Who Owns the Rights to the Yodel?

Landmark yodelling trial to open in Munich.

ByABC News
July 23, 2009, 6:37 AM

July 23, 2009— -- Yodelling is a serious business in Bavaria -- so serious that it's the subject of a court case starting on Thursday in Munich.

The legal dispute focuses on who composed the unforgettable yodelling refrain "Holla-rä-di-ri, di-ri, di-ri" in the "Kufstein Song," one of the most famous Alpine folk songs, a perennial hit in beer tents at the Munich Oktoberfest.

The heirs of composer Karl Ganzer, who wrote the song 60 years ago, are suing music publisher Egon Frauenberger who claims to have invented the yodelling passage.

The Ganzer heirs want to stop Frauenberger from continuing to earn one twelfth of the royalties for the song, which remains a money spinner because it is performed so often in Germany and Austria where folk music shows continue to occupy prime time slots on public TV. Every time the song is played in public, it makes money.

"It's a very popular song at the Oktoberfest and for Oompah bands in general," Gernot Schulze, Frauenberger's lawyer, told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

He says the Kufstein Song about the delights of the little Austrian town of that name -- "Framed by Mountains so Peaceful and Still" -- was originally composed by Karl Ganzer as a kind of tango -- but that Frauenberger, a friend of Ganzer's, made key changes to give the song more Alpine punch.

The original yodelling refrain was a pedestrian "cuckoo yodel": "Di-da, di-da-da-da." Schulze says Frauenberger came up with the racier, yodelling refrain that made the song such a lasting hit. "He made it more exciting to listen to in Oktoberfest tents, and also more exciting for the bands to play," says Schulze, adding: "The court will have to decide whether Karl Ganzer is the sole composer of the song."