The Slovenia Times

Deconstructing the Accordion



The Accordion Tribe are an ensemble who base their music on the accordion's traditional role in European folk songs while adding a contemporary and even avant-garde edge to finish off their complex musical creations. Their compositions liberate the accordion from its traditional role and make it as classic as the piano, as appealing as the saxophone, and as unpretentious as the guitar. Their third European tour, which runs from October 23rd till November 9th, presents their third CD - Longhorn Twist - which features swingier but still experimental and eclectic compositions. The Accordion Tribe is now moving on to perform in Vienna, Budapest, Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Luzemo, San Sebastian and elsewhere. Longhorn Twist presents us with a highly-developed sound that goes beyond individual styles and genres, but which still stays true to the recognisable tradition of the Accordion Tribe. The story of the Accordion Tribe begins in 1996, when American accordionist Guy Klucevsek brought together an all-star group of five exceptional and innovative globally-renowned accordionists for a brief project. The short tour also resulted in an excellent live CD called Accordian Tribe - Intuition. Besides Klucevsek the ensemble includes Lars Hollmer from Sweden (Samla Mammas Manna), Finn Maria Kalaniemi, Austrian Otto Lechner, and Slovenian Bratko Bibic (Begnagrad, Nimal). All of them contribute to the group's compositions - sometimes it is just single ideas to be further developed within the group, at other times it is finished compositions. The musicians all come from different nations, different backgrounds, and indeed, very different genres of music. Klucevsek is the "downtowner" of the bunch, with ties to the Knitting Factory new music scene. As a child in Slovenia, he grew up around polka music, which he later developed into his own jazzy contemporary sound. Kalaniemi has grown from a folk revivalist into a sharp composer of romantic music. She also contributes the group's soft and rather enchanting soprano vocals. Bibic is one of the small number of Slovene musicians who are constantly present on the international music scene. Throughout his career he has had a raw, folksy energy that he now brings to the Accordion Tribe. Hollmer is a self-trained musician with no boundaries, no genre, and a dazzling array of ideas. Lechner, the blind accordion virtuoso, who thinks of music in colours, offers a dark European neo-classicism. Like Kalaniemi, he also does some vocals, some percussion inserts and even guttural singing. What ties the ensemble together is their interest in the accordion and their willingness to combine their very specific individual styles into bold compositions that range from gentle solos to chaotic quintets, from elaborate compositions to vivid interplays full of quotations and carefully considered humour. Each of them bring their own individual talents which come together to create music of such a brilliant intensity as can only develop between kindred spirits with diverse inspiration. After a break following their first tour, the ensemble regrouped for their second legendary tour in 2002 which presented their second album The Sea of Reeds (recorded at the Chickenhouse - Hollmer's studio in Uppsala, Sweden) to filled concert halls. While the guidelines for their first album were sketched out by Klucevsek, the second can be attributed to Hollmer. The recent Longhorn Twist, also recorded at the Chickenhouse, is perhaps the most collaborative of their albums. Their second tour was filmed by Swiss documentary-maker Stefan Schwietert, who made an award-winning documentary about the ensemble - their lives, their music, and of course the accordion. The documentary has been released on DVD; titled Music Travels, it won the Schweizer Filmpreis (Swiss Film Prize) for Best Documentary in 2005, and was honoured at the Solothurn Film Festival in the city of Solothurn, north of Bern. In his film Schwietert succeeds in liberating the accordion from the popular view that it is an instrument of rural folk music, presenting it rather as an instrument for modern musical expression. The accordion is, in a way, thought of as a national instrument of Slovenia. But surprisingly, there are not many professional musicians who play it. Thus it became the instrument of public merrymaking. But, as the Accordion Tribe proves, it can also be used excellently in contemporary music. Those who attended the sold-out concert in Cankarjev dom will most probably agree to that.


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