Is techno a sacred part of Berlin's culture? The German government thinks so

Berlin's techno scene attracts people from all over the world. Credit: On Assignment

By Lucrezia Millarini, ITV News Presenter

I wouldn’t say I’m a 'raver', but I’ve certainly seen the inside of a few clubs over the years - from London to Paris to New York, all with their unique scenes. But the Berlin Techno scene does stand apart.

A sound originally born in the underground clubs of Detroit and Chicago, Techno found a new home in Berlin at a time when Communism and the infamous Wall, which divided the city, were falling.

East and West Berliners were free to mingle and old Cold War buildings were unofficially requisitioned by a youth looking for places to get together, share ideas and, importantly, dance.

Techo is considered part of Berlin's culture. Credit: On Assignment

One of those young people was Dimitri Hegemann. Now in his late 60s, he opened what is regarded as Berlin’s oldest techno club - Tresor - in 1989.

He summed it up perfectly when he told me that back then, it felt like music “could change the world”.

Decades later he still has that glint in his eye, that same spirit of rebellion and a conviction that Berlin’s techno scene really is different from other club capitals.

'It's important to recognise the black influences on techno'

Tobi and his friends, preparing for a night out ahead of the May Day Bank Holiday, all agree. Yes, it's the music that is the hook, in its raw form of entertainment, but the clubs themselves are still regarded as 'safe spaces' where debate is had, and alliances are made. A sense of "freedom", they told me, free of the glare of social media and judgment.

Berlin clubs operate a strict 'no filming policy'. Enforced at the door, cameras must be covered.

DJ and Producer Narcis scoffs at the TikTok generation who spend most of their time watching superstar DJs through the prism of their phones. Total immersion in the music is equated with true appreciation and liberation.

Almost everyone I spoke to for this episode of On Assignment told me all of that is worth preserving.

Lucrezia Millarini is shown the basics of making a techno track

Because in Berlin, just as we've seen in London and other big cities, there are fears that nightlife and club culture in general are at risk.

Rising rents, property development, gentrification and the imposition of necessary infrastructure all threaten the existence of venues where neighbours are starting to complain, and town planners are looking to expand.

And so when the Cultural Ministry announced that Berlin’s techno scene would be added to Germany’s list of intangible cultural heritage there was a flurry of headlines, and for the community, hope.

Recognition that came after years of campaigning and welcomed by Berlin's 'Club Commissioner' (yes, there is such a thing!) Marc Wohlrabe.

Cameras are banned inside the techno raves. Credit: On Assignment

He tells me that activists and campaigners worried about the threats to the club scene can now use this as a weapon in their armoury to fight the inevitable progress of gentrification and big business.

Marc is also a member of Germany’s federal government. His job is to liaise with the nighttime industries. I asked him - how to convince politicians that Berlin’s Techno Scene is worth protection?

"I take them clubbing", he answered.

Of course, and maybe that’s the only way to truly know what 'Berlin Techno' is all about.

You can watch On Assignment at 22.45 on Tuesday 28 May, on ITV1 and ITVX

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