Switzerland seeks to give yodelling UNESCO heritage status

Switzerland seeks to give yodelling UNESCO heritage status

From bellowing off the side of a mountain to competing in a choir, it’s hard to argue that yodelling is not part of Switzerland’s heritage and history. Now, the government has announced its application for Swiss yodelling to be added to UNESCO’s list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

Switzerland wants to give yodelling UNESCO status

In a statement, the Federal Council confirmed that it had submitted Swiss yodelling as a contender to be added to the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity in 2025. They argued that the practice - defined as a "song that alternates between the registers of the chest voice and the head voice" - is "widespread in Switzerland and continues to enjoy unbroken popularity.”

Alongside the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites, the list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity is designed to recognise and protect heritage based on community practices and social interactions. These include “oral expressions, performing arts, social practices, rituals and celebrations, knowledge and practices relating to nature and the universe, and expertise in traditional craft techniques.”

Swiss yodelling a vibrant tradition that needs protection, officials argue

Yodelling first emerged in Switzerland as a way for cow herders in the Alps to call to their herd and move them between grazing areas. The technique was also used to communicate between alpine villages as the unique singing style carries sound across long distances. While yodelling itself does have its origins in the alpine nation, the vocal technique is used in many different folk traditions around the world, including in Norway, North Macedonia, Turkey, Zimbabwe and Hawaii.

Swiss officials argued that yodelling already fulfils UNESCO's criteria to be made part of the list, noting that it “is a very lively custom that is inspiring more and more professional musicians to reinterpret singing in their compositions.” However, while 12.000 singers are currently active in Switzerland, the government argued that “to further develop yodelling and preserve it for future generations, commitment is still needed.” 

As part of the candidacy, federal officials promised programmes to try and preserve the practice. Among other measures, these include training and educating people about yodelling in schools, launching measures to find the next generation of yodelling talent and an awareness campaign designed to “better document the tradition and expand research into the singing practice.”

Yodelling could be made UNESCO tradition in 2025

UNESCO is expected to make a final decision on yodelling’s inclusion on the list at the end of 2025. If it does succeed, yodelling will join other Swiss traditions and practices like Alpine pasture season, watchmaking, avalanche risk management and Basel Fasnacht on the list.

Thumb image credit: Stefano Ember /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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