From yodel to bebop

Over a decade ago, Gabriela MartinaExternal link left her home in the countryside of Lucerne to study jazz in the United States. Today, the vocalist and composer lives in Boston and teaches at her alma mater, Berklee College of MusicExternal link.

This content was published on November 7, 2019 - 16:00

Martina tries to mix her Swiss yodelling roots with jazz, soul, RnB, gospel and blues. Her latest album, Homage to Grämlis, tells stories about the farm where she grew up with her parents, grandmother, two sisters and a brother. Many of the songs are about how they tended animals and the land. It’s bittersweet as the family recently had to give up the farm.

When we first met Martina, the traditional building was undergoing renovations in preparation for the new tenants.

Gabriela Martina: Leaning on a cherry tree and remembering life on the farm

She herself was preparing to perform at a local yodel festivalExternal link:

Later, we met Martina across the Atlantic, on the lively campus of Berklee in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. It’s here that she has been able to develop and thrive as a musician. She’s founded her own booking agency, Red Velvet SoundsExternal link, and performs at various venues up and down the US East Coast. Earlier this year, she won a grant from The Boston FoundationExternal link for her work, and in 2016, Sonic Relief, which Martina co-founded, was awarded the Berklee Urban Service Award for using music to aid people in need.

In the video above she tells us what it’s like to be a Swiss musician in America.

And what about the influence of Covid-19 and racial tensions on her work? She talks to us about that in the Instagram video below:

This article was automatically imported from our old content management system. If you see any display errors, please let us know:

Comments under this article have been turned off. You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

Share this story

Join the conversation!

With a SWI account, you have the opportunity to contribute on our website.

You can Login or register here.