Music country Germany - from folk music to rock

geschichte, musikszene, schlager -

Music country Germany - from folk music to rock

The music scene in Germany has always had a strong presence in the world. Germany is still the largest music market in Europe and the third largest in the world [1]. Germany boasts some of the world's most renowned composers, singers, producers and performers.

Folk music

Germany has many unique regions with their own folk traditions in music and dance.

In both East and West Germany, children were taught folk songs; these were popular, sunny and optimistic and had little connection to authentic German folk traditions . Inspired by the revival of American and English roots, Germany experienced many changes after the 1968 student revolution in West Germany, and new songs conveying political activism and realistic joy, sadness and passion were written and performed in the burgeoning folk scene. In East Germany, the same process only began in the mid-1970s, when some folk musicians began incorporating revolutionary ideas into coded songs.

Popular folk songs included emigrant songs from the 19th century, work and apprentice songs, and democracy-oriented folk songs that Wolfgang Steinitz collected in the 1950s. From 1970 onwards, the Festival of Political Songs took place annually, an East German festival with a focus on political songs, which was organized by the FDJ (East German Youth Association) until 1980. Musicians from up to thirty countries took part, and for many East Germans it was the only opportunity to engage with foreign music. Among the foreign musicians who took part in the festival, some were renowned, including Inti-Illimani (Chile), Billy Bragg (England), Dick Gaughan (Scotland), Mercedes Sosa (Argentina) and Pete Seeger (USA) and German musicians, from both the East and the West, Oktoberklub, Wacholder and Hannes Wader.

Folk music in Bavaria and Swabia

Bavarian folk music is probably the best known outside of Germany. Yodelers and Schuhplattler are among the stereotypical images of German folk life, although today they can only be found in the southernmost areas and often in performances for tourists. Bavarian folk music has played a role in the Alpine New Wave, producing several pioneering world music groups that fuse traditional Bavarian sounds with foreign styles.

At the turn of the 20th century, many people throughout Europe and especially in Bavaria feared the loss of cultural traditions. This idea was related to the homeland security movement, which sought to protect regional identities and borders. What is considered Bavarian folk music in Germany today is not the same as Bavarian folk music at the beginning of the 20th century; like any type of folk or popular music, the styles and traditions have evolved over time and given rise to new forms of music.

The popularity of folk singers in Bavaria began in the 1880s and lasted until the 1920s. Performances featuring duets, ensemble songs, humor and parodies were popular, but the format began to change significantly after the First World War. Bally Prell, the “beauty queen of Schneizlreuth,” was a symbol of this change. She was an attractive tenor who sang songs, chanson as well as opera and operetta.

Swabian folk music is most popularly represented by acts such as Saiten Fell and Firlefanz and the songwriter (and hurdy-gurdy and guitar player) Thomas Felder.

Christmas chorales

Some Christmas carols known in English are translations of German Christmas carols . Pastoral Christmas carols are sometimes referred to as shepherds' songs. Three well-known examples are "O Tannenbaum", arranged by Ernst Anschütz; “Silent Night” by the Austrians Franz Xaver Gruber and Joseph Mohr.

Popular music from Germany

After the Second World War, German popular music was heavily influenced by music from the USA and Great Britain. Apart from Schlager and songwriters, one has to distinguish between pop music in West Germany and pop music in East Germany, which has developed in different directions. Pop music from West Germany was often heard in East Germany, had more variety and is still present today, while East German music had little influence.

In West Germany, English-language pop music became increasingly important, and today most songs on the radio are in English. Nevertheless, there is a great diversity in German-speaking pop music. There is also original English-language pop music from Germany, some with international success (e.g. the Scorpions and James Last), but little with sustained, widespread success in Germany itself. There was very little English pop music from East Germany.

Since the end of the war, there has also been a thriving English-speaking pop scene in Germany, with several European and American acts topping the charts. But Germans and German-oriented musicians were also successful. In the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century, such European pop acts were popular, as were artists such as Sarah Connor, No Angels and Monroseall, who performed various types of mainstream pop in English. Many of these acts had success throughout Europe and Asia.

Pop and folk music

Schlager is a type of vocal pop music, often in the form of sentimental ballads in German, which was popularized in the 1960s by singers such as Gitte Hænning and Rex Gildo, although not without a wide stylistic range (Modern Schlager, Schlager-Gold, Folk music or “popular hit”). Schlager/Folk music is strictly separated from international pop music and is often played on special radio stations (sometimes mixed with international oldies).

An important part of Schlager is folk music, a "feetier" interpretation of traditional German folk themes, which is very popular in German-speaking countries, especially among the older generation.

Schlager has a great variety, and the artists have many different styles, e.g. Heino, Katja Ebstein, Wolfgang Petry, Guildo Horn, Roland Kaiser, Helene Fischer and many others.

song writer

The songwriter has sophisticated lyrics and is played with minimal instrumentation, for example just the acoustic guitar. Some songs are very political. This is related to American folk/Americana and French chanson styles.

Famous West German songwriters include Reinhard Mey, Klaus Hoffmann, Hannes Wader and Konstantin Wecker. A famous East German songwriter was Wolf Biermann. Herman van Veen from the Netherlands was also very popular in Germany.


The US military broadcaster American Forces Network (AFN) had a major influence on German post-war culture, starting with AFN Munich in July 1945, which was influential in the further development of German rock and jazz culture. Bill Ramsey, a senior producer for AFN Frankfurt who came from Ohio in 1953, later became famous as a jazz and pop singer in Germany (while remaining almost unknown in the USA).

However, before the late 1960s, rock music in Germany was a negligible part of the Schlager genre, covered by performers such as Peter Kraus and Ted Herold, who played rock 'n' roll standards by Little Richard or Bill Haley, which sometimes went into the German were translated.

Real German rock first appeared around 1968, when the explosion of hippie counterculture in the US and UK was at its peak. At this time, the German musical avant-garde had already been experimenting with electronic music for more than a decade, and the first German rock bands fused psychedelic rock from abroad with electronic sounds.

Neue Deutsche Welle

The Neue Deutsche Welle (NDW) is an offshoot of British punk rock and new wave that emerged in the mid to late 1970s. It was probably the first successful, unique German form of pop music, but was limited in its stylistic devices (funny lyrics and surreal composition and production). Although it was a great success in Germany itself in the 1980s, this did not last, mainly due to over-commercialization. Some artists became internationally known, such as Nena, Trio, Falco (from Austria) and Joachim Witt

Popular musicians and groups

In the 1980s and 1990s, the majority of German-language popular music was sung by male solo artists. Very popular singers are Udo Jürgens, Udo Lindenberg, Herbert Grönemeyer, Marius Müller-Westernhagen, Peter Maffay and BAP.

Udo Jürgens has maintained a large fan base since the late 1960s and continued to sell out entire football stadiums at concerts in 2012. Grönemeyer has also managed to maintain his success to this day. Maffay has evolved from pop to rock and has a large but limited fan base - he is rarely played on the radio. BAP, who sing in Kölsch, the dialect of their hometown Cologne, are successful nationwide.