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Music of Switzerland

Switzerland has long had a distinct cultural identity, despite its diversity of German, French and other ethnicities. Religious and folk music dominated the country until the 17th century, with growth in production of other kinds of music occurring slowly. The first music conservatory in the country was founded in Geneva in 1835. Composers like Hans George Naegeli and festivals like the Fête des Vignerons helped establish a classical music tradition, and the Swiss Musicians Association was founded in 1900.

The early part of the 20th century saw Ernest Ansermet's Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, which was the focal point for musical innovation in Switzerland. Other musicians included Ernest Block, Arthur Honegger and Rolf Lieberman.

Table of contents
1 Appenzell
2 Pop and rock
3 References


The rural Appenzell region is a major center of folk music. Apenzell Quartetts were popular throughout Switzerland playing string quartets adding Austrian influences to popular acclaim. More recently, the band Appenzeller Space Schöttl has added psychedelic and other avant-garde influences to the music.

Pop and rock

Later in the 20th century, in the 1960s, rock and roll, or beat music, was popular, peaking in 1968 with the release of Les Sauterelles' "Heavenly Club". Rock began its Swiss popularity beginning in 1957, when the Hula Hawaiians incorporated rockabilly, setting the stage for the early 1960s boom. The Francophone section of Switzerland soon found itself dominated by French stars like Johnny Hallyday, and soon Swiss artists like Les Aiglons, Larry Greco and Les Faux-Frères became major artists.

1964 saw Beatles-inspired pop take hold on the continent, displacing the earlier instrumental rock and inspired musical battles in Basel, the capital of Swiss rock. Swiss bands in the same mold included The 16 Strings and Pichi, and German-speaking acts soon dominated the field. Zürich then became a center of innovation, drawing on Chris Lange's blues-roots explorations, Heiner Hepp's Bob Dylan-inspired folk and Toni Vescoli's pop fame. Other Swiss artists of the period included R&B act The Nightbirds from Locarno, light rock stars The Wild Gentlemen and pop band Marco Zappa & the Teenagers. In 1967, artists like Mani Matter, Franz Hohler, Sergius Golowin, and Kurt Marti began establishing Swiss-German dialect rock, glorifying their distinct national identities. 1973 saw the first commercial release of dialect rock with Rumpelstilz's "Warehuus Blues"; the band broke into the mainstream in 1976 with the release of the reggae-influenced chart-topper Füüf Narre im Charre.

By 1968, Swiss rock was dying, and artists were exploring sonic innovations. Basel's Barry Window, for example, used soul and Indian music to make raga rock, while The Sauterelles explored psychedelia. Progressive music formed by the 1970s, when jazz, blues and other genres were combined with socially aware lyrics, outlandish solos and macho posturing. The first band of the progressive rock boom was supergroup Krokodil, and The Shiver and Brainticket soon followed. Sinus Studio in Bern, and engineers Eric Merz and Peter McTaggart, became the center of innovation by the mid-1970s, however.

Later in the decade, hard rock became popular and Toad soon established a Swiss scene with the debut single, "Stay!", setting the stage for the 1980 explosion of Krokus, the most popular rock band in Swiss history.  By this time, punk rock, New Wave and pub rock had become popular, while The Swiss Horns, Red Devil Band and Circus from Basel continued to expand musical boundaries.  A Swiss band, Celtic Frost, soon became a leading heavy metal band 
and have inspired much of European 90s metal.

Swiss punk is best represented by pioneers like Kleenex, Deiter Meier, The Nasal Boys, Troppo, Mother's Ruin, TNT, Dogbodys, Taxi and Sperma, who were inspired by American underground heroes like the New York Dolls and British celebrities like the Sex Pistols. Zürich was Switzerland's capital of punk rock, which soon expanded across the country. Other areas with a punk scene included Bern' Glueams and Lucerne's Crazy. Pioneers Le Beau Lac de Bâle established a Francophone New Wave-influenced punk rock scene based out of Geneva, and bands like the Bastards, Yodler Killers, The Tickets, The Zero Heroes, Technycolor arose.

Later in the 80s, Swiss punk bands began drifting in New Wave and techno, where Vera Kaa soon became the biggest Swiss star. 1983 saw Ex-Trem Normal release "Warum" and "Welcome to Switzerland", which revolutionized Bernese rock by adding distinctive dialect trends. They were followed by Züri West and other bands.