursday at SJ Kunsthalle in Gangnam, southern Seoul, at a show hosted by the German Embassy a day ahead of the Winter Olympics.
A duo, 2raumwohnung's history begins with the reunification of Germany. After the Berlin Wall came down, Humpe moved to East Berlin where she met her life partner and musical collaborator, Tommi Eckart, who also moved to the former Communist part of the city.
"When the wall came down the east part of Berlin was very new and open and changing very fast," Eckart told The Korea Times. "The club scene was in the east side of Berlin. It was not so organized and it was chaotic. A lot of East Germans left East Berlin and went to West Germany, so there was a lot of freedom there. You could find a lot of empty places."
The name "2raumwohnung" comes from the East German word for two-bedroom apartment, where eastbound migrants such as Eckart and Humpe would have lived. The term served as a shibboleth, dividing East and West Germans by language differences.
"The flats in the Eastern side were called 2raumwohnung, and in the West were called 2zimmerwohnung," Eckart said. "You could realize someone was coming from the East or the West. It's a little bit of a political name."
Having lived through one great national reunification, Eckart sees similarities in Korea's situation.
"It's similar because it's also a division which depends on the big political players," he said. "For Germany it was the U.S. and Russia. I think Korea is a similar situation."
Eckart's music career dates back to 1980, when he founded the punk bands Alternative Arschlocher and BCX. Humpe also cut her musical teeth in punk, founding Neonbabies in the late 1970s. Coincidentally, the opener for their Seoul show, LoveXStereo, is also an electro-pop duo that got their start in a punk band, Skrew Attack.
"It's two musical styles with a lot of freedom and power," Eckart said. "When punk rock was new it was a very fast-developing music style. The music seemed to change every month or so. Also electronic music is not changing so fast anymore as it was at the beginning of the 1990s."
This is not 2raumwohnung's first gig for such an international event. They've also played for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and Expo 2010 in Shanghai, among others.
"We are one of the few bands from Germany that has German lyrics but is known around the world," Eckart said. "But the lyrics aren't important _ it's more about beats, a network of remixing, having friends and DJs all over the world."
While here, Eckart hopes to visit the DMZ and stop by Athletes' Village.
The show is this Thursday at 7 p.m. Entrance is free, but registration is required. Visit facebook.com/GermanEmbassySeoul or 2raumwohnung.de for more information.