Hamburg School (pop music)

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The Hamburger Schule is a loose music movement that emerged in the late 1980s and reached its commercial peak in the mid-1990s. It followed the traditions of the Neue Deutsche Welle and combined them with elements of indie rock , punk , grunge and pop . It was and is an important part of German youth culture and brought about a new self-image for the use of the German language in pop music.


The term “Hamburger Schule” was coined by the taz editor Thomas Groß in an article on the occasion of the almost simultaneous publication of two albums in 1992: Cpt. Kirk &. - Reform hell and Blumfeld - I machine . The implied similarity to the academic Frankfurt School was intended to describe the occupation with topics for which German-language music was previously unknown.

Initially purely from Hamburg bands like Cpt. Kirk &., Colossal Youth , East Zone Soup Cube Crab , The Earth , Blumfeld, The Golden Lemons or Huah! the Hamburg School is not simply a “reservoir for music that sounds similar”. It is characterized above all by German-language texts, which are often assigned a high intellectual claim and which are extensively connected with social criticism , left-wing political attitudes and postmodern theories . This in particular has been highlighted as a commendable quality by the music press such as the Spex .

The focus was not on the German language as such, because as with the early punks in Germany, this was chosen less consciously, but was quite naturally the medium of expression and content as the mother tongue . Some of the bands distanced themselves significantly from nationalistic interpretations of singing in German, like Die Sterne in the song Ich scheiß auf German lyrics . The homogeneity can thus be found in the background - in the attitudes towards a “modern” world - in music - perhaps one of the reasons why the early bands of the Hamburg School in particular like to deny their existence. The social and especially political cooperation (some bands were linked to the so-called welfare committees in the 1990s) in turn supported the idea of ​​movement.


The beginnings

At the end of the 1980s, a German-language music scene emerged in Hamburg , whose bands, with the exception of The Answer, had no record deal and did not publish them. It was only with the establishment of the L'age d'or label in October 1988 that this music got a platform. Its founders Carol von Rautenkranz and Pascal Fuhlbrügge gave contracts to many bands and released a large number of albums. Chris von Rautenkranz also played a major role in the Hamburg school from the start . Carol von Rautenkranz's brother produced many L'age d'or bands in the Hamburg recording studio "Soundgarden". Alfred Hilsberg's label What's So Funny About also had a great influence on the work of the Hamburg School . For example, the first Blumfeld albums, Die Erde , Cpt. Kirk &. and mother from Berlin.

Soon other German-speaking bands from other parts of the country were also included in the Hamburg School. For example, the "Hamburg-Ostwestfalen / Lippe connection" was created: In Bad Salzuflen ( Lippe ), a separate scene of German-language music had formed, from which the label Fast Weltweit arose. Among the founders were Frank Werner, Frank Spilker (Die Sterne), Michael Girke ( Now! ), Bernadette La Hengst ( The bride hits the eye ) and Jochen Distelmeyer (then a bee hunter, later Blumfeld). The Hamburg connection was created by Bernd Begemann , who, also from Bad Salzuflen, was the first to move to Hamburg to found the band The Answer. As a result, almost world-wide bands appeared again and again in Hamburg until many of the musicians finally moved to Hamburg themselves. Other first generation Hamburg school bands do not come from Hamburg either, such as Tilman Rossmy's Die Government from Essen , the post-fun punk band Das neue Brot from Emden , Mutter or the Munster band Nagorny Karabach.

Further development

In the mid-1990s, three bands in particular became very successful: Blumfeld , Die Sterne and Tocotronic . Due to the success of the Hamburg School, many German-speaking guitar bands became more well-known, whose approaches in music and text could not necessarily be compared with the Hamburg School. With the establishment of a nationwide, German-speaking indie pop scene, however, the term “Hamburg School” gradually lost its meaning. On the occasion of the newly emerging trend towards German-language music, Tocotronic express themselves as follows on their website:

[...] The circumstances of pop culture in Germany make a debate statement from Tocotronic necessary: ​​“Dear Sir or Madam, as already noted elsewhere, we, the Tocotronic group, have been rejecting nationalism, German hype and homeland foulness since the beginning of time. We are all the more astonished that for the second time in our eventful career the attempt has been made to nationalize German music and to set up a quota for local productions on the radio. This is justified with dubious economic arguments. Where we are headed is absolutely clear: We are we, risen from the ruins and feel German and sexy and are fed up with feeling constantly marginalized in our own country, we are literally inundated by the Anglo-American cultural industry, there is a cool one that is connected to our homeland German music scene that needs help and pi, pa and po. We say very clearly, as so often in our lives: We are against it! And ask: is old Holzmichl still alive? With warm regards, Tocotronic “[…] .

As early as 1992, Tom Liwa and his band Flowerpornoes got to the heart of the matter in the song title story against a full-page advertisement : “Hey dude, you wouldn't have thought - this picture in the newspaper, where's that: Five years after me and three years after Blumfeld they buy it everything that sings in German and can lie loud enough. And many of them are better than we ever warned. "

Other artists assigned to the Hamburg School are: for example the Lassie Singers , Mutter , Kante , Rocko Schamoni , Nationalgalerie , Selig or the Mobylettes . However, it must be stated here that the range of musical content increased over time to such an extent that one can hardly speak of a uniform style of music. It is interesting that some of the Hamburg School's bands were able to establish themselves especially in Switzerland and Austria (mainly through the public radio station FM4 ) and influenced their own musical style (groups like Heinz or Die Aeronauten emphasize this).


At the end of the 1990s, there was already a new wave of German guitar music with intellectual aspirations, which for some listeners bears a resemblance to the Hamburg School: A new generation of musicians who were recognizably oriented towards their tradition and characterized by a higher degree of musical homogeneity (guitar pop with Punk bonds). This new generation includes, for example, Spillsbury , Kettcar , Klee , Erdmöbel , Kajak , Justin Balk , Virginia Jetzt! , Astra Kid , Anajo , photos , high beam , Senore Matze Rossi , Superpunk or Tomte .

But the Hamburg school also exerted a great influence on popular music for a long time. The band Wir sind Helden , founded in Hamburg, is an example of this.

In September 2002, Thees Uhlmann from Tomte as well as Marcus Wiebusch and Reimer Bustorff from Kettcar founded the Grand Hotel van Cleef label in Hamburg , which, like L'age d'or, makes a special contribution to the regional scene. Although the founding of Grand Hotel van Cleef is perhaps one of the major ones in this field, there are also many new small labels and bands that have significantly advanced the scene in recent times. The Immergut Festival near Neustrelitz in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is an annual meeting .


  • Moritz Baßler, Walter Gödden , Jochen Grywatsch , Christina Riesenweber (eds.): Stadt.Land.Pop - pop music between the Westphalian provinces and the Hamburg school. Aisthesis, Bielefeld 2008, ISBN 3-89528-708-3 .
  • Jochen Bonz, Juliane Rytz, Johannes Springer (eds.): Let's talk about the Hamburg school. A cultural history from the perspective of the women involved. Ventil, Mainz 2011, ISBN 978-3-931555-43-6 . (Interviews with Myriam Brüger ( L'age d'Or / DJ Melanie), DJ Patex , Ebba Durstewitz (JaKönigJa), Charlotte Goltermann ( Ladomat 2000 ), Almut Klotz (Lassie Singers), Bernadette La Hengst ( The bride is in the eye ), Elena Lange ( Stella ) and Julia Lubcke (Five Friends / Concord)).
  • Till Huber: Blumfeld and the Hamburg School. Secondary - intertextuality - discourse pop. V&R unipress, Göttingen 2016, ISBN 978-3-8471-0594-7 .
  • Christoph Twickel, Michele Avantario (ed.): Shops, sheds, kaschemmen: a Hamburg pop culture history. Nautilus, Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3-89401-425-3 .

Individual evidence

  1. Hamburger Abendblatt - Essay: "The Hamburg School in the Back of the Cupboard"