various artists,
The Rough Guide to the Music of the Alps
(World Music Network, 2002)

What comes to mind when you hear the word "Alps"? Chocolate? Dirndled maidens with blond braids hawking cocoa? Chocolate? Yodeling? Men in lederhosen playing alpenhorns on a mountain? Chocolate? Whatever images you have in mind, forget them. (Well, save the chocolate for later.) The Rough Guide to the Music of the Alps is diverse musically and culturally, or, as the liner notes proclaim "a new culture in each valley."

The artists sing, chant, yodel and play the scythe. Yes, Klaus Trabitsch plays the scythe as main rhythm instrument on "Oh, Wenn Die Sens," a lively instrumental with a hint of calypso flair. Zabine's "Love Your Life" is up to the minute pop/dance music while Corin Curschellas preserves Romansch, an old language, in "Sontga Margriata."

Electric guitars wail for the first few measures of Ringsgwandl's "Heavy Metal Landler" but after a few measures, heavy metal gives way to heavy oom-pah-pah as Ringsgwandl sings the joys of caravan camping. Daishovida follows with the exotic sounding "Coup de Coeur," featuring the hurdy-gurdy. Corour de Berra is close on Daishovida's heels with its own unusual instrumentation for "Vespa & Adieu Paure Carneval," featuring an orchestra of combs covered with paper.

Bavario brings a Brazilian influence to bear and "mixes the best of both worlds -- landlers and samba, cavaquinha and zithers" to excellent effect. Musicians from Italy and Slovenia also get a chance to shine, and the CD closes with Otto Lechna and Klaus Trabitsch in a performance of "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht (Silent Night, Holy Night)" played at a swinging waltz tempo, and it's both unusual (I could swear that someone is playing the saw in the background) and lovely in its unselfconsciousness.

As these rough guides do so well, this effervescent sampler of the diverse offerings from the Alps is at once a concise education and an inspiration to explore further into the music of another culture.

- Rambles
written by Donna Scanlon
published 17 January 2004

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