Kölle Alaaf!




The carnival in Cologne is not only one of the biggest but also one of the most amusing festivals in Germany. People are about to celebrate the end of the carnival season which starts in November and furthermore herald the Christian season of Lent. From “Weiberfastnacht”, the Thursday before Shrove Monday, until “Shrove Tuesday” there is a proven period of sessions, balls and parades, and it is celebrated, sung and danced mainly in the halls, restaurants and pubs. People from all over the world unite to  join the processions and try to catch the sweets. The local beer “Kölsch” flows like water and every year cologne provides another theme to entertain the carnival revellers.

Popular song from a local band:


Kraftwerk Symposium @ Electri_City Conference, Düsseldorf

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 20.59.12

The three-day conference organised by Rudi Esch following on from “Electri_City”, his best-selling oral history of the electronic music scene of Düsseldorf, was a resounding success, attracting several hundred visitors. The first day was devoted to a symposium on Kraftwerk that was organised by our music expert Uwe Schütte.


Featuring speakers from both Britain and Germany, it explored various aspects of the seminal band’s  history and music. The audience included scholars from Germany, the English-speaking world and beyond, as well as enthusiasts of electronic music. This included Claudia Schneider-Esleben, the sister of Kraftwerk core member Florian Schneider, and Ralf Dörper, keyboard player and founding member of Die Krupps & Propaganda, as well as several people who had also attended the conference at Aston Earlier this year.


Following the academic part, the was a Q & A session with Peter Hook, formerly of Manchester bands Joy Division and New Order. Hook talked about the great influence of German electronic music and Kraftwerk in particular during his formative years as a musician. During the evening, there was a concert by Heaven 17 and a DJ set from Mute label founder Daniel Miller.








The second day was devoted to Düsseldorf bands other than Kraftwerk and again featured papers in both German and English. Again, academics who had already presented papers at Aston, such as Stephen Mallinder (formerly of Sheffield industrial pioneers Cabaret Voltaire, now a lecturer at Brighton University) and David Stubbs, made an appearance. Highlight of the day were the evening concerts by Mallinder’s new band Wrangler, and by Michael Rother, a founding member of Kraftwerk and Neu!.




For the third day, proceedings moved to the spacious Düsseldorf Conference Centre. The programme featured Aston Kraftwerk conference stalwarts such as the unstoppable Rusty Egan (Visage) but also a number of important musicians such as Gabi Delgado (from Düsseldorf electronic punk duo DAF) or Andy McCluskey (OMD). Highlight of this day was the visit to the formerly secret Kling-Klang Studio in Düsseldorf’s red-light district, where Kraftwerk recorded most of their albums from the early 1970s to about 2008.











Based on the success of the event, opportunities for a follow-on conference next year on the more recent musical developments in Düsseldorf, including bands such as Kreidler or Mouse on Mars, are being explored,  and plans were laid for formalising this field of research into an International Research Network.

Following are more pictures from the event, mostly taken by Markus Luigs.






Rudi Esch in conversation with Ralf Dörper (Die Krupps / Propaganda)









David Pattie talking about early Kraftwerk.










Aston logo at the Düsseldorf Conference Centre












Krautrock legend Michael Rother at panel discussion       prior to his great concert.








Uwe Schütte on the phone of the legendary Kling-Klang Studio – but no Ralf Hütter calling.









Alexei Monroe during his presentation.









German Oktoberfest in England

Zicke zacke, zicke zacke, hoi hoi hoi! – I heard people singing inside the tent.

During the last week of October people from all over the world came together and met up in Digbeth to celebrate Germanys biggest beerfestival called Oktoberfest. Together with friends they came to sing, dance and enjoy the unique bavarian culture.

As a german girl I also went to my first Oktoberfest which seems to be funny as I have never experienced an Oktoberfest in Germany. When I arrived and stood outside the tent I could already hear the people singing along to the german lyrics of typical Oktoberfestsongs. When I entered I saw people either standing on the benches with their pitcher – as a Bavarian would say “Maß” – or sitting on the ale-bench enjoying their “Schnitzel”. The atmosphere was very friendly and spirits were running high as a band from southern German played typical Schlager such as Rotes Pferd, Nena or Anton aus Tirol.

Nevertheless, apart from the waitresses, people did not wear the typical dress called Lederhosen and Dirndl. As I thought that visitors will try to imitate the original beerfestival I had bought myself a typical Dirndl but when I arrived I deterrmined that I was completely wrong. Well…at first I felt a little bit silly but in the end I was funny as people thought I would be a waitress and wanted to make orders all the time – so yes, it was kind of funny.

Depite the fact that beer and Schnitzel seemed to be very expensive, people from all over the world – including me – had a nice evening with good music, original bavarian Festbeer and of course German Schnitzel.




Kraftwerk conference time again….

Following the great success of January’s conference on Kraftwerk at Aston, Uwe Schütte has been invited to organise another one-day symposium on the German electronic music heroes. This time it will take place from 29 – 31 October at the place where it all began – the city of Düsseldorf.


The conference, which will feature papers in both German and English, is part of the 3-day “Electri_City – Electronic Music from Düsseldorf” event organised by Rüdiger Esch. In addition to academic papers, there is also an exciting programme featuring bands, DJ sets and panel discussions. Among the artists appearing and performing will be Peter Hook (ex New Order), Steve Mallinder (ex-Cabaret Voltaire) with his great new band Wrangler, Andy McCluskey (OMD), Heaven 17, DJ Rusty Egan and more. The highlight will be a concert by Michael Rother playing material from his former bands, the legendary Neu! and Harmonia.

More info here.

Andreas Spechtl, DAAD Songwriter in Residence

Spechtl 2For the first time, we  invited to Aston not a Writer but a Songwriter in Residence. Andreas Spechtl, singer and songwriter of the Berlin-based, Austrian band Ja, Panik will be in Birmingham from 20 April. His band is recognised as one of the foremost German-language indie bands. They won acclaim in particular for their last two albums “DMD KIU LDT” and “Libertatia”, the latter winning the Album des Jahres Award of the leading music magazine SPEX. The highlight of his stay will be a free  solo concert in the city centre. More news on this after Easter. Spechtl was invited by our resident pop music expert Uwe Schütte and his stay is sponsored by the DAAD  and the Goethe Institut, London.

‚Helau‘ and ‚Alaaf‘


A little while ago a lot of superheroes, vampires, clowns, princesses, animals and many many more unusual sightings were reported in Germany. The phenomenon was especially prominent in Düsseldorf, Mainz and Köln. What was all of this about?

Germany celebrated Karneval or, as it is also called, Fasching. The Rosenmontagszug is the culmination of this celebration. People dress up and roam the streets, chanting ‘Helau’ or ‘Alaaf’. In many cities a parade takes place with lots of different floats depicting fictional characters , a persiflage of a political, economic or sports person/theme or representing a society. In between you can see traditional music bands marching. The last wagon is usually mounted by the Prinz who often is a known celebrity or politician. A lot of people wear costumes and celebrate while watching the parade. It is customary for caramel sweets to be thrown, as well as promotional gifts. That’s why it is not uncommon to see some people holding an umbrella upside-down in order to catch the thrown candy.

But where does Karneval actually come from? It is a Christian, mostly catholic, tradition that is meant to celebrate the time before the Fastenzeit. This is a time when people fast in order to cleanse their soul while awaiting Easter, which marks the resurrection of Jesus. In some region,s the Fastenzeit starts on the 6th of January because of the Heilige drei Könige but in other areas it starts earlier, on the 11th of November at 11:11 a.m. The latter is due to the fact that some people also fast for some time before Christmas. Karneval is a celebration right before the fasting time since all the food and drinks that weren’t suitable for the Fastenzeit had to be used up in advance. If you ever have the chance, don’t miss out on paying a visit to Germany while this event is taking place. It is definitely worth a trip!