Berlin DJs want techno to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The reunification of Germany first happened on the dance floor.

The party that began the night the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989, continued as Ossies from the collapsed East German state and West Berliners gathered to celebrate.

Almost overnight, recalls Mark Reeder, a Mancunian DJ who had lived in West Berlin since 1978, the city’s tiny clubbing scene exploded as people held raves in once-closed industrial buildings.

East and West Germans celebrating on the wall the day after the border opened on November 9, 1989. Credit:PA

“The cloud of the impending nuclear holocaust had been lifted from the city with the fall of the wall and everyone was united on the dance floor,” says Reeder.

Faced with the first opportunity to choose their musical tastes, East Berliners chose techno, a genre of dance music created by technology and first tagged by a 1980s Frankfurt DJ to categorize groups. such as Depeche Mode, New Order and the German Kraftwerk.

But the genre quickly mutated in clubs over the next three decades to become the Berlin soundtrack.

“It was mostly instrumental music,” says Reeder. “Techno didn’t have hard-to-understand English lyrics and it was modern sci-fi sound too.”

But now, round-the-clock revelers in Berlin are fighting for the survival of their stage by campaigning for the protection of UNESCO’s cultural heritage for techno.

Even before the pandemic, rising rents in the German capital had started to shut down some clubs, but long lockdowns from many waves of COVID in Europe put the city’s raves on the endangered species list.

The scene was born out of urban decadence.

The abandoned and dismantled buildings along what was once no man’s land were up for grabs, for anyone, for any use.

“Available to drag drinks, generator, smoke machine and strobe light and party, illegal party and at that time Eastie’s cops had no jurisdiction over no man’s land,” said Reeder.

In 1991, the clubs spontaneously took over.

Party at the Berlin club E-Werk in 1994.

Party at the Berlin club E-Werk in 1994.Credit:Getty

“Tresor was the first, then came WMF and finally E-Werk, all dancing within a distance of each other – arguably Berlin is the birthplace of what we understand today as clubbing,” explains Reeder. “It inspired the world.”

Bruno Schmidt, who started DJing in London and Leeds, moved to Berlin in 2016 to work in music publishing. After two years, he quit to practice art full time.

He says he owes his career to Berlin.

“This city created my career, it wouldn’t have happened anywhere else,” said the 33-year-old.

He recalls performing in a former Stasi building working alongside “complete anarchists,” and says it was not only the country’s history, but also his personality that was the engine behind the success of the country. ‘electro.

“There is oppression, pain, remorse, there are so many layers and it all contributes to the way dance music is consumed there. It’s very serious, they take it very seriously. The clubs are open all weekend, Berliners party in a very professional way, they come prepared.

Dancer at the now disbanded Love Parade in Berlin.

“There are a lot of brutalist buildings used as clubs, which kind of creates this very dystopian vibe and there were very cheap rents available and that helps because you can live the artistic life there.”

It was a big lure for overseas talent, especially Detroit, where Alan Oldham is from.

He started touring in Berlin in the 90s and decided in 2014 that he wanted to be “closer to the action” all the time.

“The cheap rents have attracted a lot of expats here, including me,” he says.

‘Dancing withdrawal is no good’: Berlin lockdown protest in November 2020. COVID has shut down clubs that had been operating for three decades. Credit:Getty

Nightclubs have taken over the old abandoned buildings in what was once no man's land.  Here, the building that housed the Berghain club used for a socially distanced evening of listening in 2020.

Nightclubs have taken over the old abandoned buildings in what was once no man’s land. Here, the building that housed the Berghain club used for a socially distanced evening of listening in 2020.Credit:PA

By the time Oldham took up residence, the ‘children’ had turned concrete wasteland into a lucrative business – worth, before the pandemic, 1.5 billion euros per year ($ 2.3 billion) for the city. .

But a prosperous city ends up being an expensive city.

“Even before the pandemic, Berlin was losing sites due to gentrification,” says Oldham.

“We have lost almost 100 clubs and concert halls in the seven years since I moved here – COVID is only accelerating this.”

Oldham was operated by a Berlin titan – DJ Dr Motte, who co-founded the ill-fated Love Parade.

The first music festival was a demonstration held in the summer of 1989 that was basically not against anything, but for love, peace and happiness.

Berlin's Love Parade, pictured here in 1996, ultimately fell victim to its own success and was disbanded after the 2010 stampede.

Berlin’s Love Parade, pictured here in 1996, ultimately fell victim to its own success and was disbanded after the 2010 stampede. Credit:Getty

The parade ended in 2010 when 19 people, including an Australian woman, died in a crush in a crowd crush at the related festival in Duisberg near Düsseldorf. The festival, which started in Berlin with just a few hundred people dancing in the rain, ended in mass disaster, with 342 of the 1.4 million people believed to have attended also injured.

The scale of the disaster was a measure of the globalization of Berlin’s children.

Motte’s organization, Rave the Planet, wants Berlin’s techno scene to be protected with an entry on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List, which protects a litany of global cultural practices and art forms, including the Finnish sauna culture and Thai massage.

Berlin DJ Mark Reeder:

Berlin DJ Mark Reeder: “If clubbing is your thing, it can be worship.”

“If we can achieve intangible heritage status, it means the government will protect historic buildings,” said Oldham, official spokesperson for Rave the Planet.

“Tresor participated in the fall of the Berlin Wall. Berghain started out as a club called Ostgut, also from this time. And the electronic culture born in Berlin influences young people all over the world.

Reeder says Berlin techno is the “mecca of clubbing culture” and deserves official protection.

“You feel like you’re in church, if clubbing is your thing it can be like worship, it’s very rudimentary.

“If the music is good, people are right, you feel like you are worshiping an idol. You can get it in clubs like Tresor and Berghain, you don’t know what’s going on, you can reach really high heights.

Will the sun set on the Berlin rave scene?

Will the sun set on the Berlin rave scene? Credit:PA

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