From yodel to bebop

Over a decade ago, Gabriela Martina 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 Music.

Michele Andina and Susan Misicka in Boston and Horw

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 swissinfo.ch

She herself was preparing to perform at a local yodel festival:


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 Sounds, and performs at various venues up and down the US East Coast. Earlier this year, she won a grant from The Boston Foundation for her work, and in 2016, Sonic Relief, which Martina cofounded, was awarded the Berklee Urban Service Award for using music to aid people in need.

In this video she talks about what it’s like to be a Swiss musician in America.

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