Berlin and electronic music have had a symbiotic relationship — it’s hard to imagine one without the other, and their histories are inextricably linked. When the wall fell in 1989, the city suddenly split open, revealing throngs of abandoned post-war buildings and bombed-out shelters that artists and DJs could claim as their own and use to build an impenetrable underground. Galleries, dance halls, and fetish clubs rose in dark, subterranean spaces, allowing experiments to flourish.
Techno had already been spinning in Detroit, and several club owners — including Dimitri Hegemann of the mainstay Tresor — started welcoming DJs who could pump their music into the black Berlin night. One reading of the narrative is that the unified city suddenly offered a new world of possibilities, and partygoers wanted to push as hard as they could with raucous, relentless sounds that became part of the German capital’s DNA — the wilder and weirder, the better.
But despite the freedom and liberation that electronic music offers, the scene grapples with long-standing criticism for being male-driven, as men most frequently dominate the booths. It’s a form of erasure to say that women haven’t existed in Berlin’s stories of techno and electronic music; they have, even if these narratives go unacknowledged. However, recent efforts have broadened the scope of representation, as a recent New York Times article points out: women-first booking agencies and community networks have made it their mission to ensure that more mujeres get the prominence and platforms they deserve.
As more DJs and musicians of varied backgrounds get their due, playing some of Berlin’s most celebrated clubs, like Berghain and About Blank, the transient city’s international make-up has helped create a diverse music community that includes Latinas and Latin American women, who are leaving their dent in the electronic world. Below, we rounded up just a few of the artists changing the game in Berlin.
Update, 8/1, 12:30 p.m. EST: This story has been updated to include more information on Natalia Escobar’s solo work.
Since moving to Berlin in 2016, Colombian DJ and producer Isa GT has re-energized the scene with a brew of playful Latin American mixes, designed to welcome queer communities to the dance floor. She effortlessly weaves cumbia, baile funk, and old-school merengue into her sets — something that’s helped her create a distinct sound and style in the heart of the German capital. One of her most well-known events, formed jointly with Colombian DJ Natalia Escobar, is a club night called Delicia Latina, which has become a staple in Berlin’s Latinx community.
“The music scene in Berlin is very open and welcoming, but obviously techno and house scenes are predominant. We were missing a place where we could also mix in salsa, cumbia, merengue, reggaeton, and all things Latin and delicious under one place, so we decided to start Delicia Latina,” she said. “Since the beginning, the idea was to create a space where beautiful queer beings can enjoy all the amazing Latin culture and dance away.”
In addition to events, Isa GT also runs the label Etoro Records and has a radio show called Musicalia on Berlin Community Radio, all of which have helped center Latinx experiences.
A DJ and producer known for genre-bursting blends of dirty house and techno, Ana Laura Rincon is also a revered community builder. In Berlin, the Venezuelan-born artist — who goes by Hyperaktivist — is known for masterminding MESS, or Mindful Electronic Sonic Selections, an event held every third month at Berlin’s Ohm (the next iteration is on September 22). The lineup she curates is always chosen carefully, based on style and chemistry, and she sees the concept of MESS as ever-evolving, built out of paying close attention to the needs within the electronic scene and reacting to what’s being overlooked.
“With MESS, I like to invite artists from diverse cultural backgrounds with the intention of bringing fresh proposals and to enjoy and offer different approaches to electronic music in Berlin. I collaborate with various collectives from different countries who are developing their own scenes and pushing ideas because they love the music so much that they need it to be part of their lives. It’s out of love and it’s honest, not because it’s following a hype. Those are the projects and people I like to work with,” she said.
While MESS has a focus on women and transgender artists of all backgrounds, it’s important to Rincon never to label the event as “female-only.” “I don’t believe that label should be used as a promotional weapon,” she explained. “I think about MESS as a space where I don’t want to make a political statement — the best points are made when you don’t have to explain too much but instead you let things speak by themselves. Actions speak louder than words.”
Santo Domingo-born artist Isabel Lewis’ work smashes apart any idea of parties and dance gatherings being frivolous. In her controlled environments, she heightens perceptions and creates immersive, multi-sensory experiences — they function like intricate installations that she refers to as “occasions.” Her proposition feels like social communities as art — and Lewis has presented her work in renowned spaces, such as Kunsthalle Basel, Palais de Tokyo, and the Tate Modern London.
Lewis is also the resident DJ at Berlin parties like Bodysnatch and REIF, where her audiovisual and tactile approach turns standard dance parties into something far more intimate and profound. “There’s something about that specific, hectic, somatosensory experience you have when you’re pressed against so many other bodies dancing like mad,” she told Sleek. “The concept of Bodysnatch has always been to create an ecstatic dancing experience.”
DJ and multimedia artist Daniela Huerta, known by her music moniker Baby Vulture, uses spacious atmospherics and intricate ambient layers like building blocks to create complex, glitchy soundscapes. One recent event poster described her approach as an excavation: “In an almost archeological manner, she keeps searching for distinct tones and noises that she turns into transportive collages where fragments of sound, space, and time come together.”
The Guadalajara-born artist came to Berlin after studying fine art in London, and an interest in visual experiences and musique concrete influences continue to inform much of her work. She’s taken over stages for Boiler Room and Schmutz, where she opened for Nicola Cruz last year and introduced new listeners to her boundary-pushing repertoire. Huerta also collaborates frequently with other audiovisual artists in Berlin, particularly through an event series she’s helped spearhead called Perm.
As one of the founders of Delicia Latina, Colombian DJ Natalia Escobar has helped carve out a space for Latinx artists in Berlin: “We like finding special places that can make you feel like you’re in South America, so we started doing Delicia Latina at some bars around Kreuzberg and Neukölln,” she said. After trying homes throughout the city, the party has settled at SchwuZ, considered one of the best gay clubs in the neighborhood of Neukölln. “The team is super professional, the crowd is queer, eclectic, and so lovely; it is very special to see people from so many nationalities really going off to salsa. SchwuZ is Delicia’s spiritual home,” she said.
In addition to Delicia Latina, Escobar is also known throughout the scene for multi-faceted projects and aliases that constantly show her range. She makes music as Poison Arrow, and as a DJ, her style is marked by a penchant for experimentation that often includes ambient sounds, field recordings, and delicate synths, as well as power rhythms that get the dance floor moving. She was the first DJ to play Säule, a newly opened part of Berlin’s legendary club Berghain, and she’s just released her first EP as Poison Arrow through Pleasure District. She also recently made a remix for Mathew Jonson’s famed 2004 track “Decompression.” Throughout all of her music, Escobar is constantly telling a new story.