Five facts about the Swiss art of yodeling

Here's some top tips about how one iconic form of singing became a global sensation

Written by
Barry Quinn

Yodele yodele hee hoo! For many people, a country's identity is often distinguished as much by its unique sounds as it is by its sights, and for Switzerland, one ancient method of singing has become a globally recognised form of the Alpine nation. We are, of course, talking about the timeless art of yodeling, which has kept itself relevant right up to the 21st century as local and national competitions are held throught modern Switzerland. So it seems, yodeling has never been so hip!

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First documented in Appenzell in 1545, yodeling wasn’t a novelty act on a 16th century Switzerland’s Got Talent but a way for Swiss herders to call to other herders or their livestock. These short yodels or Juchzin could mean things like “I’m close by” or “It’s time for lunch”.


Yodeling developed into singing in the 19th century and by the 1930s the whole world was yodeling: American folk singer Jimmie Rodgers yodeled, country singers The DeZurik Sisters yodeledTarzan yodeled in the jungle and Bill Haley yodeled long before ‘Rock Around the Clock’. The most celebrated Swiss yodeler was cheese-maker Ruedi Rymann, whose signature song, a melancholy refrain called ‘Dr Schacher Seppli’, was voted the greatest Swiss hit of all time by the Swiss themselves.


Probably the biggest global yodeling hit of all time was the South African classic, ‘Wimoweh (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)’. First recorded in 1939 by Solomon Linda it’s been covered by many artists since, most regrettably by Tight Fit in 1982.


Yodeling even saved the world from intergalactic aggression when American country singer Slim Whitman’s yodeling classic ‘Indian Love Call’ fended off a Martian invasion by making the aliens’ heads explode in Tim Burton’s 1996 movie ‘Mars Attacks’.


Yodeling has evolved in the 21st century with bands like Swiss group Sonalp blending yodeling with rock music, electro sounds and even rap. Every three years Switzerland is gripped by yodeling fever during the Swiss national competition, which attracts over 200,000 spectators. The next one is in Davos in 2017.
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