Xavier Kurt Naidoo was born and grew up in Mannheim and is known for his involvement with his native city. The singer has considerably influenced the regional music scene and encourages new blood for the music scene.
In an interview, he explains what he thinks makes Baden-Württemberg attractive for investors and residents. He talks about Baden-Württemberg’s strong points and its people and tells of his personal inspiration.
You were playing in a band with the name “Mannheim” while you were still at school. Where do you get your deep bond with Mannheim from?
I think there are people who are simply very attached to their home town and who feel an obligation to where they were born. And I’m one of those people. I’m someone who appreciates very much where he comes from. When you’re on the road, it’s especially nice to know where your roots are.
What is so special about Mannheim?
It’s relatively small and handy. It offers many things that you otherwise find only in a big city, such as the port and the internationally active companies which are based here or which have branches here. If you go 20 kilometres away, for example to Heidelberg on the Neckar, you feel as if you’re somewhere in the Mediterranean. I’ve always found the opportunities you need as a musician in the Mannheim region. And I’ve always found the greater Mannheim region to be very attractive.
What exactly is so attractive and why is it worth living here?
Well, for one thing we have better weather in Mannheim and the surrounding area than in other parts of Germany. The climate in this part of the Rhine Valley is very Mediterranean and the people are very friendly.
There is a wide range of cultural and leisure activities which are diverse enough to get even young people interested. You’ve got all you want here and that’s simply fantastic. I can confirm that from my own experience.
Mannheim is also centrally situated and its well-developed infrastructure offers fast connections within Germany and to the rest of Europe. The airports in Frankfurt and Stuttgart are also easily accessible from Mannheim. And a large number of major internationally active company groups have become established here as well. Mannheim is ideal for private citizens and business people as a place to live and do business.
You’ve mentioned businesspeople. Why should companies establish a presence here?
If companies want to link up with a network, then Mannheim’s a very good place to do it. There are very well-connected people and firms here who have excellent contacts all over Germany and who use these very successfully.
How would you describe Baden-Württemberg?
Baden-Württemberg is a model state and the people here are innovative. Thanks to the numerous patent applications, Baden-Württemberg is considered one of the most innovative states in the European Union. The people here are very industrious and have a lot of staying power between the development and manufacturing stages of products. This is what makes Baden-Württemberg special.
Many well-known company groups also have their roots in Baden-Württemberg. This is probably due to the cosmopolitan outlook of the people here.
Baden-Württemberg borders on France and Switzerland. This geographical proximity ensures a lively commercial and cultural exchange with its neighbours. This lets people see what’s going on outside their own backyard.
When did you realize that music can also be an economic factor – in Mannheim and Baden-Württemberg?
If you’re an artist or a musician you don’t initially regard music as an economic factor. You don’t make music primarily for commercial reasons, you make it more out of passion. But at some stage you see the economic background. Maybe I saw it a bit earlier than other musicians.
The fact that many companies left this area had a very strong influence on me. Many jobs disappeared during this period. My father was also affected by this. Even when I was a child I remember thinking that something ought to be done to stop everybody becoming unemployed. Mannheim’s high unemployment rate bothered me, so I wanted to make my work here a commercial factor. I wanted to build something that would give the people a future.
So I decided that, in my company, the work that can be done from Mannheim should be done by people from this region. At that time I got all the friends I could find into the company. It didn’t always work but we succeeded in getting the company started the way we wanted it.
You were one of those who were instrumental in establishing the “Mannheimer Model” competence cluster. How did that come about?
I had the vision of bolstering the music industry in Mannheim and the foundations have been laid. The artistic tradition here goes back to the Electors. The Mannheim court orchestra was earning recognition throughout Europe as early as the 18th century.
The artistic tradition is deeply rooted in Mannheim. Many musicians from Mannheim who get good projects off the ground simply get no recognition or nobody knows that they come from Mannheim. This is what I want to change.
Mannheim ought to be a city that lets music exist, a city in which one can develop. When a pop academy was planned for Baden-Württemberg, I naturally supported the idea that it should be established here in Mannheim and not in Stuttgart or Karlsruhe.
Your efforts obviously paid off. The Baden-Württemberg Pop Academy has been established in Mannheim and you are a lecturer there. What do you personally give the young musicians?
I can only offer my experience and my approach to certain themes. Otherwise I just teach song-writing. Generally speaking, students need to open up and learn to write songs under pressure and in as short a period as possible. People mostly have a point of view or a feeling inside them already but they also have to be able to find the right words to express it.
Where do the lyrics for your songs come from?
I have the great gift that I can find the right words for every emotion and which I then commit to paper as a tune. It’s really astonishing that songs that affect people come into being this way. I also attribute this to the fact that I come from Mannheim.
Can you explain that in more detail?
Mannheim has always been a city of inventors. Many things were invented here that moved the world, whether it was the walking bicycle by Baron von Drais or the invention of the motor car, which started in Mannheim. The crown cork was a great invention for its time and comes from Mannheim. Even the way the German language is spelled is based here in Mannheim in the form of the Duden publishing company. You’d never think that if you hear our dialect.
I attribute Germany’s inventive spirit partly to its language. The German language is the language of invention and offers the means of developing new words. Our language lets us pursue thought processes and discover new things. It’s astonishing what treasures our language conceals.
Do you also find inspiration in the German language?
Yes, it inspires me. I’m a practising Christian but I’m not dogmatically religious. If we’re talking about the word of God, then that doesn’t necessarily mean the Bible. Under the word of God I understand every word that is spoken, with which you can make yourself understood and with which you can articulate the most complex thoughts. That’s a great wonder. What would life be like if we couldn’t talk to each other?
Life provides further inspiration. The things that make you excited or sad are inspiration enough. When you’re composing soul, you have to find subjects that affect you personally. At the end of the day, everyone knows that the feelings I describe originate from my own experience – and that’s what the music I make is all about.
The author, born in 1971, grew up in Mannheim. He has been known as a German soul and R&b singer for over ten years. Besides his solo career, he was a cofounder of the band “Söhne Mannheims”, a member of the group “Brothers Keepers” and is a lecturer at the Baden-Württemberg Pop Music Academy. He has formed his own corporate empire with Naidoo Records GmbH, Naidoo/Herberger Produktion, XN-Tertainment and Söhne Mannheims GmbH.