Winner 2023

© Vincent Guignet

Erik Truffaz - The great trumpet lyricist

Winner Swiss Grand Award for Music 2023

Erik Truffaz is one of today's great crossers of musical borders. Born in 1960 near Geneva, the trumpeter combines genres such as jazz, hip-hop, drum'n'bass, pop and electronica to create music that is as innovative as it is popular. Since the landmark album "Bending New Corners", released in 1999 on the legendary Blue Note label, Truffaz has become one of the most important figures in recent jazz history.

In the course of his long career, Erik Truffaz has developed a recognisable, lyrical sound. His trumpet can be heard in the most diverse combinations and collaborations: Truffaz has played with singers such as Rokia Traoré and Sophie Hunger (Swiss Grand Award for Music 2016) and has kept his finger on the pulse with his quartet for decades. Thanks to his curiosity and open-mindedness, he has promoted musicians of the younger generation, such as the drummer Arthur Hnatek, winner of a Swiss Music Prize in 2022. 

His innovative power also brings Truffaz, who has repeatedly been compared to Miles Davis, back to the golden age of cinema: on his new album "Rollin’'", he interprets classic film soundtracks with fellow musicians such as bassist Marcello Giuliani (Swiss Music Prize 2018). The big screen belongs to the instrumentalist who, despite his great successes, always puts the collective first.

Swiss music prizes

Carlo Balmelli - Ambassador of Swiss wind music

Born in 1969 in Ticino, Carlo Balmelli has been shaping and promoting Swiss wind music culture for decades as a conductor, trombonist and music school director.

Carlo Balmelli grew up in a highly musical family. After studying trombone at the Bern Conservatory, he trained as a conductor. Among other endeavours, Balmelli conducted the National Youth Wind Orchestra and for many years has been leading various orchestras such as the Musikgesellschaft Konkordia Egerkingen or the Stadtharmonie Oerlikon Seebach. In his native Ticino, he founded the orchestra di fiati della svizzera italiana (ofsi) and led the Civica Filarmonica di Mendrisio to great success. He is also a sought-after guest conductor abroad and promotes young musicians as a teacher at various music schools.

Carlo Balmelli also passes on his vast knowledge as an editor of wind music literature. In this way he builds bridges between the world of amateur and professional musicians. With his commitment, he demonstrates in an impressive way how to preserve traditions - and at the same time inspire younger generations. In 2022, he was awarded the Stephan Jaeggi Prize for his achievements. This prize is considered the highest honour in Swiss wind music.

Mario Batkovic - Multifaceted visionary

As an instrumentalist, composer and inventor of his own instruments, musician Mario Batkovic defies categorisation. He uses his accordion to invent music that touches on genres as different as classical music, ambient, minimal music and metal. His distinctive use of technical modifications and effects mean you can clearly hear and appreciate each and every note.

After studying at music colleges in Basel and Hanover, he played in a number of Bernese bands such as Kummerbuben or Endo Anaconda’s (Swiss Music Prize 2017) band Stiller Has. For the latter, he also composed and produced music. At the same time, Batkovic has developed a recognisable solo profile that is internationally popular. His first solo album was ranked among the best avant-garde albums of the year by "Rolling Stone" magazine. It was released in 2017 on the Invada Records label, founded by Portishead founder Geoff Barrow. Mario Batkovic's second album, "Introspectio", featured guests such as electro pacesetter James Holden and drummer Clive Deamer (of Radiohead and Robert Plant, among others). He has composed soundtracks for films such as “Unser Garten Eden”, “Der Imker” and most recently "Mad Heidi", as well as music for the fashion house AMI Paris. In addition to this, his music is a central element of the successful video game "Red Dead Redemption 2".

Mario Batkovic is also renowned for his spectacular solo concerts, with which he expands the world of accordion music piece by piece.

Lucia Cadotsch - Outstanding voice of the European jazz scene

Lucia Cadotsch is one of the most outstanding singers in contemporary jazz. Born in Zurich in 1984, Cadotsch brings unprecedented depth to jazz standards and her own compositions through her voice and the interaction with her fellow musicians.

She has been living in Berlin for over 20 years and in 2016, she released a highly acclaimed debut album with her trio Speak Low. It made a name for itself with radical interpretations of jazz classics such as "Strange Fruit". The album won several awards, including the ECHO Jazz Award, and it inspired people outside the jazz scene. Among them, for example, is the US best-selling author T.C. Boyle. In 2017, the album was reinterpreted by musicians including the Swiss Music Prize winners  Linnéa Racine aka Evelinn Trouble (2018), Julian Sartorius (2014) or Joy Frempong (2015).

Lucia Cadotsch is also the founder of AKI - a quartet consisting of British jazz musicians Kit Downes (piano, organ, harmonium), Phil Donkin (bass) and James Maddren (drums). AKI will release its debut on 26 May 2023, on the record label of and with guest appearances by legendary US guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel. Another band that underlines her taste for adventure is LIUN + The Science Fiction Band. Together with Wanja Slavin, she explores the relationships between different musical genres and playing techniques. The album "Lily of the Nile", released in 2022, bears witness to this.

Lucia Cadotsch's inventive music shows that the jazz story is far from over.

Sonja Moonear - Shaper of Swiss DJ and club culture

Sonja Mounir, aka Sonja Moonear, is one of the most respected DJs and music producers in Swiss club culture. The sets of this Geneva native, born in 1978, are characterized by a stylistic diversity that makes categorization impossible. She combines house and techno with experimental sounds and created a very personal musical language for the dancefloor.

After training as a classical pianist, Sonja Moonear turned to club culture. She experimented with turntables and the legendary Roland R-8 drum machine and moved into the Geneva underground. It was there that her DJ career took off in a big way from 2002: she was resident DJ at the club Weetamix and has since been performing at renowned clubs and festivals around the world. In 2017, Sonja Moonear was one of the protagonists of the impressive techno documentary "Denke ich an Deutschland in der Nacht" (Thinking of Germany at Night), alongside the internationally acclaimed Berlin DJ and musician Ricardo Villalobos.

In addition to her DJ career, Sonja Moonear produces her own tracks, works as a sound designer for the French-speaking Swiss television station RTS and releases remixes on prestigious labels such as Karat and Rawax. This year, her collaboration with the Hamburg band Wareika will be released on the latter label. Sonja Moonear is also active behind the scenes: due to her inventiveness, she has been a lasting inspiration for Swiss and international club culture both as a label manager and promoter.

Ensemble Nikel - Innovators of chamber music

Ensemble Nikel is radically contemporary. Since 2006, the four members Brian Archinal, Yaron Deutsch, Antoine Françoise and Patrick Stadler have been exploring a completely new form of chamber music. Ensemble Nikel achieves this with an unusual electro-acoustic instrumentation reminiscent of a rock band: saxophone, electric guitar, drums and piano are the basic instruments of the four musicians with roots in the USA, Germany, Israel and Switzerland.

The ensemble performs at internationally acclaimed contemporary music festivals such as the Donaueschinger Musiktage and the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. Tours have also taken the ensemble to South America and New Zealand.

The repertoire of Ensemble Nikel consists of works composed specifically for their unique instrumentation. The premieres are by key contemporary composers such as 2023 Swiss Music Prize winner Katharina Rosenberger, Chaya Czernowin and Michael Wertmüller. In 2022, the quartet released the piece "Bright Darkness" by Klaus Lang. The interpretation of this composition impressively demonstrates how Ensemble Nikel transcends musical genres and practices new forms of interplay.

Katharina Rosenberger - A composer who sharpens our senses

Composer Katharina Rosenberger's works take the listener to unknown places. She does so by exploring unusual combinations and by including other artistic disciplines such as video, visual arts and theatre. With her sound art and sound sculptures, Rosenberger challenges listening habits and draws attention to the way we perceive music and works of art.

Born in Zurich in 1971, she studied at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, the Royal Academy of Music in London and Columbia University in New York. Since 2018, she has been a professor at the University of California, San Diego, where she teaches composition and sound art. In 2021, she was appointed professor of composition in Lübeck and in 2019, she was awarded the world-famous Guggenheim Fellowship.

Katharina Rosenberger's works have received numerous awards: Her project “VIVA VOCE” was supported by the Swiss Federal Office of Culture. Her album "TEXTUREN", performed by the Wet Ink Ensemble from New York, received the prestigious Copland Recording Grant as well as the Deutsche Schallplattenkritik award. Katharina Rosenberger's works are performed at international festivals. Thanks to their physical presence, they create experiences that have a lasting effect on the audience's senses.

Saadet Türköz - The world-renowned vocal artist

Born in 1961 in Istanbul, Saadet Türköz is a singer, improviser and vocal artist. She has been living in Switzerland for over 40 years and is one of the most prominent figures on the independent music scene in Zurich.

Saadet Türköz has been influenced by the most diverse musical traditions: she assimilated the folk songs of her grandparents, who had to flee Kazakhstan for Turkey, and became interested in the music of India, Central Asia and the Arab cultural area at an early age. In her music, these different traditions meet with the blues, the European and American avant-garde and free jazz.

Saadet Türköz collaborates with musicians from different generations and regions of the world. The album "Kumuska" (2019), for example, was created with the American experimentalist Elliott Sharp in New York. "Urumchi", her 2006 album, was recorded with Kazakh musicians - and named after the capital of the Uyghurs and the hometown of her grandparents. She has enjoyed collaborations with, for example Martin Schütz or the winners of the Swiss Music Prize 2014 and 2021, Julian Sartorius and Nils Wogram. In 2021, she released "We Are Strong" with guitarist Beat Keller. In this album she combines traces of her family history with the experimental sounds of today.

Saadet Türköz's music moves between different cultural spaces and eras. And yet, thanks to her art of improvisation, it is entirely here and now.

Special Prizes for Music

Helvetiarockt - Fighters for diversity and equality

Helvetiarockt fights for the equality and visibility of women as well as inter, non-binary, trans, and agender people in popular music in Switzerland. Since 2009, the organisation has been putting essential contemporary issues on the agenda of a scene and industry that is often slow to act.

Through tireless networking, the dynamic Helvetiarockt team has not only raised awareness of the Swiss music scene, it has also moved it forward: databases such as the “Music Directory” or guides such as the “Diversity Roadmap'' are constructive instruments that organisers can hardly do without in their daily work. Helvetiarockt promotes easy access to music through workshops: it offers camps and mentoring programmes for song writing, beat making and DJing, to inspire and promote young artists and new talent.

With its campaigns and practical programs, Helvetiarockt emphasizes the importance of diverse concert programmes and fair working conditions both in front of and behind the stage. In this, it challenges all outdated structures and puts central issues that affect all music makers in Switzerland up for public debate.

Kunstraum Walcheturm - Urban headquarters of constant experimentation

The Kunstraum Walcheturm in Zurich is an independent arts venue that is invaluable to the Swiss experimental cultural scene. Music festivals such as Taktlos, Sonic Matter or Female Classics find their place in this space. It is also a central platform for electronic sound art performances and contemporary music.

The venue is run by the Kunstverein Walcheturm, which was founded back in the 1950s. The aim of the association has always been to "promote emerging Swiss art and artists".

Patrick Huber has been the director of the Kunstraum Walcheturm for more than 20 years. The cultural mediator and his team focus on experimentation and transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches. Together, they are responsible for a programme that is committed to innovation and high quality despite minimal financial resources.

Located in the heart of Zurich, the Kunstraum Walcheturm is a place where contemporary culture is discussed and interaction with other artistic disciplines is explored. In addition to music events, the space hosts exhibitions and the experimental film festival VideoEx, making this non-commercial institution a key player in the development of experimental music and art in Switzerland.

Pronto - Swiss German becomes an international language

Rapper Pronto is one of the most influential and successful figures in the emerging Swiss trap scene. The tracks of the musician, born in Solothurn in 1993, extend far beyond the language borders despite the Swiss German lyrics. Hits like "Priceless" already count over 19 million streams on streaming services like Spotify. Pronto strikes a chord with a young audience, both in his second home country of Ghana and in European countries such as Germany, Spain and France.

In the artistic language of Pronto, whose real name is Senyoh Mensah, the here and now pulsates. He combines his everyday Swiss-German with English slang. To understand the lyrics, you have to listen carefully: Pronto's rap technique is based on the young artistic tradition of an indistinct pronunciation. This gives his music an extra presence.

In addition to guest appearances with groups like Lo & Leduc or artists like Stereo Luchs, the mostly self-produced album "LUNO V" was released at the end of 2022. "LUNO V" is another milestone in the still young career of a unique trap artist for whom Swiss German is a global musical language.

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Further information

Specialist staff
Last modification 15.05.2023

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