German Musicians Sing me a song in German
It is sometimes rumoured that German does not sound nice, is not melodious – a harsh succession of sounds reminiscent of bronchitis. Yet this does not appear to be the case in music, the multi-lingual language.
Whether Nena flicked her mane back during the New German Wave or whether Helene Fischer filled stadiums. Whether Die Ärzte scream for love or whether Hannes Wader is ready to strum his guitar: music made in Germany can no longer be wished away from the soundtrack of our lives. Pop, rock, hip hop or hits, German music can be found across genres and niches.
A new movement is currently under way in German music. Young musicians whose first experiences were often gathered as street musicians are taking over the country’s stages. Frequently equipped with a guitar, sometimes alone, sometimes supported by a band, but always with German words in their luggage. The old-fashioned term of ‘songwriter’ comes briefly to mind – it sounds so appropriately rustic and handcrafted. As does the language in German songs.
Yet this description is not always apt and hence we must settle for the following: There they are, musicians who sing in German, a language that can sound so harsh but can also be as soft as velvet in their songs. Listed below is only a small selection of the artists whom we will encounter. It is certainly subjective, yet not only will those who are learning German but also those who can already quote Goethe discover the one or other musical gem.
AnnenMayKantereitUntil a few years ago, the pavement was the stage for this young band from Cologne which has recently been showered with success. Christopher Annen, Henning May and Severin Kantereit fuse their surnames together to create a band name, set themselves up in the pedestrian area and start to play. In 2014, Malte Huck joins as bassist. What lingers, more than anything else, is the distinctive voice of Henning May, which sounds like whisky, cigarettes and a Bukowski poem. Pushing its way between the lines, the harmonica or the accordion sounds unusually rebellious. The texts shift between the smoke-filled world of shared kitchens and bar counters where one reflects on life and love.
Today, it is not only the passer-by who listens to the 20-somethings: their album Alles Nix Konkretes is out on 18 March and most of their tour dates for 2016 are already sold out.
Spaceman SpiffSpaceman Spiff is actually a figure from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips. He is Calvin’s alter ego. An adventurous astronaut who fights against the aliens in daily life. That Hannes Wittmer chose this as his stage name seems appropriate. His texts revolve around the perils of life, the emotional pitfalls that imperceptibly weave themselves around you. The texts of the songs, usually melancholic and lyrical, grab feelings by the collar and leave them hanging for a while. This accursed growing up, when decisions must be taken on the where, the how, the what and, above all, the whom to meet. Whether one needs an alter ago to be able to cope with the stories of life is left to the individual to decide. Spaceman Spiff’s songs are already a help. Hannes Wittmer has, however, announced that Spacemann Spiff is withdrawing for a while. Perhaps to hone a new alter ego and to develop new texts which one is happy to put under the pillow of a friend in need.
Gisbert zu KnyphausenThere you go now bungling through life, and wandering and seeing if you can scrounge around for knowledge. A feeling that also resonates in the music of Gisbert zu Knyphausen. He rolls a cigarette and thinks about the pitfalls of life in melancholy songs. Both his albums talk about seeking and finding things for which one cannot find accurate names. Sometimes the lines groan with Weltschmerz, only to be catapulted into lightness in other songs. Melancholie, Fick dich ins Knie (melancholy, fuck you in the knee) shouts Gisbert zu Knyphausen to his faithful, invisible companion (while celebrating it at the same time).
A collaborative project with Nils Koppruch (a musician who died suddenly) with the name of Kid Kopphausen combines the voices and linguistic talents of the two musicians on the album called I. These days, Gisbert zu Knyphausen is seldom seen on stage. Once a year, however, he invites his musical companions and friends of cultivated melancholy to his father’s vineyards for the Heimspiel Knyphausen, an open-air music festival. Picnic rugs are spread out under the summer sun and wine glasses raised defiantly: Melancholie, Fick dich ins Knie.