Volksmusik (German: literally, “people’s music” or as a Germanic connotative translation, “folk’s music”) is the common umbrella designation of a number of related styles of traditional folk music from the Alpine regions of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia and South Tyrol (Italy).
It tends to be dialect-heavy and invokes local and regional lifestyles and traditions, particularly those of the Alpine farmers and peasants.
Originally transmitted by oral tradition, the oldest historical records like the Appenzell Kuhreihen by Georg Rhau (1488–1548) date back to the 16th century. Volksmusik is characterized by improvisation and variation, uncomplicated major key melodies and simple harmonies. Typical instruments range from alpenhorns to hackbretts, zithers and acoustic guitars, and even violas and harmonicas. Harmonized singing is frequent, but other pieces may require yodeling, while instrumental arrangements are particularly frequent for fast dances or brass pieces.
Volksmusik continues to be performed by many local ensembles and bands throughout the European Alps and should not be confused with Volkstümliche Musik, which is largely to be found in broadcasting media and on ancillary merchandise. Since the 1970s, artists of a Neue Volksmusik genre, such as Werner Pirchner or Biermösl Blosn, attempt to combine traditional styles with jazz, folk, hip hop, rock et al. as a kind of world music. Popular proponents include Hubert von Goisern, Attwenger and Christine Lauterburg.