Hamburger Schule
The Hamburger Schule is a musical current in Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 during the 1980s and early 1990s. With some active bands and artists it is still present. It is encompassing elements from punk, grunge
Grunge is a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged during the mid-1980s in the American state of Washington, particularly in the Seattle area. Inspired by hardcore punk, heavy metal, and indie rock, grunge is generally characterized by heavily distorted electric guitars, contrasting song...

 and experimental pop
Pop music
Pop music is usually understood to be commercially recorded music, often oriented toward a youth market, usually consisting of relatively short, simple songs utilizing technological innovations to produce new variations on existing themes.- Definitions :David Hatch and Stephen Millward define pop...

, and featuring intelligent lyrics. It established new grounds for the use of German language in pop music.


As the name indicates, the movement was initially carried by Hamburg based bands like Cpt. Kirk &., Kolossale Jugend, Ostzonensuppenwürfelmachenkrebs, Die Erde, Blumfeld
Blumfeld was an indie-pop band from Hamburg, Germany, formed by singer and songwriter Jochen Distelmeyer. The name of the band was coined by the main character of the short story "Blumfeld, ein älterer Junggeselle" by Franz Kafka...

, Selig
Selig (band)
Selig is a German rock band from Hamburg, which was most famous in the 1990s for a mixture of experimental 70s rock and Grunge.- Members :Selig currently comprises Jan Plewka on vocals, Leo Schmidthals on Bass, Christian Neander on Guitar, Stephan "Stoppel" Eggert on Drums, and Malte Neumann on...

, Tocotronic
Tocotronic is a German rock band founded in 1993 . Similar to Blumfeld or Die Sterne they are considered a part of the Hamburger Schule movement...

, Die Sterne
Die Sterne
Die Sterne is a two/three/four-piece indie pop band, from Hamburg, Germany. They were formed in 1992 and have released eight studio albums, the most recent in 2010.-Members:...

, Die Goldenen Zitronen
Die Goldenen Zitronen
Die Goldenen Zitronen are a punk rock band from Hamburg, Germany that are known for their entertaining and politically relevant style. Their original name was Die Deutschen Nazikartoffeln . When the band formed in 1984 at the beginning of the “Fun-Punk”-movement, punk was their main style...

and Huah! Their music didn't necessarily sound similar, but was characterised by lyrics in German language (not a given in Germany) that gave voice to social criticism and were based on post-modern
Postmodernism is a philosophical movement evolved in reaction to modernism, the tendency in contemporary culture to accept only objective truth and to be inherently suspicious towards a global cultural narrative or meta-narrative. Postmodernist thought is an intentional departure from the...

 theory. Consequently it was lauded by the leftist trade press (especially Spex magazine). The artists themselves didn't initially perceive these similarities to be particularly important and denied the existence of a homogeneous movement. However, social links and political cooperations suggest that it wasn't unreasonable to view it as that. Furthermore it could be surmised that the term Hamburger Schule is a pun on the so called Frankfurt School
Frankfurt School
The Frankfurt School refers to a school of neo-Marxist interdisciplinary social theory, particularly associated with the Institute for Social Research at the University of Frankfurt am Main...

(Frankfurter Schule) which is a school of neo-Marxist
Neo-Marxism is a loose term for various twentieth-century approaches that amend or extend Marxism and Marxist theory, usually by incorporating elements from other intellectual traditions, such as: critical theory, psychoanalysis or Existentialism .Erik Olin Wright's theory of contradictory class...

 social theory
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

, social research
Social research
Social research refers to research conducted by social scientists. Social research methods may be divided into two broad categories:* Quantitative designs approach social phenomena through quantifiable evidence, and often rely on statistical analysis of many cases to create valid and reliable...

, and philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

, centered at the Institute for Social Research
Institute for Social Research
The Institute for Social Research is a research organization for sociology and continental philosophy, best known as the institutional home of the Frankfurt School and critical theory....

 (Institut für Sozialforschung) of the University of Frankfurt am Main in Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

. However, it seems more likely to be simply a clever knock at the need for legitimacy, by referencing the way all art movements are titled in German (e.g. Wiener Schule, Berliner Schule, Oesterreichische Schule, New Yorker Schule, etc.).


In the late 1980s, a new musical scene was emerging in Hamburg comprising a number of bands that sung in German but that had no record deals (with the exception of Die Antwort). To remedy this situation and to give the new style a platform, the record label L'age d'or (French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 for Golden Age) was established in October 1988 by Carol von Rautenkranz and Pascal Fuhlbrügge. They signed contracts with many bands and published numerous albums. A great deal of the albums were produced by Chris von Rautenkranz, Carol's brother, in the legendary Soundgarden recording studio in Hamburg. Another label that influenced the emerging genre was Alfred Hilsberg's What's so funny about? which published the first albums by Blumfeld
Blumfeld was an indie-pop band from Hamburg, Germany, formed by singer and songwriter Jochen Distelmeyer. The name of the band was coined by the main character of the short story "Blumfeld, ein älterer Junggeselle" by Franz Kafka...

, Die Erde, Cpt. Kirk & and Mutter.

Soon, however, the Hamburger Schule was not restricted to Hamburg anymore. In particular, a local scene of Germanophone bands had developed in the small town of Bad Salzuflen
Bad Salzuflen
Bad Salzuflen is a town in the Lippe district of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. At the end of 2006 it had 54415 inhabitants.-Details:Bad Salzuflen is a spa town and is known for its saltwater springs and thermal baths. In former times the town profited from the salt trade...

 in Eastern Westphalia
Westphalia is a region in Germany, centred on the cities of Arnsberg, Bielefeld, Dortmund, Minden and Münster.Westphalia is roughly the region between the rivers Rhine and Weser, located north and south of the Ruhr River. No exact definition of borders can be given, because the name "Westphalia"...

, which was centered around the label Fast Weltweit. Founders were Frank Werner, Frank Spilker (Die Sterne), Michael Girke, Bernadette La Hengst (Die Braut haut ins Auge), and Jochen Distelmeyer (then Bienenjäger, now Blumfeld). They got in contact with the Hamburg scene through Bernd Begemann
Bernd Begemann
Bernd Begemann is a contemporary German alt/pop singer-songwriter linked to the Hamburger Schule.-Biography:Begemann's biological parents were probably a man from Turkey and a woman from Germany, although Begemann admits he does not know. In 1963 he was adopted by Margot and Bernhard Begemann at...

 who was a native of Bad Salzuflen but moved to Hamburg where he established his band Die Antwort. This led to various gigs in Hamburg for bands from the Fast Weltweit label, eventually causing many other artists to move to Hamburg.

Another first-generation Hamburger Schule band, Die Regierung, was based in Hamburg for a long time, but originated from Essen
- Origin of the name :In German-speaking countries, the name of the city Essen often causes confusion as to its origins, because it is commonly known as the German infinitive of the verb for the act of eating, and/or the German noun for food. Although scholars still dispute the interpretation of...


Rise and Fall

By the mid 1990s, three bands met with great commercial success: Blumfeld, Die Sterne, and Tocotronic. The Hamburger Schule became known as the epitome of German Indie pop
Indie pop
Indie pop is a genre of alternative rock music that originated in the United Kingdom in the mid 1980s, with its roots in the Scottish post-punk bands on the Postcard Records label in the early '80s, such as Orange Juice, Josef K and Aztec Camera, and the dominant UK independent band of the mid...

 music. When other German guitar bands, whose music and lyrics were of a different style, were able to profit from this success, however, a new nationwide Indie pop scene emerged. The Hamburger Schule began to be marginalised by a movement which it had helped to create.

Other artists that are considered part of the Hamburger Schule are Lassie Singers, Milch, Mutter, Rocko Schamoni
Rocko Schamoni
Rocko Schamoni, real name is Tobias Albrecht, is a German entertainer, author, musician, club proprietor and member of the comedy ensemble Studio Braun.- Biography :...

, Lucilectric
Lucilectric was a German pop/rock duo founded in 1993 by Luci van Org and producer Ralf Goldkind. They are known primarily for their 1994 hit single Mädchen , which spent 12 weeks in the German Top 10, eventually reaching number two. The single also charted in the Swiss, Austrian and Dutch markets...

and the Moulinettes. But as time went by, the term eventually encompassed such a broad spectrum of musical content that it could hardly be associated with a particular musical genre anymore. As several bands have started to sing in foreign languages, it has begun to lose any meaning it once had.


By the end of the 1990s, there emerged a new wave of German guitar music with intellectual aspirations. Examples for this new generation of artists, who clearly tie in with the Hamburger Schule tradition, are Spillsbury, Kettcar
- History :Former German punk rock great Marcus Wiebusch of ...But Alive and bass player Reimer Bustorff, who were both members of ska band Rantanplan, decided in 2001 to break away from punk's and ska's traditions of aggressive, political lyrics in favor of developing a more emotional, laid-back...

, Erdmöbel, Kajak, Justin Balk, Virginia Jetzt!
Virginia Jetzt!
Virginia Jetzt! is a German Indie-Pop band founded in the small town of Elsterwerda in Brandenburg in 1999; the quartet dissolved in October 2010....

, Astra Kid, Modus Noa, marr and Tomte
Tomte (band)
Tomte is an indie band from Hamburg in Germany. Their lyrics are almost completely in German and their sound could be described as guitar pop with some punk influences. The group may be considered to be a part of the “Hamburger Schule” on the basis of the band Tocotronic's influence on their work...

. They display a new musical homogeneity of punk-influenced guitar pop.

Several small labels have sprung up to support this new musical current. Arguably the most important one is the Hamburg based label Grand Hotel van Cleef which, like L'age d'or seeks to be an enabler for local bands. It was established in September 2002 by Tomte's Thees Uhlmann and Kettcar's Marcus Wiebusch and Reimer Bustorff.


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