Interview with Café Soda, the guiding house music collective in Hamburg

There’s more to German nightlife than techno and Berlin. If we talk concrete, in cities such as Hamburg, house music keeps evolving and thrives with the hard work of collectives such as Café Soda. Since 2018, this community of music lovers, dancers, and artists became the place where the good vibes and new discoveries are the order of the day.

How was it born? What are its next steps? What’s the current status of Hamburg’s scene? Read the full scoop to get these and many more answers from Café Soda Hamburg with their team: its co-founder & creative director Hannes and its resident DJ & A&R, Najeh.

big speakers in the stage of cafe soda hamburg

How did Café Soda Hamburg come about and what is its core essence?

Inspired by music and art events in cities like London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin, the idea of creating a place with this playful spirit, raw, and uplifting energy made us organize house music events in Hamburg back in 2018. What started as a spontaneous boat party amongst friends evolved into an event series in various off-locations throughout the city.

Then as now, our idea thrives on a strong sense of community and the wish to create a place that welcomes everyone. Free of any boundaries. Besides that, the love for unique experiences is deeply embedded in the brand and the events. This makes Café Soda a stage for collaboration as well as emerging and diverse talents from the local and international scene. And we believe, that we can shape the subcultural landscape in Hamburg through this step by step.

From an outside perspective, Germany is almost always associated with techno, with Berlin as its main point. How does a brand as strong as Café Soda Hamburg carve out its space in a market almost monopolized by a genre?

Café Soda embodies the ethos of following our passion and embracing what feels good to us. At the same time, our desire to be open to new things and to offer a counterpoint to the conventional has certainly contributed to our ability to create our own vibe over time. But what truly matters to us is that, regardless of a certain genre, we also continue to evolve our sound. Ultimately, it’s a journey that is meant to offer new impressions season after season. And we are here to invite everyone to ride this journey together with us.

The brand has evolved so rapidly that it is now heading into the second edition of Café Soda Festival. How did the idea of ​​betting on a larger format come about? What do you take away from the debut edition, and what are your expectations for the next one?

After hosting a series of diverse events, both indoor and outdoor, we felt it was time to take the next step to enable more people to access our events while also providing a different kind of stage for even more artists. Moreover, we believe that new things begin to flourish at the intersection of different disciplines, so having our own festival not only offers various staging options but also expands our opportunities to collaborate with other creative minds from Hamburg – spanning not only music but also culinary arts, design, and beyond.

Following the success of our inaugural festival last year, we are thrilled to return with the second edition in early June. This year, we are transforming Heiligengeistfeld once again into a vibrant playground at the heart of Hamburg. In addition to the daytime show, there will also be a nighttime party at the Uebel & Gefährlich Club. Both hosting a diverse lineup on multiple stages with more than 20 artists from Hamburg and Europe. Moreover, we’re excited to collaborate with friends and local partners to enhance the festival experience, exploring possibilities such as onsite dining experiences and curated pop-up shops.

It might sound a bit cliché, but in the end, it’s about being open-minded and creating a unique experience. And that depends on whether you believe in the idea yourself and can convey that exact feeling to others. Additionally, a certain level of perseverance is crucial. Not everything always goes perfectly, but sticking with it pays off.

From parties in Bali to sets at Cafe Schöne Aussichten, Heiligengeistfeld Festival and your upcoming aftershow event at Uebel & Gefährlich… You have done almost everything. What else can we expect from Café Soda in the coming months?

In our vision, Café Soda is much more than just an event series. We aspire to provide people with diverse touchpoints within the spectrum of electronic music, as well as to foster collaborative partnerships with everyone involved – artists, producers, and enthusiasts alike. Currently, we are working on our first vinyl release, and we are also considering expanding Café Soda to other cities across Germany and Europe to ignite new cultural dialogues and creative synergies. Additionally, we are developing new concepts to reimagine the Café Soda experience outside of the open-air season, creating a unique symbiosis of sound, space, and light to serve as an unseen stage for artists. Not to forget: our regular season is back at the end of April, starting with another session in the Planten un Blomen park.

dj playing in front of crowd at cafe soda hamburg


How do you manage balancing your various roles within the industry alongside your own musical career?

First of all, I’m an artist – and I see everything through that lens. I take care of the bookings in collaboration with Hannes. The curation of a line-up is a very artistic act for me. How should people experience the opening (the warm up is always one of the most important sets for me!), what happens in the middle part, how do we keep attention, how do we surprise the crowd and how do we end the day?

For me it’s really important that there is a common thread and I pay a lot of attention to the uniqueness of the artists.All aspects within my various roles go hand in hand. It does not feel like a balancing act to me. I feel the same sense of passion and responsibility for my label work with LAP or A&R for the upcoming Café Soda Records.

What is the current state of the scene in Hamburg (from Najehs perspective) and the business aspect (as a resident of Café Soda)? Where do you see it heading?

I have been involved with Café Soda from the beginning, but I am not a co-founder. I would describe myself as the first crew member, first and foremost a friend and an artist, who can live it up. Hannes and Jan are doing a great job and I think we make a good team.

As for the scene in Hamburg, the current status is not satisfying for anyone. In the beginning of the year, we have lost important places that were essential to the culture of electronic music. And a big RESET in Hamburg will take time. Naturally there are also small setbacks, which do not make the process easier.

For me personally, the Club PAL belongs into my hometown. I hope and I am sure that we will find a new space for our scene, where so much art can be created on so many different levels. 

As an artist, I would like to see more uniqueness. For me, it’s not enough to try to copy a mood or a vibe. Be fucking creative and create your own identity, embrace who you are. I like new concepts with their own faces. We have a lot of great events, be it established or completely new ideas, which create exactly that. And I firmly believe, that this way will always be sustainable. Trends have ends 🙂

What is your vision on the European house music scene? Do you believe it will experience a resurgence similar to what drum and bass or techno groove are currently undergoing?

That’s a tough question, but I believe in timeless music. And House music, never left us.

Yes, sure, there is an upswing right now, but it is difficult to say, how much this will affect the market for house music in generell. I can only speak for us: we will keep doing our thing.

How do you navigate and interpret the contrast between your residency at PAL and gigs at Café Soda?

Apart from a few exceptions, I only play for PAL and Café Soda in Hamburg. Both places have a very special vibe and create space for creative output.

Café Soda is “mostly” a daytime event with an incredible energy, because as a DJ you are surrounded by people and it’s crowded as fuck. It takes you to another level. CS has definitely shaped me as an artist and made me what I am today. I not only developed as an artist, but also as a person. This is also thanks to Hannes and Jan, who always let me do my thing and trust me with all of my decisions.

dj playing in front of crowd at cafe soda hamburg

At PAL, we’re looking at a club situation and I’ve played every slot there. When I play a closing, anything can happen. You just go with the flow. Sometimes the party just keeps going and going and going… No matter what I expect of the night or what I prepare, the vibe is always unique and ever-changing. There are also nights, where nobody stays, but we need all of these experiences to grow as an artist.

On some nights I play out my techno side more, but whatever I do, I always try to create the Najeh sound, whether it’s on the PAL floor or in Room 2. I can totally live out my artist side. Both places have shaped my sound in many different ways. I try to combine both and I love it.

Are there any professional goals or dreams that you have yet to achieve?

Of course I have goals, what would life be like without them? Currently I am putting a lot of time and passion into my new project with Frag Maddin. It’s called FMN.Live – which stands for Frag Maddin and Najeh.

I’ve known Berus for many years and have always been a big fan of his musical skills. After ten years he moved back to Hamburg and we started working together in the studio. In life, sometimes you receive special invitations and it’s up to you to take them and what you make out of it. FMN is exactly that for me.

Berus is amazing and his way of working takes me to another level. He is teaching me so many things right now! He and I complement each other incredibly well on so many different levels. We have both never played live, so this is a super exciting opportunity to broaden our musical spectrum. Our first show will be at the Café Soda Festival on the first of June  around night time.

Talking about goals: I do have a very specific place in my mind, where I want to play one day, but I won’t tell you… My friends will laugh now, because they will know exactly where 😉 Most importantly: I just want to keep making music.

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