AOL Launches Polka Radio

After last month’s announcement heralding the end of the polka Grammy, polka lovers have been waiting for some good news. Last week, AOL Radio answered the call by launching an all-polka station, broadcasting happy polka beats around the clock. The mix is actually pretty good so far — in addition to the usual suspects (Yankovic, Sturr, etc.), I’ve heard Brave Combo, Those Darn Accordions, and even conjunto pioneer Narciso Martinez.

If you’re simply looking for a jukebox, AOL’s polka station does a fine job. But if you prefer hearing the occasional human voice, I recommend checking out — the Internet’s first around-the-clock polka radio channel. Their programming schedule features shows hosted by polka personalities from across the country, including Tony Petkovsek, Wild Wilson, and more.

One Less Guitar, One More Accordion

If you think we work hard to promote the accordion, you should check out our Canadian cousins at Accordion Noir. They produce a weekly radio show devoted entirely to accordion music from around the world. They’ve also just created a great new bumper sticker to raise accordion awareness — one whose message may sound familiar to some bicyclists:

One Less Guitar

The stickers are narrow so they fit a bike’s tubes, but look equally fab on an accordion case, guitar case, hurdy-gurdy case… you name it. They’re currently available around Vancouver or you can email the guys to order one. The cost is just $1 and goes to support their awesome radio show, which is broadcast on CFRO Co-Op Radio (102.7 FM) in Vancouver. (You can also listen online and download episodes directly from their site.)

Accordion Noir Festival in Vancouver

Accordion Noir festivalA heads-up for accordion fans north of the border — Vancouver’s all-accordion radio show Accordion Noir presents its first annual festival this Thursday and Friday. The two-day squeezebox-o-rama includes live performances from Geoff Berner, Amy Denio, and more, as well as a special screening of the Accordion Tribe documentary. Check our calendar for more information.

Broadcast every Friday night from 9:30 to 10:30 on Vancouver’s CFRO: Co-op Radio 102.7 FM, Accordion Noir is “ruthlessly pursuing the idea that the accordion is just another instrument” by playing an eclectic brew of punk, folk, rock, zydeco, klezmer, jazz, and everything in-between. The brainchild of Bruce Triggs and Rowan Lipkovits, you can listen online live or download episodes directly from the Accordion Noir website. It’s the perfect companion to an evening of browsing the Let’s Polka archives.

Radio Alert: Accordions on NPR

On Thursday morning, the NPR show Morning Edition will be airing a piece about the Coupe Mondiale accordion competition. The show will include a rendition of the Morning Edition theme song as performed on accordion by three members of the Washington Metropolitan Accordion Society: Mara Cherkasky, Peter DiGiovanni and Lee Paulson.

Thursday’s Morning Edition will also feature some music by one of our favorite bands, One Ring Zero. They’ll be interviewed during a segment on music inspired by Pluto’s recent demotion to dwarf-planet status. I’m anxious to hear how that discussion goes, but it will likely include a clip of their new song, “International Astronomical Union.”

Update: Here’s a link to the Coupe Mondiale segment: “Ace Accordion Players Compete.” (The One Ring Zero segment is linked above.)

Preserving Online Polka Radio

If you listen to a local radio station streaming online, a service like Pandora, or an online polka station like 247PolkaHeaven or Polka Jammer, you’ve probably heard the uproar over the Copyright Royalty Board’s decision to substantially raise performance royalty rates paid by online radio operators (webcasters). Starting July 15, royalty rates will be changed from a percentage of revenue to a per-song, per-listener fee, with a minimum fee of $500 per month. The rates are also retroactive to January 2006.

These new royalty rates (which are collected by a record industry-backed organization called SoundExchange) threaten to put many webcasters out of business entirely. SoundExchange counters that most of these increased royalties go to artists, who deserve to be fairly compensated for their work. The issue is coming to a head in Congress where the recently-proposed Internet Radio Equality Act intends to reduce rates and bring them in line with what satellite radio operators pay. It appears unlikely, though, that Congress will act on the bill before the new rates take effect on Sunday.

(Note: This is a mile-high view of a relatively complicated issue; if you want to learn more, David Byrne has one of the clearer explanations I’ve read.)

So, where do online polka radio stations fit into all this?

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Sammy Thomas Reaches the Top

Sammy ThomasFrom the Top is a weekly radio show on NPR that showcases America’s top young classical musicians, aged 9 to 18. A couple weeks ago, the show featured 18-year-old U.S. National Accordion champion, Sammy Thomas. Classically trained since the age of ten, Sammy has played at many of the top accordion festivals (Cotati, Las Vegas) and is preparing to compete in this year’s Coupe Mondiale in Washington, DC.

You can listen to the ten-minute clip of Sammy’s appearance on the NPR website. It begins with a brief interview (his least favorite accordion genre: polka), followed by his excellent performance of “Chopin’s Nightmare”:

Radio Squeezin’ on Valentine’s Day

Tune into San Francisco radio station KFOG 104.5 tomorrow morning around 6:50am, and you should hear SF accordionist Tom Torriglia playing some romantic tunes on Dave Morey’s morning show. If you’re outside the Bay Area, you can listen online at

Tom was also featured recently on a Canadian TV show called Careers TV, where they chronicled his passion for playing and promoting the accordion. (Look for episode #06-808 on their site for more info.) Maybe one of our Canadian readers can upload a clip to YouTube…

Smilin’ Scandinavians Polka Podcast

The tiny world of polka podcasting just got a little bit bigger. Seattle’s Smilin’ Scandinavians (profiled here previously) have launched a polka podcast, hosted by accordionist and leader Toby Hanson.

The first episode (iTunes link) features a wide variety of polka music (Slovenian, Polish, and “Dutchmen-style”), including tunes from Frankie Yankovic, Johnny Pecon & Lou Trebar, Whoopie John, and more. Toby does a great job keeping the show moving with anecdotes and insight on the music.

But… what’s a podcast? Basically, it’s a radio show that you can download and listen to whenever you want. You can subscribe to the Smilin’ Scandinavians podcast through iTunes and it will automatically download new episodes as they become available (every month, in this case). For more info, see Yahoo’s “What the heck is a podcast?”

Accordion Noir Radio

Accordion Noir is a new all-accordion radio show on Co-Op Radio 102.7 FM in Vancouver. Hosted by Bruce Triggs and Rowan Lipkovits, each show features accordion music from a dizzying range of styles and genres. Last Friday’s playlist alone included tunes from Esteban (Steve) Jordan, Neko Case, Gogol Bordello, Pee Wee King, Guy Klucevsek, and even Marlene Dietrich. Now that’s my kind of radio show.

You can listen online, but unfortunately for those of us in North America, the show’s current time slot is Friday mornings between 2-3am Pacific. (They’re hoping to add a podcast soon so you can listen on-demand.) Sounds like I have a new excuse for coming in late to work on Fridays…