Set List: Via Berlin

Get your Euro on. DJ Katia’s (pronounced Kat-ee-ah) Tuesday afternoon program Via Berlin is a great reminder to all of us of the sometimes forgotten but always-eminent German music scene.

Tom Lüneburger

It may not be what you expect from a German program either. With New York City’s Electric Zoo Festival just around the corner, perhaps I had Euro-techno on my brain this morning. I intentionally delayed putting BTR on until I was awake enough to handle the electric sound I expected from a radio program featuring German music only. Tuning into DJ Katia’s show immediately nullified all those preconceptions. An extremely sweet and soft voice, with only a hint of a German accent, DJ Katia’s opening mic break is the perfect cream to my coffee. So are the first two tracks she plays, “Yesterday Is Gone” and “Good Intentions” by Tom Lüneburger. Maybe I shouldn’t be so presumptuous next time.

Even though the show is called “Via Berlin,” it is not only music from Berlin. Hamburg in the North, Cologne/Düsseldorf in the West, or Munich/Stuttgart in the South are also hot spots or ports for some of Germany’s best music scenes. “Since Berlin is quite a melting pot, you will find a lot of influences from all sorts of culture,” Katia tells me in an email.

The range of the music on her show does an excellent job to reach out to as many of these “influences” as possible. I ask her about the musical formula she puts into the show: “Generally, the show consists of an indie pop/rock/electronica mix with a focus on: a) electronic music (more or less), and b) singer/songwriters.” Katia goes on to describe herself as not “the biggest fan” of the electronica genre, but still recognizes it’s popularity and importance in German culture and the German music scene. “I’m under the impression that some kind of electronica-influenced style has become extremely popular in Germany. One could argue why that is and where it came from. I’ll just presume it might have been introduced by our neighbors in France.”

Zoe Leela

The history of German techno stretches further back then the dominant rise in the early 2000s even though it was around that time when it really started to make its mark on the globe. It was during the late 60s and early 70s when German musicians began to experiment with electronic/computer generated noise, calling the new sound “Krautrock.” Some bands of note from this period were Kraftwerk, Neu!, and Can and Faust. Yet there is no debating that the rapid rise of German’s techno scene as one of Europe’s (and the world’s for that matter) top producers of techno music happened just after the turn of the century. DJ Katia explains: “Acts and records out of the Ed Banger label environment (Daft Punk, Mr. Oizo, Feadz, etc.) were sort of a new generation of musicians and computer nerds around 2002/2003 who influenced an electro based style that has spread all over Europe. Now you have acts like Boys Noize or Modeselektor or Moderat in Berlin who are leading Electronica acts themselves. They have even gone on to found their own successful labels.”

DJ Katia feels that “Berlin, as a city itself, is to blame” in a way for the burgeoning singer/songwriter scene that is counterbalancing the well-known techno scene. Similar to New York, a lot of musicians (from all over the world, but mainly Europe) come to, and subsequently stay in, Berlin because of its vital scene with a lot of bars and clubs to play in and its very friendly and relaxed environment. “Most of all,” Katia contends, “it is because you (and your guitar) can survive easily in an extremely affordable city.”

Whatever it is that is happening in Berlin and the rest of Germany’s music scene seems to be working. The techno/dance is still dominating the world market, the singer/songwriters are improving and becoming more internationally known, and the Indie rock labels are continuing to find fresh, raw talent that separates them from the Euro-pop trash.

Make sure to check out DJ Katia’s eclectic German program Via Berlin to keep up with all that is happening from this centrally based European country.

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– Kory French


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