Teaching Students About ‘Nena’

Nena is a German band and singer Gabriele Susanne Kerner, more widely known by her stage name, Nena. They achieved international fame during the early 1980s with their hit single “99 Luftballons.” The song and its English version, “99 Red Balloons,” became an anti-war anthem in a divided Germany and around the world. Teaching students about Nena, her music and its impact on society could provide valuable lessons on cultural history, social issues, and the power of art.

Early Life and Career of Nena

Begin the lesson with a brief introduction to Nena’s early life. Discuss her upbringing in Germany during the 1960s, which was a period marked by radical social changes and youth movements. Highlight her background in music, including her time as a member of various local bands before forming her own group, Nena.

Nena’s Ascent to Fame

Discuss Nena’s rapid rise to fame, focusing on the success of their debut album and notable songs such as ‘Kino,’ ‘Leuchtturm,’ and ‘Rette Mich.’ Explain how their unique sound, combining elements of New Wave music with German pop lyrics, helped them stand out in the music scene.

“99 Luftballons” Impact on Society

Examine the key features that made “99 Luftballons” so influential across languages and borders. Analyze its lyrics—concentrating on themes such as war’s devastating effects and environmental concerns—and how it impacted both German society as well as other countries during turbulent periods such as the Cold War.

Incorporate Discussion into Lesson

Encourage your students to share their thoughts about “99 Luftballons” after listening to it. Posit questions related to the song’s themes like peace, political issues, or activism—asking them whether the song’s message still holds relevance today.

Nena’s Career Post “99 Luftballons”

Explore Nena’s career after the success of “99 Luftballons” and their separation in 1987. Discuss her solo work, focusing on notable records such as ‘Wunder Gescheh’n’ (‘Miracles Keep On Happening’) and ‘Die Band.’ Mention her recent endeavors, including mentoring on the popular TV show The Voice of Germany to demonstrate her lasting influence on contemporary German music.


Summarizing the key points of the lesson, highlight how teaching about Nena offers students the chance to learn about a pivotal moment in cultural history, while also providing an insight into the powerful role of music in social expression and awareness.

Consider assigning students a project that invites them to explore similar influential musicians or bands from other cultures, encouraging an open dialogue about music as a medium for both artistic expression and social change.

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