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Postcard from Europe: Love Parade - the end of an era

The Duisburg tragedy is just another black mark against techno; a genre which was once king in Germany but which is now rapidly falling from favor. Gavin Blackburn sent us this postcard on the end of an era.

Hundreds of thousands of ravers celebrating around Berlin's victory column in 1997

Germany's Love Parade had its roots in Berlin

Ask any music buff who was around in Germany in 1989, and more often than not they'll tell you that had it not been for the fall of the Berlin Wall, techno as we know it today would never have loomed so large on the German musical radar.

Towards the end of the 80s, techno, with its repetitive computer beats and clinical, robotic attitude was a niche genre enjoyed by only a handful of forward thinking kids in West Berlin. But then the Wall came down and with it a massive influx of teenagers from the communist East.

For years they'd been forced to stagnate on a diet of state-controlled, sanitised pop and now they were filled with a party spirit and eager to dance to something new. And they found it in techno, a genre which couldn't have been more different from the Communist propaganda they'd grown up with; it was cold, electronic, it had no difficult English lyrics to mangle, it was the sci-fi sound of the approaching 90s.

Of course the introduction of the new designer drug ecstasy did much to add to the euphoria of a united Germany, a massive political event which helped consolidate techno's status as Germany's primary musical export.

Despite the genre having its roots in Detroit and Chicago, Berlin quickly became techno's honorary European HQ and throughout the 90s; it seemed like everyone here was a fan. Techno superclubs like Tresor, E-Werk and Ostgut began popping up all over the city, often in cavernous, abandoned old power stations.

Time to beat it?

But it's not 1989 any more and while the beat of techno still rings out here, its days could well be numbered. Many of the DJs who established the scene in the first place are nudging retirement age and some have already dropped off the radar. That original generation of clubbers are now respectable teachers and architects with children of their own.

The Love Parade, once a fixture of Berlin's cultural scene got shunted to other cities. And for the first time in years, Berlin techno havens like one called Berghain have begun slipping out of the top ten lists of world's best clubs; something which 10 years ago would have seemed unimaginable.

DW correspondent Neale Lytollis

DW correspondent Neale Lytollis says the techno era is drawing to a close

While techno clubs and parties do still exist here the visitor profile is very different. Clubber turned journo Tobias Rapp describes them as the Easyjet Set; up for it Europeans who come to Berlin on cheap flights to get wrecked for a weekend.

So far-reaching is Berghain's legendary status that the line of clubbers is made up more or less entirely of kids from Spain, Italy, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, while Berliners take refuge in less celebrated venues and dance to anything other than techno.

The tragedy at Duisburg's Love Parade last week which saw more than 20 people lose their lives, will no doubt add another nail to the rapidly-closing lid of techno's coffin. But in Berlin at least, where change is arguably the most integral aspect of the city's character, the party spirit will live on; it's just the party won't be in Berghain and techno won't be the soundtrack.

Author: Gavin Blackburn

Editor: Neil King

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