What is Dark Cabaret Music?

Dark Cabaret is a fairly niche music genre which often combines the aesthetics of German Weimar-era cabarets, burlesque and vaudeville shows with the stylings of post-1970s goth and punk music.

One of the better known examples of this Dark Cabaret aesthetic can be found in The Dresden Dolls who once famously described themselves as “Brechtian punk cabaret” in order to avoid being labelled by the music industry and media as “goths.”

In the early 2000’s, Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione would play shows in white ‘mime’ style face paint, bowler hats, suits and stockings. Similarly, fan line ups outside of venues were easily identifiable from a distance with hats, black and white stripes and distinctive make up, while the band actively encouraged performance artists and the like to perform directly outside of venues whilst on tour.

Dresden Dolls – Dark Cabaret

Note: A more extensive list of other Bands and Artists associated with the Dark Cabaret Genre can be found further down.

The Sound of Dark Cabaret

Dark Cabaret can often be recognised by its dark lyrical subject matter with a merge of styles found (or borrowed) from other genres; circus, fairground style music, gypsy, marionette, steampunk, burlesque, and lounge, toy pianos, “oompah oompah” brass, basslines and chord changes reminiscent of military brass bands. Pianos are frequently used as a lead instruments (more often than not) and there can often be accompaniment by accordions, gypsy-style violins and strings, dirty jazz horns and brass and 1920’s Jazz style clarinets.  (see Duke Ellington’s ‘The Mooche” and his ‘jungle sound’ jazz stylings’)

There are other music genres frequently associated with Dark Cabaret, some of which are musically very similar and some which occasionally cross-over, namely Steampunk, Pirate, Gypsy, Gypsy Punk, Punk Cabaret, Murder Ballads, Waltz, Dark Folk, Baroque Pop and Chamber Pop.

Dark Cabaret has a very musical distinctive sound and can also be recognised without the need of aesthetics or a band image.
It’s not unknown for the odd song by the likes of Beirut, Blur, Antony and The Johnsons, Tom Waits, Tori Amos, Regina Specktor, Fiona Apple and Bananarama with Fun Boy 3 to featured on a Dark Cabaret Spotify Playlist – even when said Artists don’t necessarily match the associated image.

To be honest, you probably just have to hear Dark Cabaret to know it!

Here are some Dark Cabaret Associated Acts: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dark_cabaret_artists

Here are some Dark Cabaret Spotify Playlists:

Femme Fatale Dark Cabaret – Spotify Playlist

Macabre songs about deadly women. Inspired by Dita Von Teese
Featured Artists: The Dresden Dolls, Kate Bush, Birdeatsbaby, Blur, Tom Waits, Girl From Winter Jargon, Jill Tracy, Evelyn Evelyn, Jason Webley, The Cure and The Doors plus many more…


The Sound of Alternative Dark Cabaret – Spotify Playlist

A little bit Dark Cabaret, Chamber Pop, Steampunk, Baroque Pop & Gypsy… rich, flamboyant, theatrical and bouncy – with or without the gothic, mime artist, burlesque fantasy robot aesthetics. Featured Artists: Antony and The Johnsons, The Dresden Dolls, Steam Powered Giraffe, Amanda Palmer, Regina Spektor, Girl From Winter Jargon, Tori Amos, Danny Elfman, DeVotchKa, The Cranberries and Kate Bush amongst others…




Dark Cabaret / Goth Circus / Unconventional Steampunk – Spotify Playlist

Featuring Humanwine, The Circus Contraption Band, The Dresden Dolls, Girl From Winter Jargon, The Tiger Lillies and Tom Waits among others.


A Series of Unfortunate Events – Spotify Playlist

Featuring: The Count, The Dresden Dolls, Laura Marling, Jill Tracy, Decemberists, Girl From Winter Jargon and more…


The Sound of Dark Cabaret – Spotify Playlist

Featuring: The Dresden Dolls, Amanda Palmer, Jill Tracy, Bitter Ruin, Humanwine, Rasputina and more

Contact Girl From Winter Jargon to feature in an Independent Dark Cabaret / Steampunk Spotify Playlist
The Sound Of Alternative Dark Cabaret | Spotify Playlist
Steampunk VS Dark Cabaret


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What is Dark Cabaret Music?