How can we reinterpret traditions today?
If a language is not maintained, it quickly goes extinct. There is at least one dialect in every German state. In the north, it’s Plattdeutsch, “which is not only dusty and dead, but sexy, too.” At least that’s what Torben, 29, and Jakob, 29, from Bremen think.
A new Plattdeutsch scene has cropped up in Germany over the past few years. A scene of stories, humour, and chat. Jakob, 29, calls it a Plattdeutsch circus. Jakob, Torben, and their “third man”, Malte, have formed the band “De fofftig Penns.” All three sing, although it’s more like rapping, in Plattdeutsch and make electro-hip-hop music, which they call “dialectro”, from this nearly forgotten Low German language.
Jakob, Torben, and Malte drag lyrics out of mothballs for their music, reviving them back into the world of active language. “The hashtag ‘löppt’ (“läuft” in German; “go” in English) has more than 3,000 hits,” says Jakob proudly.
All northern Germans used to speak Plattdeutsch, or “Platt”, but today hardly anyone can. Platt has fought its way into modern contexts through bands like “De fofftig Penns”: from the cow pasture to clubs and festivals. Platt is now traditional with a twist.
Modern reinterpretations are needed to keep traditions alive in a globalized world, regardless of whether these traditions are linguistic, customary, or other traditional practices. People want to retain their roots, not see them disappear.
The story of these three hip-hop boys is an example of how to handle traditions in Generation25. The idea that tradition is something that has become less important has certainly not been confirmed by reading the comments left by many young people. Generation25 knows how important customs are to their own roots, but also knows that life evolves, which is why their approach to the “old” is so very gentle.
For example, David, 17, writes: “Don’t rigidly hold onto traditions, but gently adapt/develop them.”
And Ferial, 15, says: “Each new generation has its own characteristics and automatically alters traditions; that’s what makes them so wonderful.”
Reinterpreting traditions today seems to be quite simple from Generation25’s perspective:
“By seeing the same traditions through new perspectives.” (Justus, 18)
“By gaining inspiration from the old and adding something from the new.” (Defne, 19)
“By adapting old traditions to fit the digital age.” Lisa
Maybe Justus, Defne, and Lisa have such a carefree attitude towards the past because they don’t fear the future. Maybe this ease shown by Generation25 is a sign of how comfortable they feel. In life today, where everything is actually possible.
“Traditions can be cool again if you teach them in schools,” writes Asia, 21, and Ana, 34, says: “Our grandparents play an important role here.”
Bands like “De fofftig Penns” have shown that it’s possible to combine traditions across generations and decades. The old and the new, the real and the digital. Grandma, who still speaks Plattdeutsch today, corrects their lyrics. YouTube and social media help spread their message.
Traditions can be maintained in our lives today with fun and games from both the past and the future. Once in a while you have to be daring enough to break with tradition in order to expand it. And this is something that is best accomplished anywhere and everywhere: in schools, in daily life, at festivals, in the garden, at home, while traveling, among friends, with grandma, in Bremen in the north, or Lake Constance in the south. There you’ll also hear Platt again, now that “De fofftig Penns” are on the scene.