A Tale of Two Cities: How Berlin might save Detroit’s techno scene
The evolution of techno music has been a subject of debate for decades. The first recorded usage of the word in reference to a musical genre was in Detroit, MI circa 1988. Purists who lived through the birth of the movement in the States will probably tell you stories about how great it all was before the Germans got hold of it and sped it up into something almost unrecognizable. Those across the pond, however, have a much friendlier view toward their American counterparts; many hold Detroit in high esteem for serving as a catalyst to a musical movement that became a cornerstone of European culture.
Regardless of what camp you belong to, though, it’s all water under the bridge now. Dealing with a crime index of two (100 being the safest) and economic conditions bleak enough to justify trading a house for an iPhone (true story), Detroit has more important things to worry about then who started what. Such as reviving its once flourishing music scene.
With property values in the dumps, the city is prime picking ground for anyone brave enough to invest in it. The candidate pool isn’t very large, but it makes sense that one of the courageous few happens to a have a long history seeped in techno.
His name is Dimitri Hegemann. You might be more familiar with the name of the now legendary club and corresponding record label he founded in East Berlin: Tresor.
The German techno heavyweight has his sights on Detroit’s old abandoned Fisher Body 21 factory. As it stands now, the factory isn’t much to look at – just a crumbling concrete monster covered in graffiti with rows of busted windows.
To Hegemann, however, it represents an opportunity to resuscitate the city’s neglected music and nightlife scene. Assuming the building can be redeveloped and brought up to modern-day safety parameters, he plans to turn Fisher Body 21 into a thriving techno dance club.
Hegemann has made his love for Detroit apparent across the years. He is at the forefront of the Detroit-Berlin Connection, a project that encourages music industry leaders from Berlin to invest in Detroit in an effort to help it’s techno music scene recover.
For many Berliners, Detroit’s current social and economic landscape conjures memories of similar issues they faced in their hometown over two decades ago, and how a thriving music scene helped them deal with their troubles and focus on building something better.
While the Detroit-Berlin Connection and Hegemann’s plans have received the support of several members on Detroit’s city council, there are plenty of skeptics. To them, reinvigorating the city’s music scene as a means to repair the bigger picture is well-intended but idealistic. At the end of the day, Detroit has a lot of deep-rooted issues and a lot of healing to do.
Regardless of whether or not these efforts will bring about a musical Renaissance within the city, they are at the very least a step in the right direction.