The yodel maligned and derisively dismissed as gimmick and slapstick no more. From its spiritual homes in Africa the Alps and the US, the yodel’s influence can be found almost everywhere – from Hawaii to Cameroon to NYC – and in every genre of music – from techno to Bollywood, from opera to hiphop. The Rough Guide To Yodel explodes the clichés and invites you to open your ears to its joys. As compiler and proud champion of the underdog, Bart Plantenga, states in his sleevenotes for the album, ‘Everything you’ve heard about yodelling is wrong.’
Demonstrated most clearly by this Rough Guide is just what a worldwide phenomenon yodelling is. The distinctive break between bass and falsetto that forms the yodel has provided a way of communicating over large distances, perhaps for as long as 10,000 years appearing independently in Switzerland, Africa, Russia, Mongolia and the far East before later spreading to the New World via West African Slaves and German Settlers. In other words, pretty much everywhere except perhaps Antarctica.
From the liner notes: After 20 years as a freeform radio DJ, I realize DJs have few kicks: 1) the segue — that magical convergence of strange musics at first intercourse; and 2) obscurity which involves discarded gems, neglected musicians, or disparaged musics.
Yodeling supplies the above in abundance. The segue occurs when yodels are discovered in genres not commonly associated with yodeling [i.e., jazz, rap, techno…] — producing instants of delirious anomaly. Obscurity is inherent to yodeling, having been systematically trivialized for centuries by the bourgeois guardians of good taste…. Yodeling is textless vocalizing and is most distinguishable from other vocalizations by its emphasis on the noise or break that occurs as the voice passes from bass or chest voice to head voice or falsetto — and vic versa. This gives it its distinct voiceprint, which, coincidentally (and perhaps mystically), mirrors mountainous topography. Naturjodels uses consonants as a ‘lever’ to make the leap from low to high, while singing on syllables gives yodeling its unique aural penetrating ability. Simply put: no accented break between two notes, no yodel….
I hope this collection will go some way toward exploding any remaining yodeling clichés that my book, Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo, left standing: That it’s just a Swiss thing; not true. Yodeling exists in Austria and Germany but also France (Edgar Detrait), the UK (Frank Ifield), the Lowlands (Olga Lowina, Bobbejaan Schoepen), Spain, Italy (Tusacany’s Gardellini del Fontanino), Western Africa, South Africa, Iran, India, Vietnam (the Hmong), Russia (Lioudmilla Khandi), Japan (Takeo Ischi) Korea, Solomon Islands, New Zealand (Topp Twins), Australia, Hawaii, South and North America. Basically, everywhere but Antarctica….
Then there’s the issue of yodeling as not vital, hip, or cool. Jazz vocalist Leon Thomas and the heppest cat, Slim Gaillard, both yodeled as well as two of the coolest acts in funk — Parliament and Sly and the Family Stone, not to mention hiphop acts the Fugees and De La Soul. It can also be found in prog-rock (Focus), American folk (Pete Seeger), opera (Rossini), classical (Beethoven), new classical (Toby Twining), avant-garde (Lynne Book, Area), trip-hop (Little Axe), illbient (We), hick-hop (Kid Rock), dub (Dub Syndicate), reggae (Leroy Gibbs), dancehall reggae (Barrington Levy), pop (Vogues), vocal pop (Bing Crosby & the Andrews Sisters), Hawaiian (Kalama’s Quartet), political satire (Fugs), blues (Tommy Johnson), Cajun (Guidry Brothers), world (Zap Mama), metal (Edelschwarz), techno (DJ Scram), post-punk (Rocket/Freudental), African (S.E. Rogie), Bollywood (Kishore Kumar), gospel (Princess Ramona), doo wop (Mystics), lullabies (Lefty Frizell), novelty (Weird Al Yankovic), rockabilly (Jerry Lee Lewis), soundtrack (Raising Arizona) minimal, electronica, house, ambient, ad libitum.
Track listing 1. CATHY FINK: Yodeling Lesson from the album Grandma Slid Down the Mountain 1:18 This Washington-based folk singer and Grammy-Award winning writer-performer of children’s songs balances enjoyment with edification at the precipice of where low note leaps across the epiglottal divide into the high.
2. JANET MCBRIDE: A Yodeling Addiction from the CD 50 Years of Yodeling 2:29 McBride is Patsy Montana’s main disciple and one of the great living yodel advocates. In her 70s, she’s still out there in Texas teaching old and young alike the art of yodeling.
3.SHELLEY HIRSCH & DAVID WEINSTEIN: Haiku Lingo [exc.] from the album Haiku Lingo 2:28 Avant garde vocalist Hirsch learned to yodel as a child by imitating old Swiss folk LPs in the hallways of her East New York tenement flat.
4. CHRISTINE LAUTERBURG: Erika’s Alptraum from the CD Tanz Tanz! 2:36 This Swiss Miss enfant terrible (she once appeared at a traditional jodlerfest cross-dressed in a man’s traditional velvet jacket) managed to simultaneously endear pop fans and piss off traditionalists.
5. JODEL DUO RÖSY & PAUL HIRSCHI: 's Schäferlied from the album Ur-Musig vol. 1 4:32 Paul was the real stuff: farmer, herder, hunter — and yodeler. His widow Rösy still lives in Marbach in canton Luzerne.
6. ALPEN DUB vs DUBTRONIK: Jaga Ode Mix01 This deliriously earnest (and exclusive) mix fuses dub and yodeling. It illustrates the surprisingly compatible links between natural mountain echo yodels and dub’s massive application of electronic delays.
7. HO'OPI'I BROTHERS: Hawaiian Cowboy from the CD Na Mele Henoheno 3:01 They combined traditional island chants, Christian hymns and paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) songs and perfected their unique leo ke'eki'e falsetto style. Solomon handled the yodeling or ha'I, which lends Hawaiian music its unique ‘feel the aloha’ sound.
8. TRIO LOS CAMPEROS DE VALLES: La Rosa from the compilation La Huasteca Danses Et Huapangos 3:16 The trio is from Mexico’s rural Huasteca region along the northeast coast of the Gulf of Mexico. They have been Mexico’s most renowned son huasteco export since 1974.
9. KISHORE KUMAR: Main Hoon Jhumroo from the film Jhumroo 3:08 Kumar’s sublime levity obscured the depth of this Bollywood actor, writer, director, composer, producer. He’s best remembered as one of the big playback singers whose trademark yodeling assured him an honorable place in yodeling’s pantheon.
10. SAINKHO NAMTCHYLAK: Inuit Wedding from the CD Naked Spirit 3:56 Sainkho’s exotic look frames a rich genre-exploding tapestry of evanescent extended vocals, Mongolian overtone singing, Buddhist songs, yodeling, jazz and contemporary electronica.
11. CAROLINA COTTON: Nola from the CD Yodeling Blonde Bombshell 2:28 Cotton, born Helen Hägström, as the daughter of an American mom and a Swedish farmer in 1925, wrote plenty about her humble rural beginnings in Cash, Arkansas with a fetching upbeat charm for mischievous songs and effervescent yodeling that formed an intimate aspect of her witty repertoire.
12. LAURA LOVE: Anyway from the CD The Laura Love Collection 2:57 Nebraskan singer-musician Love performs a distinctively kinetic mosaic of funky groove-oriented rootsy fusion that she calls ‘Afro-celtic hip-alacian’ music, which is often punctuated by her rambunctious yodeling.
13. GILLIAN WELCH: My Morphine from Hell Among the Yearlings 5:53 New York-born, LA-raised, Welch is serious, hip, and educated, but her training neither betrays hipper-than-thou craftiness nor gets in the way of soul.
14. MIKE JOHNSON: Yeah, I'm A Cowboy from the CD Black Yodel no. 1 3:49 Washington-area truck driver Mike Johnson wrote his first yodeling song in the early 1970s and distributed his DIY yodel cassettes around truck-stops on long hauls.
15. KENNY ROBERTS: Just A Yodel For Me from the collection of Kenny Roberts 2:24 Living legend Roberts’ exuberance is deep, genetic, but also informed by Elton Britt’s exquisite yodeling style. Roberts remains a key link between country and rockabilly.
16. ED SANDERS: Yodeling Robot from the LP Beercans on the Moon 3:32 ‘Yodelin’ Yippie’ Sanders, is a legendary American iconclast, poet, activist, author, and singer-lyricist with the legendary Groucho-Marxist anarcho-syndicalist band, the Fugs.
17. FRANCIS BEBEY: Pygmy Divorce from the album Pygmy Love Song 5:36 Born outside the Cameroon seaport, Douala, Bebey’s yodeling is Pygmy in vocal style — maybe more forlorn — but is utilized as a refrain in a Western song structure. ‘Divorce’ portrays tragi-comic life in a Pygmy village. Inspired line: ‘I was the tallest pygmy in this life’.
18. BAKA BEYOND: Call of the Forest from the CD Rhythm Tree > 1:47 Baka Beyond creates a convincing concoction of Cameroonian rhythms and Celtic, Gaelic, and Breton influences. The Pygmy members, Loni and Mbelli, do the yodeling along with the Baka of Lupé, a group of younger vocalists.
* Enhanced Added Value: This album contains a data track that includes an interview with the compiler Bart Plantenga.
REVIEWS Yahoo! Music: In Cool Stuff by Dave DiMartino, Executive Editor: A collection of yodeling music recorded in every territory from here to – not quite, but almost – Timbuktu, this CD manages to do the unthinkable and removed the yodel from its hicks/sticks environs and position it as the art you perhaps never thought it was… the disc features 18 tracks of the hardcore stuff, all of which goes down surprisingly easily…. If it all sounds like a freak show, the surprise is: it isn’t. It’s a neatly sequenced array of music that, despite its unavoidable air of NPR programming… is completely listenable from beginning to end, and the perfect soundtrack for waiting for the cows to come home.
Psychedelic Folk: Bart surely must have had lots of pleasure and enjoyment when making this compilation…. A very rewarding compilation, which works very much like an introduction documentary radioshow. All tracks are interesting, several tracks are even essential.
Birmingham Post: WORLD CD OF THE WEEK — Julian Clary is a great fan of yodelling -- funny, the things you find out from listening to Desert Island Discs. He will be swooning over this compilation which shows just how limited is our view of the singing style. The Alps are certainly not its only domain. It sprang up independently in Africa, Russia, Mongolia and the Far East as well as in Switzerland, and was taken to America by both German settlers and West African slaves…
Het Parool, Amsterdam: … Plantenga wrote about his yodel obsession in his Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo: The Secret History of Yodeling Around the World. This CD is a nice addition to the book.
ABC, Australian Public Radio Brent Clough: The Rough Guide to Yodel … takes you into a vast and wonderful realm where dancing tonsils are the true stars.”
Plato Mania: from a historical perspective, a welcome addition to the rarities collection…
Egea Music: This is the first compilation of high quality dedicated to Yodel… Great appreciation goes to the inventor of this new recording: it has opened up a new musical world. In italian]
Global Village Idiot Jim Gill: The Rough Guide to Yodel is without a doubt the coolest compilation of the year…. It's fun, very hip in its own way, and delightfully iconoclastic. Buy it and forget every preconception you had about yodels.
Seattle News: The pleasures to be reaped from this eclectic collection are not so much in the variety of yodels on display but in the astonishing diversity of the music incorporating the hiccupped octave jump.
TerraSonic: The Rough Guide to Yodel… reveals itself in a remarkably broad range of musical styles and traditions, as it turns out.”
Musikbüro: a witty, intelligent and hip album. [In German]
KGNU Sam Fuqua, News & Public Affairs Director, KGNU, 88.5 FM Boulder: Rough Guide to Yodel stayed in the KGNU top ten for many weeks!
Amazon.com Christina Roden: Yodeling is one of those styles about which many people have developed strong opinions while having heard relatively little of it. But with his fabulous track selections and engaging liner notes, compiler Bart Plantenga is more than equal to the task of opening ears and minds…. Ultimately, although certain tracks will inevitably be hauled out strictly as parlor oddities, others will become firm favorites due to their startling beauty and/or delightful strangeness.
Volkskrant, Ariejan Korteweg: Plantenga, with this CD, is definitely the man who has made yodeling acceptable, even hip, again.
Pop Matters, Deanne Sole: The Rough Guide to Yodel is a happy album, but it’s not likely to convince you that yodelling is cool… There’s nothing wrong with that, though. We can’t all be hip. We shouldn’t all be hip. It would be so boring. Sometimes it’s better to be Ed Sanders singing folkily about ‘a yodelling robot, in love / with Dolly Parton.’ Viva the discarded gems.
KZSU: Here musicians from Hawaii to Cameroon curl their throats around everything from traditional folk songs to techno yodeling. Varied, fun, and silly. No favorites – surprisingly, I liked it all.
Il Popolo del Blues: The Rough Guide to Yodel is a very intelligent product… it is made with the intention of inviting listeners to open their ears, hearts and minds to the joys of yodeling and join the chorus. [In Italian]
Froots Albums of 2006, 20th Annual fRoots Poll, and the BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music — Runner up: Various The Rough Guide To Yodel
Reno Gazette Journal: a hoot of an album that starts off with a brief yodeling lesson from Grammy-winning folksinger Cathy Fink before proceeding to break common stereotypes surrounding this primal and vital singing style. It's fun to hear the variety, but the disc begs for a sequel. The liner notes list far more musical styles that yodel than are included on the disc.
Music & Words: No, don’t just flip to the next title. Knowing the Rough Guides, this is again a very strange compilation, compiled by Bart Plantenga who several years ago wrote a very well-received book about yodeling.
Fashion Tribes: The Rough Guide to Yodel is Kitschy, Fabulous Fun for your iPod or Next Party.
Canadian Broadcasting Company, Roots & Wings Program Best of 2006: #3 among Compilations or re-issues, VARIOUS: "The Rough Guide to Yodel"
petroushka's miscellany: On Human Ingenuity: For the past six years, the New York Times Magazine has put out a ‘Year in Ideas’ issue that compiles ‘the peaks and valleys of ingenuity – the human cognitive faculty deployed with intentions good and bad, purposes serious and silly, consequences momentous and morbid.’ In case it gets swallowed by the archives monster, I include a summary of some of the brightest and strangest ideas… Dutch radio DJ Bart Plantenga has made a CD called ‘The Rough Guide to Yodel’. Apparently yodeling is a much more widespread art form than we knew. It’s common from the Arctic to Bollywood, from the Hmong farmlands of Wisconsin to the dances of Mexico. It is not, as we previously suspected, the sole province of Alpine mountains with frisking goats and men in lederhosen. The thing all yodelers have in common, apparently, is that they celebrate the transition from the ‘chest voice’ to the ‘head voice’, whereas other singers try to hide it. For those interested more in details than divas, he also wrote a book: Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo: The Secret History of Yodeling Around the World. These are essential gifts for the Christmas season.