In their likeable, charming, authentic, and unerring way, Guaia Guaia opt out of current conventions to celebrate life. Armored with nothing but notes and lyrics, they denounce today’s society and smile away all resistance, cementing their creed with their first album’s title, Eine Revolution ist viel zu wenig (one revolution is nowhere near enough), a record that confronted the two with such mundane issues as money, success, fans, and commercialism. So, what is Guaia Guaia’s chosen lifestyle all about – and are they happy to travel Germany’s cities without being part of the urban structure? Bettery decided to find out.
Did your choice to leave the conventional social environment behind mature slowly – or was it an ad hoc decision driven by circumstance?
It started out as a purely pragmatic decision. We were street musicians, traveling the country, and in the end all of the money we made went into an apartment we hardly ever saw, so we decided to cancel the lease. Although it might exaggerate matters a bit, this applies to many people. They pay plenty of money for a small place to stay, one they can’t even use in daytime because they have to work, one they only sleep in at night, and one that gives them little added satisfaction in those brief moments in-between.
You travel from city to city. Any memorable experiences? And if so – what happened?
Quite a few so far, actually! Most of it boils down to extraordinary encounters and the people we meet, though, and less to the cities themselves. In Linden Nord, for example, a district of Hanover, or in Leipzig. That’s where we met some extremely open and friendly people, leaving us with positive memories of the related city or quarter. On arrival at Leipzig’s central station, a guy asked us straight away if we needed a place to sleep. His bar had just shut for the summer, he was about to leave and offered us a place to stay. And that’s just one of several stories.
This year, for example, Halle was a positive surprise. We had never been before and expected a much harsher place, for some reason. Or take the Ruhr region, truly beautiful! None of that clichéd ash and grime …
Did you notice any differences between the cities?
Nowadays, most of the real differences are no longer between cities, but between individual districts – those still ruled by authentic culture and ways of life tied to the region – while inner cities and suburbs become increasingly exchangeable and dominated by huge department store chains or fast food outlets lining the streets. In some cities I could not have told you where I was if you had dropped me off somewhere in the center. Today, everything is covered in the same slick of paint and the streets are empty after 8pm.
But architecture – and urban culture – still makes a difference, especially in quarters like Sankt Pauli, Kreuzberg, Linden Nord, or Dresden Neustadt.
If you could make a wish – what would your ideal city look and be like? One that could tempt you to stay for a while?
At the moment, we find ourselves drawn to the countryside where life is still free to grow and proliferate uncontrolled. It’s not really about the look of a city, i. e. the mirror image of its social conditions. A society that allows its people to live a free, self-determined and easy life, one based on mutual respect, would certainly look a lot more lively, but I wouldn’t want to design it because it would have to be a natural product of society.
What does mobility mean to you?
Mobility allows you to up and go.
What about spending the winter on the streets?
It’s very harsh if you find yourself homeless involuntarily. For us, the situation is a little bit different. We have never spent a real winter out on the streets, we are only without a home of our own according to German law … we don’t take drugs, we have a mission, and we seek out alternatives to rented accommodation once it starts to get colder. That’s not harsh, simply a necessity.
Do you have any concrete criticism directed at urban planners?
While the general planning is all wrong, the underlying problem is not a matter of urban planning. It’s more about not believing in individual achievements anymore. People believe that human beings need to be governed, directed and planned. This leads to urban planning absurdities like the long-scheduled bridge in Neubrandenburg – a structure that continues to be built despite being no longer necessary due to the area’s dwindling population size. Or take hierarchies, abuse of power, violence, and injustice. People are not trusted to organize, decide, or think for themselves. Or maybe they are assumed to do just that – and then consciously robbed off this self-determination?
What do you find lacking in German cities?
What is missing all across the country: freedom and free thinkers. It’s all about regulations and boundaries, that’s what is perverting today’s city life. For example, we might be stopped from making music because a shop selling souvenirs of a city that will soon be devoid of unique characteristics has leased the rights to the sidewalk. And out in the country, it is not so different: True freedom of movement no longer applies. Fences, signs, prohibitions, and checkpoints wherever you look. All monitored by anxiety-fueled citizens. So, what do we miss when we are in cities? For people to wake up when they get up in the morning!
How important is a healthy lifestyle to you?
Very important. We take responsibility for our lives. We cannot delegate it to a doctor. Certainly not in an age where medicine is no longer the art of healing, but simply a market.
A healthy lifestyle not only benefits the body, but also gives us strength to evolve our thinking and develop the necessary self-awareness and confidence to change, evolve, and heal ourselves. The opposite would be eating badly and having little self-awareness. How could a person ever evolve when they suppress their own sensitivity and self-awareness?
A vegan lifestyle is a great way to eat a healthy diet and experience the possibility of deviating from going cultural standards; it shows that it is possible to realize your values and ideals.
Does discarding your possessions really make you free?
No, it’s not enough as we can tell from experience. But having less can make life a great deal easier. Possessions tie you down a lot. Less ownership means more freedom. But having nothing can also reduce your options. So what about sharing? The world belongs to all of us. Something that is forgotten all too often.
So, where will your travels take you?
No idea. We are conducting an experiment without knowing the rules. The only thing we know for sure is our current direction – and that is governed by our desires.
Does either of you have a family? Would your current lifestyle work with children?
Naturally, we both have family and remain close to them. But we have no kids. And we do know that the way we live right now – making music and squatting houses in the winter – would not be the way for us to raise children.
In any utopia, children play a central role since everything breaks down when children lack the scope to grow up well.
Our life is not set in stone. While our lifestyle has a practical, tangible surface, at the core it boils down to doing exactly what we want. What our heart desires right now. All other aspects are in flux, variable, and very much subject to change. At the same time, we cherish the independence necessary to realize these inner desires. Which in turn translates to avoiding financial dependencies: no rent, no lease, no credit. All those factors create dependencies and inhibit freedom. But there are solutions – there is more than one possible way.
In your opinion – what is the worst environmental sin?
For private citizens that’s said to be flying. For us it might be the manufacturing of our CD? I asked Michael Braungart, representative of the Cradle to Cradle concept, if it was possible to produce a completely recyclable CD, but he said that it was still early days, maybe in two years or so …
The greatest invention of humankind?
A generator for unlimited free energy?
What is happiness?
Let’s hope this one has not made it onto any greeting cards yet: Happiness means having completely free reign of your time in life.
How would you describe your own music?
A little hip-hop, some electro, a smattering of pop, and a pinch of social criticism.
What are your dreams like?
Occasionally wet and about love!
For more information on Guaia Guaia, visit their website.
Or watch the documentary trailer:
Interview: Agi Habryka
All photos, incl. the header image: Thomas Hametner