(video linked!)

Heino is the stage name of one Heinz Georg Kramm (born 1938), a veteran performer of traditional German 'Schlager' music. Before embarking on the path to beerhall superstardom, Heino was a trained confectioner, reputed to be very skilled at decorating cakes. Unfortunately few analogies can be drawn between the crystalline fastidiousness of sugar sculpting and the resonant guttural brogue that is now Heino's trademark. Heino's other trademark (a little unfair, for it's hardly his fault) is his unique, unchanging freakish appearance. He's practically albinoid, and is permanently bedecked with sizeable black sunglasses to conceal his exopthalmos (a condition wherein one's eyes bulge from the sockets).

While his heyday is long past, Heino is still remarkably productive for his age. Tracks from as late as 2007 can be readily found on YouTube, sedate numbers in which Heino's reliable contrabasso noodles around over tinkling pianos and waterfall footage. Such examples, worthwhile in their own right, are however a far cry from Heino's greatest hits.

Classic, 60s-70s Heino is characterised by a garish, beer-sotted carnivale vibe, over which Heino chants and yodels with a brutally authoritative vigour. Karamba, Karacho, ein Whisky (1970) is regarded as a staple of the period, though I consider the ruthlessly efficient Sing Mit Heino to be much more representative. He was extraordinarily prolific and his meteoric rise, over the next few decades, to the zenith of German popular music, is a path littered with forgotten wonders. A perennial favourite is the classic Blau Blau Blau Blueht der Enzian. A notable phenomenon in the Heino universe is that of participatory clapping (particularly evident in the video for 'Blau Blueht'- it seems that little more than the first strain of an overamplified accordion is required for swathes of Germans to commence a rigid, incessant clapping- at least when Heino's in town!

I was first introduced to Heino through a friend, who'd managed to acquire something of a Heino rarity- a copy of his techno album 'Dicke Dinger'. This totally blew my mind at the time, being something of a paradigm-busting mash of heavy electro beats, cool chick vocals, and the irrepressible intonations of the man himself ('Ja, dickes ding!') Sadly, I've never heard it since. If you have it, please get in touch.

Of all his works, perhaps Heino's finest legacy is contained in the anthemic Carnival in Rio. There is no feeling on Earth to compare with belting this one out in drunken chorus, perhaps over a friendly game of coins.

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