Serbia Chooses the Accordion

I haven’t seen an accordion player on American Idol yet, but Eurovision — Europe’s annual song contest that pits nation against nation — rarely disappoints. Serbia just selected its representative for this year’s competition: “Cipela” (“The Shoe”) performed by Marko Kon and accordionist Milan Nikolic. According to Nikolic, the song was “based on an idea to bring the accordion back to the place it deserves. First in Serbia, then in the whole world as well.” That’s certainly an idea I can get behind.

In Japan, An Accordion for Every Child

We’re busy moving into a new place, so “MP3 Monday” will be postponed until later in the week. In the meantime, I’ll share a fun video from Accordeonactueel which, as best I can tell, is a Dutch accordion news site. Among the videos they’ve posted is this one featuring a series of Japanese childrens’ orchestras. (It could be the same one, just with different combinations of musicians.) But these are no ordinary orchestras — they’re made up almost entirely of accordions and melodicas. Why don’t we see groups like this in the US?

A Few Accordions Short of a Record

I ran across this teaser video for “A Few Accordions Short of a Record” — an upcoming documentary on the annual Kimberley International Old-Time Accordion Championships in Kimberley, British Columbia, Canada. It’s one of the largest accordion festivals in the world, drawing thousands for a week full of concerts and competitions. In 2005, attendees set a Guinness world record for the largest accordion ensemble with more than 644 players. (That record was broken a month later at the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival where 989 accordionists participated.) The video suggests the film will be complete by the summer; I’ll keep my eye out for more details.

Afghanistan, An Accordion Journey

When journalist Gregory Warner took his accordion to Afghanistan, he hoped the music would help him where his phrasebook failed. The instrument turned out to be a better ambassador than he ever imagined.

His fantastic video, “Afghanistan: An Accordion Journey”, shows how his music helped bridge the gap between foreigner and natives by recalling Afghanistan’s own accordion hero, Ahmad Zahir. (Thirty years after his death, Zahir is still Afghanistan’s most popular and enduring musical icon.) I particularly love the scene where Warner performs Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” for a cheering Afghan crowd. Is there any culture where the accordion doesn’t fit in?

In the Studio With La India Canela

For any merengue típico fans: here’s a fun video of La India Canela talking about the accordion during recording sessions in the Dominican Republic. Unlike big-band merengue, merengue típico centers on the accordion and relentless improvisation. And despite being a rare female accordionist (and bandleader), she has won the Dominican’s highest prize in the arts (the Casandra) twice and is nationally famous for her music. Born Lidia Maria Hernandez Lopez, she was nicknamed “La India Canela” (“Cinnamon Indian”) by a radio host who said it described her look and musical flavor.

If you want to hear more, be sure to check out her recent release on the Smithsonian Folkways label.

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Gnarls Barkley, Forro Style

We’ve posted clips of forró — a style of dance music from Brazil — before, but never quite like this. Our pal Squeezyboy turned us on to an entire cottage industry of mashups that combine forró with modern pop songs. While you think everything might sound better with some accordion, they aren’t all winners; but we definitely share his love for this forró remix of the Gnarls Barkley hit “Crazy.” I’m not sure who’s behind this accordion mashup madness, but I dig it.

Grace Jones… on Accordion?

You may think of Grace Jones as a model, a disco diva, an actress, or a tempestuous artiste, but probably not as an accordion player. And yet here’s a clip of Jones performing the strangest version of the classic French chanson “La Vie on Rose” I’ve ever heard. Of course, she isn’t really playing the accordion so much as using it as a prop, though she certainly strikes an intimidating pose. (Watch her performance of Astor Piazzolla’s “Libertango” for an example of her excellence at accordion-holding, if not playing.)

(Found via Lynn of the SF Accordion Club)

Election ’08: Palin Polka & Obama Zydeco

Back in February, we noted how both the Clinton and Obama campaigns courted Hispanic voters in Texas through cumbia and mariachi tunes. In the wake of last week’s presidential election, we found a couple of grassroots, accordion-fueled videos paying homage to presidential and vice presidential candidates alike.

First up is the “I’m in Love with Sarah Palin Polka”, from a band called “Joe and the Plumbers.” Led by Joe Rodgers — who some may recognize from posts on — the band uses classic Cleveland-style polka instrumentation including the accordion, banjo, and plunger:

On a more serious note, a group of Zydeco musicans came together in Opelousas, Louisiana, to record “Oui, On Peut” (“Yes, We Can”) — a tribute to Barack Obama (and his campaign slogan). The all-star band includes Jeffrey Broussard (of the Creole Cowboys) on accordion:

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.”

The Weekend That Was

If you missed the Monsters of Accordion tour, which wrapped up this past weekend in Seattle, you can download a podcast with highlights from Spokane7. The podcast has clips from the Monsters’ Spokane show, including performances by Karli Fairbanks’ new band Power Und Beauty, Amy Denio, Duckmandu, Mark Growden, and Jason Webley. The Spokane7 website also features a great video of Webley performing “Dance While The Sky Crashes Down.”

Kimric Smythe, owner of Smythe’s Accordion Center, also posted an excellent video of the Monsters of Accordion Master Class that took place before their Oakland show. Watch as Duckmandu and Jason Webley lead an eager class of accordion students through a spirited rendition of “California Ãœber Alles.”

Meanwhile, we’ve posted a handful of photos from last weekend’s Cotati Accordion Festival. We didn’t get to stay as long as we usually do — having a six-month-old will do that — but we still heard some great music and enjoyed chatting with our squeezebox buddies, old and new. If you have any photos or videos to share from either of these events, leave a comment and link ’em up!

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