When we moved to Belgium, we discovered a genre of music broadcasted mainly by certain Flemish, Dutch and German TV channels. The music went out through marathon concerts especially during the New Year nights and the weekends.
A lot of people in front or around the stage dance and sing with the performers and enjoy every moment of the concert. Apparently they know the songs by heart. Very often such concerts look like a party where people smile, laugh and enjoy each other’s company.
(Photo: Crowd enjoying the Festival van het Levenslied in Tilburg, 2013)
I found out that this music genre is called “Levenslied”, which is part of the Schlager family music (Schläger in German). The genre belongs to the Pop music and features lyrics about love, emotions, nostalgia and feelings. The lyrics, based on everyday life moments, are simple and accessible. The lyrics go on healthy, rich harmonies and simple rhythms.
The “Levenslied” term was actually introduced earlier, around 1908, by Jean-Louis Pisuisse and Max Blokzijl, two artists who promoted a new kind of music, the “Levenslied”, in response to the French “chanson”.
Both Dutch and Flemish people claim that “Levenslied” should not be the Dutch translation of the “Schlager”, but a word bearing more meanings that the French Chanson and the German Schlager. “Levenslied” bears particular cultural elements of both Dutch and Flemish traditions and it simply means “Song of life”.
The corresponding term in my mother language – şlagăr – has got a wider meaning. In Romanian the word labels a musical hit, be it pop, rock or even jazz.
The “Schlager” family rose to worldwide fame through the Eurovision Song Contest.
According to experts, the Schlager was born after the World War II in Germany as a cheerful piece of music, in response to the American rock & roll.
Johnny Hoes worked a lot on promoting the Levenslied in both Flanders and the Netherlands. He was himself a composer, lyricist and producer of such pieces of music.
The “Schlager” is a popular music genre on a large European area including Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Flanders (Belgium), Republic of Macedonia, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Poland, Hungary, Switzerland, Turkey, Scandinavia and the Baltic States. In the United States, the Schlager is called “German hit mix”.
Two examples of Levenslied singers are Jan Smit (the Netherlands) and Laura Lynn (Flanders, Belgium):
Jan Smit – Vrienden Voor Het Leven & Als De Morgen is Gekomen
Laura Lynn – Jij en ik
From the 90’s the Levenslied popularity increased significantly in the Netherlands and Flanders with a number of star singers such as Frans Bauer, Guido Belcanto, Corry Konings, Marianne Weber and Jan Smit. Nowadays the popularity of this music genre is maintained by a new generation of singers, including names such Charlene, Jannes, John de Bever, Thomas Berge and Laura Lynn.
There are also two popular Flemish singers, who manage to “resist” the Levenslied wave with their own performing style and approach. They are Dana Winner and Belle Perez.
I must confess that, after a hectic day, when Bach and Mozart do not heal me enough, I go for listening to some Dutch and Flemish Levenslied music and enjoying its cheerful power.
More about the Schlager music