Neha Patil (Editor)

Schlager music

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Cultural origins
Post-war Germany

Schlager music

Stylistic origins
Pop rock and roll swing country folk

Typical instruments
Guitar electric guitar bass guitar drums keyboard saxophone accordion steel guitar

Schlager music ( [ˈʃlaːɡɐ], "hits") is a style of popular music which is generally a catchy instrumental accompaniment to vocal pieces of pop music with less demanding, often sentimental lyrics. It is prevalent in Central and Northern Europe, and Southeast Europe, (in particular Germany, Austria, Albania, the Netherlands, Flanders, Republic of Macedonia, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Poland, Hungary, Switzerland, Turkey, Scandinavia and the Baltic States) and also (to a lesser extent) in France. In the United States it is also known as 'entertainer music' or 'German hit mix'.


The style emerged in Europe after the Second World War, partly as a backlash against American rock and roll, and uses simple patterns of music. Typical schlager tracks are either sweet, highly sentimental ballads with a simple, catchy melody or light pop tunes. Lyrics typically center on love, relationships and feelings. The northern variant of schlager (notably in Finland) has taken elements from Nordic and Slavic folk songs, with lyrics tending towards melancholic and elegiac themes. Musically, schlager bears similarities to styles such as easy listening music.

The German word schlager (itself a calque) is also a loanword in some other languages (Hungarian, Russian, Hebrew, Romanian, for example), where it retained its meaning of a "(musical) hit". The style has been frequently represented at the Eurovision Song Contest and has been popular since it originated in 1956, although it is gradually being replaced by other pop music styles.

Over time, schlager music has gradually shifted on to electronic music rather than generic pop music, due to its widespread use of synthesizers throughout its various implementations in the recent years.

The Netherlands and Flanders

Dutch schlager is called levenslied (literally 'life song', i.e. 'song about real life'). It is a sentimental, Dutch-language subgenre of pop music. Typical levenslied lyrics treat subjects such as love, misery, and nostalgia, besides longing for sunny, exotic holiday places. A typical levenslied has catchy, simple rhythms and melodies (in common with many pop and folk tunes) and is structured in couplets and refrains. Traditional instruments in levenslied music are the accordion and the barrel organ.


The roots of Finnish schlager (Finnish: iskelmä) date back to the interwar period, when popular singers included Georg Malmstén and Matti Jurva. A particularly notable song was opera singer Ture Ara's "Emma" in 1929. Schlager tradition had (and still has) an important place in Finnish popular music, and its melodic language has also influenced Finnish rock. Schlager music shares its audience with Finnish tango music, since both are popular among older and even middle-aged Finns. A particular feature of Finnish schlager music were "translation schlagers" (Finnish: käännösiskelmä). Noteworthy Finnish schlager composers include Juha Vainio. According to the polls conducted among Finnish audiences, "Hopeinen kuu", (originally "Guarda che luna" by Walter Malgoni and Bruno Pallesi), recorded in Finnish by Olavi Virta and "Satulinna" (composed by Jukka Kuoppamäki and sung by Jari Sillanpää) are the most popular Finnish schlagers of all time.

Germany and Austria

The roots of German schlager are old: the word refers to songs by Heinz Rühmann and other movie actors/ singers of the 1930s. The antecessor of the schlager might be the operettas, which were extremely famous in the early twentieth century. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Comedian Harmonists and Rudi Schuricke laid the foundations for this new type of music. Well-known schlager singers during the 1950s and the early 1960s include Lale Andersen, Freddy Quinn, Ivo Robić, Gerhard Wendland, Caterina Valente, Margot Eskens and Conny Froboess. Schlager reached its peak in popularity in Germany and Austria during the 1960s (featuring Peter Alexander and Roy Black) and the early 1970s. From the mid-to-late 1990s into the early 2000s, however, German-language schlager saw an extensive revival in Germany by, for example, Guildo Horn, Dieter Thomas Kuhn, Michelle and Petra Perle. Even reputable dance clubs would put in a stretch of schlager titles during the course of an evening, and numerous new bands specialising in 1970s schlager cover versions and "new" material were formed. In Hamburg, schlager fans still (as of 2013) gather annually by the hundreds of thousands and dress in 1970s clothing for a street parade called "Schlager Move". Due to its popularity, the Schlager Move brand is also used for a number of smaller Schlager music parties in several major German cities throughout the year. This revival is associated with kitsch and camp.

Germans view Schlager as their country music and in fact American country and Tex-Mex music are both major elements in the Schlager culture (Is This the Way to Amarillo is regularly played in Schlager contexts, usually in the English original).

Popular Schlager singers include Michael Wendler, Roland Kaiser, Hansi Hinterseer, Jürgen Drews, Andrea Berg, Helene Fischer, Nicole, Claudia Jung, Andrea Jürgens, Michelle, Kristina Bach, Marianne Rosenberg, Simone Stelzer, Christian Lais, Semino Rossi, Vicky Leandros, Leonard, DJ Ötzi and Andreas Gabalier who was voted best 'Schlager' singer in 2012. Stylistically, schlager continues to influence German "party pop": music most often heard in après-ski bars and Majorcan mass discos. Contemporary schlager is often mingled with Volkstümliche Musik. If it is not part of an ironic kitsch revival, a taste for both styles of music is commonly associated with a lower and lower middle class habitus, typically heard in folksy pubs, at fun fairs, and bowling league venues.

The song "Moskau" by Dschinghis Khan was widely recognized as one of the earliest form of modern, dance-based schlager.


In Sweden, schlager has waxed and waned in popularity since at least the 1930s. It still enjoys a large place in Swedish culture, although it is considered to be too "popular and commercial" by many people. Although the original schlager was heavily influenced by operettas, cabaret- and variety-style music and jazz, this started to change during the 1960s and 1970s when schlager music became more pop-oriented. Since the early 1990s, schlager songs began to include elements of rock and techno. Therefore, modern schlager music little resembles that of the 1940s. Despite this, many old schlager tunes are still popular; they are performed by many artists and at the Allsång på Skansen.

The Melodifestival (which selects the Swedish competitor at the Eurovision Song Contest) is popularly also called Schlagerfestivalen ("the Schlager Festival") or Schlager-SM (Swedish schlager championship), since it has traditionally been characterised by schlager songs. The Eurovision Song Contest has also been called "Eurovisionsschlagerfestivalen" (Eurovision schlager festival) or schlager-EM ("European schlager championship"). The amount of schlager has decreased drastically in recent years, but schlager songs are the most likely genre to win the competition ("Evighet" (English: "Invincible" in 2006 by Carola and "Hero" by Charlotte Perrelli in 2008, for example). Melodifestivalen is the most popular TV program in Sweden. It is broadcast annually, and in 2006 an estimated 47 percent of the Swedish population watched the final. In Sweden "schlager" is often used to refer to Eurovision-participating songs.

Two characteristics of Swedish schlager are a pronounced key change before the final chorus and their three-minute length (the maximum song length permitted at the Eurovision Song Contest). Some Swedes dispute the meaning of "schlager" with respect to Swedish music; it may be used indiscriminately to describe all popular music, "older-sounding" popular music, Melodifestivalen songs, Eurovision songs, songs with a "catchy" chorus or dansband music. Both Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson of ABBA were influenced by schlager music early in their careers.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, schlager is often categorized simply as pop, however schlager music has long been popular in Britain, especially between the 1950s and 1980s, with singers such as Tony Christie, who enjoyed huge success among schlager audiences in both Germany and Britain, Engelbert Humperdinck, most notably with schlager hit "Release Me", and Petula Clark, who gained her first #1 in the British hitparade with "Sailor", the English schlager version of "Seemann (Deine Heimat ist das Meer)", originally performed by Austrian singer Lolita. Artists from other countries have also had schlager hits in the UK, Both American singers Al Martino and Roy Orbison entered the British charts twice with schlager hits "Blue Spanish Eyes" and "Only the lonely". Singer Billy Fury reached greater success in Britain with "Halfway to Paradise" than the US, reaching number 3 in the hitparade. From the Netherlands, Dutch band Pussycat reached number 1 with the song "Mississippi". German and Austrian singers have also had hits in the UK, such as German singer Nicole reached the charts with "A little peace" peaking at number 1. The song won Germany the Eurovision Song Contest in 1982. The UK has itself entered many schlager artists into the Eurovision Song Contest, for example music group Brotherhood of Man won for Britain in 1976 with "Save Your Kisses for Me".

German schlager, although mainly sung in German including volksmusik and its modern version volkstümliche Musik, has attracted a small fan base in the United Kingdom, including BBC Radio Manchester commentator, Ian Cheeseman. Germany's current top selling schlager singer Helene Fischer released the album "The English Ones" in 2010 with several versions of her German language hits in English for her English speaking fans of schlager music. British schlager singers including Ross Antony, Tony Christie and Roger Whittaker have appeared on shows such as Musikantenstadl and ZDF Fernsehgarten.

Former Yugoslavia

The first schlager music in the former Yugoslavia began to appear in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The first (and most influential) festival of schlager music was the Zagreb Festival of Popular Music (later known as Zagrebfest), which began in 1953 and still takes place annually in Zagreb. Many schlagers (Croatian: šlager, uspješnica) performed at Zagrebfest over the past five decades are an integral part of the Croatian and Yugoslav pop-music scene. The first schlager singers were Ivo Robić and Rajka Vali, but over time Zagreb school of schlagers came to include such singers as Arsen Dedić, Hrvoje Hegedušić, Ivica Percl, Gabi Novak, Frano Lasić, Jasna Zlokić, Zdravko Čolić, and many others. Main composers of schlagers included Fedor Kopsa, Krešimir Oblak, Ferdo Pomykalo, Miljenko Prohaska, Nikica Kalogjera, Bojan Hohnjec, Vanja Lisak, Zvonko Špišić, Ivica Stamać and Hrvoje Hegedušić. Some Zagrebfest artists (such as Ivo Robić and Tereza Kesovija) would later have successful careers in Germany and France. Other pioneers of schlagers include Darko Kraljić (from Zagreb), who worked in Belgrade. He is best known by his hit "Čamac na Tisi" (sung by Lola Novaković and popular in revolutionary Hungary) and his music for the film Ljubav i moda ("Devojko mala" and "Pod sjajem zvezda", performed by Vokalni kvartet Predraga Ivanovića).


Schlager became popular in the 1950s Turkey. The first, most popular artist to publish schlager in Turkey was Ajda Pekkan. She published a lot of Schlager music, before shifting her genre to schlager-disco pop. Furthermore her stage name "Diva" is caused by Schlager. There are many singers in this genre today, such as Tarkan (singer), Burcu Güneş, Petek Dinçöz, Aylin Vatankoş, Nilüfer Yumlu, Erol Evgin, Funda Arar and Hülya Avşar.


Schlager music Wikipedia

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