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Music Before the Wall’s Demise

Berlin clearly lived through one of its most bizarre periods during the Cold War. Bizarre, in that erecting a wall dividing a city into two parts, separating families and neighbours and setting them in opposing universes, is an Orwellian experience to say the least.

Each part of the city obviously developed in a very different way. On the one hand, East Berlin stagnated within a system based on obsessive control by the regime, a pattern shared by the rest of the communist bloc. West Berlin, for its part, evolved in similar fashion to the rest of the capitalist world.

West Berlin – From the Mecca of the Underground to Hedonistic House

From the seventies on, in line with the new trends in England and the United States, a new musical scene began to gain currency in Berlin, based on creative freedom and the aesthetic of a clean break with the past. Berlin became one of the leading centres of punk and all its subsequent ramifications. Their outsider and underground art culture sediment attracted performers of the calibre of David Bowie, Brian Eno, Keith Haring and Lou Reed throughout the seventies. By then, a good number of bands were feeding such exciting circuits as those of London and Sheffield.

At the end of the seventies, the music of Joy Division and dabblers in electronic and industrial music were adopted as icons of the flourishing alternative scene of an open Berlin. Unlike the British or American varieties, German post-punk was characterised by a tension between politics and culture and aesthetically owes much to krautrock, as many of its themes are endless repetitions at a heady pace, notably Geld/Money by the arty band, Malaria, or the early recordings of DAF.

As of 1980, the exciting Berlin scene was always on the move, spawning an inexhaustible string of bands like Einstürzende Neubauten– headed by the controversial Blixa Bargeld – Die Unbekannten, Nina Hagen, Die Krupps, Mekanik Destrüktiw Komandoh, Die Tödliche Doris, Geile Tiere and Die Arztewith their punk funk distinguished by sarcastic lyrics.True to say, the scene was not made up of musicians alone, but by film stars and directors, writers, philosophers, artists and photographers, too. By the mid-eighties a process of disintegration had set in. Music became ever more commercial and groups began to sign up with multinationals. However, it was not long before a new sound revolution arose which had a marked impact on the city – the advent of acid house and techno. Recall that Berlin’s Love Parade was the first mass parade of electronic music in the world. The first Love Parade was in 1989. The event started out as a clamour for peace and mutual understanding through music. Just a few months later, the Wall came down and West Berlin was consigned to history.

The legendary SO36 was still going strong at that time. The club, located on the Oranienstrasse near Heinrichplatz in the Kreuzberg district, took its name from the area’s famed postal code – SO36. The district of Kreuzberg is historically the home of Berlin punk, and of other alternative German subcultures. SO36 was initially dedicated mainly to punk music. As of 1979 it attempted a crossover between punk, new wave and visual art. In those days the club rivalled New York’s CBGB as one of the world’s leading new wave spots. Others on the Berlin circuit included Metropol, the disco, Kino, the club 54 Kantstrasse and the Sputnik alternative cinema, where the cult film Christiane F. premiered.

Period Document on the Big Screen

The 13th Beefeater In-Edit Festival will be held in Barcelona from 29 October to 8 November. Prominent among the many films to be shown is B-Movie: Lust & Sound in West-Berlin 1979-1989, a documentary directed by Jörg A. Hoppe, Heiko Lange and Klaus Maeck on music, art and chaos in the Wild West of Berlin in the decade of the 1980s, the walled city that became a creative crucible for a special type of pop subculture which attracted brilliant dilettantes and world-famous celebrities of all kinds. However, prior to the fall of the Iron Curtain, artists, squatters, poets, music creators and hedonists came together to enjoy a highly unconventional lifestyle in Berlin. They all knew it would be short-lived but, who’s worried about tomorrow? It was a case of living for the here and now.

Featuring mostly unreleased television material and original footage, photos and interviews, B-Movie chronicles life in a divided city, a cultural interzone where anything seemed possible – a place different from anywhere else in Europe. It is a fast-moving collage of stories about a frenzied but creative decade starting with punk and ending with the Love Parade, in a city where days are short and nights are interminable.

Berlin is currently experiencing a youthful resurgence in terms of cultural activity – and music, too! Why wait to discover it all? Check out our tickets here.


Text by ISABELYLUIS Comunicación

Images by B-Moviem, SO36

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