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Volkstümliche Musik (German for "folksy/traditional/popular music") is a modern popular derivation of the traditional Volksmusik genre of German-speaking regions. Though it is often marketed as Volksmusik, it differs from traditional folk music in that it is commercially performed by celebrity singers and concentrates on newly created sentimental and cheerful feel-good compositions. Volkstümliche Musik is sometimes instrumental, but usually presented by one or especially two singers and is most popular amongst an adult audience in (Germany), Austria, Switzerland, and also in South Tyrol (Italy), Alsace (France), Netherlands, Flanders (Belgium), Slovenia, Silesia (Poland) and northern Croatia.
Closely related to the German schlager genre, many titles stress a Heimat affect, being presented in regional dialects (e.g. Bavarian, Upper Saxon, Low German or Rhinelandic) or colloquial language and invoke local and regional lifestyles and traditions, particularly dances. Brass and Alpine musical instruments, such as Alphorns, Zithers, acoustic guitars, violas, and harmonicas are frequently featured, although most commercial productions nowadays employ drum machines and synthesizers. Yodeling is also common.
From the early 1960s onwards, Volkstümliche Musik was conceived for commercial reasons as a counterweight to youth-oriented rock and pop music. The adjective volkstümlich refers to the borrowing of German folklore elements, connecting them to virtually all kinds of light dance and popular music of the 19th and early 20th centuries, from waltz to swing music. The large popularity of this music genre led to the development of volkstümliche record charts and various radio and television broadcasts with popular presenters like Carolin Reiber or Maria Hellwig.
Volkstümliche Musik was influenced by Flower Power songs as well as by popular classical pieces during the 1970s and has been increasingly mingled with schlager music, promoted by successful singers like Heino serving as a model for performers like Die Flippers, Andy Borg or Kristina Bach. Its diffusion was further boosted by comprehensive TV broadcasting with some of the most popular programmes including Musikantenstadl (since 1981), Grand Prix der Volksmusik (1986–2010) and Lustige Musikanten with Marianne & Michael. Beside Volkstümliche Musik, these telecasts also feature big bands, country and even samba music.
Modelled on immensely popular Musikantenstadl, since the early 1990s Volkstümliche Musik features strongly in numerous peak-time television broadcasts on German, Austrian and Swiss public TV networks including ARD, ZDF, ORF and Schweizer Fernsehen as well as several regional TV networks and local radio stations. Commercial broadcasters nowadays tend to stay clear of it because it is not very popular with the commercially desirable younger target groups up to 49 years of age, however, there are several cable and satellite television stations focusing on the genre.
Not unlike schlager, Volkstümliche Musik is often belittled by younger or more sophisticated audiences as a massively commercialized product created for the lower strata of society, conveying idyllic, reactionary, irrational ideas. Those holding these views sometimes sarcastically deride the expression "volkstümliche Musik" (folksy/folk-like music) by replacing the "-tümlich"(-like)-suffix by "-dümmlich", meaning roughly "featherbrained", turning it into "folk-featherbrained Music", e.g. dim-witted, daft or dopey. Sociological surveys confirm a predominant conservative attitude among the target population, who often feel that Volkstümliche Musik performances provide a means of stress alleviation and escapism. In this perception, Volkstümliche Musik differs somewhat from its ancestor, the traditional folk (Volksmusik), which continues to be performed by many local groups and orchestras in different areas.
The Volkstümliche Musik market is the largest section of the music business in German-speaking areas. Due to the advanced age of the main target group, copyright infringement has not been prevalent so far.
Though the term is mainly unknown in the United Kingdom, volkstümliche Musik has attracted a fanbase there including BBC Radio Manchester commentator, Ian Cheeseman. A number of British singers have also been attracted to this style of music, even featuring on Musikantenstadl, such as Ross Antony, Tony Christie and Roger Whittaker.
- "Manchester – BBC Radio Manchester – Abba and Austria". BBC. 24 October 2008. Retrieved 28 November 2012.
- Radio Heimatmelodie – a radio format specialized on German Volksmusik and "volkstümlicher Schlager"
- Radio VHR – one major source of German Volksmusik and Schlager (online-stream)
- Radio Herz: Radio station from Toronto playing Volksmusik 24 hours a day via the internet
- Schlager/Volksmusik – various online-streams
- Volksmusik.TV: Schlager, volkstuemliche,- and Volksmusik available via Cable, Satellite and IPTV