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How Techno was born

July 1, 2023

Techno has become so socially acceptable that it can now even be heard playing at concert halls like the Berlin Philharmonic. But how did this happen? Where did this once-considered "crass" sound come from, and how did it conquer the world?



DJ Martin Garrix night at HMH | Hands in techno spotlight in a club
Image: Ferdy Damman/picture alliance/dpa

What are the roots of the musical genre known as the "Sound of Berlin"? Techno hit it big in Berlin after the fall of the Wall in 1989, when the hard, fast electro beats could be found playing in gloomy basement clubs and run-down buildings.

Loveparade 2006 | female Raver in foreground | Victory column in background
Image: picture alliance / dpa

The Love Parade was a musical festival that brought techno and partying to the streets of Berlin, attracting ravers from all over the world. In 1999, when it was at its peak, there were 1.5 million attendees. Berlin is now known as the city where the party never ends. There is no curfew and in clubs like Tresor or Berghain you can dance for days and nights on end. But how did techno actually originate, and where?

Berlin: Club Berghain at night with people in queue
Image: Christophe Gateau/dpa/picture alliance

Arts Explainer digs deep into the archives, meets techno legends in Berlin, and looks across the Atlantic to Detroit. What influence did DJs from the former industrial and musical metropolis in the USA have on techno and what roles did Black and queer communities play in the genesis of this musical genre?

Techno DJ, Juan Atkins at a turntable  in 1991
Image: PYMCA/Photoshot/picture alliance

And: How did techno become the unofficial soundtrack for Berlin? A lot has been forgotten since techno emerged in the early 1980s. "Every kind of music comes out of a different kind of music," says Detroit DJ Stacey Hotwaxx Hale, "no matter what it is!"" Now, it’s time to revisit history.

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Arts Unveiled — Experiencing and understanding the art world

Arts Unveiled dives deep into the international creative scene, uncovering new ideas and explaining cultural phenomena that shape our history, present and future. Who are the artists? What are their greatest works of art? And how are they having an impact? Where can we find their exciting projects?