Hamburg’s well-deserved reputation as a musical city dates back to the 17th century when, in 1678, Europe’s first public opera house opened its doors on the Gänsemarkt. From a classical perspective, it’s world-renowned for being the birthplace of Mendelssohn and Brahms, and the workplace of composers Telemann and Johann Sebastian Bach’s son, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.
But the city’s modern music credentials are just as impressive – The Beatles came of age here in the early 1960s; a strong heavy metal scene developed in the 1980 with Helloween, Gamma Ray, Running Wild and Grave Digger; the German indie pop of the ‘Hamburgerschule’ gained commercial success in the 1990s via bands such as Blumfeld and Tocotronic; and even Nena of ’99 Luftballons’ fame calls the city home. Platinum-selling artists Jan Delay and Samy Deluxe have been cornerstones of the Hamburg hip-hop scene for over 15 years, and the city features a strong electronic scene thanks, in many parts, to Hamburg residents Digitalism and Boys Noize. Plus, identical twins Bill and Tom Kaulitz from the rock band Tokio Hotel help to keep the local music economy ticking over by maintaining a recording studio in the city.
Historically, Hamburg has always been a city based around trade and commerce – but this certainly doesn’t mean it’s lacking in imagination or personality. Its financial stability allows artists and musicians to be truly creative, knowing there’s solid backing behind them, and the city’s economic prowess has seen global music brands, like Warner Music, base their operations here. It’s confident and fun, but never far from rebellious undertones expressed in Sternschanze’s colourful graffiti, or on stage at one of St. Pauli’s many alternative clubs, like Menschenzoo.
Once viewed as ‘pop’ and ‘rock’ to Berlin’s electronica, Germany’s second largest city is now firmly underground, with the emergence of strong punk, goth, hip-hop, psychedelic trance, rockabilly and power metal followings, a celebrated street art scene, and a genuine love of all things counter-culture, making it the perfect environment in which to inspire and be inspired.
John Lennon once famously said “I might have been born in Liverpool, but I grew up in Hamburg” because, even back then, the streets were far from square. When The Beatles made the city their home from August 1960 to December 1962 they played the legendary (and still active) venues Indra, Molotow and Kaiserkeller (now Grosse Freiheit 36), and well as the Top Ten Club and the Star Club, honing their performance and songwriting skills and their image, before being brought to the attention of Brian Epstein and, ultimately, the world. And let’s not forget that it was the Hamburg photographer Astrid Kirchherr who gave the boys their famed moptop hairdos!
Today, Hamburg is still an electrifying place for emerging musicians. First there’s Dockville in August – a music and arts festival held on Europe’s biggest river island in the district of Wilhelmsburg. Then every September, the Reeperbahn Festival – referred to by many as Germany’s South by Southwest – hosts over 800 live music events across 70 venues, featuring many a BIMM student. Which just goes to show that, while the Fab Four might have been the first to launch their music careers in Hamburg, they were simply the start of many more to come!
To learn more about studying at BIMM Hamburg, why not come to our Open Day at the Nochtspeicher club in St. Pauli on Saturday 11th November for live performances, Q&As and the chance to meet some of our BIMM tutors – book your place here.