26-year-old rap artist DJ Tubet engages in a linguistic search that knows no bounds, mixing his mother-tongue Friulian with Jamaican patois
Few imagine that behind a nickname redolent of the New York suburbs, lies the blameless Mauro Tubetti. Certainly, this local rapper is most definitely neither dissolute nor a daredevil. He has nothing of the cursed about him, unlike his American opposite numbers. Indeed he studies and experiments continuously. He dreams of being a teacher in the morning and a singer in the afternoon. Born in 1982, Dj Tubet mixes books, teaching and reggae rhythms, with the same ease that, on stage, leads him to weave rhymes, hip hop and patois (a variant of Jamaican English) with Friulian. A chameleon-like freestyler, when he hasn’t got a microphone in hand he hangs out on the farm family in Nimis, north of Udine. It takes music to drag him out of the house. It is – he assures me – always the music that broadens his many horizons.
Q Dj Tubet, do you support the creation of a crossborder Euroregion?
A I think it’s a good thing. Even though the region represents a boundary from a formal and historical point of view, it cannot represent a limit from a cultural perspective, precisely because of a need that is inherent in people. Therefore a crossborder body, linking us with other regions close by is a dimension we need: we need something more fluid, going beyond the concept of the region alone. In this, Friuli starts with an advantage in having so many microcultures. It’s a melting pot with many participants. It’s historically based on an exchange. Q What role does music have in all of this?
A The music already has in itself a Euroregional character. Think about when I do gigs. Singing in Jamaican English, Friulian and Italian. Take, reggae for example, which is riven by the cultural influences of the place, just so that it can be conveyed better, responding to the area in which it’s performed. It’s the most transboundary music genre of the lot. As regards current musical projects, I often have dealings with Slovenia, for concerts and other stuff – the country is a forerunner in alternative music and the top punk artists stop off in Udine only because they are performing in Ljubljana. Q Why do you base your musical research on the Friulian language?
A Italian is my second language. I didn’t learn it until I went to nursery school. In terms of identity, Friulano was my first cultural expression. I am proud of this. It’s given me a greater open-mindedness, towards diversity elsewhere and recent studies show how being bilingual is a positive addition from a cognitive point of view. Q You have a degree in social psychology, one in educational science and you’re completing a third one in training science.
A I studied farming at high school. When I discovered Jung it brought me to psychology, but in my mind I wanted to be a teacher. So then I dedicated myself to studying education. I would like to teach in a primary or a high school. Q You also sing?
A I’m working on the first album by ‘R.Esistence in dub’, in which I experiment with dub in Friulano. Reggae is a very radical musical genre but so far locally spoken dialects have only been experimented with in southern Italy. Now the new ‘Dlh posse’ album is due out. It’s a live swing double CD with the ‘Suingando quartet’. I’m also working on an a cappella project. Q How do you manage to do everything? Where do you find the time?
A I can get by with little sleep and lead a very quiet life. I’m a vegetarian and I try to stay really thin. For the rest it, I rationalise my time. I go out only to perform and I live in this dimension. x
Living in France, working in Switzerland and shopping in Germany: when Europe
is a routine
At Strasbourg the hotel is a long way off: two trams and then the bus. I exchange a few words with the people waiting alongside me.
“What do you think of the Euroregion
“Qu’est ça? Euro, euri… quoi?”
I show a distinguished-looking woman with a laptop bag in her hand the map printed off the website. “Nothing new – it’s us and the surrounding countries. Is it a project?”
“It’s been in existence since 1975 you know, it’s when one lives in one country and works another, the airport of Basel-Mulhouse, and the 1975 Bonn Accords.”
“Yes, yes, now I understand, here we’ve always cooperated with each other, there’s no need for anything new, we’re the same people speaking the same dialect, similar systems.”
“The same dialects, dann darf ich auf Deutsch weiter reden?”
“Non, non, monsieur, c’est le Français que nous apprendons à l’école, aussitôt l’Anglais, un petit peu.”
Here I am in a stronghold of the European Union, and the lady doesn’t seem very enthusiastic, just six kilometres from the German border, and she doesn’t speak the neighbours’ language. Here I am full of enthusiasm for ‘her’ Euroregion, and she doesn’t even know what it is.
Now I’m waiting next to a policeman.
“I’m here to do a story on the oldest of the Euroregions …”
“And what’s that? Let me guess… the Basque Countries!”
“Je régrette, we’re actually in it, Haut-Rhin.”
“In practice we always have been, we’re a peaceful people, one of the richest areas in Europe with similar cultural roots. Do you know, my brother works in Basle for a chemical company, Novartis, do you know it? He earns the same as the Swiss, lives in France, pays taxes like a Frenchman and on Saturday does the supermarket run in Germany. This is the European reality, not the Euroregions!”
I’ll sleep on it.
On the opposite bank: Kehl
After three stops on the tram I get on a bus that leaves every 15 minutes for Kehl, across the Rhine in Germany. At the border there’s an enormous French Pharmacie where many medicines cost less and the pharmacists are less strict in their prescription requirements. A few yards away is the Ponte d’Europa, the railway station and the centre of Kehl. Five tobacconists’ shops with their signs in French just across the border show me one of the attractions of the open borders. So far the Euroregion consists of pharmacies and cigarettes. Before my appointment in the headquarters of the Euro-offices I find I have some time to get a feel for the place.
Touristenpavillon: I go in and find tourist brochures covering both banks, the Museumspass, that for a modest fee allows the visitor into 140 museums in France, Switzerland and Germany, a quarterly magazine (€3.90) with the calendar of the main events in the three areas, the posters for the Rheinfest, a joint festival between Baden and Alsace in the Park of Two Countries, separated by the Rhine and linked by a footbridge.
“What do you think of the Euroregion?” “Euregio, haben wir so was?” “Yes, yes! You’ve had it since 1975.” “Komisch, I never knew! Do you know, here we’re used to having French colleagues, a French pension and a German one, a relative that works in Switzerland, shops that prosper with the transborder trade, festivals sponsored by the local councils since way back, town-twinning – what do we need a Euroregion for? The Euro, Schengen, these are the things we need!”
The town centre fills with French housewives of various races, studying what’s on offer and coming out the shops carrying large parcels.
The next stop is the AOK, Germany’s biggest health insurance company. An employee invites me to sit down and we start. “What effect has the Euroregion had on your work?” “Was meinen Sie bitte, Euro… was? Wie war das noch mal?” She calls her boss: “Yes, you could say that it helps us in our dealings with the French: it’s only a new name. For decades we’ve been dealing with requests for services in Strasbourg or in Switzerland. Certainly, once upon a time compensation was a problem when dealing with the Swiss, but not any more. A German ambulance could not enter France with its sirens blaring, now we can. Every transboundary worker has the right to seek treatment, even by a family doctor, wherever he or she sees fit and for a few years now Switzerland has evened up the assistance for acute cases. We work with an automatic search for available hospital beds in all three regions. Is this what you mean by a Euroregion?”
The Press Office in the local council headquarters. The lady I speak to is polite but balks at the term ‘Euroregio’ saying that the press and politicians talk about it but one should really say ‘Eurodistricts’ adding that these consist of adjoining regions, similar in function to the Italian provinces or British and Irish counties that each have an employment office or Jobcentre, a local parliament and are made up of a number of constituent municipalities. The main role of these Eurodistricts, which are also well known in France, is to match up the supply of, and demand for, workers on either bank of the Rhine and smooth the paperwork involved in unemployment, health and other social services.
Still with an hour to kill before my appointment in the headquarters of the ever-less obvious Euroregion. I spot an Estate Agent. “After an explosion in the prices around Strasbourg our French clientele with the means came here to look for a house. The prices in the areas along the border have increased but are now undergoing a consolidation. Most people were looking for detached family homes for their own use. We haven’t been approached by any big investors”.
The prices are in line with those in other German cities on the Rhine: a small detached house costs about €300.000, semi-detached ones will set you back a quarter of million while an apartment of 100m2 can be yours for €180.000. The day after, I compared the prices with those in Alsace and the differences I found were minimal.
It’s 1 pm and I sit at a table outside a cafè and smell the unmistakable odour of sewage. A cry from one of the workmen makes me jump: “Merde, les Fritz ont construí des égouts incroyables! Et ils disent que nous les Français ne savons pas travailler bien! ”. Two French repairmen hard at work amid the unappetising pong, the sighs of Germans on their lunch break and French housewives hunting for bargains.
At the Upper Rhine Conference
The H.Q of the Euroregion is in a small nineteenth century building in the middle of town. Occupying three rooms on the ground floor is INFOBEST, an office with the task of advising the citizens in their dealings with the Authorities, taxes, social issues and transboundary projects.
On the first floor, again in three rooms, is the secretariat of the German-French-Swiss Conference for the Upper Rhine, consisting of the only four paid employees of the Euroregion: a commissioner for each of the three countries and a secretary. I’m met by the German commissioner, Michael Frey.
“Before long the Euroregion will no longer have this name, which, in any case, was never official. It’ll be called a ‘Metropolitan Region’. We began cooperating at a local level in 1950 and in 1991 the ‘Eurodistricts’ were officially recognised and were made up of two coordinating bodies: the Commission (the regional, cantonal, provincial councillors and mayors) and the Conference, made up of four public appointees. The President is the Prefect of Karlsruhe (an administrator nominated by the President of the Land). The Secretariat is the executive body.”
“You don’t have a directly-elected Parliament: are you a judicial entity, as we call it, this Euroregion?”
“We have neither a directly-elected Parliament nor are we a judicial entity and neither do we have powers to pass legislation. We’re a body that deals with the problems that neighbours have, including the economy, science and civil society. We work on strategies to resolve these problems and if this includes legislative matters we propose them for the approval by the competent body: in Germany it’s the Länder, in France, the Parliament, and in Switzerland the various Cantons. Sometimes local proposals lead to changes in national laws, We’re a bottom up Euroregion: we act first, resolving problems by drawing up local agreements and then we look to the States for approval. First the concrete projects and then the structures. I don’t believe we’ll gain any further powers such as the ability to legislate as no one feels the need for it and we don’t have any influence over national legislation in States other than our own.”
“How do you finance your initiatives?”
“In the first instance using the INTERREG funds of the EU. We also help the local councils, businesses and associations when they are putting together the necessary documentation. Moreover we act as mediators between the Authorities in the different States.
“Which are the main projects you are involved in?”
Sylvia Müller-Wolf, coordinator of the Karlsruhe Employment Bureau joins us and all three of us discuss the question.
“In 1986, when the stockpiles of the chemical company Sandoz in Basle caught fire, we realised that we needed to coordinate civil protection in the area. We organised an information and mutual aid network doing exercises together during which we saw the need to unify the procedures and understand each others’ languages – problems that we are resolving with a bilingual manual dealing with the issue. In 2007 a joint-owned fire-fighting ship was put in position, at anchor between Strasbourg and Kehl and equidistant from the two boats already available.”
“The ‘Health’ working group, founded in 1996, aims to rationalise structures to improve the services available and lower costs.
Our main role is the coordination of the emergency health services, ensuring that we have information on all the available hospital beds in the three areas, arranged by specialisation and centres of excellence, which all the citizens have access to, regardless of where they come from. For programmed (rather than emergency) treatment we’re creating a telematic database that will show us the hospital beds and operating theatres available at that moment. In addition we are working to harmonise the health systems and anti-drug abuse policies.”
“In the case of programmed hospital treatment is it automatically referred to structures in one of the neighbouring States?”
“Not yet. For programmed hospital treatment you need to ask for the O.K from your local Health Trust , authorisation which you receive almost immediately”.
“Environmental protection includes a joint system to detect air pollution (financed with EU INTERREG III funds), and there’s an agreement on the maximum permitted levels of pollutants in drinking water, whilst an incinerator on French territory was closed down to safeguard a Natural Park. A commission is studying the key factors governing climate.”
There then follows a vociferous exchange on the fact that there are few opportunities to influence the nuclear programmes of the neighbours and reflections on the meagre budgets available for culture. The total annual funds for the exchange of theatrical works and shows is a mere € 33,000 which is split between the three States and distributed by a joint commission.
“But how do the citizens understand each other?”
“That’s a sore point. In all three countries the main obligatory foreign language is English. In Alsace there is still a good 40% of the population who speak a dialect of German, mostly the elderly: the youngsters speak their national tongue and, at least in France, at school, they choose what for them is the easiest option as a second language: Spanish. In another ten years the German-speaking minority in Alsace will be further reduced. There are bilateral projects to promote the learning of languages: a bilingual school manual, town-twinning (supported by the local councils), events, student exchanges and financial support for youngsters who do a work placement in another country as well as cross-border meetings (financed to the tune of €20,000 a year by the EU). But today’s youth is too lazy to study another foreign language and there is still a long way to go.”
“We’ve got good results in the cooperation between businesses in key sectors in the area: research, high technology and tourism. With joint marketing we publicise the advantages of our area and in this way we promote the arrival of new businesses.”
“Cooperation on infrastructure is the oldest strand, beginning in 1949 with the Basle-Mulhouse airport. The entire region is served by the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) that connects the main European cities (I saw an excellent line running north-south but the east-west one is rudimental and tied to that of the individual State concerned). Workers’ mobility is dependent on the local railway lines such as those that link Karlsruhe to Wissembourg and from southern Alsace, through Basle to Baden. We are also working on joint season-tickets. One problem is that the railway bridge on the Rhine (linking Paris and Stuttgart) has only one line. Doubling-up this line would cost money and so we’ve looked for solutions: in the Peace Treaty there is a list of works that Germany must do by way of war reparations. The second railway bridge on the Rhine at Strasbourg is one of the few works that remain to be done…”
I leave with the impression of having understood the reason why the ‘Euregio’ remains so little known amongst the citizenry: it is an obvious thing and takes place in the background, especially at a local level, without a real staff, it doesn’t legislate or publicise itself. We are dealing with regions that are economically and culturally rather homogenous, that have been working together ‘privately’ for centuries, to which the ‘Metropolitan Region’, has brought, above all, an all-pervading coordination and has opened up important labour markets.
I find myself at dinner in the garden of a Strasbourg restaurant together with some regular customers and take a place at their table.
Almost every one of them can tell me about a relative who has found work in Germany or Switzerland, of health insurance problems sorted out by INFOBEST in Kehl, but none of them links these small but decisive events with a supranational body, saying simply: “Monsieur, l’Europe c’est ça!” x
Author of this story: Julius Franzot
Writer, translator and publicist with a degree in Pharmacy, he was a manager in the pharmaceuticals industry in Germany and Italy. Julius Franzot is bilingual (German and Italian) and was born in Triest, from where he works in support of Mitteleuropa through culture and politics.
40 years of the history of borders in the life of the writer Drago JanÄar, who doesn’t believe in multiculturalism but DOES believe in culture “because by definition men of culture are curious, open and given to accepting the culture of others without renouncing their own”
Q You were born in Maribor, a town lying along the Drava river, halfway between Vienna and the Adriatic. For 30 years, you have been living in Ljubljana, but you are still attached to Maribor and you often find yourself travelling to Triest where your recent books have earned you a warm welcome.
How do the landscape and your mood change on your way to Triest?
A I get very excited when I come to Triest and see my novel ‘Northern Lights’ or ‘Ringing in My Head’ or the collection of short stories ‘Joyceâ€™s Pupil’ in bookshops. Now I feel more at home in Triest than before. Itâ€™s not that Triest didnâ€™t feel like home before – since the 1970s, this diagonal between Maribor and Triest, the old Central European route Vienna-Triest, has served as a link to a more open world. At the end of this road was a geographically open space, as well as a city characterized by cultural and political openness. At that time, I often met with Boris Pahor who wasnâ€™t as famous as today. Later I realised, and I hope that the inhabitants of Triest wonâ€™t find themselves offended, that Triest, too, had its provincial dimensions manifested not only in its aversion to Slovenes and other foreigners, but also in the fact that its cultural vibrancy was not as strong as that of Ljubljana. Despite this recognition of Triestâ€™s darker sides, I still remember the journeys from Maribor through Ljubljana, the centre where I became recognised as a writer, to Triest a sort of cross-section of life that then extends itself to many other European and American cities. Q You have mentioned the Central European area. Is this not only a ‘meteorological phenomenon’ as it used to be called in the past?
A Central Europe (Mitteleuropa) is no longer such an interesting notion as it was in the time when it was promoted by Claudio Magris, GyÃ¶rgy KonrÃ¡d and other intellectuals, as well as people living behind the so-called Iron Curtain. Yugoslavia wasnâ€™t situated behind the real Iron Curtain: in the mid-1960s, we were allowed to travel beyond its borders with our passports if they had not been taken away – as mine was – and so we lived in a fairly open world. The discussion on Central Europe and on how to transcend borders was an attempt to overcome the wire barriers between Czechoslovakia and Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Austria, mine fields and guards. There existed a farily closed world, and the discussion on Central Europe was an attempt to open the borders and space in order to get an area where cultures could function more freely and where – and now we come to meteorology and to something Iâ€™ve written elsewhere – people and ideas could move round the globe as the clouds float across the sky. Q And so weâ€™ve come to mobility. Now we are part of Europe, which is more important than Central Europe, as well as of a globalised world. Does mobility stand for rapid changes in the environment and the adaptation to new cultural patterns?
A Central Europe is not only a phenomenon from a certain historical moment, that is the 1980s, or a cultural phenomenon and a goal we had. It is first and foremost a geographical and historical notion. We share our history. We saw conflicts, as well as periods of good co-operation. We lived in the same countries, but then the borders started changing. I believe that Central Europe still exists. People who witnessed all these drastic historic shifts and changes in borders lived differently to people elsewhere. This part of Europe is different, just as Mediterranean Europe differs from Northern Europe. The issues of globalisation, rapid changes and so on have strengthened my belief that first we have to show interest in our local characteristics and only then in establishing ties between large regional and national entities. At the same time, we also have to cherish memories of excellent things and catastrophes that this area has witnessed, which makes it interesting, original and special. Q You are an advocate of storytelling, of stories that we give to one another, with the aim of getting to know one another better. Here’s an example: your short story ‘Joyceâ€™s Pupil’, which has given the title to your entire book of short fiction, talks about Boris Furlan from Triest.
A Precisely this story about Boris Furlan, Joyceâ€™s pupil, talks about the continual change of cultures and places he underwent: he moved from Ljubljana to Triest, ZÃ¼rich, and London, to return to Ljubljana, find himself in prison, and then moved to a village in the Gorenjska region. Furlan saw different ideological systems and states, he experienced Fascism, cherished hopes in Communism only to be disappointed â€¦ He travelled around and experienced changes as only a few Europeans did. The writer often finds himself in the role of such an observer. Q There is no end to conflicts. Why is it so difficult to foster dialogue between people, even between neighbours, why does xenophobia keep resurrecting itself in new forms?
A Neighbours are not strangers to one another. I spent half of my life in the vicinity of the Slovene-Austrian border where people used to live in harmony, share the same stories, fight together against the Turks, drought and grasshoppers, convene sessions in the town hall â€¦ And then the divisions began. We were divided by culture, however paradoxical this may sound. Slovenes were justified in raising the issue of the rights of the Slovene language, in turning to our brothers in Prague or even in faraway Moscow. And so we grew apart, only to find ourselves in the 20th century that brought us national and ideological conflicts and new states. If misunderstandings still arise, they are caused by the past, by deep frustrations on both sides of the border. They thrive in Istria, Primorska and Triest, as well as in northern part of Slovenia, in Maribor. Everywhere there are memories of the things that happened before, during and after war. Some people believe that these misunderstandings, which generate new conflicts and problems in communication, can be solved by forgetting the past and focusing on the future. On the contrary, we have to be familiar with these things, with all the tragic events, from the Trieste trials against the Slovenes to the killing of the foibe that happened after WWII. This will make our dialogue easier. Greater curiosity and openness are the preconditions for better understanding. Iâ€™d dare to say that they are more often found on the Slovene side. We are familiar with Italian history and culture, which is logical as theirs is an ancient culture, while Italians living along the border are not familiar with Slovene culture. Things have been getting better lately. To know the past, culture and interests of your neighbours is a fundamental thing. Q Which most probably applies to new immigrants as well.
A In principle, this is the same story, yet we are afraid to face it as it is somehow material in nature. An increasing number of immigrants means increased pressure on public services. People who have lived here for long time and have paid taxes find it difficult to accept that. I would say that it will be easier to overcome cultural differences. Other issues will have to be solved by politics: how to integrate immigrants into society, how to ensure them access to public services without making the local population furious or bad-tempered. Q You believe in intercultural dialogue, which is now on the agenda of European politicians. All of a sudden, culture matters.
A Brussels bureaucracy is often obsessed with a certain topic, at the moment its intercultural dialogue. Yet this is not a new topic. The idea emerged at least 15 or 20 years ago under the term ‘multiculturalism’. In my opinion, we donâ€™t need multiculturalism or intercultural dialogue. What we need is culture since cultural people are, by definition, curious and open, and accept another culture without renouncing their own. By saying intercultural dialogue, we imply that there are two very different cultures, which might be indeed the case, but by saying so, we have addressed the subject from two separate sides. Cultural dialogue or dialogue on culture would be a better way of putting it. Q When writing about European soul, you refer to Jacques Delors … What kind of soul does Europe need?
A I quoted a passage in which Delors referred above all to culture. If it wants to become a living organism, Europe cannot only be a sum of interests, which it still is. New states that have joined Europe with enthusiasm, including Slovenia, are well aware that Europe is interested in new markets, and would like to enter that market and partake in progress and welfare. This is a good basis, which functions well, but it is not an organism that would survive major friction. Such a Europe can fall apart. The soul of Europe is culture, into which we should integrate its tradition. The latter encompasses Christianity, which was the first to establish Europe as a united area, the Enlightenment, which placed man, the citizen at its centre, as well as the achievements of the French Revolution, and even uncontaminated socialist achievements such as the welfare state and solidarity. All these elements make the history of Europe, its soul, which is, of course, also reflected in modern philosophical and artistic phenomena. Q You claim that literature plays an important role in the sphere of culture. However, globalization has many side effects, from the spread of instant culture to reverence for internet and multimedia communicationâ€¦ How can literature compete with them?
A In my opinion, it no longer can and this battle has been lost. Literature will most probably survive in more elite circles. I canâ€™t imagine that literature with its abundance of stories, metaphors and associations would not survive, as it meets the needs of our deeper being, just like religion or certain social activities. Literature will no longer be the phenomenon that would change the world or had an impact on it as it did in the 20th century. Q Do you believe that writing is a mission? How can a writer be socially engaged – you yourself differentiate between fiction writing and writing for newspapers or magazines – how can a writer make himself useful?
A I think it is enough to write stories or poems to be a useful person. Oscar Wilde once said that art is the most useless thing in the world. But paradoxically, he claims that without art people would lead more miserable lives. Without some form of art, they would not live at all. Thatâ€™s why literature matters. It cannot replace sermons or social solutions, what it can do is to help man understand himself, the world, other stories with which he can juxtapose his own experience and the wealth of language. Thereâ€™s no need to be a socially engaged writer. I am one because thatâ€™s my way of responding to things. Q How do you view translation? On what does it depend?
A It will never be possible to translate everything into all languages. Well, technically yes, but whoâ€™d be interested in that? The pressure of minor Central European nations to win recognition has its limits. We canâ€™t expect that everyone knows all Slovene literature, just like we donâ€™t know the literature of others. Of course, we have to strive to have as mush translated as possible. People are getting more curious. However, once the Slovene presidency to the EU is over, the increased interest in Slovenia will return to normal. Q What is the descriptive desire that you mention in ‘Joyceâ€™s Pupil’ when Boris Furlan cannot describe a lamp owing to language problems? What does it stand for in your writing?
A This is a very important question. All at once, I realised that this is the motto of my writing, this wish to describe things, to label them with words; the lamp, relations between two people, the connection of love, social questions, nature. All at once, I became aware that the ‘descriptive desire’, as Furlan puts it, can be also found in my desire to write. In the story, Joyce tells his pupil to describe an oil lamp. Furlans says that he feels emptiness in his head, which turns into the central metaphor of the short story, as he will feel that same emptiness when sentenced to death at his trial in Ljubljana. This is a metaphor for the mystery of literature. Words, passionate descriptions, theyâ€™re all stronger than the acts of saving the world even if writers can be socially engaged. Literature is stronger. Joyce left Triest because of WWI; according to Furlan, he got scared, while Furlan, a Slovene from Triest and an advocate of liberal values, stood up to Fascism, was sentenced, escaped to Ljubljana, came into conflict with Communism and was sentenced as an English spyâ€¦ The emptiness in his head is the emptiness arising from saving the world. There was something he didnâ€™t understand. He was sure Joyce was a weirdo because of his descriptive desire. These are two principles that I leave open: setting the world to rights and describing it. x
Facts and Ideas of collaboration between the Adriatic and the Danube