Archive for November, 2009


Catharina Hagen was born and raised in East Berlin.  A child prodigy in a variety of disciplines she ultimately chose to persue a music career and adopted the stage name Nina Hagen.  In 1974, at age 18, she released her first album, Du hast den Farbfilm vergessen, with her band Automobil.  It’s an album full of crazy pop music with fun, brassy arrangements.

Complications led the Hagen family to defect in 1976.  Nina promptly got herself hooked up with a major label who sent her to London to be educated in the ways of Western music.  Upon her return Hagen formed a new band that was named after herself and transformed into Germany’s answer to Debbie Harry (with some Lydia Lunch aesthetics thrown in for good measure).  The Nina Hagen Band released their first album in 1978.  It was completely absent of any crazy/fun pop music and instead filled with second rate New Wave, the kind of which was sweeping the free world at the time.  The rest, they say, is history.  Today her early work is largely forgotten and she’s known only as Germany’s priestess of punk (which I believe in German is “das Deutschepunkenrockenpriestess“).

Nina Hagen is an anomaly.  West Germany gave us krautrock and for the most part delivered far superior music.  But it does illustrate that, when the wall fell 20 years ago and GDR culture was completely overrun by “Western decadence”–something was lost.  Some former East Germans feel what’s known as ostalgie (”eastalgia,” more or less), a nostalgia for those positive elements of life behind the Iron Curtain.

Chancellor Angela Merkel noted yesterday that the reunification process still isn’t complete.  Economic disparities are still very real.  It makes you wonder: if Germany has had such a hard time with it, is there a hope in hell for countries like Korea or China?