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America does not exist, they never found it

From Berne, the Swiss capital, hails a band I really like by the name of Züri West. The name itself is a pun: the folks from Berne love their city (rightfully so!) and join the rest of Switzerland in looking down a bit upon Zurich, which is "metropolitan" and "hip" and has often been considered the real capital of Switzerland. Located west of Zurich, Berne is thus "Züri West", and by using this name, the Bernese band ridicules the Zurich folks a bit. Well, that's my interpretation anyway and I make no claim over its correctness, and I surely don't want to get mixed up in local politics!

Where was I? Oh yeah: Züri West (Flash-using homepage] make rock music, and they're good with their instruments. The result are groovy and melodic sounds, which everyone in Switzerland knows.

What I find particularly amazing about this band are their lyrics. Kuno, the singer, sings almost all songs in the Bernese dialect, which I've learnt to the point of understanding it, though I can't speak it yet. It's a beautiful dialect, and Kuno displays magnificent control over it.

When I say beautiful, I do not only mean its sound, but also the way it allows one to express thoughts, situations, feelings, etc.. It's very lyrical, often poetic, but always very much to the point. It sounds natural, yet not at all blunt.

In addition, Züri West's songs display no haste. Again, this is a bit ironic since the Bernese are said to be slow, but what I mean is that the band is unafraid to take their time to recount what they have to say. Forget 4/4 beats and verse-chorus-bridge-verse-chorus, it's a lot more as if the band shaped the music around the story they're telling.

(Of course I have no reason to claim that the Bernese are actually slow. According to my dear (Bernese) friend Isabel, they are just considerate to give the rest of the world enough time to parse and understand their sophisticated verbal and non-verbal output).

I won't be able to convey all of the lyrical beauties of their music to you, but what I want to do is translate my favourite of their songs, which is based on a story by Peter Bichsel and it's called "America does not exist".

Keep in mind that their version rhymes, which I won't be able to achieve in the translation. I'll try to keep the flow though. Imagine a jazzy, slightly Latin groove to it. And it's sung, not spoken.

This is the story of Colombo
not the one from the TV show
but of a guy who once lived in Spain
and who was a bit of a freak
capable of nothing
and always telling weird stuff
without giving it much thought
until one day someone told him: you've got to learn a trade
you have to live your life
nobody takes you for real like this
and most just laugh about you
what are the options
he asked - what do you do
I'm an explorer - the other guy said
I sail my ship out to the sea
through the various parts of the globe
that sounds very interesting - I'd like that too
and so Colombo said - I'll become a famous explorer

And he told it to everyone
and everyone just started laughing
and he said: just wait and see
and the people didn't believe him
and he got sulky
and the people almost died laughing
and he left the town
and hid somewhere in the forest
where he remained for 13 weeks - 13 weeks in the shrubs
and the people searched and felt ashamed
and noone knew where he might be
and noone laughed anymore when suddenly on a wonderful morning he was back
then everyone rejoiced
and when he said: i told you so
I discovered a new land
it's out there somewhere in the sea
then everyone listened
and was kind to him
and tried hard to make some dreadfully serious faces

The explorer from the first verse
Amerigo Vespucci is his name
just happened to be in town
and said: good for you, but I won't believe you until I see it myself
and went off to set sail immediately
and after exactly 13 weeks and a day and a night he was finally back
and the people all went down to the port
and Colombo was nervous, almost ill because he had lied
and he was horribly frightened
and pale
and looked noone in the eyes

But Vespucci smiled and stood in front of the people
and blinked at Colombo and told that he had found it
and Colombo was so glad that he didn't tell on him
and called out Amerigo Amerigo and the people joined in

And Colombo became famous and until the end of his days
he was never actually sure and never dared to ask
whether America really existed
over time, more people went there and when they came back
they told stories and they tell the same stories until today
and noone knows anything more than he knew before
and everyone saw exactly the same
and that sounds very dodgy
and tastes a bit like screenplay and Hollywood

America doesn't exist
they never found it
America doesn't exist
it's all just a tale
America doesn't exist
it's all lies and made up
America doesn't exist
America is just a rumour

NP: Züri West: Züri West