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Our Darkness: Gruftis und Waver in der DDR – Sascha Lange & Dennis Burmeister (2022)

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I bought this book while in Leipzig (Germany) during the 29th Wave-Gotik-Treffen. The authors have written more about subcultures and an idea became a book about gothic culture ‘behind the wall’ up until the first Wave Gotik Treffen to be presented at the 30th WGT. Covid-19 had two WGTs cancelled so here we are.

Lange and Burmeister have tracked down people involved in the early gruti and wave scenes in Eastern Germany. During interviews and their own experiences they paint a picture of a subculture under a repressive regime.

The East is of course the part of Europe that fell under Russian/Communist regime after WWII. The border ran right cross Germany. Western Germany was, well, Western. Eastern Germany not so. Of course there was no total isolation. There were people with family on the other side of the wall and especially in the divided city of Berlin, people could listen to Western radio for example. Along different ways a wee bit of the up and coming postpunk and wave music from the UK reached the Eastern German youth.

Particularly The Cure had a big influence, but also a band such as Depeche Mode. Eastern pop magazine and radios did not include these new and decadent forms of Western music, but some people found a way to gather some information and music, started to copy the outfits and hair dress and when such people met, a bit of a scene started to emerge.

Wave and gothic were two very different things and this may explain why the Leipzig festival is called Wave Gotik Treffen. The first WGT was a meeting of both scenes. Both scenes had their own clothing and hair and there could be no overlap. The separation of the youthful mind I suppose.

The book describes the hardships of the youth to be ‘grufti’ (a term that outsiders came up with referring to the liking of the youth for graveyards). Some is recognisable also for Western people who like such music, other things are typically Eastern. How do you get black cloths when the fashion is full of colour? Grandparents cloths and dying were the solution. How do you find music when everything is banned? How do you find similar people?

Over time “cliques” started to emerge and places where gruftis met. Other emerging youth cultures, especially extreme rightwing groups, caused problems for the goths. The police was not exactly helpful. School mates thought they were freaks. Yet people found each other, there rose a black market for posters, dubbed cassette tapes and what not. When the music became bigger in the West, there even started to appear radio shows and later concerts for wave.

Then there was a big show in Western Berlin that Easterners had wanted to attend, but were not allowed to. This led to protests during Whitsun, the very weekend that the WGT is been held for decades. Finally things move towards the removal of the wall, a Cure concert between the time of the fallen wall and the fallen DDR, Eastern and Western gruftis meeting, etc.

The book gives a nice insight into an interesting phenomenon. The authors light the subject from several angles. The youths are a bit presented as teenagers too much with singers being ‘idols’ and kids sleeping room walls with bands of their loved artists. The end is a bit in minor as well. The first WGT was not the first, but at the time the biggest meeting of different undergrounds. About 1000 people attended. The second edition was already much bigger (about 6000), but the ‘original goths’ already complained about things being too commercial, “weekend gruftis” and the like.

Anyway, much of anecdotes, many photos. A fun read.

2022 Ventil, isbn 3955751678

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