eBay Find: Hohner Magic Organa

We’ve seen self-playing accordions before, but this is the first time I’ve seen a Hohner Magic Organa — an automatic accordion built in the 1920s. (Not to be confused with the non-magical Hohner Organa, which was a portable organ.) Music rolls inside the accordion are moved with a spring-wound mechanism over 44 tubes to generate sounds, while a foot pedal connects to the accordion via a hose to power the mechanism.

This particular instrument was recently up for auction on eBay and, while bidding reached $2,750, it still didn’t meet the reserve price. As fun as an automatic accordion sounds, $2,750 could buy you a lot of lessons on a real accordion…

Hohner Magic Organa  Hohner Magic Organa (inside)

[Found via The Automata / Automaton Blog]

Putting the Accordion on the Map

Map of Accordion EventsI’ve always loved maps; as a kid, I spent hours poring over National Geographic maps at my grandparents’ house. So I’ve combined two of my favorite hobbies into our new map of accordion events across North America. The map includes all of the events currently listed on our accordion events calendar, from Arcata to Wausau. Just zoom in on your area and click on a pin to get details about a particular event.

Of course, some squeezebox hotspots (New York, San Francisco, New Orleans) have more activities listed than others, and that’s where you come in. If there’s an event in your area missing from our list — your band is touring, your accordion club is meeting, etc. — let us know. With your help, we can build the most complete list of accordion events anywhere!

Quick Links: Maple Leaf Edition

In honor of our neighbors to the north, we present an all-Canadian batch of links:

Look Ma, No Hands!

Sex With No Hands: Squeeze ItFrom Sly and the Family Stone to Tower of Power, the San Francisco Bay Area has a rich history of funk music. I’m willing to bet, however, that Sex With No Hands is the first Bay Area funk band to feature dueling accordions. Nevertheless, this six-piece party band is making a name for itself from China Basin to the Marina with sweaty, high-energy shows and accordion-driven homages to the late 1970s.

Their recent EP, Squeeze This, showcases the band’s eclecticism, echoing the sounds of Parliament, Billy Idol, and a cheesy conjunto in the span of just four tracks. In between the accordions, you’ll hear plenty of keytar, synthesizer, cowbell, and Frampton-inspired talkbox. You can download the full EP for free from their site.

Like any good party band, however, Sex With No Hands is best experienced live. (It’s tough to convey the power of a truly awesome laser light show through an mp3.) Fortunately, you can catch their Halloween bash next Friday night at Ireland’s 32 in San Francisco. Tickets are limited, but you can buy them online.

Polka Haunt Us Makes Every Day Halloween

Polka Haunt UsLet’s face it: there’s a frightful shortage of good Halloween music. (I swear, if I hear “Monster Mash” one more time…) Veronique Chevalier agrees, which is why she’s put together Polka Haunt Us, a “spook-tacular” compilation of 13 songs based on famous ghostly legends from around the world. The album combines various polka styles with world music genres and then layers spooky/goofy lyrics on top to create what Veronique dubs “World Gothic Polka.”

The album’s opener, “The Beer Hall in Hell,” parodies the classic beer-glorification polkas, but “there’s no last call in Hell and this polka never stops.” “After Wife Polka Tango” recalls the ghost of Eva Peron, while “White Witch of Jamaica” is based on the tale of 18th century serial killer Annie Palmer. Accordionists Alex Meixner (a Grammy nominee last year), Mike Surratt, and Gee Rabe all contribute to the bubbling musical brew.

If you’re in Southern California, there’s a Polka Haunt Us release party tonight at Club Good Hurt in Santa Monica. In addition to performances by Veronique, Count Smokula, The Rhythm Coffin, and others, the first 100 paid guests will receive a free copy of the CD. Trick or treat!

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Grandpa’s Magical Accordion

Grandpa's Magical AccordionFor some reason, we find ourselves reading an awful lot of children’s books these days. So we’ll have to pick up a copy of Grandpa’s Magical Accordion, written by Jessica Cherie Errico and illustrated by Brenda Star. It’s the story of two children who, as their grandfather plays his accordion, are magically transported to the countries mentioned in the songs he plays. This picture book aimed at ages 5 to 9 includes a CD with narration and renditions of such accordion classics as “Roll Out The Barrel” and “Cielito Lindo.” Sounds like the perfect holiday gift for the little squeezers in your life.

The Sounds of San Antonio

Accordion lovers descended on San Antonio this past weekend for the International Accordion Festival, featuring two dozen artists from around the world performing conjunto, polka, tango, zydeco, and everything in between. Early reports indicate it was another fantastic festival. For those (like us) who couldn’t make it, check out these festival photos, including shots of Boise-based basque band Amuma Says No and one of our local Bay Area groups, Rupa and the April Fishes. Or watch this up-close video of conjunto pioneer Paulino Bernal performing “Idalia.”