Three Theories of Bavarian Folk Music

Hypothesis #1:  Metamphetamines

I’m being held up at hornpoint.

The bandits look heavily armed.  One packs a small tuba, which in street-jive, is known as a euphonium.   Another points a valve trombone at my heart; if the weapon had a slide, I’d be a goner.  This gang is tough.

They ambushed us in a Wirtshaus, and they want our money.  They even changed the words to the old song, to better reflect their avarice; Grüs euch Gott, liebe Kunde.  We’re trapped.

It was at that moment the truth dawned.  The vacant expression.  The over-ripe smiles.  The repetitive movement of fingers and tapping of toes.  The endless licking of lips.  Bavarian folk musicians go around tweaked out on metamphetamines.

That would explain why they needed to extort money from innocent diners.  Addiction leads to crime.  Traditional Bavarian music is an expensive habit.  Have you seen how much lederhosen cost?   Or valve oil?  Or the dentistry to support an ombrochure?

There are many government sponsored programmes to help these poor folk-addicts—about one third of the Bayerische Rundfunk, for example—but most struggle with their addiction in grass-roots support groups like folk clubs, country weddings and talk shows.

I blame the Beer Purity Laws for this sad state of affairs.  Beer has stayed the same in Bavaria for four centuries.  Our bodies got used to it.  It no longer gets us high.   It doesn’t even space us out enough to crack a smile, the primary function of beer in Germany.  No wonder these chaps resorted to E.

I gave them a Euro, a currency which (at the time of writing) still holds enough value to purchase pricey imported goods like Eastern European drugs.  Someone in the back of the room gave a high-pitched scream that sounded like the beginning of a yodel, and ended it at an interval approximately four notes higher.  The pangs of withdrawal, I guess.

Hypothesis #2:   Bavaria has been colonized by North Korea

My husband and I tuned into the Bayerische Rundfunk, waiting for the next in-depth interview with a mover-and-shaker of the Bavarian intelligentsia on weighty matters of politics, the arts, or modern society, because our neighbor had stolen our copy of the Suddeutsche Zeitung to clean up after his dog.   We caught the end of a folk-music show.  You know, the kind that takes place in a fake Wirtshaus, the camera angles low enough not to reveal that it’s a set, and a Moderatorin in a Dirndl, with pink-lipstick and a spray-on tan.

We had just seen a musician smile.  The smile lasted a long time, through an entire song and well into the next.  It was ghastly.  A rehearsed smile.  A forced smile.  No, more than that.  The kind of smile you wear when you are truly terrified.

My husband, who is Japanese, made a telling observation.  “This reminds me of North Korean TV,” he said.  Form time to time, one can catch terrestrial TV from North Korea in Japan, and civilized humans gape in disbelief.

Horrified YouTubers the world over watch aghast as North Korean artists perform hokey music with utter technical perfection and absolutely no soul.  Like Bavarians, they seem rather fond of  the pianoaccordion.

The most popular folk-song in the DPRK is a jaunty little ditty called Potato Pride, an ode to all the many blessings the potato brings us. The lyrics, translated by my old pal Mr. Rob Pongi, run something like:

Ho Ho Ho, Potato Pride!
When the oldest villager received the potatoes
He prepared a birthday feast and invited all the villagers
From the delicious potatoes he made noodles
And delicious potato pancakes
Potato Pride!  He has so many!
Greatest Potatoes! No others can compare.
Ho Ho Ho, Potato Pride!

The parallels to Bavaria are a little too close for comfort—dammit if I didn’t hear the same thoughts put to music somewhere in the Berchtesgadenerland.  Or perhaps on Bayern Eins.

One senses an eerie familiarity with North Korean entertainers when one watches Hansi Hinterseer.  He’s an Austrian, I know, but a real Bavarian embraces the Oberösterreicher like a brother, does he not?

Hypothesis #3: Zombies.

“There were four boys in our family,” remarked a colleague in conversation, “and my parents desperately wanted us to join a traditional Blaskappelle and learn the trumpet.  But we had no interest.”

“Why,” I asked?

“You listen to the music, and it almost never changes.  It just seems…well, dead.”

That would explain a lot.  The average Bavarian folk-musician does play like a zombie.  Certainly, the blank face, pasty-faced skin and unchanging expression reeks of the undead.

For me, it was a toss-up between zombies and robots.  But robots are kind and friendly and help human beings.  Robots know how to throw switches so their electronic keyboards make a variety of sounds, and further, they have mastered the volume control.  And they sing better.  I was forced to conclude that Bavarian folk-music is made not by robots, but by zombies.  Listening to folk music eats your brain.

Look at a folk-ensemble, and see the embalmer’s art at work.  Have you noticed that Stefan Mross’ hair never moves?   (By the way, have you noticed that Joachim Herrmann never blinks, either?  But we can explore the subject of the Bavarian Parliament being zombies some other time.)

How do we deal with the menace of Bayerische Volksmusik?   Our choices are clear.   Rehab, political insurrection, or chainsaws.  Citizens of Bavaria, the choice is ours.

The English lyrics to The Potato Song are copyrighted to Rob Pongi and Tokyo Joe, and used with permission.   I believe that the reproduction of all content here conforms with US and EU rules on fair use in quotation and criticism.  Rights reserved to originators.

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