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VL-1:German folk song mystery (fake "Unterlanders Heimweh")

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The demo song of Casio VL-1 was listed as "German folk song", and since the ROM-Pack RO-551 contained a version as "Unterlanders Heimweh" it got commonly known as such. The strange thing is that in Germany nobody knows it.

The so-called "German folk song" was not only the demo tune of the VL-Tone 1, but was also used in various Casio pocket calculators (e.g. my Casio ML-90, on which calculator keys one can play piano in piezo sound). Later a wonderful orchestrated version of this theme appeared as one of 4 songs (labelled "Unterlanders Heimweh") on the music cartridge "ROM-Pack RO-551", which was shipped as the default cart with many cheap ROM-Pack keyboards. A badly detuned short clip of the melody was even used in the "rating" sound effects of the Casio PT-82 "melody guide" play teaching feature, and later the melody appeared as one of many songs in various "song bank" keyboards. Thus it can be likely considered a kind of unofficial Casio anthem. To me it was one of my childhood key experiences with electronic music.

But here in Germany it is definitely not a commonly known standard folk song. Most bizarre is that apparently nobody else than Casio ever referred this as "Unterlanders Heimweh", so it is likely wrong despite the ROM-Pack RO-551 lists this name. Blatantly based on this version was the title theme and background music of the Atari VCS2600 lightgun game prototype "Shooting Arcade" (©1989 Axlon / Atari). Later I bought a Casio MT-36, which demo tune "Unterlanders Heimweh" (name in manual) is a rural folk waltz piece that is very different from the VL-1 melody. I also bought an Elite MC2200 keyboard that has many demo tunes of those one is labelled "UMTERLANDERS AEIMWEH" (regard the typo), and the Letron MC-38 that includes it too (misspelled "UMTERLANDERS HEIMWEH); both melodies corresponds to the MT-36 and not the famous demo of VL-1. The MT-36 melody is definitely the genuine documented "Unterländers Heimweh" (means something like "Lowlander's Homesickness", regard the 'ä'), alternatively known as "Drunten im Unterland" (means "Down in the Lowlands", ©1835 by Gottfried Weigle, seen on YouTube with German lyrics).

Drunten im Unterland: (video with lyrics, musical score sheet)

When I bought and repaired a Citizen - Melody Alarm clock with 8 polyphonic tunes, it turned out that it included the RO-551 melody, which in its blurred manual (only an eBay photo) was listed as "Musician of the Mountain", which appeared to be a translated title of the Japanese children song "Yama No Ongakuka" (Mountain Musicians). After hours of websearch in different languages I thought that the original German title of this folk song was "Ich bin ein Musikante". This is a traditional (lesser known) children's game song about a musician, involving vocal imitation and miming of the many instruments he plays (a well fit choice for the first mass produced toy-size mini synth). But the melody in all YouTube examples clearly differs, hence there is no exact German equivalent known, and also in YouTube "Unterlanders Heimweh" examples with RO-551 melody I found no other concrete hints of origin than Casio and particularly nothing with German lyrics. Another similar song is "I Am a Fine Musician", which has yet another different melody.

So it has to be be concluded that the only "original" of the VL-1 melody is the Japanese children song "Yama No Ongakuka" (about forest animals playing different instruments on a mountain), which concept was only inspired by a German folk song ("Ich bin ein Musikante") and on the ROM-Pack accidentally was misnamed by Casio as "Unterlanders Heimweh" (without 'ä' umlaut) until it got known worldwide under this wrong name.

Ua - Yama No Ongakuka: (in a typical Japanese children's TV rendition)

Generally Casio in their early products (e.g. barcode song books) applied the term "folk song" or "traditional" quite sloppily - possibly as an excuse when they didn't know the author or even to avoid paying royalties. Thus the "German folk song" indication must be taken in doubt.

- Are there German lyrics?

But I still may be wrong. The melodic style would not be unplausible to be a classic German folk or children song (compare e.g. "Der Kuckuck und der Esel"). So does anybody know traditional German lyrics sung to the melody of "Yama No Ongakuka"?


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Not sure how old this post is but...THANK YOU for clearing up this decades-old mystery!  There's a clip on Youtube that proves conclusively that it is indeed the Yemano gaku ka song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L06HFBrNhXk


Why the claim of a German folk song?  I chalk it up to pure marketing.  No one knows what Yama No Onkika is.  Also, back in the 80's it would have been far more acceptable in America to call something German than Japanese (remember the term "Oriental"?)  So cover it up with a moniker that people can swallow, and boom, you're rich.  Brilliant move, Casio.  And brilliant detective work to the OP!

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May be that Japanese was indeed considered embarassing to western countries. But I thought they just mixed something up and didn't correct it later. May be it's time to write German language lyrics for this. (Or in far future I make a ROM-Pack with real German folk songs made from a microcontroller or emulated on a Raspberry Pi adapter.)

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I just found this thread.


Amazing that there was such a mystery behind this song and that it was mislabeled or something! When my fiancée (a Nisei) first heard that demo song in one of my Casio keyboards (MT-18, I think, with the ROM pack that came with it) she immediately recognized it and started singing the Japanese lyrics along with the melody. To be honest, it never crossed my mind that "Unterlanders Heimweh" wasn't its title - I just thought that it was how they called the song in Germany. 


Nice detective work. While we're at it, does anyone know if the fantastic CT-700 demo song is a Casio original or based on another song? It's truly beautiful and I really think that it does a good job of showing what the keyboard is able to do.



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