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Germany Adds Berlin’s Techno Scene To UNESCO Heritage List

Germany’s culture ministry and Unesco commission have added Berlin’s techno scene to the country’s list of intangible cultural heritage, in recognition of the scene’s contribution to the cultural identity of the city.

Berlin’s Clubcommission, a network for Berlin’s techno clubs and musicians, described the move as “another milestone for Berlin techno producers, artists, club operators and event organisers”.

Lutz Leichsenring, an executive member of Clubcommission’s board, told the German broadcaster DW: “The decision will help us ensure that club culture is recognised as a valuable sector worthy of protection and support.”

For more than a decade there has been a campaign to have techno culture and music added to Germany’s list, spearheaded by Rave the Planet, a non-profit supporting electronic music culture.

“Congratulations to all the cultural creators who have shaped and contributed to Berlin’s techno culture,” the group said in a statement on social media. “This is a major milestone for the entire culture, and our joy is beyond words.”

Rave the Planet submitted the application for techno to be included in the list in November 2022.

Intangible cultural heritage status is more commonly granted to more traditional cultural activities, such as Malawian Mwinoghe dancing or Slovakian bagpipe culture. The recent recognition on Unesco’s list of intangible cultural heritage of Jamaican reggae and India’s huge Kumbh Mela festival, however, prompted techno community leaders in Berlin to campaign for their scene to be included in Germany’s register, which is separate to the Unesco list.

Techno is a fundamental part of the city, according to Peter Kirn, a Berlin-based DJ and music producer. In 2021 he told the Observer: “In other cities, people wouldn’t accept music that’s really hard or weird and full of synthesisers and really brutal, distorted drum machines. You can’t play that at peak hour in a club, let alone over lunch. And here it’s totally acceptable to play that over lunch.

“Techno has become a refuge for people who are marginalised, and there’s a natural attraction to Berlin as a place which is more permissive when you come from places that are less permissive.”

The techno scene is one of six new entries on the intangible cultural heritage list in Germany; others include fruit wine and mountaineering. A parade in Bavaria known as the Kirchseeoner Perchtenlauf, where attenders dress as furry monsters, was also added to the list.

The headline and text of this article were amended on 15 March 2024. The techno scene has been added to the national intangible cultural heritage list compiled by the German commission for Unesco, not the global intangible cultural heritage list compiled by Unesco as an earlier version indicated.

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