Macedonian Dream: A Girl and Her Accordion

The guys at Accordion Noir hipped us to Die Akkordeonspielerin (The Accordion Player), a 2006 documentary about a promising young Macedonian accordionist. 17-year-old Emilija Obradova practices diligently and longs to be a professional musician, but her family is poor and cannot afford the new accordion she needs to compete in a national competition. This 30-minute film chronicles the lengths Emilija and her family will go to help her achieve her dream. I haven’t been able to track down a full copy (with English subtitles) so, in the meantime, this short clip will have to do:

Silent Kimbly Polka Dot T-Shirt

Polka DotWe’ve always been suckers for accordion and polka-themed clothing, so this t-shirt is right up our alley. Taken from the online comic Silent Kimbly — a treasure trove of visual puns and silly wordplay — it could be the perfect shirt for all those summer polka parties you’ll be attending.

MP3 Monday: Vagabond Opera

Vagabond Opera: The Zeitgeist Beckons European cabaret, Balkan belly-dance, neo-Classical opera… it’s all in a day’s work for the Portland, Oregon-based six-piece, Vagabond Opera. Mixing Eastern European folk with creative, theatrical performances, Vagabond Opera is one of the few bands that can put on a thrilling show while still delivering the musical goods. And they’re not kidding around about the “Opera” part, either — the group’s lineup includes classically trained tenor and soprano vocals (singing in over a dozen languages), not to mention accordion, cello, stand-up bass, musical saw, and more. This track comes from their just-released third album, The Zeitgeist Beckons:

Mass Accordions in NYC

Mass Accordions!Make Music New York is a unique festival of free concerts in public spaces throughout New York City, all on Sunday, June 21st, the first day of summer. Along with hundreds of individual concerts, this year’s MMNY includes a type of gathering called “Mass Appeal” where hundreds of musicians perform pieces written for a single instrument. And, you guessed it, there’ll be special event just for accordionists.

Accordionists of all shapes, sizes, and abilities are encouraged to join the accordion gathering at the Old Stone House in Brooklyn. You can participate in the performance of a new piece by composer Bob Goldberg for the Famous Accordion Orchestra, in which visitors discover an “accordion forest.” Players are also invited to play-along to some old favorites with the NYC’s all-female Main Squeeze Accordion Orchestra conducted by Walter Kuhr. See the listing on our calendar for more details, including RSVP information so they know how many squeezeboxes to expect.

Timbre Russian Accordion Group

The United States may have won the Cold War, but Russia continues to set the pace when it comes to accordion technology. Just witness the strange and fantastic custom accordions used here by the Timbre Russian Accordion Group. Founded in Moscow in 1982, this quintet plays unique “timbre accordions” designed to sound like symphonic wind instruments — specifically, an oboe, clarinet, French horn, and tuba. (The fifth member plays a more traditional bayan.) One of Russia’s most popular accordion ensembles, the group plays classical, folk and contemporary music from Russia and beyond. I couldn’t find much information about their accordions beyond the description included with the video; if you have more, leave a comment and let us know.

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MP3 Monday: Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan: Together Through LifeIt only took forty years and thirty-three albums for Bob Dylan to realize what we already knew — that the accordion is the perfect instrument. His latest record, Together Through Life, which debuted at the top of the charts last month, features the excellent Tex-Mex accordion stylings of Los Lobos frontman David Hidalgo on nearly every track. I think Dylan’s only regret is that he didn’t realize the accordion’s value earlier in his career:

“I wished I had used it more on some of my past records… I use an accordion player when I play off-road shows. It’s a perfect instrument in a lot of ways. It’s orchestrative and percussive at the same time. Actually accordion players were the first musicians I had seen a lot of growing up.”

Amen, Bob. You’re preaching to the choir here.

Quick Links: The Lighter Side

MP3 Monday: Tower of Dudes

Today’s featured track comes from Tower of Dudes, a band hailing from the Czech Republic. But there’s nothing traditionally Czech here; the lyrics are English and the music is a combination of high-energy punk and country twang. Toting an eclectic array of instruments — accordion, banjo, mandolin, melodica, glockenspiel — they remind of me of a slightly tamer, but no less interesting, version of Gogol Bordello.

The Next Accordion Kings

Forget Guitar Hero. In Valledupar, Colombia — the birthplace of vallenato music — children dream of becoming accordion stars. And for many of those children, Andres “Turco” Gil’s accordion school is the perfect place to start their journey.

Gil has about 1,000 students, some as young as 3 years old, but most between the ages of 6 and 15. They attend his school for free, with tuition supported by donations, proceeds from concerts, and tuition from other students who come from around the world to study with Gil. Many have the opportunity to win prizes at Valledupar’s annual accordion festival, but according to Gil, the accordion plays a more important role to his students, most of whom live in poverty:

“A child who plays accordion or other instrument doesn’t pick up a gun… The music makes them noble, it changes their heart. They start to sing, they forget about their problems and they feel happy.”

This audio slideshow shows Gil’s school in action, including one of his star pupils, a 9 year old blind boy named Juan David Atencia.

MP3 Monday: Hey Marseilles

From Petosa to Jason Webley, we’ve always known Seattle to be a forward-thinking, accordion-savvy town. So it’s no surprise that one of Seattle’s hottest new bands, Hey Marseilles, features our favorite instrument as well. Drawing comparisons to bands like Arcade Fire and Beirut, Hey Marseilles plays swirling, orchestral folk-rock with soaring arrangements incorporating violin, cello, sousaphone, trumpet, bass drum, and more. Their self-released debut album, To Travels & Trunks, ranges from ambitiously sweeping to soft and spare. The selection below is one of my favorites, and a great accordion showcase.