Haus der Kulturen der Welt during Wassermusik Festival
From chartering Second World War planes, to someone swimming the channel, to deep-frying trumpets in a fish and chips shops – in their unique music project, the Brexit Big Band is recording sounds and voices from all across Europe and including them in their performances with local musicians. This July, they joined us in Berlin for the Wassermusik festival. ©

Laura Fiorio/HKW

The soundtrack to separation

As a reaction to the UK's coming exit from the EU, the British DJ, sound researcher and producer Matthew Herbert set up the Brexit Big Band. In its concerts the troupe has been taking the stage at different locations in Europe to create pieces with local musicians which will be released in an album at the same moment that Britain leaves the EU in 2019. We were delighted to welcome the band in Berlin this July.

When Mathew Herbert entered the stage at Wassermusik music festival to the choir singing „No man is an island“, he managed to bring together an extraordinary number of musicians on stage in just three days. Together with the choir of Haus der Kulturen der Welt and local Berlin musicians, they managed to create sounds and songs such as “You are welcome here” and “Gonna leave it all behind”, which not only vowed the crowds but also portrayed their interpretation of the Brexit.

What is the story behind the Brexit Big Band? Matthew Herbert shared his thoughts and ideas with us during his stay in Berlin. 

How does music play role in the Brexit process? “It’s really important that we stand up for the idea that arts and culture and the imagination and creative expression is at the very front of any any relationship Britain has with anybody" said Herbert in our interview. “It’s the stories that we tell ourselves about who we are" He sees music and its storytelling as a "language that makes sense of a complicated world." ©

Laura Fiorio/HKW

Bringing together audiences from across Europe not only with music but also with words: messages written down by audiences of the Brexit Big Band in London were sent out the German audiences on paper planes from the stage and the people at Wassermusik sent them back with their replies. ©

Laura Fiorio/HKW

How has this project influenced the composer Matthew Herbert personally? “The risk side of things carries me forwards most, because every time I put myself in a position of risk I learn something positive about somebody else’s experiences, about myself or about somebody else’s culture." ©

Laura Fiorio/HKW.

"It’s this incredible power we have as artists, as musicians, to direct attention to those topics” - Matthew Herbert

The concert was part of Haus der Kulturen der Welt's yearly Wassermusik festival, which took Brexit as an opportunity to pay homage to the extraordinary musical and cinematic creativity from the UK from 27 July until 18 August, 2018.