How the Open Music Lab is creating a safe space for refugees and marginalized artists [Hacklab Inputs]


It’s an easy question to understand: you want a space to be creative, to grow in your practice and to express emotions. We heard of a volunteer-led effort that creates this kind of space, for refugees and people who often lack access.

We were able to hold this session during the (rescheduled) CTM Festival in May, but now fall seems like the perfect time to look at the topic. Iranian-born artist/participant/teacher Kimia Bani and OML co-founder and co-director Ben Osborn joined us from Open Music Lab Berlin.

Here is the full audio:

Kimia Bani & Ben Osborn (Open Music Lab)

What does it mean to mix music education and activism? How can music creation spaces be inclusive and respond to crises in a sustainable and sustainable way? And while the history of music technology has often centered around established and privileged institutions and individuals, how might we more actively collaborate across different musical cultures, backgrounds, styles, and individual voices? Kimia Bani has been both an Open Music Lab participant and teacher; Ben Osborn is the co-founder and co-director of space. They will share their experiences and explore how we can all play together in new ways.

The conference kicked off Hacklab Week 2022, where a group of fellows selected through an open call explored and realized new collaborative musical ideas.

There were some fantastic moments and revelations in this one. Where we hosted him was also important – AL Berlin, which has become a community meeting place in Kreuzberg, for the Arab scene (see their next festival) and many others. East and West Berlin are not limited to Germany.

It’s a really safe space for marginalized people. Also, we know that many women do not have this opportunity to learn music in their own country, so they can feel safe to come and learn music or play their own music.

Kimia bani

A significant backdrop is the influx of refugees into the city, particularly from places like Syria and Ukraine. Even if the discourse on Berlin focuses on reunification and the fall of the wall, this misses the decisive transformations of recent years. If you’re looking for Berlin’s new musical identity, you need to stop ignoring these new immigrant and refugee groups.

Hacklab entries, AL Berlin. Photo: Camille Blake, for the CTM Festival 2022.

Kimia talks about being a woman trying to make music in Iran; the other reality is that a place like Germany box provide safe environments to grow that do not exist in the places where people come from. In Iran, it is not possible to publicly be a music producer as a woman or even perform non-traditional music or perform for mixed audiences. (One thing I was surprised to hear from some Iranian performers is how much they like to play for Men. I just wouldn’t think of it automatically, and because it’s something that doesn’t show up in Western discussions of gender balance since it’s a different experience.)

Actively creating a safe space is equally important in Berlin and other cities, not just assuming the “progressive” atmosphere will make it happen. So they also talk about how they manage volunteers and create those kinds of environments.

Courtesy of Open Music Lab.
Co-Founder/Co-Director Ben Osborne interviews MusicMakers Hacklab Inputs. Photo Camille Blake for the CTM 2022 Festival.

And listen carefully, because you’ll end up having Kimia perform live and talk about how she teaches others about Persian rhythms. “I’m learning other international rhythms like other countries, Turkish rhythms, Arabic rhythms, Latin rhythms,” she adds, which helps her appreciate what it means to learn non-indigenous techniques. .

And she also talks about the appeal of electronics: “I don’t need a band; I am my own group…. that’s how you can be independent.

This resulted in a series of cross-cultural encounters – which was also important for us in the MusicMakers Hacklab. (This year also featured people from a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures, and of course Ukrainian refugees.)

“I don’t need a band; I am my own group…. that’s how you can be independent.

Kimia Bani

You can find out more about Open Music Lab via their site – and maybe consider starting a similar initiative in your own corner of the country. (How to do this – including volunteer management, equipment donations and shared instrument libraries as we saw at the Beirut Synthesizer Center, and creating safe spaces – is certainly something we could explore more here on CDM!)

They also have two very diverse compilations, so you can hear some of the music emerging from this space:

Watch this space for more on community development. By the way, two other communities I listened to – hearing a lot of shared experiences in community development – ​​just this summer. I caught up with Gamerella yesterday; it’s an inclusive game jam in Montreal, here at the MUTEK Festival (and they also have a podcast):


Also, at Berklee in June, I heard about the amazing work being done at WIllie Mae Rock Camp and other LaFrae Sci projects:


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