Reflection of the Dancing Towers (aka Tango Towers) in the windows of the Arcotel Onyx Hotel. Hamburg-St. Pauli, Germany.
© Matt Lemon Photography. All Rights Reserved.
The About page on this blog is titled Life – Research – Photography, and a recent trip brought all that together. I travelled to Hamburg to attend a conference about images of sex work in media and art, which you can learn more about in my post Fantasies That Matter. Thankfully, an old friend from high school whom I hadn’t seen in over ten years happily agreed to host me, and as it turned out, she lived just down the road from the conference venue. Talk about being at the right place at the right time. It was great seeing her again and getting to know her partner and their adorable son. During the conference, I explored the neighbourhood around the venue a little, and as my return journey wasn’t until the evening the day after, I had almost a whole day to retrace my steps from 13 years ago. I know it’s not good to experience places through a viewfinder, but I must admit, I might as well have attached my camera to my face during those three days, as I took around 200 photos of this amazing city.
The trip marked my first return to Hamburg where I once lived for six months back in 2001, when my salary was still paid in Deutsche Mark. Back then, I was working as a projectionist at the Streit’s Film Theatre, now closed, and the Studio Cinema, now an art house cinema. The cinemas were then owned by the Universum Film AG (Ufa), which was soon to go bankrupt – unsurprisingly, given that its management seemed quite dilettantish. Moving from Berlin to Hamburg was merely a stopover before I began to study and work in London, but those six months left me full of good memories.
One of those was dancing at the renowned Mojo Club, located at Hamburg’s even more renowned Reeperbahn, a street in the St. Pauli district, where Hamburg’s night life and red-light district blend together.
Since 1989, the Mojo Club functions as stage and dancefloor for obscure pearls of jazz, soul or bossa nova, but also for contemporary electronic sounds: they form the basis of the enthusiasm with which the British-inspired, international club sounds are lived and experienced here. In 2013, the location of the Mojo Club was lowered and is since embedded under the forecourt of Reeperbahn 1. (Source: Mojo Club)
The Mojo Club can be seen as the German voice of Dancefloor Jazz and as a mastermind regarding modern breakbeat sounds like Acid Jazz. With performances of artists like Gilles Peterson, Massive Attack, Moloko, the Propellerheads, Pizzicato Five, Roni Size, Goldie, the E-Z Rollers as well as Kruder & Dorfmeister, the club ranked among the protagonists of the German club scene during the 90s. Furthermore, the successful club compilations “Electric Mojo” and “Dancefloor Jazz” became known over the years and a highly innovative cultural program completed the picture with lectures like “Urban Poetry” and “Macht Club” in 1993 or “Le Café Abstrait” of Raphaël Marionneau, which paved the way for the chill out sound in 1996. (Source: Wikipedia)
Renegades Of Jazz a.k.a. David Hanke – Mojo Essentials Mixtape 010
I usually need what I call the ‘teenage hour’ to muster the courage to dance in a club – but never at the Mojo. I still remember my first visit there, where the friendly staff let me go in without paying to check first if I actually liked it. And did I like it. I haven’t had a chance to visit the club in its new venue this time because the conference and seeing my friend again took precedence, but back then, I used to enter the club, leave my coat at the cloak room, and off I went on the dancefloor, sometimes only to take a break two hours later. Apart from the friendly staff, the great sounds, the pleasant folks and the impressive interior design, the Mojo also had – and I was told it still has – a café where you could take a break and still listen to the music, but they lowered the sound here so that you could chat with your friends without having to shout. I’ve never been at a better club and next time I get to go to Hamburg, I’ll make sure I pay the Mojo a visit.
The Dancing Towers, the Onyx and Hamburg’s Mojo
The Dancing Towers, underneath which the Mojo is now partly located, was designed by Hadi Teherani, co-founder of architectural firm Bothe, Richter, Teherani (BRT). The two towers measure 85 and 75 meter respectively and have up to 24 floors. The Mojo Club occupies 1600 m² and its two levels provide room for 800 visitors. The design hotel Arcotel Onyx, located next to the Dancing Towers, was also designed by BRT. Its dark façade is reminiscent of the mineral gemstone onyx.
Local residents criticised that the construction projects expanded the reach of the office buildings and luxury hotels of the city centre and altered the character of the neighbourhood. The Green Party also criticised that the buildings didn’t create any living space for locals. I found the Dancing Towers and the Onyx still impressive, but they sure could have build them somewhere else. On the whole, however, Hamburg has lost none of its mojo and I definitely won’t let 13 years go by before I visit there again.