German Oompah Band music
Each year in Munich, Germany, more than 6 million people gather to eat, drink and socialize celebrating all things Bavarian, as millions more gather for their own ‘Oktoberfest’ celebrations around the world. While the beer, brezen and würstl are consumed, revelers enjoy an array of traditional German tunes, often singing and dancing along.
Here at Musicnotes headquarters, we like to celebrate Oktoberfest Gemütlichkeit by playing a wide array of German sheet music! Since the festival runs from mid-September through the first weekend of October, we wanted to be sure to get our oompah fix in with the Top 10 Oktoberfest Songs to play at your very own celebration.
Traditional German oompah music is loved for its often lively, dance-inducing tempo. The oompah is very similar to a Czech or Polish polka, except that rather than accordion, the oompah relies on brass instruments. Often a tuba plays the tonic and 5th on the first and third beats, creating the “oom.” Then, a higher-pitched instrument will come in for the second and fourth beats as the “pah.” If the oompah is in triple time, we relay it as “oom-pah-pah.” Oompah and polka are commonly used interchangeably in the US, and American Oktoberfest music celebrations frequently include German-influenced polka. In fact, you’ll see a couple on our list below!
THE song of Oktoberfest, “Ein Prosit” is guaranteed to get the crowd in a good and festive mood. The song’s lyrics translate to “A toast to friendship and good times, ” then at fest the band leader counts down to “g’stuffa” (big drink), and ends with the iconic call “zicke zacke zicke zacke” and crowd’s response “hoi, hoi, hoi, ” signifying fun times are being had by all. (See a video of “Ein Prosit” being performed at Oktoberfest here.)
As you probably have guessed, this song is an ode to the official drink of Oktoberfest. In German the title translates to “Im Himmel gibt’s kein Bier.” The song was written for the soundtrack to the 1956 German film “Die Fischerin vom Bodensee, ” and has been a favorite at beer halls, and generally anywhere imbibing is going on, ever since. (Hear polka band The Emeralds version of “In Heaven There Is No Beer” here.)
A spirited number from Lionel Bart’s 1960 musical ‘Oliver!’, the lyrics of “Oom-Pah-Pah” are meant to be left open to interpretation. Although not a German tune, this song makes a fun and festive addition to Oktoberfest festivities! (See the Kilkenny Musical Society perform “Oom-Pah-Pah” here.)