Düsseldorf – the Cradle of Modern Electronic Music
Düsseldorf is the capital of North Rhine-Westphalia. In the mid-19th century it experienced economic growth fuelled by the Industrial Revolution. During the Second World War, the city was practically reduced to rubble but, thanks to the German miracle, it soon became one of the economic powerhouses of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Düsseldorf – Centre of the Avant-Garde Universe
Brian Eno once said that the Neu! experimental rock band from Düsseldorf was one of the three most inventive beats of the sixties, together with Fela Kuti’s afrobeat and James Brown’s funk. In the late sixties and early seventies, a characteristic Düsseldorf sound started to take shape, based on elements of early rock combined with those of experimental rock. Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger were the pioneers and both of them were members of Neu!, a reference model in the development of the endless machine beat typical of krautrock and, subsequently, in the early creation of Kraftwerk, the primogenitors of modern electronic music. Dinger is also credited with being the originator of themotorik beat, a rhythmic pattern based on a regular, mechanical and repetitive beat. Rother, for his part, also worked with Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius, members of Cluster; they later teamed up to found Harmonia.
Kling Klang Studio
Ralf Hütter of Kraftwerk once said that the synthesizer is a psychoanalytic machine. Indeed, synths were the instruments that nourished the music of this German band, who also happened to design the world’s most modern studio in a flash. They called it the Kling Klang Studio, sited in the centre of Düsseldorf. The project was started by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider in 1970, but was not finished until 1975, an event marked by the release of the record, “Radio-Activity”. During the eighties, the studio was refurbished according to a modular rack design, with a view to being taken along on their forthcoming tour. It was originally sited at 16 Mintropstrasse, but in 2009 it was relocated to Meerbusch-Osterath, some 10 kilometres from Düsseldorf. This move has enabled the studio and office to be located on the same premises. The new Kling Klang includes a rehearsal room for preparing concerts.
This is where, in 2013, Kraftwerk embarked on their current 3D tour which is taking them to emblematic places across the globe to present their daring visual show, during which the audience require 3D glasses to get a much more intense sensorial experience. At Kunstsammlung, art is the central focus. The backbone of the collection is made up of 88 works by Paul Klee, while the rest are highly valuable contemporary artworks.
The Düsseldorf Scene Today
The electronic scene is currently not as solid as it was a few years ago. Loco Dice is a local artist with some international acclaim within the minimal scene headquartered here – the Desolat label. Another label based in the city is Themes for Great Cities, the home of Wolf Müller, a project by Jan Schulte, one of the most restless souls on the local electronic scene at the moment and a direct heir to the Düsseldorf sound.
Salon Des Amateurs is undoubtedly one of the most interesting clubs in the city. It is located in the heart of the art community, namely the Kunshalle, an exhibition space specialising in contemporary art. When entering the premises, one is struck by the Max Ernst sculpture. Here, the kraut tradition blends with the most select electronic avant-garde. At “The Salon”, as it is known here, the whole liturgy of dance takes place. Two of the resident DJs are Jan Schulte and Detlef Weinrich, from the legendary elektronische musik group Kreidler, who pioneered a fusion of ambient, post rock and IDM in the nineties, although their sessions are characterised by a mix of krautrock, African percussion and cosmic jazz. The name is drawn from the Salon organised by the Société Des Artistes Français, an association of French painters and sculptors who held annual events featuring the work of non-professional artists. This was the spirit of the venue in its early years, marked by a certain degree of anarchy, as reflected in the type of audience that frequented the event, from professors in their sixties to teenage skaters. Loco Dice’s Desolat label is headquartered here and makes the club the cradle of the city’s techno once again. The mission of Salon Des Amateursis to take up where Creamcheese left off as a progressive music disco, heir to the non-objective art movement that set in during the late sixties and turned out to be essential to the birth and development of the krautrock style. Then there is Ratinger Hof, a refurbished pub near the Kunstakademie, which became the epicentre of the punk movement in the seventies and eighties, and was graced by bands of the stature of Kraftwerk, Neu! and DAF.It now operates more as a club and the audience is mostly young. Speaking of clubs, most of the ones that hosted electronic underground have now closed down. Only the 102, known as Kiesgrube during the summer season, is still going strong.
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The longest bar in the world
Altstadt, the city center from Düsseldorf, is said to be the longest bar in the world but not to be taken literally, of course. In fact, it refers to over 250 bars, restaurants, colorful breweries and student pubs are concentrated there. There are so many that come to bind a bar with another giving the impression of a single bar, considered the longest in the world. It is the right place to taste the popular smoked sausages along with the famous local beer, the Altbier.
Picture by Hans-Jürgen Wiese
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The Biggest Funfair on the Rhine
The Biggest Funfair on the Rhine is organised by Düsseldorf’s St. Sebastian shooting club, which dates back almost 700 years and currently numbers more than 1,500 members. It’s held in celebration of the club’s patron St. Apollinaris, whose feast day is on 23 July. The highlight is the historical parade, one of the biggest and most spectacular in Germany, with over 3,000 uniformed marksmen, marching bands and horse-drawn carriages.
St. Apollinaris was declared Düsseldorf’s patron saint when the city acquired some of the martyr’s relics in around 1300. A beautiful shrine, now in St. Lambert’s Church in the old town, was built in his honour. Eventually the annual commemorations evolved into a fair at which it was customary for the club St. Sebastianus Schützenverein 1316 e.V. to shoot dummy birds. Whoever shot down the bird was named shooting king for that year – a tradition that still continues today. Apart from this, the fair has changed dramatically. Nowadays the 165,000 square metre fairground on the bank of the Rhine boasts masses of rides from Germany and abroad, which are all geared up to thrill more than four million visitors from all over the world. Everyone looks forward to the historical parade – and the sensational fireworks above the city. Those in the know will tell you that the best place to view the fireworks is from the middle of the Rhine on board the MS Riverstar, an elegant vessel whose wood and brass fittings hark back to the glory days of travel. Sadly the boat can only accommodate around 170 passengers – so early booking is advised.
Picture by Rainer Driesen
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Travel to Japan without leaving Europe
Did you know that Little Tokyo district of Düsseldorf is certainly the closest you can get to Japan without leaving Europe?
Since the 50s the Japanese settled in Düsseldorf for supplies of materials and machinery for rebuilding their country after World War II. Today, with more than 450 Japanese companies and 11,000 people, it is the third largest Japanese community in Europe. This has made the city a must-visit destination for all lovers of Japanese culture and cuisine.
If you feel like making a quantum leap and landing in Japan without leaving Europe I suggest the following gastronomic route. As an anecdote I will tell you that in all places I can deal with Japanese without having to use English or German, and for a moment I forget that I was in Germany.
Located at the heart of Little Tokyo, this superior 4 star hotel belongs to a prestigious Japanese hotel group. The Torii Bar in the hotel lobby is now a classic as a meeting point for the Japanese community in the city, because in the same building it is located the German-Japanese Centre. In the hotel itself is also found Benkay Restaurant, highly acclaimed by all as the best teppanyaki in town, and the sushi bar Fish Corner run by the cheff Hisato Mochizuki. It is to highlight a careful selection of sakes, where you can staste such delights as Dassai 23, the more refined sake that is produced, or Shimeharitsuru “Jun” of Niigata prefecture .
Takumi Takumi and 2nd
Just opposite Nikko Hotel is located Takumi, a unique ramen bar where you can try 100% vegetarian ramen broth noodles. Possibly it is one of the only places in the world where you can taste ramen sitting on a terrace. A few meters away it is Takumi 2nd (Ostrasse 51), from the same owners, where you can also try tonkotsu miso ramen made with pork broth and miso or their delicious homemade gyoza dumplings.
Another ramen bar, with a far more extensive menu where you should not miss Chashu Tokusei miso ramen or ramen “de lux” with miso and marinated pork slices. To round it up, you can ask them to add some wantan in the same bowl. Other curiosities include Chanpon, a bowl of noodles with crispy vegetables, typical of Nagasaki, or Tantan Men, spicy noodles that you must taste. On the opposite sidewalk is Naniwa Sushi & More, which, as its name suggests, you can order sushi and some other dish.
A simple restaurant, where many Japanese families get together to eat all kinds of authentic dishes such as Takosu or viengar-seasoned octopus; beef tongue grilled or Gyutan, a typical dish from Sendai; tebasaki fried chicken wings, or Kushikatsu breaded kebabs, very typical dish in Japanese taverns because it is very easy to share, where the kebabs are immersed in a communal tonkatsu sauce jar. Unwritten rule is that you may only dip once into the sauce before a bite.
I must confess I do not have time to try this establishment but I was totally delighted by its spacious sushi bar made of wood and its design. Definitive proof was it was full of Japanese customers. Later on, the Bon owners, a Japanese bookstore located at Marienstrasse 41, confirmed it was one of the latest restaurants they just opened in the neighborhood and it was a very successful one. Another place I reserved for my next visit was Kagaya tavern (Potsdamer 60), an authentic izakaya where you can taste some of the best sakes with a ramen bowl or some other dish.
The only Japanese restaurant with a Michelin star in Germany. The Japanese cuisine in combination with traditional European dishes and sushi are a must for all of these who consider themselves a gourmet. A few meters away is Soba-an (Klosterstrasse 68), run by Reiko Miyashita and her husband, who makes her own handmade soba noodles. An alternative to fast food that should not be missed.
If you are still hungry and you want to take a piece of Japan in your hand luggage, you can approach Shochiku supermarket (Immermannstrasse 15), where you will find all kind of tools and products such as sauces, dressings, Japanese curries and even a fish market where they prepare specific fish pieces to make sushi at home.
By Roger Ortuño
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