swissHip Hop Scene: Like most countries abroad Hip Hop was first introduced in Switzerland in the early eighties through break dancing. Initially there were only a sparse amount of breakers. However, that changed when the movies Wild Style, Style Wars and Beat Street introduced all of the elements of hip hop culture to the Swiss. Between 1985 and 1989 the first wave of influenced Wild Style and Beat Street influenced artists kept a small hip hop scene alive. B-Boying and graffiti writing continued to grow and have been big since their inception. Crews such as Spartanic Rockers and Crazy Force Crew have remained active for over 20 years.

The first official LPs were released around 1989. In the early days, although most Swiss speak German, French, or Italian, everyone rhymed in English. Later on, around 1988, French speaking MCs were the first to switch to their mother tongue with German speaking artists following soon after in 1992 after the release of the bilingual track “Murder by Dialect” by P27 featuring Black Tiger. Rappers from the French-speaking part (where the traditional dialects died out in most parts) and the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland (where most people mix dialects and Standard Italian freely) generally only rap in the standard languages.

Some of the musical pioneers of the Swiss hip hop scene include Sensunik, X-Tra Bass System and Duty Free for the French speaking part of the country; Black Tiger and EKR from the German speaking part; and Liricas Analas, whose debut album, “Analogia”, is also ground breaking as it is the first rap album recorded in the lesser spoken Romansh language.

Today, the scene is still growing. The various elements of the culture have been separated a bit, but the bombing scene and the b-boy scene are alive and healthy. As in other parts of the world the music business has suffered due to illegal downloading and copying of music. However, there are still plenty of artists that can still sell somewhere between 5,000 to 7,000 units each year. Some, such as Sektion Kuchikäschtli (German speaking) and Stress (French speaking) have also managed to straight go gold (20’000 and more units sold) within the last two years.

Sources: Shout out to Pat the Zulufunk King from Zulufunk for hooking me up with the info and tracks.

Officially born in 1848, the Swiss Federation is made up of 26 cantons or states. It is famed for its secretive banking system, the creation of the international Red Cross, and of course its neutrality. Switzerland sits at the crossroads of several major European countries, Germany, Italy, and France, which have heavily influenced the country’s languages and culture. The country has 3 official languages (German, French and Italian) and learning at least one of the other national languages is required. Therefore, almost every citizen is at least bilingual. The official languages are actually groups of dialects derived from the origin language and tailored to the Swiss. For example, although German is the primary language, the various German dialects spoken in Switzerland (German Swiss) are barely understood by Germans.

Traditionally isolationists, the Swiss were able to avoid conflict and occupation during both World Wars. Switzerland did however play some role in WWII as the country laundered money for Germans and shut its borders to Jewish refugees who escaped Nazi-occupied Europe. Afraid of compromising its neutrality, Switzerland initially declined to become a member of the United Nations (it gained full status in 2002) and NATO but it did, however, join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and applied to join the European Union (EU) in 1992. Although that application is currently on hold after citizens launched a referendum, small steps towards integration have been taken to assimilate the Swiss to the rules of the EU.

Economically, Switzerland is a prosperous, and stable modern market economy with low unemployment, a highly skilled labor force. While the rest of Europe underwent the painful process of repairing the ravages of war, Switzerland was able to expand from an already powerful commercial, financial and industrial base. Unemployment was virtually eliminated, Zürich developed as an international banking and insurance centre, and many international bodies, such as the World Health Organization, based their headquarters in Geneva. Switzerland’s economy is based on a highly qualified labor force performing highly skilled work. The main areas include micro technology, hi-tech, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, as well as banking and insurance know-how. However, the age of unlimited economic growth in Switzerland is over. Fear of unemployment has been one of the main concerns of the Swiss for several years now. Even with the slight increases, unemployment has remained at less than half the EU average.

Sources: Wikipedia.com, CIA.gov, Swissworld.org, MySwitzerland.com, Frommers, Fodors, and Lonely Planet.

Date: December 21, 2007