Have you ever been walking down the street when a car drives by and you hear a funky beat that makes you want to start grooving down the sidewalk? More than likely it was an awesomely mixed electronic dance music jam you heard, otherwise known as techno.
As what often happens with the origins of music genres, the history of techno really depends on who you’re talking to and what region you explore. The beginning story of techno differs whether you’re talking about techno in Europe or the United States. However, what is generally accepted as the story of techno emergence is that in the 1980s, three Detroit artists, known as the “Belleville Three,” fused the repetitive electro sounds of Kraftwerk with the rhythms of funk.
And here lies one key component to the awesome booty-shaking sounds we hear today: Kraftwerk. Kraftwerk is an electro music band from Germany who began making beats in the 1970s. The group was initially formed by classically trained musicians Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider, who became intrigued by the technical efficiency of machines. Since Kraftwerk’s beginning, there have been several additions and subtractions to the band. Their international breakthrough album, Autobahn, was the start of massive movements within various genres across the board. Not only has their music influence techno music, but has also inspired the rock n’ roll, pop music, and the hip-hop community.
Kraftwerk’s early albums were described more as free-form experimental rock but as their music progressed, they began using technology such as synthesizers, drum machines, vocoders, and self-made instruments.
Where many describe the early sound of Kraftwerk as more noise without much rhythm, Autobahn is considered the turning point where they began to incorporate rhythm, pop hooks, and disciplined structure. Though lyrics are generally kept to a minimum in their music, when there are lyrics incorporated, they are often about technology and urban life. Perhaps this is part of the reason why they’ve had a strong influence in the hip-hop and techno community.
Kraftwerk’s music is still incredibly influential after 30 something years. The electronic band’s last performance to date was in September 2009, which was at a festival on the Isle of Wight (an English island) named Bestival. It is rumored that a box set of Kraftwerk’s first three experimental albums, which weren’t as well perceived as their Autobahn album, is in the works, as well as a new studio album.
If you’ve never feasted your ears upon the unique sounds and rhythms of Kraftwerk’s music, I highly suggest you get on it. Though Kraftwerk’s music isn’t for everyone, if you’re into the electronic music scene, it may be beneficial know the roots and understand where a lot of the music you love today got its influence from. Before Kraftwerk, no band had ever quite experimented with technology and music in a similar way.
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Brad Parmerter has almost 20 years experience in the music and entertainment industry as a writer, programmer, and merchandiser. He has professionally interviewed and photographed such artists as: Rush, Metallica, Celine Dion, Live, Phil Collins, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Live, Van Halen, Queensryche, Anna Nalick, Styx, Def Leppard, and many more.
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