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DJ Mag Staff
17 January 2024, 12:43

Berghain accused of cancelling Arabian Panther gig due to Palestine support

The French-Lebanese DJ has also accused the Berlin club of lying about why it called off a showcase by the Ritmo Fatale label last Friday

Berghain accused of cancelling Arabian Panther gig due to Palestine support

French-Lebanese DJ Arabian Panther has accused Berghain of cancelling his performance at the venue due to his support of Palestine.

In a statement posted on Instagram, the artist said the Berlin club pulled a showcase of the Ritmo Fatale label at the venue, which had been due to take place on Friday, 12th January, "due to my global communication on my networks" following Hamas' 7th October attack on Israel, and Israel's subsequent and ongoing assault on Gaza.

Arabian Panther, who performs wearing a black keffiyeh in a show of support to the Palestinian cause, had been due to play at Berghain alongside Marie Davidson, David Vunk, Audrey Danza and Ritmo Fatale founder Kendal. The party, however, did not go ahead after being originally announced via Berghain's website in early December.

Arabian Panther claimed in the Instagram post about the matter that Berghain's head booker, Tim Rosenberger, had contacted Ritmo Fatale's Kendal on 14th December to ask that Arabian Panther be removed from the bill. Kendal, who has backed Arabian Panther's version of events, allegedly told Rosenberger in response that support of Palestine was very important to the artist.

"Berghain thoroughly checked, confirmed and formalised my booking five months ago with my agent," Arabian Panther wrote in the social media post. "They never [got] back with concern until a week after the public announcement."

Speaking to Resident Advisor, Kendal said he had asked Rosenberger during their initial phone conversation whether there was a specific social media post or posts by Arabian Panther that had caused Berghain to withdraw its support of the booking of the artist. Rosenberger is alleged to have replied, "no, it's global".

It's further alleged that on 15th December, Rosenberger told Kendal in a follow-up phone conversation that Berghain would have to pull the full Ritmo Fatale label showcase as the venue could not be seen to be 'cancelling' a pro-Palestinian artist. The booker allegedly suggested that Kendal tell artists and agents that the pulling of the party was down to "unforeseen construction work" inside the club – the full space did, however, open on the Saturday and Sunday of the weekend that the party was due to go ahead.

On 20th December, Berghain is believed to have removed the event listing from its website and allegedly informed the agents of all the artists who were due to play that night about the construction work. Arabian Panther said Kendal informed him at this point of what had allegedly actually happened, and suggested that the artist and Rosenberger speak directly with each other.

Arabian Panther alleges in his statement, which you can read in full below, that he repeatedly reached out to Berghain to discuss the issue, but his attempts to speak with people there were ignored or knocked back for different reasons. The artist subsequently chose to go public with the matter via the post on Instagram.

Speaking to Resident Advisor over email, Arabian Panther said: "I believe that, given the context since October 7th, they faced some pressure from customers or potential threats from above, possibly from government officials or internally. However, the way they handled the entire situation, instructing Kendal to lie and not responding to my proposal for talks, is a disgrace.

"Perhaps they made this decision to 'protect' (I'm the one in danger with them, not the other way around) a portion of their audience that they favour at the expense of Arabs and Palestinians present in the club, for whom it would have been a powerful symbol for me to play in this place."

Kendal also shared his own statement with Resident Advisor, which read: "I'm shocked and disappointed in how they managed the whole situation. It's truly sad that Berghain closed the club for political reasons and lied about renovation work to avoid the bad buzz of cancelling alone a pro-Palestinian Arab artist. By not assuming the true reasons to the artists, they put pressure on my shoulders to disclose or not the truth.

"They ignored any attempt at constructive dialogue with Arabian Panther, which could have potentially prevented this. I express full support to Arabian Panther for speaking the truth. It wasn't easy, and we stand by him."

Berghain has not yet responded publicly about the matter. (DJ Mag has approached the club for comment). A number of artists who've expressed support for Palestine in recent months via social media have played at the venue after sharing those posts, however, including Juliana Huxtable and Sedef Adasï.

This issue comes against the backdrop of the Strike Germany movement, which has seen a number of artists pull out of shows at venues in the country. The organisation was launched earlier this month, partly in response to the Berlin Senate's new anti-discrimination clause, the current form of which requires those applying for arts grants to commit to the IHRA's definition of anti-Semitism. This move from the senate has been criticised by campaigners within Germany and abroad, for what Strike Germany has referred to as a "use of McCarthyist policies that suppress freedom of expression, specifically expressions of solidarity with Palestine".

Jyoty, Manuka Honey, Kampire and Scratcha DVA have all cancelled appearances at Berlin's CTM Festival, which takes place across multiple venues including Berghain later this month, in line with their support of Strike Germany.

Elsewhere in European clubs, a number of supporters of the Ravers For Palestine movement came together to raise a banner in support of Palestine at the closing party of the Amsterdam club De School this past weekend. The banner read: "To rave is to resist. Mobilize for Palestine."

You can find out why the action was taken at the club via the social media post by Ravers For Palestine below.