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"Swiss Grammys" spotlight local musicians

French-speaking Swiss rapper Stress with one of his three Swiss Music Awards

(Keystone)

The inaugural Swiss Music Awards have honoured both national and international music stars, with Wednesday night belonging to rapper Stress.

But a Swiss music promoter told swissinfo that while there was plenty of talent in Switzerland, the lack of a promotion policy at a federal level threatened to stymie many artists' progress.

Stars from the Swiss entertainment industry – including former Miss Switzerland and future Mrs Stress, Melanie Winiger – hosted the back-patting show, held at the Kaufleuten club in Zurich.

Stress, real name Andres Andrekson, made it three awards out of three nominations: On n'a qu'une terre (We only have one planet) won best Swiss song, Renaissance took the best Swiss "urban" album and his video Mais où (But where) was awarded best Swiss video.

The best Swiss pop/rock album award went to veteran band Gotthard for Domino Effect.

The prizes were awarded according to sales as well as votes from a jury and the public.

International stars to receive recognition included Rihanna, a R&B singer from Barbados whose summer hit with US rapper Jay-Z, Umbrella, took best foreign song. American R&B songwriter Alicia Keys was awarded best urban album for As I Am and British soul singer Amy Winehouse was named best new foreign act.

The line-up at the Kaufleuten club, one of the best-known venues in the country, included Swiss pop-rock veterans such as Gotthard or Stefan Eicher as well as "fresher" acts such as Greis, MiNa and Redwood.

Public awareness

According to organisers IFPI Switzerland, the umbrella organisation of companies in the Swiss recording industry, the event aimed to mark the boom that Swiss music is currently experiencing, with more and more homegrown artists climbing high up the charts.

Marc Ridet, director of Swiss Music Export, which has been promoting contemporary pop-rock at home and abroad since 2002, says shows like this are more than just a self-congratulatory fancy dress party.

"It's important however that this event doesn't focus solely on sales in Switzerland of foreign artists but also on local production," he told swissinfo. "The public should also be aware that there are good musicians in Switzerland."

Assessing the current health of the Swiss music industry, Ridet admitted sales had dropped, adding however that this reflected an international trend.

"It's a paradox because in Switzerland there's a substantial number of new artists such as Sophie Hunger or Heidi Happy who are also making a name for themselves abroad."

"Political problem"

More seriously in Ridet's view was the lack in Switzerland of musical promotion.

"I think it's a political problem – every canton has its own policy when what we need is a federal programme. As a result we're unaware of the importance of the musical industry on a cultural level and for the creation of jobs."

He also pointed out that there were no professional producers in Switzerland and most artists were forced to finance their projects themselves.

Ridet said that before becoming famous abroad, one had to make a name for oneself at home – and this was where evenings like the Swiss Music Awards came in.

"You need visibility, and big events – of which there are quite few in Switzerland – can contribute to that. So we welcome festivals like the Gurten in Bern or the Paléo in Nyon that give space to local artists."

swissinfo

Swiss Music awards – nominations

Best Swiss song: Stress (On n'a qu'une terre – We only have one planet).

Best foreign song: Rihanna featuring Jay-Z (Umbrella).

Best Swiss pop rock album: Gotthard (Domino Effect).

Best foreign pop rock album: Nelly Furtado (Loose).

Best Swiss "urban" album: Stress (Renaissance).

Best foreign "urban" album: Alicia Keys (As I Am).

Best new Swiss act: Redwood.

Best new foreign act: Amy Winehouse.

Best Swiss dance album: Tatana (Variété – The Show).

Best Swiss video: Stress (Mais où – But where).

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