Tag Archives: accordion

Artist Profiles: Frode Haltli

Frode Haltli – Photo by Rolf Schoellkopf

Accordion virtuoso Frode Haltli has received several awards, including a Norwegian Spellemann Prize in 2002, and was named Young Soloist of the Year by the Norwegian Concert Institute in 2001.

Haltli was was a member of Rusk and contributed to a long line of productions, including recordings for the prestigious German label ECM.

Since 1999 he has performed and recorded regularly with Scandinavian trio POING.

Frode Haltli – Photo by Knut Bry


Looking on Darkness, with the Vertavo String Quartet (ECM, 2002)
Rusk (Heilo/Grappa, 2002)
Rusk II (Heilo/Grappa, 2006)
Passing images (ECM, 2007)
Yeraz, with Trygve Seim (ECM, 2008)
Arne Nordheim Complete Accordion Works (Simax Classics, 2012)
Vagabonde Blu (Hubro/Grappa, 2014)
Air, with the Trondheim Soloists and the Arditti Quartet (ECM, 2016)
Rumi Songs, with Trygve Seim (ECM, 2016)
StaiStua, with Ulvo and Hole (NorCD, 2016)
Avant Folk (Hubro/Grappa, 2018)


Giants of Jazz (LLRR, 2003)
Planet POING (Jazzaway, 2005)
River Mouth Echoes (Tzadik, 2008)
Wach auf! (Øra Fonogram, 2011)
Sur POING (Aurora, 2016)
Kapital & Moral (Grappa, 2016)


Artist Profiles: Regis Gizavo

Regis Gizavo with Nguyên Lê – Photo courtesy of Act Music

Regis Gizavo was an accordionist from Tulear. He presented himself not only as a defender of the traditions of his region (where the ethnic groups, Vezo, Masikoro and Mahafaly, co-exist), but also of modern, original music, absorbing diverse influences with perfect ease. His experience in Madagascar: immersion from his early childhood in trance music, performance of popular music with various variety groups, and pure research in collaboration with the guitarist D’Gary made him an accomplished musician. In 1990, was awarded Radio France International’s “Discovery Prize”.

Tulear, 1971. In a hut, in the Mahavatse neighborhood, a group of kids armed with makeshift instruments, performed songs they had heard on the radio: French songs, American tunes, South African and Mozambican music, spread by the radio waves that reached the extreme southwest of Madagascar. In a neighboring hut, there was a woman in a trance. Surrounded by relatives, she was prey to the caprices of the spirits which shook and transformed her. Suddenly, she perceived the sound of an accordion behind the wall, and was taken over by a frenzy of dancing (the accordion is an instrument of trance in this region, accordionists are part of every ritual, of every celebration). Quickly, they sent for the providential musician. It turned out to be a twelve-year-old child, Regis Gizavo, who fled at the sight of the possessed woman. He was caught and brought back by force. He was forced to play with his eyes closed, terrified, but would succeed little by little in calming the spirits and freeing the woman. The ambivalence of Regis Gizavo’s talent is entirely shown in this anecdote.

The son of a teacher with modern ideas who played the accordionist musette and taught it to five of his thirteen children, Regis pursued management studies at the university, and played all kinds of music on his island and in Europe, where he lived since 1990. But in his ethnic group Vezo (fishermen of the southwest coast of Madagascar), and all those which inhabit the Tulear region (Masikoro, Mahafaly…), the accordion has a religious connotation far too strong for Regis not to have somehow been permeated by it. Every summer, he returned to his mother’s village, Tampolo, on the other side of the Mangoky river where he listened to traditional accordionists; and even if he didn’t learn the trance music, he grew up in their vibrations; their driving grooves emanated naturally forth from his fingers.

His first band was the Filibustiers, a group that entertained at local events. When he left the group to return to school, he was barely fifteen. After that he was hired by a more professional group, the Sailors, who accompanied the singer Angeline in concert and on the radio. The accordion belonged to the boss, as is often the case in Madagascar; Regis didn’t get his own instrument until 1990. At age twenty-five, after he graduated, he undertook a journey across the island which gave him the opportunity to play with numerous traditional! and modern musicians. Beginning in 1989, he started to record his own compositions with Landy, a singer from Tulear living in Tananarivo.

In 1990, Regis was the winner of the “Decouvertes” (Discoveries) musical competition organized by Radio France Internationale. He left for Europe where the music scene greeted him with a warm welcome and he was encouraged to pursue an international career. The drummer Francis Lassus invited him to join Boh? Combo, the group he was putting together. Regis accompanied Graeme Allwright, played on the albums of Zao, Higelin, les Tetes Brulees, etc.. and occasionally joined up with his old friend D’Gar. In 1993, he became the regular accordionist for I Muvrini, replacing jazz musician Daniel Mille. The 330-odd concerts and sessions given in the span of two years at their side didn’t stop him from working on his first solo album, which he recorded around Christmas 1995.

Regis Gizavo died on July 16, 2017


Mikea (Shanachie, 1996)
Samy Olombelo (2000)
Stories (Marabi, 2006)
Madagascar All Stars (2009)
Ilakake (Cinq Planètes, 2012)

[Biography edited from an original by Corinne Serres].


Artist Profiles: Ambrogio Sparagna

Ambrogio Sparagna
Ambrogio Sparagna is one of the most important musicians in contemporary Italian folk music. His musical project, which explores the Southern of Italy and the Mediterranean musical tradition, involves his compositions and ballads.

A wide range of both traditional and original songs showcase the melodic inspiration and harmonic richness of Ambrogio Sparagna’s accordion, as well as the acrobatic rhythm force and passion of the tambourines, ciaramella (traditional oboe), and the guitar of his musical friends.

Ambrogio drives his audience to jump, playing with the Arts Comedy, and with the Neapolitan Theatre masks.

He has recorded several albums with l’Orchestra Popolare Italiana.


L’avvenuta profezia (Finisterre, 2000)
Vorrei ballare (Finisterre, 2001)
Ambrogio Sparagna (Finisterre, 2003)
La notte della taranta 2005 (2005)
La notte della taranta 2006 (2006)
Fermarono i cieli (Felmay, 2006)
La chiara stella (2008)
Taranta d’amore (Parco Della Musica Records, 2009)
Vola Vola Vola. Canti Popolari E Canzoni ‎(Parco Della Musica Records, 2012)
Stories 1986-2016 ‎(Finisterre, 2016)


Artist Profiles: Mirella Murray

Mirella Murray

Mirella Murray (accordion) grew up in Claddaghduff, Ireland. Her father John Joe, is a leading sean nos dancer,from Inishark Island, Ireland, and has a deeply-rooted understanding of, and love for, traditional music. Mirella studied the piano accordion under the guidance of from Mary Finn (a great player from the musical Finn family of Ballymote, County Sligo). She and fiddler Liz Kane won the All-Ireland duet in 1995, while Mirella gained the title on the piano accordion that same year. The pair performed together for years and toured in France and North America with Comhaltas.

Later, Mirella teamed up with the fiddle player Tola Custy and they played throughout Ireland and Europe as part of various tours and festivals. Their album, Three Sunsets received critical acclaim and was voted one of the top five albums of 2002 by The Irish Times.

Mirella has accumulated a vast store of tunes from her travels, and musicians such as Sharon Shannon, Lunasa, and the Bumblebees credit her as a source for many uncommon melodies.


Three Sunsets (2002)
The Girls Won’t Leave the Boys Alone, with Cherish the Ladies (Windham Hill Records, 2001)


Artist Profiles: Paddy O’Brien

Paddy O’Brien

Hailing from County Offaly, and residing in St Paul (Minnesota, USA), Paddy O’Brien is regarded as one of the most important sources of traditional Irish music in the world.

A 2006 Bush Foundation Fellow, Paddy is an acknowledged master of his instrument, the two-row button accordion. Paddy has an extensive discography.

His third CD with his band Chulrua was released in early 2007 and the debut recording of the Doon Ceili Band, Around the World for Sport, was released in 2006.


Barefoot on the Altar (Pied Piper, 1999)
Down the Back Lane (Shanachie Records, 2003)
The Singing Kettle (Shanachie Records, 2007)


Artist Profiles: Sharon Shannon

Sharon Shannon

Sharon Shannon is one of the most adventurous musical spirits to emerge from Ireland in the past years. The accordion player has made a huge impact on the traditional music scene, boldly crossing musical borders with humor and flair. Born in Corofin, County Clare, Sharon was immersed in traditional music from the start. “I never heard any music other than jigs or reels until I was 12 or 13,” she recalls.

Sharon began playing tin whistle at the age of seven, with her sisters Mary on banjo and Majella on fiddle, and brother Gary on flute. Her versatility was evident by age eleven, having expanded her repertoire to include fiddle and the two-row button accordion, her signature instrument. In her early teens, she headed to Doolin in North Clare, a Mecca for Irish traditional music. It was there that she honed her art, learned from the masters, and soon made an impression. Steve Wickham of the Waterboys was taken with her style, and invited her to tour with the band, which led to her recording on their Room To Roam (1990) album.

Sharon has collaborated with some of the finest musicians around the world. In the late 1980s, she played in the Irish act Arcady, with singer Frances Black and bodhran player Johnny McDonagh. She has since worked with such prominent artists as Donal Lunny, Natalie Macmaster, Dennis Bovell, Adam Clayton of U2, and Liam O’Maonlai of the Hothouse Flowers.

Sharon’s debut album, Sharon Shannon (1991), was immediately celebrated as a critical marker in Irish folk history. Infectious and bright, imbued with the native culture but also aware of global possibilities, the album gave Sharon a rising popularity across the festival circuit. Her shows on the acoustic stage at the major English festival of Glastonbury were fervent testimonies to the power of a two-row Castignari button accordion in full effect. In 1992, she was included on the record A Woman’s Heart, which celebrated Ireland’s female performers. This became the island’s biggest-selling album, and Sharon’s subsequent tours were warmly received.

Her second album, Out the Gap (1995, Green Linnet), was graced by the hand of Dennis Bovell, a reggae luminary who produced five tracks from his home in Brixton. Again, the rate of invention was impressive as Sharon found a common bond between Celtic and West Indian styles, as well as showcasing her more traditional tunes.

Sharon Shannon

On Each Little Thing (1997, Green Linnet), Sharon continued her exploration of world music, interpreting songs by artists as varied as Grace Jones, Fleetwood Mac and the Chilean group Inti-Illimani. Produced by Donal Lunny, the album features the phenomenal talents of singer Kirsty MacColl and Australian-Irish guitarist Steve Cooney.

Sharon’s album, Spellbound: The Best of Sharon Shannon (1999, Green Linnet), represents a decade of recordings, including five previously unreleased tracks. Like her earlier works, Spellbound’s Irish tunes are accented with those of Jamaica, Finland, Portugal and Cape Breton. The selections not only reflect Sharon’s diverse repertoire, but also reveal the joy that is seemingly inherent in her playing.

In addition to her work as a solo artist, Sharon has recently been a featured artist with the Donal Lunny Band, and has performed at the White House before President Clinton. Her concerts attract children, senior citizens, rockers and ravers, folk die-hards and newcomers alike, all glad to participate in her uplifting and enthralling world party.

Sharon’s band was known as the Woodchoppers.


Sharon Shannon (Solid Records, 1991)
Out The Gap (Green Linnet, 1994)
Each Little Thing (The Grapevine Label, 1997)
Spellbound (Green Linnet, 1999)
Live In Galway (The Daisy Label, 2001)
The Diamond Mountain Sessions (The Grapevine Label, 2000)
Libertango (The Daisy Label, 2003
Tunes (Keltia Musique, 2005)
Live At Dolans (The Daisy Label, 2006)
Upside Down ‎(The Daisy Label, 2006)
Renegade (The Daisy Label, 2007)
Saints & Scoundrels (Compass Records, 2009)
Flying Circus (Irish Music Licensing, 2012)
In Galway ‎(IRL, 2014)
Sacred Earth ‎(Celtic Collections, 2017)


Artist Profiles: James Keane

James Keane

Born in Drimnagh, Dublin in 1948, James Keane took up the button accordion at age six, drawing his primary inspiration from his mother, father and uncles (musicians all) and the rich cultural legacy of their home counties of Longford and Clare.

While still in his early teens, James co-founded, with his brother, fiddler Seán Keane (of Chieftains fame) and flute player Mick O’Connor, what would become, in a few short years, one of Ireland’s most heralded music ensembles, the Castle Ceili Band, featuring such legendary players as Joe Ryan, John Dwyer, Liam Rowsome, Michael Tubridy, Bridie Lafferty and West Clare fiddler John Kelly. They won the All-Ireland Ceili Band Championship in 1965, and James eventually took four solo titles of his own, three of which were consecutive wins in the senior accordion division, an achievement that has yet to be equaled.

He emigrated to New York in 1968 and for the next decade became a mainstay at the legendary John Barleycorn and other clubs and concert halls on the Manhattan Irish scene. In 1980, James relocated to Halifax, Nova Scotia, to shore up the instrumental side of the successful Irish ballad group Ryan’s Fancy, with whom he toured, performed on television and, eventually, recorded three more albums.

In the early 1990’s James began a series of appearances as both a performer and an presenter on two shows broadcast by New York Public Television, the weekly music program, Irish Eyes, and its current-affairs counterpart, Erin Focus.

His third solo album, That’s The Spirit, was released by Green Linnet in 1994, and his fourth, With Friends Like These, on Shanachie Records featured such musical friends as former Bothy Band fiddlers Paddy Glackin and Tommy Peoples, Planxty founding member Liam O’Flynn, Chieftains vocalist Kevin Conneff, and an alumnus of all three of the aforementioned groups, Ireland’s finest flute player, Matt Molloy.


The Irish Accordion of James Keane (Rex Heritage Disc, 1972)
Roll Away the Reel World (Green Linnet, 1980)
That’s the Spirit (Green Linnet, 1994)
Toss the Feathers (Green Linnet, 1996)
With Friends Like These (Shanachie, 1998)
Sweeter as the Years Roll By (Shanachie, 1999)
James Keane & Friends – Live in Dublin (Lavalla Records, 2002)
Fingal (New Folk Records, 2008)
Heir of the Dog (New Folk Records, 2012)


Artist Profiles: Máirtin O’Connor

Máirtin O’Connor

Máirtin O’Connor began playing the accordion at the age of nine, and his remarkable career has seen him as a member of many of traditional music’s leading groups including, Midnight Well, De Dannan, The Boys of the Lough, and Skylark. His first solo album A Connachtman’s Rambles established him as a solo musician and proved a major critical success. The album remained in the British Folk charts for a considerable period.

Máirtin’s second solo album Perpetual Motion, released in 1990 is one of the best accordion albums ever produced by an Irish artist and displays his astounding skill, dexterity and versatility to the full. The release in 1993 of his Chatterbox album gave further evidence of his outstanding technique, imagination and compositional talent.

Máirtin’s infectious and irresistible style and constantly growing status has kept him very busy not only with live concerts but also as a session musician on recordings by many national and international musicians such as Rod Stewart, Elvis Costello, Mark Knofler, Tanita Tikaram, Townes Van Zandt, Chieftains, the Dubliners, Davy Spillane, Maire Brennan, the Waterboys, etc. M?irt?n also played on the very prestigious Paris Mussette (vol 2) as series of records chronicling the history of the mussette, featuring top French accordion players which is included in the Phonographic History of French accordion Music

As a soloist he has performed with the RTE Concert Orchestra on Bill Whelan’s Seville Suite and in 1995 he played a major role in Bill’s world renowned Riverdance. He has also worked on the music for Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night featuring Ben Kingsley and written by Shaun Davey, plus Bill Whelan’s ‘Some Mother’s Son’.

Also in 1995 Máirtin became the first recipient of the Allied Irish Banks, Traditional Musician of the Year award at a ceremony in his home town of Galway. The award was to acknowledge the tremendous contribution made by Máirtin to traditional Irish Music and in particular accordion music.


The Connachtman’s Rambles (Mulligan, 1979)
Perpetual Motion (Claddagh Records, 1990)
EastWind (Tara Records, 1992)
Chatterbox (Dara Records, 1993)
The Road West (Tara Records, 2005)
Rain of Light (Tara Records, 2011)
Crossroads (Hook Records, 2008)
Going Places (2012)
Zoë Conway, Dónal Lunny and Máirtín O’ Connor (2016)


Artist Profiles: Dermot Byrne

Dermot Byrne in 2010 – Photo by Angel Romero

Dermot Byrne, a native of Donegal, guested on two Altan albums, The Red Crow and Island Angel before joining the band in 1994. Dermot had music from his father, Tomas O Beirn), from the Gaeltacht area of Teileann, and heard all the great Donegal fiddlers, the Doherty’s, Cassidy’, and Byrne’s from his infancy. With this start, Dermot was a renowned accordion player before he reached his teens.

He has played and recorded with many great musicians including Seamus and Manus McGuire, Frankie Gavin and Pierre Schrye, and he also has his own solo recording, Dermot Byrne.


* The Red Crow (Green Linnet 1109, 1992)
* Island Angel (Green Linnet 1137, 1993)
* The First Ten Years, 1986-1895 (Green Linnet 1153, 1995)
* Blackwater (Virgin 41381, 1996)
* The Best of Altan (Green Linnet 1177, 1997)
* Another Sky (Narada 48838, 2000)
* The Blue Idol (Narada 11955, 2002)
* The Best of Altan – The Songs (Virgin, 2003)
* Local Ground (Narada, 2005)
* Altan: 25th Anniversary Celebration (Compass Records, 2010)
* Gleann Nimhe – The Poison Glen (Compass Records, 2012)
* The Widening Gyre (Compass Records, 2015)
* The Gap of Dreams (Compass Records, 2018)


Artist Profiles: David Munnelly

David Munnelly Band

With their unique style of playing, as wild and free as the rugged West Coast of Ireland, The David Munnelly Band is making waves on both sides of the Atlantic. Their traditional and ragtime-inflected Irish tunes are inspired by the golden era of the Irish-American dance hall, and the exuberant spirit of the 1920s and ’30s masters including the Roaring 20’s Flanagan Brothers. In concert their tunes are, for the most part, played fast with immense precision and with a live excitement not often duplicated.

Born and raised in County Mayo, David is an exciting young Irish button accordionist and an award-winning composer. He toured with The Chieftains from the age of 21 to 25, and is featured on their CD Water From the Well. He also performed with De Dannan and other legendary Irish artists. His second CD, By Heck, received critical and popular acclaim in Ireland, Europe, Japan, and the United States of America.

He was honored as the 2004 and 2005 Composer of the Year in Ireland. He and his band have appeared worldwide on BBC World Television’s program Destination Music, and in America on PBS-Television and National Public Radio specials.

The band features Andrew Murray, a Galway singer named Male Vocalist of 2006 by LiveIreland.com; Paul Kelly, who was a member of the Sharon Shannon Band, on fiddle and mandolin; Tony Byrne on guitar, who has played with Michael McGoldrick and John McSherry among others; David’s younger brother Kieran Munnelly on bodhran, snare and flute, Ryan Molloy on piano, and Daire Bracken, a founding member of Danu, on fiddle.

Selected discography:

Swing (Music & Words, 1999)
Whenever (2006)
By Heck (Mad River Records, 2006)
Live (2007)
Tight Squeeze (2009
Accordion Samurai, with Riccardo Tesi, Markku Lepistö, Bruno Le Tron, Didier Laloy (Materiali Sonori, 2011)
‘Tis What It Is (2012)
Aonair (2017)