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The Humboldt Forum houses an important archive with historical sound recordings and a chequered history – the Berlin Phonogramm-Archiv.

Founded in 1900, it has been part of the current Ethnological Museum since 1934. Its approximately 16,000 sound recordings on Edison wax cylinders and further recordings on tape and new media represent a fascinating historical recording practice and an impressive wealth of sounds from around the world, but like other holdings in the museum, reflect a predominantly colonial mode of collecting. During the First and Second World Wars, many recordings were made under force in German POW camps.

How does one deal with such an archive today? Can it be more than historical source material? How can it be made to sound without falling into the traps of exoticism, appropriation or cultural comparison? How do artists deal with it?

Sound artist Elsa M’Bala works with field recordings and interviews in her live podcasts and reinterprets historical recordings. With colleagues from the Phonogrammm-Archiv Maurice Mengel and Albrecht Wiedmann, she talks about her work with historical sound recordings, followed by a DJ set.

The talk will be in german

Schedule: 5pm DJ Set

5.30pm-6:15pm Talk

6:15-8pm DJ Set


Elsa M’Bala aka A.M.E.T.

is a sound artist who makes live podcasts as a mixture between DJ’ing and live radio shows, in which field recordings and interviews are shared live with an audience. She performed internationally at Akademie der Künste Berlin (DE); Casino Luxembourg-Forum d’art contemporain (LUX); Dak’Art Biennale (SEN); Gessnerallee Zürich (CH), among others. She made the trailer for the Berlin Biennale 10 and currently she is working in Cameroon on a project funded by Akademie der Künste Berlin and Musicboard. She performed in the Humboldt Forum for Moving the Forum (2021) and the Airing Out music festival (2022).

A.M.E.T.’s musical journey, and her reflections on race, cultural background, gender and spirituality, challenge preconceptions of how someone’s music should sound based on where they’re from. Her practice breaks with western classical music by creating graphic scores that enable her to include semi tones as it is regular in non western music. By using technology, she amplifies her unique voice and addresses narratives of inclusion and visibility. Her work is also marked by collaborations with musicians, dancers, artists, performers and makers from different backgrounds. Since 2019, Elsa M’Bala also practices as a massage therapist.




Albrecht Wiedmann

is the curator responsible for the Berlin Phonogram Archive in the Department of Media of the Ethnologisches Museum and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst.

He first trained as a sound technician and then studied comparative musicology, musicology and journalism. He has worked as a sound technician at the Ethnological Museum since 1998 and has held his current position since 2019.


Maurice Mengel

is Head of the Media Department: Ethnomusicology, Berlin Phonogram Archive and Visual Anthropology of the Ethnologisches Museum and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin-Prussian Cultural Heritage.


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