The Most Exciting Bands and Musicians of Hamburg
“Nordisch by Nature” – there couldn’t be a stronger commitment to Northern Germany. Back in 1995, this was the first big hit by Doktor Renz, König Boris and Björn Beton, and it continues to be something like Hamburg’s local anthem. With party hits such as “Jein”, “Emanuela” or “Schwule Mädchen”, Fettes Brot conquered Germany’s dance floors and radio stations. In 2008, the band released their album “Strom und Drang” – then incorporating electronic elements into their hip-hop style. The latest album "Teenager vom Mars" is build on previous successes.
A black slouch hat, sunglasses, and an indistinct mumble – these are the characteristics of singer-songwriter Udo Lindenberg. Back in the 1970s, Udo created a niche for non-cringy German-language rock between Krautrock and Schlager music. In the 1980s, Udo started focussing more on political themes. His song “Sonderzug nach Pankow” is an ironic letter to Erich Honecker, the East German head of state at the time. Today, Udo Lindenberg is also a successful painter and is mentioned as a role model by younger musicians such as Jan Delay or Clueso.
Up until the 2000s, Deichkind were a pure hip-hop band. Today, they float between tech-rap and somewhat manic electro-punk that is not short of catchy contemporary slogans. With their crazed stage shows and sophisticated LED costumes they have long become an international trademark for one-of-a-kind electro-trash combined with heavy beats – giving the audience the full licence to go wild. Wired Germany covered their self developed Tech-Fashion here.
“Eimsbush” is the hip-hop slang word for Eimsbüttel – a district of Hamburg and home to Jan Philipp Eißfeldt aka Jan Delay. With his somewhat nasal voice, which is also his trademark, Jan rapped his way through the 90s as a member of the band “Absolute Beginner”. He later went solo, venturing out to the realms of funk and soul. In 2006, Jan released his album “Mercedes Dance”, which marked his national breakthrough as a solo artist. Most recently, Jan, who can always be seen dressed in an elegant suit, released the rock album “Hammer & Michel” – the title being a pun on Hamburg’s landmark, the Michaelis Church.
Eva and Philipp Milner are sister and brother – and a perfect team. Philipp creates powerful, dreamy sounds on the piano and synthesizer, while Eva lures you in with her magic voice and her autoharp, a chorded zither. Released in 2014, their album "aftermath" ensures goose bumps - without rainy and cold weather which is so typical for Hamburg.
This band is certainly not the easiest to google. In 2011, Valeska Steiner and Sonja Glass became known with their carefree songwriter-pop in Germany. The Hamburg duo met in 2005 when studying pop at a Hamburg academy and has been rewarded for their debut with a gold record. In 2015, the girls published their second album "We were here".
Back in 1995, Dirk von Lowtzow (vocals, guitar), Jan Müller (bass) and Arne Zank (drums) deeply stirred Hamburg’s indie scene when they released their first album “Digital ist besser”. The three band members made Hamburg their city of choice and have long become an integral part of the city’s music scene. While their recent works may contain string, synthie and even chanson elements, they have never abandoned their political approach.
Fuck Art, Let's Dance!
Indie music detached from the School of Hamburg – this is what Fuck Art, Let’s Dance! stands for. “Discourse pop” is being replaced by a synthie sound, based on the band’s motto: stop brooding – just dance! In 2010, this approach earned the four young band members the “Krach & Getöse” award – Hamburg’s music award for new talent. And yet they are not as apolitical as their band name might suggest. After all, their 2014 album “Atlas” was released under the leftist label Audiolith.
House producer Peter Kersten is the man behind this DJ alias. Peter is also the founder and manager of labels such as Smallville or Dial Records, which he established in 1999 together with his workmate David Lieske. Despite its non-commercial focus, Dial Records has published highly successful deep house acts such as “Pantha du Prince”, DJ Koze – and the said Lawrence, Peter Kersten’s alter ego. Lawrence’s music presents itself as minimal house that transforms wailing sirens and ringing cowbells into smooth, soft ambient soul.
Born in Flensburg in 1972, Stefan Kozalla aka DJ Koze was very much into hip-hop before dedicating himself to the electronic side of music. “Fischmob” was his first band, and he later became one of the founding members of “International Pony”, an electro-funk trio that also reached international acclaim. Released in 2013, his most recent album, “Amygdala”, has climbed the charts and won the Critics’ Prize of the Echo Award – one of the most important awards in the German music industry. Stefan Kozalla published his second remix collection "Reincarnations part 2" in 2014.
When the quintet Rhonda first appeared in 2013, Hamburg’s music scene was instantly shaken by their retro-soul approach. Thanks to her scratchy timbre and punky 60s soul, singer Milo Milone has often been compared to the likes of Amy Winehouse, Duffy and Adele. Since then, Rhonda have developed a distinct style all of their own – as proven by their 2014 debut album “Raw Love”.
Despite her long blonde hair and her soft features, Lùisa is anything but a mellow songwriter. Lùisa’s songs have a somewhat rough, scratchy and boisterous feel, and her deep, smoky voice adds a rock flavour to her acoustic folk songs. During live performances, Lùisa embeds her songs in entertaining anecdotes – almost like a Northern German version of Wallis Bird, the Irish guitar virtuoso. “One Youth Ago” was the title of her 2012 debut album, which she also presented on television on various occasions. Lùisa also used electronic beats for her new album "Never Own".
“Hyper, Hyper” – this was the battle call that catapulted H.P. Baxxter’s Scooter project to the top league of mainstream techno in Germany. Songs such as “Wicked!” or “Rebel Yell” continued Scooter’s success story, with more than 30 million records sold to date. With Northern German industriousness and a shot of self-mockery, H.P. Baxxter has always remained true to his mainstream approach and continues to thrill his fans in sold-out stadiums.
Sibling duos and school bands are a good recipe for success, and Tonbandgerät combine both of these ingredients. Sisters Isa and Sophia Poppensieker (bass and guitar, respectively) founded Tonbandgerät when they were both still in school. They made the band a quartet when they later added Ole Specht (vocals, keyboard) and Jakob Sudau (drums) to the line-up. Since then the band has rocketed with their fresh balloon pop. They released their second studio album "Wenn das Feuerwerk landet" in 2015.
German-language pop with a laconic attitude: with their 2012 debut album “Herz aus Gold”, quartet Hannitra Wagner (bass), Philipp Wulf (drums), Sonja Deffner (keyboard) and Stella Sommer (vocals / guitar) demonstrated their talent for laid-back lyrics. In 2015 their third album "Pop & Tod I & II" was published.
When Marcus Wiebusch released his debut album “Konfetti” in 2014, he had already experienced the ups and downs of the music business. A former singer in various punk bands, Marcus knows even the smallest St Pauli cellar venue, and as the front man of the indie rock band “Kettcar” he released the album “Du und wieviel von deinen Freunden”, which won the “Indie Album of the Year 2002” award. But instead of getting carried away with his success, Marcus supported several fellow musicians and bands and went on to found a label with some of these: Grand Hotel van Cleef, a label that even the US indie band “Death Cab for Cutie” have signed up to.
Hamburg’s hip-hop scene is of course as alive as it was in the 90s and noughties, when bands such as Absolute Beginner, Fischmob, Fettes Brot or Samy Deluxe were rapping on Hamburg’s stages. Today, bands such as Neonschwarz are taking over – with Captain Gips, Johnny Mauser, and Marie Curry as their singing and rapping MC, and DJ Spion Y as the man behind the turntables. Although the four already celebrated their first hit, “On A Journey”, in 2010, it took them another four years until they released their debut album “Fliegende Fische”. All good things come to those who wait! Their new album "Metropolis" focuses on movements, trends and problems of a big city.