His songs have lost none of their relevance

Mani Matter, undated photograph, probably 1972.Image: KEYSTONE

In 1972, Mani Matter died in a car accident. He was only 36 years old. The Bern troubadour has had a lasting influence on Swiss music to this day.

Michael Graber / ch media

A minor, E major, D minor. A classroom in one of those suburbs where the concrete gray is a little grayer is waiting for me to set the tone. 1, 2, “S’sy two friends in a sports plane…” Everyone sings. The plane rattles and rattles, falls, trying to get the chords on the guitar right. A minor, E major, D minor. “Sophisticated song selection” the mentor later notes in the evaluation. Matter always works.

This was already true in my teacher training shortly after the turn of the millennium, and it is still true. It didn’t matter either that half of the 4th grade of the primary school had a migrant background and many of them rattled off the dialect like an airplane in “Alpeflug”. Everyone understood what Mani Matter was singing. It’s cleverly simple. This applies to lyrics as well as music. A minor, E major, D minor are not rocket science and can be played even with sweaty hands. But anyone who makes music or writes lyrics knows: Hardly anything is as difficult as when things look simple.

They also sing Mani Matter in the football stadium

Mani Matter, born Hans Peter Matter in 1936, once said that the first thing he does after finishing writing one of his songs is “doubt it”. You can’t hear anything about all those doubts, arguments and brooding in his lyrics. He was a “Liedlimacher”, a “Värsli-smith”. With all the necessary strength, the blacksmith also needs the necessary precision. The precision of the work separates the wheat from the chaff. A lawyer by profession, Matter spent hours honing his words. He goes out. compacted. Almost nothing is too much. “Almost all the tunes are notated in C major or A minor, as this results in the simplest guitar fingerings,” writes “MM” in the instructions in the songbook “Us emene lääre Gygechaschte”. Rhymes, puns and punch lines were most virtuosic – but always in clear and simple language. That’s what makes his songs so timeless.

Since 1972, 43 federal councilors have been or are in office. Since then, about 4 million children have been born in Switzerland. And unless they live in western or southern Switzerland, they should all have come into contact with Matter. “Match” as a lullaby, “Dr Ferdinand isch gstorbe” in Scout and – simply – “Dr Alpeflug”, intoned by a sweaty trainee teacher.

And if not there, then maybe later at the football stadium. Several fan curves in Switzerland now have Matter in their repertoire – it’s interesting that FCZ fans came up with this idea before those of YB.

The family guards the inheritance with a strict eye

Besides, 50 years after his death, Mani Matter still exists. Apart from Stephan Eicher’s “Hemmige” and the important “Matter Rock”, only a few covers are available. The Matter family closely follows the troubadour’s musical and lyrical legacy. Too strict for some. There is something very conservative, to say the least, about the way Mani Matter’s music is handled. Maybe something like a museum. When the song Matter is played, it always smells and sounds a bit like vinyl records and smoky little theaters.

His songs have only been available on streaming services for about two years. Previously, searching for “matchstick” on Spotify was futile. Romantics suspect a dismissive attitude towards these soulless musical water heaters, while pragmatists, on the other hand, point to monetary reasons – sold CDs come in significantly more than clicks on the Internet. (Almost) nobody knows for sure. And so what Matter already sang: “Dr Dings verzellt / Dr Dings heig ist gseit”.

He converts anarchists and sings for redistribution

With his Bernese-German potential, Mani Matter tells stories in his songs. Sometimes there are puns (eg in “Dr Sidi Abdel Assar in El Hama”), philosophical musings about cooking (“Consider nes Sändwitsch”), but sometimes they can also be read as downright political. “They were better, they were better/They were better, they weren’t so good/What didn’t work, it was good without/It was less good” is at least a small call to redistribute.

And when the protagonist of the song in “Dynamite” verbally prevents an anarchist from blowing up the Bundeshaus, but then begins to think about Switzerland itself, at least a little of the singer’s attitude comes through.

Matter can make lasting music out of it. It has no very explicit references to current historical events and no direct allusions to real people. All this makes Matter still singable 50 years after his death, without the need to add footnotes to the lyrics to explain the time. Matter remains always up-to-date in its timelessness.

And if you ask contemporary musicians who sing in dialect today (see gallery), it’s clear what a formative influence Matter had on musical socialization.

Interestingly, for many, this connection did not come through Mani Matter itself, but through interpretations. Eicher’s “Hemmige” (1991) and the aforementioned “Matter Rock” with Züri West, Polo Hofer, Patent Ochsner and many others appeared in 1992 and connected a new generation to chanson. In 2016, a new compilation (“Und so blybt no sys song”) was released with the blessing of the heirs. This time Lo & Leduc, Jeans for Jesus and Steff La Cheffe tried to interpret Matter – often brilliantly (cue Evelinn Trouble with «Alls wo mir id Finger chunt»).

The songs are timeless – because they are free of the zeitgeist

FOR SONGMIER MANI MATTER'S 80TH BIRTHDAY (04/08/2016) WE ARE AVAILABLE TO YOU ON THURSDAY 28/07/2016 THE FOLLOWING ARCHIVE PHOTO.  - Composed by Mani Matter, recorded on...

Guitar and voice: Mani Matter didn’t need more for his art.Image: LUKAS LEHMANN

“Matter Rock” and “And so blybt no sys song” are the gateway drug to the Matter universe for anyone who somehow got through the Pathfinder songbooks. Instead of a scratchy guitar, a catchy band sound or sparkling beats – Matter in cool. However, the following forecast is audacious at this point: while A minor, E major, D minor will still work in 50 years, all “contemporary” interpretations will gather dust in the next five decades. The more spirit there is in the songs, the more difficult it is for them to become timeless.

It would be exciting to see what Mani Matter would write today. Whether he would adapt the “match” to the current world situation. Or if, far more likely, he simply sang his little songs and let the audience interpret them. Hans Peter Matter died in a car accident on November 24, 1972 on his way to a concert in Rapperswil. (aargauerzeitung.ch)

These personalities left us already in 2022

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These personalities left us already in 2022

these: imago

Pato Hemmige

Video: Watson

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