A little bit of history

Berlin’s club culture is considered as one of the city’s most important cultural flagships. The clubs are a tourist magnet, and the stories about legendary clubs and historical club and subcultural developments have been told many times, in the form of books, documentaries or exhibitions, among other things. Particular attention is paid to the punk and new wave scene of the 1980s and the development of the techno scene after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and to a certain extent to queer party culture from the 1970s onwards. However, the selection of stories told is very selective and entire scenes and communities have hardly been documented to date. That there were and are other contexts besides punk and techno in which club culture played an important role or still does today is obvious, but it is becoming much more difficult to find sources for this. 

For example, apart from the well-known places of the punk and new wave scene, there were also quite a number of clubs in Berlin in the 1980s where R&B, hip hop or funk - in other words, Black music styles - were played and which helped shape Berlin’s club culture decisively. However, this is rarely mentioned or many people are probably not even aware of it. The so-called G.I. clubs, which were not only frequented by African-American soldiers, but also by Berlin migrants, are somewhat familiar - the most famous being La Belle in Friedenau, which was the site of a terrorist attack in 1986 that killed three people. One reason for the invisibility of some club cultures is probably also that many of these clubs, in contrast to the punk and new wave venues that are somehow considered cool and subculturally significant, are seen as “mainstream discos” and not as proper “underground clubs” - a view that also expresses racist and above all classist views. 

With regard to the 1990s, the impression can then arise that almost only techno clubs existed, while the Berlin hip-hop scene, for example, is surprisingly rarely addressed - and when it then comes to the actually extremely influential Turkish-German hip-hop scene of Berlin, it immediately becomes even more difficult to find out anything about it. Clubs from that time, where R&B, deep house, nu jazz, reggae or even jungle were played, are usually missing from popular histories. The fact that there was also a diverse and heterogeneous club culture in the 1990s, also shaped by BIPoCs, is little known by most Berlin club culture enthusiasts. Among the most prominent examples are the queer-oriental Gayhane parties that have been taking place at SO36 since 1997 or the reggae and dancehall club YAAM, which has existed at various locations since 1994. On the other hand, there is still the mythologisation of the Berlin techno scene as open to all, as a place where racism, sexism and homophobia had no place, which is why the exclusions of various groups that actually took place are repeatedly ignored or denied. A reappraisal of this topic in relation to Berlin club culture has hardly taken place to date. More research on this topic, and space for discussions is much needed.  As a result, it is currently  difficult to make reliable statements here. In addition, there were the African-American DJs from Detroit and Chicago who were regular guests in Berlin and are often cited as proof of how multicultural the scene had been - but then it is forgotten that Black Germans (and other PoCs living in Germany) were rather few in number in the techno clubs. Added to this is the stylisation of techno as the soundtrack of the reunification of East and West Germans - a reunification from which, however, people with, for example, Turkish or Vietnamese backgrounds were generally excluded.