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Pop & Rock in Switzerland – From the Beginnings until 1985 (3)

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Swiss Dialect: The Long Journey to Dialect-Rock CD anthology Vol.3/5 swissinfo in collaboration with SUISA Foundation


Swiss pop music was strictly Anglo-American in style at the beginning. Anything cultural that was connected to the Swiss (German)dialects – folk music, for example – was considered conservative and old-fashioned.
Nevertheless, a few beat bands began to mix modern rhythms with native folk songs already during the sixties. However, the young pop musicians left the genre of independent Swiss dialect music to the minstrels and “chansonniers” (political/satirical song-writers) who performed in small clubs and theaters. An actual dialect movement started to form only at the end of the sixties. But it was the folk musicians who were the first to sing in the language that they grew up with.

Swiss dialect takes on a groove

The international success of the hit “Grüezi wohl Frau Stirnimaa” (Hello Mrs. Stirnemann) by the Zurich trio The Minstrels provided an important impulse for the dialect movement at the beginning of the seventies. Bern was the center of the movement, led by singer and entertainer Polo Hofer who combined the striking rhymes of folk music with the metaphors of Bob Dylan, underlying them with Black grooves and the “spirit of rock’n’roll”. Hofer enjoyed great success with his bands Rumpelstilz and Schmätterding during the seventies and eighties, thereby creating widespread awarness for typically Swiss dialect rock and making a major contribution to shaping an independent, original style of Swiss pop music.

Between Dada and protest

Although the dialect movement made rapid development with regard to its lyrics, settling somewhere between the slightly decadent dada-style of Taxi and Züri West’s youthful songs of protest, musically it remained close to whatever the recording industry was promoting as “in” at the moment: reggae, wave, eighties-pop,etc. Dialect texts were set to music in these styles without any serious efforts to develop a sound unique to the “Swiss-Alps”; this represented a long journey that had yet to be taken.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR