Register for Lark Camp

Registration for Lark Camp has begun! This is the 28th year of the world music and dance camp that takes place in the Mendocino Woodlands in Northern California, August 1-9 2008. You can register for full camp (all 8 days) or half camp (4 days) either online or by mail.

Along with an extensive list of dance and vocal instructors, there is an instructor in practically every acoustic instrument and world music style that you can imagine. Accordion instructors include Javier Blanco (Galician Accordion), Claudette Boudreaux (Cajun & Creole Button Accordion, Cajun French Songs), Alan Keith (Button Accordion), Louis Leger (French Canadian Songs, Quebecois Button Accordion), Keith Livingstone (Piano Accordion), and Vickie Yancy (French Music & Button Accordion). There are also a variety of jam circles (Cajun/Zydeco, English country dance music, Old time music) to join in!

Check their website for more information about prices, registration and to hear some great sound bytes of the instructors’ music.

Country Accordion With The Carter Sisters

Further proof that the accordion has never met a genre it didn’t like: this clip of the Carter Sisters performing “My Baby Don’t Love Me No More” features sister Helen on accordion. The accordion actually has a long history in country music, dating back to “Tennessee Waltz” author Pee Wee King, Vic Willis (played with Hank Williams Sr.), and Marion Martin (played with Doc Williams’ Border Riders).

The Return of Taraf de Haidouks

Taraf de Haidouks

Taraf de Ha├»douks — which translates to “band of honorable outlaws” (a “haidouk” is a Robin Hood-like hero of Romanian folklore) — are a group of virtuoso gypsy musicians from the Romanian village of Clejani. Called the “world’s greatest gypsy band” by some, this colorful cast of characters has charmed audiences worldwide (actor Johnny Depp is one of their biggest fans).

With musicians ranging in age from their twenties to their seventies, the Tarafs play intense, rhythmically complex music at a breakneck pace on fiddles, cymbaloms, and accordions. They’ve also earned a reputation as free spirits, drinking reporters under the table and breaking into song at all hours of the night.

They have a new album — their first studio album since 2001’s Band of Gypsies and the death of their star violinist Neacsu Neculae — due out next month called Maskarada. This time around, the Taraf take on classical music with “re-gypsyfied” renditions of works by Khachaturian, Bartok, Liszt, de Falla, Albeniz, and others.

I’ve seen clips of Taraf de Haidouks where as many as twenty musicians are involved (mostly violins and accordions), but this live performance of “Rustem” features just a quartet — violin, cymbalum, upright bass, and one manic accordion:

Vallenato Legend Festival Video

Vallenato is a popular accordion-based folk music from the Caribbean region of Colombia, influenced by African, European, and Colombian rhythms and sounds. Right now in Valledupar, the annual Festival de la Leyenda Vallenata is taking place, and it includes a contest where vallenato musicians compete in categories for best professional accordionist, amateur accordionist, and more.

Juan, a reader from Colombia, forwarded me this excellent video from a previous festival, featuring the fast fingers of Sammy Ariza Ramos. Don’t skip the caja (drum) and guacharaca (percussion stick) solos — they’re incredible, too.

Maria Dunn’s Good People

Maria DunnApparently no one in America is blogging about Canadian folk singer/accordionist Maria Dunn, so we’ll just have to do it ourselves. Born in Scotland and raised in Ontario and Alberta, Dunn brings characters to life in original music that pays homage to her Celtic roots and Canadian upbringing.

Her most recent album, We Were Good People, is practically a Ken Burns documentary of turn-of-the-century Alberta, painting vivid pictures of farmers, soldiers, and day laborers struggling to get by. But it’s no dry history lesson; Dunn’s sharp, inspiring lyrics are backed by eclectic instrumentation that toes the line between Celtic and bluegrass beautifully.

This track, “Can You Blame the Poor Miner?”, pays tribute to beleaguered Crow’s Nest Pass miners during Prohibition:

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