Tag Archives: Get Going!

Mario Batkovic ⎪ «Get Going!» 2022

2022 «Get Going!» Portrait Series 

Mario Batkovic ⎪ Photo by ⓒRob Lewis

Mario Batkovic is one of the most virtuoso and internationally renowned Swiss composers and musicians. The accordionist from Bern is involved in numerous projects, builds innovative instruments and experiments incessantly in the field of tension between pop, rock and contemporary music. In order to explore and create new sound spaces, incessant research, development, composition and experimentation are central to his work. Thanks to the «Get Going!» contribution, Mario Batkovic is now given one of the most important factors for creativity: time!

«Get Going!» has existed as a FONDATION SUISA funding offer since 2018. With this new form of a grant, creative and artistic processes that do not fall within established categories are given a financial jump-start. At monthly intervals, we present the eight recipients of the 2022 «Get Going!» grant individually.

Hasan Nakhleh: Global grooves – for greater tolerance

2022 «Get Going!» Portrait Series 

Hasan Nakhleh by © Hasan Nakhleh

Bern resident Hasan Nakhleh works with his brother Rami in the duo TootArd on a symbiosis between global dance music and Arab cultural heritage. Thanks to the «Get Going!» grant, he now finds the time and space to take an even more detailed look at this balance between East and West.

In our interview, Hasan Nakhleh keeps raving about Bern. About its beauty and the tranquillity, he found here. Nakhleh has been living in the Swiss capital since 2014 – love brought him to Switzerland. He has had a Swiss passport since 2021. This is not insignificant for someone who grew up in the Golan Heights. The Arab population is de facto stateless in the territory annexed by Israel. “Golan,” says Nakhleh, “is a homeland that is not a true home, whereas Bern is a place that is far from my own homeland.” 

The 35-year-old draws the creativity for his music from this field of tension. Together with his brother Rami, he has been making music since childhood. When they formed a band to perform in local clubs, they called themselves TootArd. Hasan laughs because the name means “strawberry” in English. “We did not want to be suspected of spreading political messages in our texts, and strawberry seemed like a harmless enough name to us.”

The duo has already released three albums. They called their second work “Laisser passer” – that is the name of the document they received instead of a passport. “This allowed us to leave the Golan Heights, but if we wanted to travel abroad, this always required tedious visa applications.”

As a Swiss national, he can now travel wherever he wants without any difficulty. While Hasan appreciates Bern’s tranquillity for his work, his brother Rami has remained in his home village. “This does not prevent us from working together,” he explains. While Rami is responsible for the beats, Hasan is responsible for the rest – including the vocals. And as “Migrant Birds”, the title of their most recent album, suggests they want to spread their infectious dance music with hypnotic beats, Arabic and oriental-inspired melodies and socially critical texts with a poetic touch like migratory birds around the world.

“I now want to perfect what we started on our last album,” he explains, by which he means he wants to create global dance music that is understood everywhere, but at the same time does not deny its origins. Thanks to the «Get Going!» grant, he now has the time, among other things, to retune his analogue and digital synthesisers so that he can play quarter tones with them. “These quarter tones are an integral part of the Arab tone system, but they are not playable on keyboard instruments. I therefore use tuning boxes that communicate with the instruments via “MIDI”. This allows the mood on the keyboards to be changed.” As a composer, on the other hand, the challenge is to strike the right balance between East and West, between his cultural home and the world in which he now lives and works.

Hasan Nakhleh describes the experiences he and his brother regularly have at the concerts, whether in Switzerland, London, Toronto, Tokyo or Cairo. “At our performances, people of the most varied origins come together to dance. This promotes tolerance because music generally has a unifying effect. In addition, we also thus help to reduce certain stereotypes, because we integrate Arab cultural heritage into contemporary musical robes.”

The «Get Going!» grant is “the best form of support you can get,” he emphasises. “If you enable artists to have financial freedom, there will always be a result.” He also considers the fact that no concrete result is associated with the grant as a source of motivation: “There is no external compulsion. So I don’t have to, which gives rise to the question: Do I want that?” With «Get Going!» – he emphasizes at the end of the interview – he is trusted as an artist. That is something utterly extraordinary. “This aspect alone gives me enough of a sense of personal duty to create something good.”

Rudolf Amstutz


«Get Going!» has existed as a FONDATION SUISA funding offer since 2018. With this new form of a grant, creative and artistic processes that do not fall within established categories are given a financial jump-start. At monthly intervals, we present the eight recipients of the 2022 «Get Going!» grant individually.

Simone Felber – Dancing and singing for life – with and against death

2022 «Get Going!» Portrait Series 

Simone Felber by © Christian Felber

Simone Felber, a singer, is working on numerous projects to make Swiss folk music suitable for the modern era. And with the «Get Going!» grant she has been awarded, she now also wants to revive the dance of the dead.

She started making folk music at a late stage – actually only during her studies at the Lucerne School of Music. There Simone Felber met Schwyzerörgeli (a type of diatonic button accordion invented in the Canton of Schwyz) player, Adrian Würsch, and the double base player, Pirmin Huber, with whom she now forms the trio “Simone Felbers iheimisch”. Previously, she was mainly active in classical music; her participation in the choir molto cantabile, which is dedicated to contemporary music, influenced her greatly. As a city-dwelling nature lover, the Lucerne native discovered something in folk music that met her very personal needs: “We always strive for perfection in music. However, whereas classical music is about the perfect performance of sound, jazz and folk music offer you the opportunity to find your very own sound.”

This personal sound manifests itself not only in the trio “Simone Felbers iheimisch” but also in numerous other projects, such as in the women’s quartet “famm” or as the director of the choir “Echo vom Eierstock”. The trained mezzo-soprano is therefore not only concerned with finding a completely contemporary expression in non-verbal singing and yodelling, but, as a 30-year-old, also with expressing a stance which appeals to her generation. Modern Switzerland is multicultural, urban and faces societal, social and political problems, while at the same time nature is rising up and challenging the places of popular origin where climate change is concerned. Felber wants her music to reflect all of the above, whereas she frequently suspects folk music of being too far removed from everyday life. “Folk music sometimes reminds me of a glossy brochure,” she says before adding: “I, on the other hand, prefer recycled paper.”

She has joined forces with the jazz pianist, Lukas Gernet, for her latest project entitled “hedi drescht”. This involves jointly looking into the question of “What is home?” and setting their pictures to music with a stylistic kaleidoscope of classical, yodelling and jazz. On stage, the collection of songs “äinigermasse dehäi” becomes an interdisciplinary audiovisual performance in collaboration with the theatre collective Fetter Vetter & Oma Hommage, the video artist, Jules Claude Gisler, and the theatre-maker, Stephan Q. Eberhard.

For her «Get Going!» project, Felber is now going one step further by addressing the topic of death, which she has recently faced first hand due to the loss of some loved ones. She is particularly fascinated by the act of the dance of the dead. But who dances this dance? In folk music, the “Tänzli” exists: do the living dance there without sparing a thought for death or in order to celebrate life before death? Or is it death that dances, as on the baroque motifs that can be admired on the Spreuer Bridge in Felber’s hometown of Lucerne? Or even someone who is doomed to die and dances on their journey to another world? Felber has been exploring these questions for a long time. “In many cultures, life and death is a circular process, while we consider our existence to be a linear event,” she explains. “I want the crippling feeling which comes over us in the face of death to be transformed into an emotion that can lead us out again.” 

She does not yet know in detail what this will look like in the end. “However, I rather imagine an audiovisual installation that allows people to be confronted with the topic very personally in an intimate setting.” The «Get Going!» grant – she emphasises – gives her the freedom and certainty that she can now make this project a reality without stress or having to make too many compromises.

Rudolf Amstutz

Current album: hedi drescht – “äinigermasse dehäi”

«Get Going!» has existed as a FONDATION SUISA funding offer since 2018. With this new form of a grant, creative and artistic processes that do not fall within established categories are given a financial jump-start. At monthly intervals, we present the eight recipients of the 2022 «Get Going!» grant individually.