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Culture

Forget Yoga, Try Yodeling

Switzerland may not be especially famous for producing world class composers or rock bands, but that doesn't mean the Swiss don't love music. One ancient music style is currently taking Zurich by storm.

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Sing ommm, err, yodl-ay-ee-hoo

Zurich's conservatory of music has got an unexpected hit on its hands: Classes in yodeling are booked solid for months to come. What began centuries ago as a way of communicating across Alpine valleys has become the new must-have experience for Zurich's professional classes and is now bringing some peace and harmony to Switzerland's biggest city.

Yodeling teacher Nadja Räss has been overwhelmed by her success.

"It's really nice for me, all my courses are full, people are just so happy to yodel," she said. "For me, that's a great honor, because yodeling is my great love."

Der japanische Jodler Takeo Ischi

Japanese-born Takeo Ischi (left) is a world-famous yodeling artist

Räss, who is only 26, comes from an Alpine community and has been yodeling since she was a child. Her Zurich students are coming to it later though -- and they've had to fight the idea, strong in urban Switzerland, that yodeling is at best old-fashioned, at worst ridiculous.

Some raised eyebrows

Graphic designer Klaudia Meisterhans said she gets some raised eyebrows when she tells her friends about her hobby.

"At first they are astonished, but when I tell them about it they get very interested," she said. "I think it's a pity that there are so many nice songs that people don't know. Most people think yodeling is this commercial kind of music but there is much more."

ARD: Das Weihnachtsfest der Volksmusik

Not all yodeling fans have to dress like German yodeling mother-daughter duo Maria and Margot Hellwig

To yodel properly, the right breathing is essential. Räss insists on breathing exercises at the start of every lesson. This may be one of the main reasons why stressed-out Zurich professionals are attracted to the course.

The feel-good factor

Economist Joseph Birchmeier said the yodeling simply makes him feel good.

"Very relaxed, all the stress is gone, it's a new life, a kind of new energy," he said, adding that he's even taken to yodeling in the car on his way to work.

"If I sing in the morning on the way to work I'm in a much better mood," he said. "That's good for me and for my colleagues."

Ein Wanderer mit GPS in den Alpen

Mobile phones may have replaced yodeling as a means of communication in the Alps, but the traditional music is still far more relaxing

The nature of the songs is also part of the attraction. The lyrics are about the mountains, about being at one with nature, and about not worrying too much about tomorrow. Psychologist Linde Brassel has spent all her life in the city, but still, the Alps -- and yodeling -- are part of her, she said.

"Well, I'm Swiss," Brassel said. "It's just a way to feel at home in my body and to feel joy."


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