Mani Matter was born in Bern in 1936 and is one of Switzerland's best-known singer-songwriters. Inspired by French chansonniers such as Georges Brassens, Matter composed songs that combine simple, folk-style melodies with multi-layered and humorous lyrics that cast a critical eye on various topics.
Born Hans Peter, his Dutch mother called him Jan (Dutch for Hans), which his sister pronounced as Nani, and which led to the variation Mani becoming his boy scout name and later his stage name. Mani Matter wrote his first songs while in the boy scouts and the corresponding manuscripts are also kept in the Swiss Literary Archives.
As an adult, Mani Mutter initially appeared with the Berner Troubadours, a group of singer-songwriters that also included Fritz Widmer, Jacob Stickelberger and Ruedi Krebs. His lyrics were first published in 1965 in the anthology “Ballade, Lumpeliedli, Chansons à la Bernoise” published by the Bern publisher Benteli Verlag. Matter's first record was released in 1966 and included studio recordings. There were to be four more, and he compiled the last one from live recordings. Matter performed his first solo show in 1971 and it was a resounding success.
Under his real name, Matter held a doctorate in law and worked as a legal consultant for the City of Bern. He considered a career in academia; his estate includes a postdoctoral thesis on the pluralist theory of the State, which was packed with footnotes but was never submitted and was published posthumously in 2012.
Mani Matter died in 1972 in a car accident on the way to a performance. His estate, which has been held in the Swiss Literary Archives since 2007, includes manuscripts and drafts of numerous song lyrics, notebooks and diaries, records with test recordings of well-known and unknown songs, and a guitar. His literary work in high German was only published after his death in the anthologies “Sudelhefte” (1973) and “Rumpelbuch” (1976). Further editions have since been published from his estate, in particular the text collection “Was kann einer allein gegen Zen Buddhisten” (Zytglogge 2017), “Das Cambridge Notizheft” (Zytglogge 2011) and the aforementioned postdoctoral thesis “Die pluralistische Staatstheorie oder Der Konsens zur Uneinigkeit” (Zytglogge 2012).
Last modification 10.11.2022
Swiss National Library
Swiss Literary Archives