A SHORT HISTORY OF...
Words by Jake Gable @JournoJake
If dreams can become reality, then the most tangible representation of fantasy rests on the west side of San Antonio, or as it’s more commonly known, ‘the sunset strip’. The brainchild of Javier Anadon, the iconic Cafe Mambo launched in 1994, back when the area in question represented nothing more than natural, organic beauty, as crystal blue waves lapped against the rocky shore. Anadon, however, had other ideas, transforming the sea-side haven into the ultimate oasis for fans of dance music from all over the world. Whether postcards or Balearic merchandise, the majority of promotional content used to promote the idyllic island chooses Mambo as the destination, and it’s easy to see why.
With humble beginnings soon growing exponentially, the likes of Roger Sanchez, Pete Tong, and Paul Oakenfold became some of the first names to lend their A-list names to the ever-growing pantheon of producers to have set foot behind the famous booth in decades gone by.
Most remarkably for Javier, and the Mambo brand - which has now branched out into owning many of the restaurants and bars/sunset hot-spots along the promenade - all performed for their sheer love of the venue, with the beach-side haven boasting a glimmering reputation as one of the very few who can book the world’s finest talent, without spending a penny in the process.
Providing the sunset strip with a venue that not only serves up delicious food to the backdrop of one of the worlds most mesmerising sunset spots but also a place for tourists and locals to enjoy music from globally renowned DJs, the venue has continued to move from strength to strength during a period of changing times on the island. Throughout the week the DJ booth – which is intimately tucked away behind tables which overlook the Med, is taken over by the finest electronic talent for a varied range of Ibiza’s biggest pre-parties.
Now ran by Javier’s highly personable sons, Christian and Alan - aka. The Mambo Brothers - Café Mambo has also been awarded the DJ Award for ‘The Best Bar in Ibiza’ several times which stands as a solid recognition of the venue’s contribution to the island’s nightlife and in particular the transformation of San Antonio.
While the venue offers holidaymakers a taste of the bustling music scene and allows visitors to experience an elite experience each evening, it still remains authentic and embraces the charm of the White Isle with its décor of mosaics, marble and white furniture. "We try to bring some of the Mambo vibe,” laugh Alan and Christian in their famous hybrid of a Spanish accent with a Scottish twang. “That friendly vibe that Mambo has where everybody can come and play with us and have shots in the DJ booth. We want to make it fun for people on the dance floor. The main word is FUN!“
And though the iconic Café Mambo has seen a number of dance music legends perform in the hallowed booth over the years, with the likes of Swedish House Mafia, Fatboy Slim and MK all stopping by to perform sunset-sets whilst taking shots of classic Balearic tipple Hierbas from behind the booth to get the party started, life wasn’t always so easy for the Anadon family. The site had previously given over to four small derelict houses neighbouring a larger property home to several local beatnik artists prominent during the 60s and 70s, and Anadon was well acquainted with the area’s cultural past. “It was unbelievable and everybody came to experience it,” he recalled in a 2013 interview. “A beautiful area of vibrant bars and music full of Spanish, British, Dutch and a lot of Swedish people; a great mix with artistic and bohemian quarters.”
“The power of the package tourist model changed things” Anadon continued “When Pepe Rosello built Space in ‘88, San Antonio lost somebody important. I love San Antonio very much, it has been special to me and my family. So I wanted to bring back the good days when the town was full of artists and culture; For me Ibiza is always Bohemian, always hippy and charming". The 90s, and ‘94 in particular, proved an important milestone in Mambo’s overall success to this day. With the aptly-named Cafe Del Mar opening following the release of trance classic ‘Energy 52’, the tourism boom saw increasing numbers of Brits heading to the island to visit a new-found Mecca of Balearic beats amid miles of gorgeous coast-line. “I was very lucky to capture that moment with some great people,” Anadon stated, “Many from Britain who became our good friends returning year after year.”
Hosting the first of many annual weekenders for ‘BBC Radio 1 in Ibiza’ in 1995, Jason Bye - who continues to work for Mambo as a resident DJ to this very day - recalls the vibe around those early year: “It was 1995, and I remember that the number one DJ in the world was coming to Mambo".
"So the next day I went down to the bar at 10am. I waited for him all day, but he didn’t arrive until 11pm. I’ve still got the picture of me with the number one DJ in the world at that time, Sasha. From 1995 onwards, Mambo became this super-hub for DJ culture. Graeme Park, Seb Fontaine, Tall Paul, Boy George, Jeremy Healey, all those DJs from back in the day. Back then, PRs would start false rumours about rival parties, saying the headliner had missed their flight. The rumours would spread across the island because there was no internet – so the DJ or DJs concerned would come down to Mambo to prove they were ready to play the super-clubs later that night. It’s one of the reasons why the pre-party scene at Café Mambo became so strong!”
As time progressed, Mambo soon branched out, opening throughout the day, and providing the perfect pit-stop for an afternoon stroll. Set on the scene of arguably the greatest sun-set in the world, strawberry daiquiri-sipping diners are now greeted by a dusk like no other, with the warm orange rays bouncing across the water’s surface, creating a photo opportunity which is likely to stay as phone lock-screen images for thousands during the gap between one visit, and their next. For any visitor to the magical isle, there can be no doubt… Cafe Mambo is the place dreams are made of.