Rammstein Music: The German Challenge in the Philippines
I never heard of Rammstein, not until I met Michael Herzenstiel, a German national married to a Filipina who desired to celebrate his 60th birthday in a unique way. He wanted to tap local talents to interpret Rammstein music in dance form over and above the Filipino dances he wanted featured on the first night and modern dances using Filipino and international pop rock music on the second night highlighting Rammstein music. We were to perform in two consecutive nights at the Marcosa’s Cottage Resort at Moalboal, Cebu which he ran with his wife Marsing. I found it to be one of the more challenging projects I have encountered.
The first time I heard Rammstein music my energy went haywire. Don’t get me wrong. I am no newbie to heavy metal. I have had my head-banging, band-jamming, wild-party-days in my young adult life. In fact, I liked using rock music as materials for various performances in the past. However, I had shifted gears along the way and preferred the more sedate kind of music especially that I have gone into doing daily yoga exercises and meditation
My Heart Burns - depicting characters that come in dreams
I needed time to attune myself to heavy metal rock music again listening to lyrics I could not even understand as they were in the German language. I had to take a breather before I went about listening to the six other Rammstein materials we were suppose to interpret. Michael gave me the English translation of the songs which I scanned before listening to every other song. I noticed the lyrics were very poetic and though I could not fully understand the meaning of each, in one sitting, I felt the songs seemed dark, tragic and heavy. They spoke much of the pain and horror in life as a result of socio-political issues, socio-psychological issues and the “misuse” of modern science. You can just imagine therefore, how tired my spirit was after listening to all the Rammstein sounds, even with breakers in between.
I went researching more about this band from East Germany and found out how popular the group was in the rock scene. Interestingly enough they named their band from the location of a German tragedy where 80 people were hurt and killed as the result of a crash during an American Air Force flight show, adding an "m" in the name. The literal translation of "ram stein" is a battering ram made of stone. Knowing more about the band gave me a different perspective of their music.
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I was getting the “feel” of things and during one of our project meetings; Michael was kind enough to share his concept of how the songs could be interpreted. I could sense his passion over the songs and saw a side of him that made me appreciate the depth of his being while at the same time adding dimension to Rammstein and their cause. The meetings allowed me to see things in a more positive light which I believed contributed to the final outcome of the interpretation.
- you can never generalize rock music as bad per se
- no matter how “heavy metal sounding” Rammstein music can be, it can actually grow on you
- a tragic, violent, eerie message in rock songs can be tempered by creativity
- a song in foreign language can use simple dance movements to depict its meaning and make it more understandable to the local audience
- rock music can have a different flavor when interpreted in a different way
- facing the challenge of interpreting foreign rock music can be a growing experience
- Rammstein music goes beyond singing about love, hate, tragedy, anger, violence and sex in its most extreme form – they make you think
Mother- the dance expressing the pain of a cloned man who never felt a mother's touch
Michael and his other German friends, who came all the way from their respective cities in Europe, were there at the celebration. Were we tense? Of course! Who wouldn’t? There we were a bunch of Cebuano artists anxiously waiting for the time when we had to perform our version of Rammstein music in dance form before a group of Rammstein fans. We didn’t know if they would like it or abhor it. We weren’t sure if we could meet their expectations or not. All we knew was that we would give it our best.
We had four sets of performance that night with Rammstein being our last set. Our energy level rose as we heard some applause during some performances and after each dance. They seemed courteous enough to acknowledge our effort but were they satisfied? The answer came after the curtain call and the spectacular fireworks display. The foreign guests actually gave us a standing ovation. I was not sure if it was a courtesy act or not. Amidst the noise of fireworks and the spontaneous dancing going on I motioned the performers to go and say thank you to Michael asking Michelle (Ripplemaker) to lead the group. It was only when I saw how Michael hugged Michelle that I knew we passed their standards.
I was on my way to join the group when Michael’s good friend met me and told me he never expected Rammstein to be done in the manner we did. He congratulated me with a warm hug and shook my hand with vigorous appreciation. I finally found my way to the group and Michelle directed Michael’s attention to where I was and a big excited hug full of congratulations and thanks followed suit with lines that went ”I knew you were the right person to handle Rammstein” or something to that effect. With the client and guests being happy we were more than happy. .
Don't Die Before I Do - The Half Man Half Woman Act
Allow me to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to Michael for believing in the Filipino’s talent and skills by providing venue for the performing artists to hone their craft in this project. It is not too often that foreigners dare to tap the local talents in special projects. It is therefore amazing to find one who would invest on local talents. Thank you for the chance and the challenge. It has all encouraged us to become better at what we do. We also appreciate the generous gesture of Michael by uploading his video coverage of our Rammstein performances in Youtube. The videos help this hub come alive and I am very grateful.
Now we can finally say “We dared face the German challenge that is Rammstein and succeeded with simplicity and passion.”