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.
Life – Research – Photography – the theme of this blog – all were part of a trip to Hamburg in August 2014 to attend Fantasies That Matter, a conference about images of sex work in media and art. The trip was a welcome occasion to retrace my steps from 2001 when I had lived in Hamburg for six months and worked as projectionist at the Streit’s Film Theatre, now closed, and the Studio Cinema, now an arthouse cinema. The cinemas were then owned by Universum Film AG (Ufa) that would eventually go bankrupt – unsurprisingly, given its less-than-adequate management. Moving from Berlin to Hamburg was merely a stopover on my way to 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 – Mojo Essentials Mixtape 010
I usually need quite some time to muster the courage to dance at a club – but never at the Mojo. I still remember my first visit there, where friendly staff let me go in without paying to first check if I actually liked it. And did I! This time, I had no chance to visit the club and explore its new venue but back then, I used to enter it, leave my coat at the cloak room, and went on the dancefloor, sometimes only taking a break after two hours had passed. 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 at a lower sound 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 to 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 1600m² 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 city centre’s office buildings and luxury hotels and altered the character of the neighbourhood. The Green Party also criticised that the buildings didn’t create any living space for locals. Still, the Dancing Towers and the Onyx are impressive, although 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 another 13 years go by before my next visit.