Swiss Music

Popular Music Styles in Switzerland

Traditional Swiss Folklore
Swiss Singer-Songwriters
Swiss Charts
Swiss Open Air Festivals

Though Switzerland's rich tradition of folklore music is probably best known abroad, there is definitely more to say about music in Switzerland and "heard with the ears of the local population" pop and rock music do play a far more important rôle. But there are also significant Swiss contributions to European classical music.

An estimate on how popular different styles of music are among the population can be made by comparing Swiss fm radio stations and their market share. Almost all privately owned Swiss radio stations focus on mainstream pop music. There is only one major exception: Radio Central in canton Schwyz (central Switzerland) focuses on Swiss folklore, country music (U.S. style) and Schlager (simple lovesongs in German language), focusing on a market niche competing with two very popular local radio stations in Lucerne and Zug serving almost the same region. In the urbanized regions, several stations are competing with different styles of pop music (pop, rock, rap/hip-hop) rather than with folklore or classical music. Even in alpine valleys with just one local radio station there is a clear preference on mainstream pop music.

National public radio is obliged by law to produce programs that reflect cultural diversity. It is financed by fees all radio listeners have to pay, irrespective of the programs they actually choose. There are three public radio programs per major language region (German, French, Italian). The first programs play a mix of mainstream pop, pop oldies and a little folklore (the latter especially at non-prime times) and reach a market share of more than 30% in all regions. The second programs aim at distinguished minorities and play classical and jazz music, the market share is less than 10%, however. The third programs (and the forth program in German) play music for twens and teens, giving just a little more room to experimental / non-mainstream pop & rock than ad-financed private radios.

Though it is not easy to get exact figures, an overwhelming majority (about 2/3) of the Swiss population seems to prefer mainstream pop and pop oldies, while classical, alpine folklore and U.S. country music are the preferred choice of about 10% of the population each. Jazz and world music play a minor role. Insofar as this tendency is shared by all western European countries the tastes of the majority of immigrants are not really different from those of the native Swiss population.

Classical Music in Switzerland

Swiss Composers

Old Swiss Music20th century Swiss composers
  • Notker Balbulus [the stammerer], a monk from the famous monastery of St. Gallen, composed a series of new hymns (also called "Sequences") around 860 - they became the most popular form of singing in the Middle Ages.
  • Minnesingers (also called troubadours) like Johannes Hadlaub represent worldly medieval music.
  • Ludwig Senfl (born Basel around 1486; died Munich 1542 or 1543), served at the courts of German emperor Maximilian and, from 1523, of Bavarian duke William IV. Senfl was the most prominent composer of polyphonic works in German language in the early 16th century. Apart from profane German songs he also composed motets and masses in Latin.
  • Heinrich Loris (born Mollis, canton Glarus, June 1488, hence called Henricus Glareanus; died March 27/28, 1563, Freiburg im Breisgau, southern Germany). Swiss Humanist, poet, and music theorist, remembered for his treatise Dodecachordon (1547) on tuning modes.
  • Arthur Honegger (Le Havre 1892-03-10, Paris 1955-11-27) Antigone (opera, 1927) , Roi David (oratorio, 1928), Jeanne d'Arc (oratorio, 1938)

  • Ernest Bloch

  • Othmar Schoeck (Brunnen 1886-09-01, Zurich 1957-03-08)

  • Frank Martin

  • Ernst Levy

  • Conrad Beck

  • Rolf Liebermann (born Zurich 1910-09-14) Opera manager (Paris 1972-1980, Hamburg after 1985) and opera composer: Lenore 40/45 (1952), Penelope (1954), Die Schule der Frauen (1955); works for orchestra and chamber music.

Performances of Classical Music

Symphonic Orchestras Opera Houses Festivals

Folklore Music in Switzerland

The area of traditional or folklore music in Switzerland encomprises alpine herdsmen's and rural traditions (alphorn, yodeling, alpsegen, ländlermusik [rural dance music]) as well as music based on military traditions (brass bands). There are some regional preferences as well as a couple of instruments used only in particular regions.

Like their colleagues in U.S. style country & western music, Swiss bands playing folklore music have also adopted popular new instruments and elements of style from mainstream pop and rock music, namely synthesizers allowing one-man-bands to play several instruments at a time and/or new rhythm patterns. Nevertheless, bands and followers of folklore music can be distinguished from those playing/listening to "globalized" pop and rock music.

Jazz Music in Switzerland

Swiss Jazz FestivalsSwiss Jazz Schools Swiss jazz museum
Association pour l'encouragement de la musique improvisée, Geneva (jazz links) *
* websites in German or French language only

Rock Music in Switzerland

1960's - 1980's
  • Flink
  • Favez
  • Neviss
  • Chewy
  • Meyer
  • Wake
  • Pure Inc.
  • Shakra
  • Backwash
  • Redwood
  • Highfish
  • Snitch
  • Hukedicht
  • The Peacocks
  • Toxic Guineapigs
  • Disgroove
  • Grannysmith
  • The Chocolate Rockets

While the 1960's bands Les Sauterelles and The Minstrels are history, most of the bands coming up in the 1980's and 1990's are still quite active, attracting more people to live concerts and having more success in the charts than the newer bands.

Swiss Pop Music Groups and Soloists

1970's - 1990's Pop Techno / Trance Contemporary Pop Casting Show Talents
* websites in German or French language only

Rap in Switzerland

German Language Region French
  • Sektion Kuchikäschtli
  • Chlyklass
  • Greis
  • Wurzel 5
  • Luut & Tüütli
  • Brandhärd
  • EKR
  • Bligg
  • Tafs
  • Breitbild
  • Gleis 2
  • Baze
  • Gimma
  • Radio 200000
  • The Loops
  • Core 22
  • Open Season
  • Sens Unik
  • Stress
  • Double Pact
  • lyricas anales

Country Music (U.S. style) in Switzerland

Country musicians
living in Switzerland
Country music festivals in Switzerland

World Music in Switzerland

More about Swiss music External Links
  • The Swiss Society for the Rights of Authors of Musical Works
  • Swiss National Sound Archives
  • a collection of professional concert pictures by Ueli Frey, Maennedorf/Switzerland

Switzerland from A to Z
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Reproduction of substantial parts and pictures in printed or electronic form only with explicit written consent by the editor.