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Former East German Plans 'Tear Down This Wall' Concert on US-Mexico Border


FILE - Musician Markus Rindt a 1989 German refugee is surrounded by media after boarding a train in Prague, Czech Republic, Oct. 1, 2009.

For the first 20 years of Markus Rindt's life, he knew just how far he could travel — no further west than the wall that split Germany in two.

“I grew up with walls around me —it was a weird situation, to see that the world seems to end at this wall,” remembers Rindt. “You feel that it cannot be that the world ends here.”

He's spent the nearly 30 years since then-President Ronald Reagan called on then-Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall” between West and East Germany making music, traveling and making the occasional political statement the best way he knows: in concert.

Now Rindt wants to take that movement to a new frontier — the barriers between the United States and Mexico —where he hopes to pull off an ambitious, border-long project in early June with the Dresden-based contemporary orchestra he leads — the Dresdner Sinfoniker just days before the June 12 anniversary of Reagan's speech.

“Our plan,” he says, “is a very big plan.”

Rhetoric prompts series of concerts

Rindt added the open-air border show to a schedule of two planned concerts June 3 by the group in Mexico City and Puebla, inspired by U.S. President Donald Trump's rhetoric in favor of building more walls along the border.

“This project is the most ambitious project so far. I have no idea if it [will work] in the end,” Rindt told VOA in a phone interview from Dresden, where he returned six years after fleeing to West Germany via Prague in 1989.

“I feel the project is necessary in our time. It is not only against this planned Trump wall, but against isolation[ist] tendencies around the world as well,” says Rindt. That includes Europe, where last year, Britain voted to withdraw from the European Union, and France, where a nationalist candidate is in the running for president.

#teardownthiswall

There are, of course, logistics to a cross-border concert; Rindt feels confident in Mexico's approval for the group to perform with 15-20 musicians and a children's choir from Tijuana on a stage along the southern side of the wall/fence. He is less sure that U.S. officials will approve of a few musicians and a children's choir joining them through the fence in San Diego's Friendship Park where relatives on both sides of the border are allowed to meet.

WATCH: Report from Friendship Park in San Diego


Rindt has never been to the U.S.-Mexico border. He's invited U.S. and Mexican musicians to join the Dresdner Sinfoniker in June, and has raised more than half the funds to get his musicians there.

It's not the first cross-border concert; those have been happening for years; Rindt knows that. There is even an artist who used the wall itself to make music. But Rindt hopes the event will take on a life of its own; he wants musicians and artists to perform along the border, from Texas to California, and use a hashtag inspired by Reagan's speech to link all of their performances: #teardownthiswall.

A mariachi band performs in San Diego's Friendship Park near the U.S.-Mexico border on Mother's Day, May 8, 2016. (Dresdner Sinfoniker/M.Fernandez)
A mariachi band performs in San Diego's Friendship Park near the U.S.-Mexico border on Mother's Day, May 8, 2016. (Dresdner Sinfoniker/M.Fernandez)

'There must be other ways'

He's not ignorant or ignoring transnational issues, he says. Trump has said the wall is necessary for national security.

“I’m aware of some problems — drugs of course — some people will answer me what about drugs and criminals. There must be other ways to solve such problem.”

Data shows that smugglers do indeed work around border barriers. Trump recently told the Associated Press that: “People want the border,” but an April survey from Quinnipiac University shows increasing opposition to building more of a border wall among Americans, up from 55 percent against its construction just after President Donald Trump's election in November, to 64 percent now.

“To Trump: I would say there is no best country in the world, no best religion, no best skin color — I don't like this America-first thought,” says Rindt. “Europe is unified … It is so great this feeling now, to be so so free, the world is much bigger than before for us. We are so far away from conflicts with each other. If you compare this with 60 years ago — we have to keep this freedom and peace.”

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