Techno is a form of electronic music that emerged in the United States in the mid-1980s. During the 1990s, techno developed into a real musical culture thanks to the welcome that England and especially Germany had for the artists of Detroit. Militant since its first days, the techno community has always used its influence to defend its vision of a more just and equal world. By relying on a worldwide network of sensitive music lovers and activists, techno has become a musical genre carrying socio-political avant-gardes.
In the 80s, the birth and the impulse of techno and techno clubs in West Berlin contributed to the fall of the Berlin Wall. More and more residents of East Berlin also wanted to be able to listen to and dance freely to the rhythm of techno that they were listening to illegally on Western radio stations. After the fall of the wall techno has also contributed to the reunification of young people from West and East Berlin because they could dance together without worrying about their different identities.
“The techno then releases a promise of freedom that echoes the fall of the wall. Where everyone can create his own universe.”
Techno for the gender liberation
Some clubs are developing the same freedom of techno, especially in Germany and in France. They proclaim a “safe space” where people can be who they want without being judged in particular regarding their sexuality or sexual orientation.
In France, Angel Karel, who is a techno DJ, created The Future Is Female, “a collective propelled by a desire to defend the place of women in the techno scene, hitherto too little emphasis on the local scene in Lyon. This community, in search of a space of freedom to express itself, makes a real turning point for the collective that proposes a first event without any gender rule or identity barrier.“
They organise a “No gender” party, which is a militant and activist, non-conformist event of the french scene, bringing together liberated souls in search of an alternative techno experience in a “safe” space where the rules are respect and tolerance. There, you can be dressed as you wish and free, to not wearing anything without the fear of being judged or touched without consent. Additionally, there is a darkroom where people can go to for privacy where it is forbidden to film or take pictures. This party is rhythm by a brutal and corporal techno, with artistic queers’ performances and only women or queer DJs.
More and more techno DJs are, claim to be politically engaged and militant, for example, Vikken who is a french trans-man and a militant against transphobia. Another example is “La Fraicheur”, a queer DJ and feminist who uses techno to deliver messages, like the speeches of “Angela Davis” in “The movement”. Her speeches denounce racism, homophobia, and transphobia. “Kiddy Smile” is a singer, DJ, producer, dancer and activist for LGBTQ+ rights. He played at Élysée with a T-shirt saying: “son of immigrants, black and gay”. These examples show that music is not only a way to make people dance but also to send strong messages which will make them move in the figurative sense.
These are just a few examples of an ongoing trend. More and more techno nights are queer or/ LGBTQ+ and participants are reminded of the rules (“No racism, homophobia, transphobia or sexism. No touching without asking and no means NO!“) under every facebook event of, for example, the techno club “Ved Siden AF” in Copenhagen.
If techno makes it possible to express who one is and to liberate oneself sexually, it is also a means of conveying political messages.
Techno for justice around the world
Sama is a young woman and the first Palestinian DJ. Her idea is to create “An area of artistic and political freedom”, to allow young Palestinians to forget the sadness of their lives on universal beats. Sama became a famous DJ on the European techno scene, because of her political engagement. In Palestine ,the Israeli state has subjected Palestinians to occupation since 1948, with several disastrous armed conflicts. In September 2018, they created the #DJsForPalestine campaign which marked the climax of this nascent relationship between techno and Palestinian resistance. Behind the hashtag, thousands of world-renowned artists, young DJs and alternative collectives around the world are now expressing their support.
In May 2018, in Georgia, one of the biggest techno clubs called the “Bassiani” in Tbilisi was subject of a big police raid. 200 members of the special forces, armed with machine guns raided the club during a legal event because of the recent drug related deaths of five individuals which the authorities claim are linked to Bassiani. But according to the director of the Bassiani this descent had no basis since none of the deaths occurred at the club. Instead it is believed that the deaths are being used to sustain a Soviet-era political regime. Georgia maintains “extraordinarily strict zero-tolerance drug policies.” Random drug tests by police are common, and small amounts of recreational drugs can get people into prison for years. To protest this, a group of hundreds of young people gathered in front of the parliament, demonstrating against the police operation and for their freedom: “we dance together, we fight together”! The most famous DJs from around the world have sent their support such as: “Ben Klock”, “Nina Kraviz”, or “Dixon”.
In France, on June 21st 2019, a techno fan named Steve Maia disappeared and was found dead in the Loire river after a controversial intervention by the police during a music festival. Every year in Paris, the Techno Parade is held. This year, on the occasion of its 21st anniversary, the Techno Parade wished to mount the sound “in a spirit more than ever militant and claiming“. It stood under the motto “Dance for Steve” and was a tribute to him and a way to protest against police violence and to ask for justice.
And for climate
Finally techno is now at the service of the fight against the climate crisis with some DJs who are engaged on the side of Extinction Rebellion (XR), to protest for a climate justice. For example “Inhalt der Nacht”, a German DJ, or the English duo “Orbital” show their support for Extinction Rebellion by mixing for XR Rave, techno nights to support Extinction Rebellion.
On the 1st November 2019, a Rebel Rave was organised. It was a warehouse party by Extinction Rebellion to celebrate and support the London Rebels who were arrested for showcasing the global climate emergency on the streets of London in April and October this year. All the profits of this event went towards legal aid for rebels awaiting court appearances and prosecution.
As the Palestinian DJ Sama said : “music will not bring peace but it unites people, it makes people think, it helps to understand.“
by Aimée Niau Lacordaire
Photo credits :
Techno/LGBTQ+ party in Paris 2019, Mélina Favarel, All Rights Reserved
No gender party in Lyon 2019, Mélina Favarel, All Rights Reserved
Techno/LGBTQ+ party in Paris 2019, Mélina Favarel, All Rights Reserved