Heidi’s Switzerland bathed in a red sunset

Is it possible to be homesick (in German, Heimweh haben) even if you are at home? The eponymous twelve-member men’s choir (Heimweh) can. All of them live in different rural areas of Switzerland, but they are homesick for their homeland – for an idyllic Switzerland that conveys familiarity, serenity and security. The world they depict in their songs is an escapist, idealistic, clichéd and striking homeland right out of a picture book.

It is a world swimming in clichés that work perfectly. In their fourth album, “Ärdeschön” (Beautiful Earth), Heimweh sing, for example, about the “Alpabfahrt” and toast their good cheese. “Äs isch Alpabfahrt bi üs im Tal / D’Herbschtsunnä schiint numal / Glii scho git‘s dr erschti Schnee.” (“It’s time for the Alpabfahrt in our valley / the autumn sun is shining again / The first snows are just around the corner”.) On the other hand, they remind us of life in an old farmhouse: “Im Summer het‘s mängs Feschtli gäh / Ds halbe Dorf isch eis cho näh / U me het tanzet bis id Nacht.” (“We sometimes held get-togethers in the summer / Half the village came for a drink / And we danced long into the night.”) However, things get really emotional in the title song: “The sky is bathed in a red sunset / Which makes the Alps glow / We are looking after our country well / And it is doing the same for us”. And an alphorn sounds in the distance.

The content that conveys such yearning is underscored musically by a popular dialect pop – however, the album is definitely more pop than folk music. The accordion stays in the background, zithers and clarinets cannot be heard, instead the sound is synthesisers, guitars, contrabass and drums. The verses are each sung by a lead singer, while choir music and yodelling is only in the refrains.

Zurich producer Georg Schlunegger’s choir has already achieved great success with this concept. Heimweh’s earlier works always landed at the top of the Swiss charts or in third place. They have sold more than 100,000 albums, won two Swiss Music Awards, completed sold-out tours – and ensured a real Swiss atmosphere at wrestling competitions and all manner of events in the country. So it is hardly surprising that these down-to-earth men in their traditional costumes are at the top of the Swiss hit parade once again with their fourth album.

Marko Lehtinen

Heimweh: “Ärdeschön”, Phonag 2019.

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