Illustration: Dominika Huber
On August 20th 2020 German Techno DJ Chris Liebing went on a minutes long rant about Business Teshno and the work we’ve been doing. Since then, our work has been getting painted in a negative light which resulted in regular death threats and abuse. In this article, we will give insights on some of our posts and try to look into the near future of the German nightlife industry.
During last year’s BLM protest, we experienced that many actors in Germany’s nightlife industry had never really asked themselves what part they play in the reproduction of coloniality.
In his seminal essay ON THE COLONIALITY OF BEING Nelson Maldonado-Torres delineates coloniality as “long-standing patterns of power that emerged as a result of colonialism, but that define culture, labor, intersubjective relations, and knowledge production well beyond the strict limits of colonial administrations. […] [Coloniality] is maintained alive in books, in the criteria for academic performance, in cultural patterns, in common sense, in the self-image of peoples, in aspirations of self, and so many other aspects of our modern experience.”
Quoting Anibal Quijano he more explicitly reminds us that it not only codifies “the differences between conquerors and conquered in the idea of ‘race’, a supposedly different biological structure that placed some in a natural situation of inferiority to the others” but also constitutes “a new structure of control of labor and its resources and slavery, serfdom, small independent commodity production and reciprocity, together around and upon the basis of capital and the world market.”
How coloniality operates became clear when Germany’s nightlife industry reached out to black & brown people for free labour, asking them what would be appropriate as a reaction to the BLM protest. What followed was a series of meaningless performances: from black squares on Instagram, and Berghain painting their door black to some big DJs sharing graphic content of black people getting murdered on their social media, all of which led to no change whatsoever.
At the same time, there were other incidents. Cera Khin trying to sell a “Fuck The BPM Police” shirt made the impression that she’s trying to cash in on the BLM protests. That aside, it was irritating to see German artists like Ellen Allien defending her by arguing that the shirt was in no way related to police brutality in the US and should therefore not have caused the outrage it did. Being unable to see why selling a shirt like this is problematic just shows how ingrained coloniality is in our daily lives.
Coloniality is also showing in the way Techno has been massively whitewashed in Europe over the last 10-15 years.
After the murder of George Floyd in the US, Germany had its own debate regarding police brutality. Interior Minister H. Seehofer blocked an inquiry into racial profiling by the German police. In the meantime, he himself and other CDU/CSU politicians were pushing the narrative that the German police is different to the US’ in that there was no structural racism within its ranks. As with acts of terrorism committed by far-right terrorists (e.g. Anders Breivik, Tobias R.), they spread the trope that racism in the German police is limited to exceptional cases. Unsurprisingly, this proved completely wrong later.
Exploiting the most vulnerable
How pervasive coloniality is was also visible in summer 2020 when some countries decided to open clubs again as certain regions depend heavily on tourism. Dixon, among other big names of the industry, was the first to travel to countries whose present economies – underdeveloped by European colonialism – depend on tourists. We’ve written a few articles pointing out why these so-called plague raves, as studies prove, hurt the most vulnerable.
Despite the vast majority of the artists and promoters refusing to talk to anyone about plague raves, two interviews clearly exposed the coloniality behind them. A prank call to one of the promoters of the plague raves in Zanzibar and a Dirty Doering interview made clear that these raves whether it was in Africa, India or Mexico were driven by coloniality. All involved were just interested in making money without caring about the local population. As Dirty Doering put it: “The population here [where the plague raves take place] is young and may not even realise that they are infected with COVID.” Therefore it wasn’t really surprising that DJ’s like Solomun who had occupied our Instagram Explorer feeds before became camera shy and tried their best to ban footage.
It was in reference to our discussion of plague raves that Chris Liebing and his friends started to portray our work as negative and dividing the scene. Caught in their coloniality of being, protecting DJ friends is always above the lives of black & brown people. How recklessly black and brown people’s lives were put at risk was most obvious in the case of plague raves in Africa & India which featured many German artists.
As Business Teshno we’ve tried our best to follow science. Although compromises between different political ideas are the backbone of a functioning democracy, we do hope that the majority has realised during this pandemic that it is inconsiderate to deny scientific evidence.
Coloniality is also showing in the way Techno has been massively whitewashed in Europe over the last 10-15 years. This has led not only to non-inclusive lineups on ever bigger events from which only a handful of people profit but also to constant cultural appropriation. Unfortunately the same can be said about rap & hip hop in Germany. The failure of the media to hold any of these big names accountable allowed people like 187 Strassenbande to steal and build a career on the back of black peoples’ labour.
An upcoming party that is rooted in hip hop and built around the opposition to any form of coloniality is Die Urbane. Tracing back the history of the music to the streets of New York in the 70s, they understand “hip hop” for what it is meant to be: “the voice of the silenced.” Hence, the party, as Waseem told us, is committed to stand up for “representation, decolonization and non-white perspectives on every level of society, in the music industry, in the media and in politics.” Moreover, he also emphasises that there is more than ever a need to listen to black and brown people since they “have been living under some sort of racist lockdown for over 400 years.”
One of the most controversial posts we’ve published to this day about the coloniality of being was the post criticising Chris Liebing for his tweets after the capitol insurrection in January 2021. Many non-black users were angry and couldn’t understand why it wouldn’t be a good thing for someone with a high following to denounce the former US President’s actions. Our aim was different, however.
We wanted to highlight how powerful white men in the nightlife industry use their big platform to post things about US politics while staying silent on topics they actually would have an impact on. With all due respect, we doubt that anyone in the Republican Party cares about what any big German DJ has to say about racism or similar topics. What would’ve been interesting is if Chris Liebing and friends had taken a clear stance on Awakenings booking of an all white lineup in the middle of global BLM protests.
Some DJs decided to post their black squares with disabled comments knowing well who their fanbase might include.
When people in the comments of a livestream asked him about his opinion, he struggled to find words and avoided mentioning Awakenings for obvious reasons. After years of whitewashing the nightlife industry a clear stance from well-known non-black artists could accelerate the changes so many of us are pushing for. On top of it, let’s not pretend that Germany hasn’t had its own problem with the uprising of fascism in the past years. While Trump was a regular topic on German DJs timelines, only a handful of bigger German DJs (Inhalt der Nacht, mobilegirl, Reznik) cared enough to use their platform to remember the people killed by a far-right terrorist in Hanau in February 2020.
The growing far right in Germany and how to get it completely wrong
While for some our commitment to highlight certain topics seems disturbing, for us it’s essential to do everything in our power to push back against the far right. We do not have the privilege to opt out and be “non-political” because we, our friends and families could be the next ones who get shot by one of these far right terrorists. We’re valuing our safety much higher than any DJ’s reputation.
Talking to German friends in the past years made us realise that it seems quite hard for many of them to take a stand on difficult topics majorly due to the fear of getting it completely wrong. We’ve seen a few examples on how to get it completely wrong by the likes of Konstantin or the Berlin club about:blank recently and if we’re completely honest none of them will be held accountable for it.
Having tried to get a better understanding of this we were sent a documentary called Wildes Herz which followed Punkband Feine Sahne Fischfilet and other artists who fight against the uprising far right in Germany. There are many indicators showing that the far right is a growing threat in Germany especially for immigrants so we asked ourselves what does the nightlife community do? Are there big German DJs who actively push against the far right? Looking at the foundations of Techno & House this should be necessary from an historical point of view but unfortunately we’ve not seen many bigger names taking a clear stance.
Some DJs decided to post their black squares with disabled comments knowing well who their fanbase might include, while artists like Jan Blomqvist have been actively replying to racist comments denouncing them and setting the record straight for everyone to see. While artists like these are rare, they’re urgently needed because the far right isn’t sleeping and they’re recruiting young people and trying to convince them with their hateful ideologies. It’s on everyone in the nightlife industry to push against it, no matter how big your platform is.
One of the few platforms that dares to speak up is berlinclubmemes. In conversation, his founder told us there are “important things [he] just couldn’t stay silent on.” A topic berlinclubmemes wants to focus on in the near future is drug awareness since “the situation around GHB in Berlin is very bad” and initiatives such as Sonar need all the support they can get.
As Business Teshno we’ve tried to support people who’re putting in the work at the forefront like the Underground Music Academy (UMA) in Detroit, which is a “community hub that aims to build the future leaders of electronic music […] rooted in Detroit’s Black electronic music legacy.” Recently we’ve created a charity shirt to back Kabulluftbrücke which unfortunately didn’t get the support from the (German) nightlife industry as it should’ve got. Talking to German artists and collectives, we could sense a fear of a backlash on the topic of Afghanistan, some citing that people might be unwilling to support it due to what happened at New Years Eve in Cologne in 2015 – a narrative that was pushed by many CDU/CSU politicians in the past few weeks.
The failures of the current German government led by CDU/CSU and SPD don’t stop with the fiasco around the evacuation of people in Afghanistan. They’ve managed to outdo themselves every other week for years now. From basically selling their votes to corrupt regimes, shamelessly cashing in on mask deals, supporting companies like Wirecard, tolerating outright racists in their party to a general lack of support for culture & nightlife economy during this pandemic. Moreover, it’s symptomatic that a possible future cabinet minister and former BlackRock chairman shows his misogyny in referring to Annalena Baerbock as “the trampoline jumper” thereby undermining her expertise.
The FDP which has gained support of big DJs like Paul van Dyk and alarmingly a majority of first time voters has not done any better. While the party has defended actors who’ve been at the forefront of the CumEx scandal and sided with the AfD to win a state election, they have always advocated for a conception of freedom that is based on coloniality: “freedom for conquerors at the cost of the ‘conquered’.” This is hardly surprising as Charles W. Mills argues that “[l]iberalism […] has historically been predominantly a racial liberalism.”
This leaves us with one established party above 10% of the vote with promising politicians such as Aminata Touré and Sarah-Lee Heinrich. We sat down with Bündnis 90/Die Grünen politician Georg Kössler to talk about the challenges the nightlife industry faces. Kössler, who would describe himself as a young politician, raver, and environmental activist, has been working with clubs in Berlin for some years. He highlights two major issues for the nightlife industry everywhere: gentrification with ever increasing rents and the climate catastrophe.
The coloniality of business techno only aggravates these problems. It subordinates everything under the primacy of capital. Aware of this mechanism, Kössler points out that Bündnis 90/Die Grünen do not only focus on the business side of the nightlife industry but also value its social dimension.
All this sounds good in theory but too often no one has actually put words into action. One thing is clear: a club culture that does not stand up against racism, sexism, classism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia and other hateful opinions and behaviours is not worthy of its history and name.
We are still raising money for Kabulluftbruecke. If you want to do so through our collaboration T-shirt with #LeaveNoOneBehind use GROOVE50 for a 50% discount. The writer’s fee goes to Kabulluftbrücke and Underground Music Academy. Please support their fantastic work!