Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Is Kraftwerk anti-nuclear?

German electro band Kraftwerk have updated the lyrics of their 1975 song Radioactivity to cement its status as an anti-nuclear anthem.

As pioneers of electronic music, Kraftwerk's whole image was futuristic and utopian. With lyrics like "I programme a home computer, beam myself into the future" and "fun fun fun on the Autobahn" there was usually an underlying suggestion that the future - and especially future technology - would be beneficial to the human race. 

The original lyrics of Radioactivity were minimal and passed no explicit judgement on nuclear energy.

Kraftwerk performing Radioactivity in London in February 2013
But again there was an implication that the technology was helpful:
Is in the air for you and me 

But come 1991, the song was updated to list the names of famous nuclear disasters: Chernobyl, Fukushima, Harrisburgh… The following lyrics were also added:

Chain reaction and mutation
Contaminated population
Stop radioactivity
Is in the air for you and me

Last year, Kraftwerk agreed to headline an anti-nuclear rally in Tokyo to mark the first anniversary of the Fukushima meltdown.

And sure enough, when I saw them perform in London this week, they had added the names Fukushima and Sellafield (the UK's largest nuclear site) to the song.

Given that nuclear power is a politically charged issue in Germany and that almost half of the country's nuclear reactors were shut down following Fukushima, this would perhaps not be a surprising stance for a German band.

I am writing to Kraftwerk's management to find out whether this is the intended message, and whether the Kraftwerk of tomorrow might be a little less robotic and little more political.

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