Berlin’s techno scene shows its feminine side

While a woman behind the decks is nothing new, Berlin's electronic ladies say they have to work extra hard to get the attention they deserve in a male-dominated industry, Ruth Michaelson reports.

Berlin's techno scene shows its feminine side
Photo: Monika Kruse

In Berlin, techno music is more than just a party scene, it is part of what makes the city great. German DJ Paul van Dyk famously credited the spread of techno with helping to unify the city in the 1990’s following the fall of the Wall, and since then Berlin has established itself an epicentre of techno music.

While there are women DJs in the city – big names such as Suzi Wong or Electric Indigo have headlined for years – at the heart of the industry remains what they say is a “boys club.” The situation is perpetuated by the cliché of the techno DJ as an overgrown nerdy boy, making it difficult for women DJs to get noticed.

DJ Kritzkom, a.k.a Marine Druont, has been living and spinning records in Berlin since 2007. She says there is no shortage of female talent, but women fight to headline at larger venues.

“In smaller places there’s no problem, but with the larger record labels and PR companies things can be a struggle,” she says.

Camea Hoffman, or DJ Camea, admits the scene has been criticised for being a “boys club,” but adds that women shouldn’t be discouraged.

“It can be a bit frustrating at times, but it just means we want to work harder to change their perspective,” she says. “It doesn’t define me and on a day to day basis it doesn’t really affect me … but I would be lying if I said I didn’t notice things that could be improved upon.”

The stripped-down style of techno may have lent itself to a more macho image than other forms of electronic music, but Hoffman insists women bring something special to the dance floor.

“People sometimes respond better to a female DJ in a club atmosphere than they do to a man,” she says. “It’s warmer and more expressive. Men can sometimes be a little too clinical.”

Hoffman explains that being a successful DJ is about understanding the audience, something that women are particularly good at.

“If you don’t have the ability to identify what people want, they won’t get into the set and it clears the dance floor – you have to be an emotion reader, a people-reader,” she says.

Not too sexy

While any DJ has to think about their appearance, male DJs are afforded more freedom when it comes to public image, the women say.

Those who want to make it big in techno must craft an image which is accessible, but still non-threatening.

“People assume if you’re pretty that that’s why you got booked…but you also have to be careful not to look too sexy or you’ll get put into the wrong category,” says Monika Kruse, widely regarded as one of the most successful German techno DJs.

“A girl DJ will get attention more easily, because she is special,” Kruse adds. “But you have to prove yourself, show that you’re doing it for a love of music. Not just get their attention, but earn their respect.”

Some people assume that good-looking women get jobs because of their appearance, she explains.

“It’s the same kind of prejudice that exists in a lot of areas.”

Going it alone

For any DJ, choosing to set up a record label can be the most straightforward way to craft their public image, showcasing their own tastes while promoting their name.

But for Berlin’s women DJs, starting a label is also a way to break into the scene without relying on male-dominated outfits. Females are also finding ways to circumvent the industry when it comes to press coverage, which is especially important as more music media, such as Resident Advisor, sets up in Berlin.

“Nowadays having a record label is crucial to keeping your standing in the industry,” says Kruse, who founded her label Terminal M in 1999.

Hoffmann, who also owns her own label, Clink Recordings, agrees.

“This is definitely not a talent issue because there are so many amazing women doing things in electronic music right now, it‘s simply a publicity issue,” she says.

All the challenges aside, these women aren’t fixated on the nature of the industry they are working in. Just like their male counterparts, they’re interested in the music.

“For the most part I am just focused on my work and loving what I do,” says Hoffmann.

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EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.