Rousing rhythms on the Maas
14 June 2019 by Rob Noordhoek
What do jazz and the party scene in the 90s have in common? Rob Noordhoek from Museum Rotterdam tells us about the rise of both music trends in this blog.
A few years ago, we asked all sorts of people what they thought depicted ‘Real Rotterdam’. Very often the answer was ‘hard work.’ That sounds a bit serious, but the Americans know: ‘Work hard, play hard.’ Museum Rotterdam now has two exhibitions that show that this certainly applies to our city: Jazz in Rotterdam and Party People. The first is about the rise of jazz. The other takes you into the Rotterdam party scene of the 90s.
At first glance, the exhibitions are about music trends. But they also give an impression of the city in different times. Sometimes quite literally. At Jazz in Rotterdam, the best places to go out during the interbellum period are shown on old aerial photos: clubs, stages, theatres and cinemas. It gives an impression of the bustling pre-war city. At Party People, you actually enter the hotspots, and you can get on to the sustainable dance floor of Club Watt accompanied by thumping beats.
A chapter in history
At Museum Rotterdam we don’t just want to portray history as a closed chapter in the story of the city. We like to make connections between different times. Or better: we let the visitor make those connections. Party People and Jazz in Rotterdam are good examples. You can, of course, view them separately. But those who pay attention will discover interesting similarities and differences.
Crisis and parties
The impact of a crisis on the nightlife certainly does not lead to a boring city, and the Rotterdam jazz scene flourished after the stock market crash of 1929. Jazz formations by well-to-do amateurs were inexpensive, and they performed often. Almost 80 years later you see that creative people from Rotterdam also know how to deal with the latest crisis. The house parties, illegal parties and small, temporary clubs that pop up (or underground) everywhere may not be sophisticated, but the vibe is amazing.
Under the approving gaze of style icon Josephine Baker, you can admire the outfit of a flapper girl.
You can also see Party People as a fashion exhibition. You are never the first in our club. Everywhere you see mannequins that rock the favourite party fashion and styles of Rotterdammers. Divas, performers, gabbers, B-boys, you name it. A little further in the museum, you see how you made a fashion statement in the 1920s. Under the approving gaze of style icon Josephine Baker, you can admire the outfit of a flapper girl.
At Museum Rotterdam, we always want to show something about the city that is recognisable or perhaps surprising. But we also want to make visitors hungry for more stories about Rotterdam so you can discover why the city is the way it is and what you might want to see differently. Everyone can contribute in his or her own way. With regard to this subject, for example, consider the people of Rotterdam who demonstrated for a better entertainment policy. Because what is – besides working hard and partying hard – more Rotterdam than change?
About the writer
Rob Noordhoek is a public historian at Museum Rotterdam. He participates in all sorts of museum presentations. Around 2010 he could sometimes be found with a speaker in his hand at vague house parties in Noord and West.