How 'Afro-Americanophilia' became Polyphilia: Joachim-Ernst Berendt’s Journey from Jazz to “Weltmusik”

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Andrew Wright Hurley


This article contributes to our understanding of the continuities and disconnects in the way that ‘race,’ and in particular African-American culture, were conceived of in the long postwar era in West Germany. It does so by examining some salient racial aspects in the writings and production activities of West-German ‘jazz pope,’ Joachim-Ernst Berendt, between the late 1940s and the mid-1980s. I demonstrate that the late 1960s brought about a sharpening in talk concerning the racial ‘ownership’ of jazz, and that in these circumstances, Berendt proceeded beyond his earlier, liberal elaborations about jazz, race, and African-Americans to advance an inclusive, ecumenical model of ‘Weltmusik’ (world music). Germany’s National Socialist history figured in important ways in his conception of both jazz and then Weltmusik. Whilst he initially saw jazz as an antidote to National Socialism, by the late 1960s and 1970s, he regarded certain traits of jazz discourse to be, themselves, proto-fascist.  Far from being a boon, Afro-Americanophilia—or at least one strain of it—now became something from which to distance oneself. What was important for Berendt, as for others of his generation, was distance from the past, as much as seeking out racial Others in Germany, engaging with them on their own terms, and yielding to a new racial ‘relationships of representation’ (Stuart Hall).


Article Details

Afro-Americanophilia in Germany Special Issue July 2015 (Peer Reviewed)