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Music world bids farewell to Kraftwerk co-founder Florian Schneider

Kraftwerk, shown here in 2005, crafted the blueprint for genres from new wave to synth-pop, from hip hop to rock, from industrial to techno.
Kraftwerk, shown here in 2005, crafted the blueprint for genres from new wave to synth-pop, from hip hop to rock, from industrial to techno. AFP/File
4 min

Tributes are pouring in from the musical world for Florian Schneider, co-founder of the electro group Kraftwerk, who died from cancer on Wednesday. The experimental group marked a generation of artists with their unique sound and became one of Germany's best known exports.

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Florian Schneider-Esleben died "following a a battle with an aggressive form of cancer", according to a statement released by a spokesperson for the group.

He had just celebrated his 73rd birthday.

In 1968, Schneider and Ralf Hütter met at music school, where Schneider played flute and violin. They began working together in 1968 and later formed Kraftwerk, considered one of the most influential electronic music bands of all time.

The group were known for using a mix of German language, sound effects drawn from the urban landscape and objects, their use of synthesisers and the technique known as vocoder which modified the sound of the voice.

'Autobahn'  the route to success

Their trademark sound won them many fans in the music industry including David Bowie, who made reference to Schneider in his 1977 album Heroes, and much later, French electro duo Daft Punk.

Their 1974 album Autobahn won them global fame, and around this time, they established their own studio called Kling Klang music in Dusseldorf where they recorded other hits such as Radio-Activity (Radio-Aktivität) in 1975, Trans-Europe Express in 1977, The Man-Machine (Die Mensch-Maschine) in 1978 and Tour de France in 2003.

The title Radioactivity was re-released in 1991 with a reference to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and again in 2012 with a version making reference to Fukushima in Japan.

Kraftwerk were awarded the Grammy lifetime achievement award in 2014.

Duran Duran member Nick Rhodes said "when I first heard their song Autobahn, I was struck by how radically different it sounded to everything else on the radio."

"It became a surprise hit in the UK and sparked my lifelong admiration for their innovation and creativity," he wrote on their website.

Jean-Michel Jarre, French musician tweeted "My dear Florian, your Autobahn will never end, the Tour de France will never be the same."

Legend of the Italian electro music scene Giorgio Moroder also saluted 'one of his heroes'.

Schneider-Esleben quit Kraftwerk in 2009 and went on to other projects, including activism towards protecting the environment.

He co-produced the title Stop Plastic Pollution in 2016 with fellow musician Uwe Schmidt.

Last year's exhibition dedicated to the history of electronic music at the Philharmonie de Paris entitled De Krafwerk à Daft Punk shone a spotlight on the group's lasting impact on the contemporary musical landscape, and is due to show in London, and later Schneider's home town.

Jean Yves Leloup, the curator for the exhibition pointed out that Kraftwerk was "the European group that had the most influence on black American music".

"A major influence on the hip-hop scene in Chicago for example. Many black musicians were fascinated by their sense of beat, use of percussion as well as a certain form of dance and pop."

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