Profile | Schrammelmusik Musician and Guitarist Peter Havlicek

Wine, food and music are essential ingredients for the good life, but so are a roof over your head and people who care about you. With our four interviewees, you are in good hands

Schrammelmusik was pretty much announced dead – but it will live on!

Peter Havlicek feels happiest when he’s on stage, strumming his guitar. When the crowd is roaring with laughter, hanging on his every note, he knows he is making them happy too. “That’s the most wonderful thing – when the crowd is enthusiastic about our music,” he says with a boyish grin.

Havlicek plays Wiener Schrammelmusik – a Viennese style of sentimental dance music and songs of the Heuriger wine taverns. He discovered his passion for this sort of music when he was doing his compulsory year of civilian service at a retirement home. He brought his guitar and played for the residents, and, soon, they started to sing along. “The way the elderly women sang some of these old songs was so beautiful and so pure, it deeply fascinated me.”

A Schrammelkapelle (Austrian folk band) is typically made up of two violins, a G clarinet, a button accordion, and a double-necked contraguitar. At its best, the music is melodious and tinged with ironic melancholy, with close harmonies and technical virtuosity of which performers are justly proud. It took Havlicek five years to master the Kontragitarre, which has bass strings as well as the usual six. Today, he is part of at least 10 musical ensembles. One of them, the Neue Wiener Concert Schrammeln, celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2015.

Havlicek’s love for the traditional Viennese songs, the Wienerlieder, is one of the many reasons he feels so deeply rooted here. “Schrammelmusik originated in the city I was born in. This is my home. I love Vienna, because it is so open and worldly, but still has its quirks. It has a real sense of coziness.”

Havlicek also loves jazz, something he discovered very young. And he long dreamed of finding a way to bring jazz and Schrammelmusik together. But first, he needed to truly understand both genres. “You can’t just take music from some place in the world and mix in other musical ingredients at random. The music would lose its roots. It is important to be able to feel where the music stems from.”

Today, his many musical projects enable him to travel to more than 30 countries. But he always loves to come back. “Vienna is still the musical capital of the world.”


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