Kraftwerk: No Localization Needed

I went to see Kraftwerk perform in Dublin a few days ago. A brilliant event. Four middle-aged German guys with Sony VAIO laptops making the most amazing music, accompanied by a fantastic video show. Perfect. However, I doubt that any other modern band could do what Kraftwerk do so well, moving seamlessly across borders with the same show.

Now if you’ve ever been to a rock concert in Ireland, you’ll know the visiting band usually attempts some form of cultural customization, whether its “Hello, Dublin”, “Ireland, You’re Great” banter, the waving of tricolors, dancing of hokey Irish gigs, sometimes unfortunate references to the North of Ireland/Northern Ireland, sequed performances into “Danny Boy”, and a bunch of other stuff that would make Darby O’Gill and the Little People look like the paragon of cultural sophistication.

Not Kraftwerk. They came on, played for nearly two hours. And left. Passed not one comment. Did “Tour de France” include images of Irish cyclists Seán Kelly or Stephen Roche? Was there an explicit campaign comment made about Sellafield (British nuclear plant polluting the Irish Sea) during “Radioactivity”? No. Nothing. Were the robots painted green? Come on.

Ralf Hütter (and the Kling-Klang technology) “sang” songs in English and German. They showed English, German, Japanese and French language on screen, and a host of global images the same way they would in Asia, Europe, or America. And the lack of “a bit of Irish” detracted not in in the least from the power of their sound and vision. In fact, it was better without it.

And that’s the way it should be. Perhaps it’s the nature of the Kraftwerk sound and image to be culturally agnostic (’though nobody is in any doubt that they’re German), but I can’t help feeling that when you’ve such a brilliant presence and offering that works worldwide, then leave it alone – whatever the rest of them do.

Ultan Ó Broin
Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally. Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.


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