Kraftwerk’s “The Robots” Performed by German First Graders in Adorable Cardboard Robot Outfits

“Teach your children well” sang Crosby, Stills and Nash once upon a long ago, and that adage could be paraphrased as “make sure your students don’t grow up learning substandard pop songs. Give them a real education.” An enterprising elementary school teacher in Mombach, a district of the Rhineland city of Mainz, did so in 2015, dressing up his students from Lemmchen Elementary in their own handmade robot outfits and teaching them to sing the classic 1978 Kraftwerk hit “The Robots” (or “Roboter” if you own the German version, which you can hear below).

While the original prog-rockers turned electronic demigods tried to strip away as much of their humanity when playing live, you just can’t do it with kids. They’re just too cute, and their wobbly, shuffling attempts to be machines only warms the heart more. (Could their parents tell who was who, I wonder?) Their version of the music is similarly charming and pretty faithful, though it’s possibly played by instructor Lars Reimer. (An older class shows their faces and plays instruments in a more recent video, a cover of “Tanz” by Stoppok.) So yes, Mr. Reimer, you’re passing on some good musical taste.

Though Kraftwerk was often thought of as cold and artificial when they first arrived on the international music scene, the intervening years have only emphasized the romantic beauty of their (mostly major key) melodies. (See for example the Balanescu Quartet’s rendition of the same song below.)

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at and/or watch his films here.

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Comments (5)
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  • Thomas Røst Stenerud says:

    I´d say the good Mr. Reimer goes even further than passing on some good musical taste to the students; their interpretation is both warming (as you point out), but isn’t there also an element of systemic critique? Kids as workers (robotnik)? From either point of view: it’s brilliant!

  • @cathesaurus says:

    You know what I love most, about this? The kid on the left, in the second row, who gets up and spins around and dances, while the others remain seated. I want to think that that wasn’t scripted, and that he just thought “blow this, Ima bust some MOVES” – like Sonny, the odd-robot-out in that Will Smith film, “I, Robot.” LOVE THIS TEACHER, SUCH MUCH!

  • MrScoville says:

    Okay, there is this 1st grade Elemenary class chanting “We are the robots!”, inspired by their teacher. I guess each and every global playing company, each and every temp agency, and the German (not only, but also) Employment Agency are like laughing their asses of while watching little children acting like Borg drones after being inculcated by their so-called teacher…

    This is not cute, not funny, not whatever, this is sad. And it makes me angry!

  • david lincoln brooks says:

    “Robots” is one of their MINOR KEY exceptions, perhaps!

  • Amalia and Gary Conaughton says:

    All three versions are brilliant!! And I work with four year olds…. Lovely!!

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