Accordion player and composer, Carmelo Torres is considered one of the leading Colombian cumbia performers. He is the living legacy of Cumbia Sabanera, a rural accordion style of cumbia from San Jacinto, in the Caribbean region of Colombia, influenced by traditional flutes.
He learned to play vallenato first, by himself, before he met the ‘King of Cumbia’, Andrés Landero who became his teacher at an early age. Carmelo started to play cumbias.
Since Landero passed away in 2000, Carmelo’s main focus has been to carry on his teacher’s legacy, keeping the cumbia genre alive and teaching the youngest.
Carmelo is now known as The Accordion Bible. In 2019, Carmelo Torres’ music still has the fragrance of the countryside. The sabana is present when he sings about labor works, nature, life and love. His music can be danced in nightclubs, making it part of new generations, looking backwards and towards the future in the same song.
With his group, he has performed widely at home in Colombia at Caribbean festivals winning all the contests and at the prestigious Festival Colombia al Parque in Bogotá in 2013. Torres has also travelled extensively with his conjunto as far as Europe, Australia, South Korea, Morroco and throughout Latin America, in México, Panamá, Perú, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil.
Born in Chisinau in 1981, Moldova, Sergiu Popa is a member of a well-known Roma (Gypsy) musical dynasty in his country. He, like several generations before him, is a virtuoso accordionist who plays not only traditional folk and Gypsy music of Eastern Europe, but is classically trained as well.
He studied at the Stefan Neaga College of Music in Chisinau (the capital of Moldova), and completed two years at the Conservatory of Chisinau before emigrating to Canada in 2002. His first musical performance in Canada was at the Drummondville Festival Mondial des Cultures, where he performed with Vatra, a Moldavian dance troupe.
In Canada, during the short time he has been here, he has been distinguishing himself as a unique, versatile and highly talented artist. He has continued to perform traditional Eastern European music with other distinguished musicians such as Sergei Trofanov, Carmen Piculeata (violinists), Romeo Vaduva (pan flutist), Vladimir Sidorov and Marin Nasturica (accordionists), while expanding his repertoire with renowned jazz singer Jeri Brown. He has accompanied Angele Dubeau’s La Pieta (performing at the Lanaudiere and Mont Tremblant Festivals in 2003 and 2004) and is sought after by the Cirque du Soleil for a possible future collaboration.
During the summer of 2005, he led a full ensemble of musicians and dancers for an outdoor public performance at the Place des Arts concert series, Les Midis du Monde. The ensemble, named Sergiu Popa and Moldomania, performed traditional music from Moldova for an audience of several hundred people.
Sergiu was featured at the 1st edition of the Romani Yag Gypsy Festival in Montreal, where he gave a workshop in Gypsy style accordion, performed and participated in the premiere of a musical theatre production called Romano Drom. He was also featured as a solo performer in the 2005 edition of Printemps des Bretelles, an accordion festival in Montreal.
In 2006, Sergiu and his ensemble performed as part of the ?soir?e d?couvertes? at the 2006 edition of the ?Festival des Musiques et du Monde?, organized by Musique Multi-Montr?al. At the festival, he was nominated for the ?toiles Galaxie prize from Radio-Canada, for up-and-coming artists.
Sergiu established a reputation for developing creative, tasteful and innovative arrangements and accompaniment; this despite having been deprived of exposure to the work of great contemporary artists from the western world (until quite recently access to music from outside the former eastern bloc was highly restricted in Moldova). He believes that traditional music has its place in the future, and that young people will embrace it as long as it continues to evolve and reflect the spirit of a living culture.
His goals are to respectfully carry on the tradition which he has inherited from his father, and also to have the opportunity of collaborating with other gifted and progressive musicians who can help him expand the boundaries of that tradition, fusing with jazz, Latin and other international influences.
Markku Lepistö, from southern Ostrobothnia, is one of Finland’s most dynamic accordionists, having been playing folk and dance music since age five.
A graduate of the Sibelius Academy Folk Music Department, where he studied kantele, woodwinds, double bass and fiddle, Markku was a member of the now defunct ensemble Pirnales, has played with the group Progmatics, more recently in a duo with Aldargaz mandolinist Petri Hakala and in the klezmer group Doina Klezmer. Markku joined Värttinä just before the Vihma recordings.
In 2011, Lepistö released an album titled Accordion Samurai along with four other accordion colleagues: Riccardo Tesi (Italy), Bruno Le Tron (France), Didier Laloy (Belgium) and David Munnelly (Ireland).
A follow-up Samurai album titled Te featured David Munnelly; Riccardo Tesi (Italy), Simone Bottasso (Italy) and Kepa Junkera (Spain).
Portuguese accordion quartet Danças Ocultas recorded Dentro desse mar at Casa do Mato Studios in Rio de Janeiro, produced by celebrated cellist and producer Jaques Morelenbaum. Danças Ocultas is a group of talented accordion players who perform exquisite contemporary musical pieces rooted in tradition and classical music. It is a nuanced sound, creating a mix of laid back ambience and melody rather than flashy virtuosity.
Dentro desse mar is a set of charming, elegant songs and instrumentals featuring various musical guests. Jaques Morelenbaum brought in Brazilian percussionists, highly expressive cavaquinho, several other instrumentalists and guest vocalists from Brazil and Portugal, who provided finely-crafted chemistry around the accordions. Morelebaum also contributed his own enchanting cello work.
The line-up includes Artur Fernandes on diatonic accordion; Francisco Miguel on diatonic accordion; Filipe Cal on diatonic accordion; and Filipe Ricardo on diatonic accordion; David Feldman on pinao; Marcos Suzano on percussion; Brazilian singer Zelia Duncan; Jaques Morelenbaum on cello; Rogério Caetano on 7-string guitar; Luis Barcelos on mandolin and cavaquinho; Marcelo Costa on percussion; Portuguese fado singer Carminho; Robertinho Silva on percussion; Dora Morelenbaum on vocals; Tiago Abrantes on cvlarinet; and Paulo Braga on percussion.
Dentro desse mar features a captivating amalgam of Portuguese and Brazilian influences under a modern prism.
Danças Ocultas is an ensemble comprising four accordionists from Agueda near Porto, in Portugal. The quartet is among the most innovative and most exciting representatives of contemporary Portuguese music. Their concept is based on tranquil, lyrical, almost traditional music, performed with only four diatonic accordions.
The quartet’s name, Hidden Dances, has nothing to do with mysterious domains but instead means that Dancas Ocultas play music for dances that have yet to be invented. Portuguese fado plays a minor role in the ensemble’s sound; the band’s inspiration comes instead from traditional village music, Tango Nuevo and the chamber music exemplified by the Russian Terem Quartet.
Dancas Ocultas neither engage in virtuosity competitions, nor do they play pure folk music. “Impressionist Folk” is perhaps the best definition for this timeless art music: minimalist, thoughtful sound designs full of unanticipated turns and gracious melancholy.
One of the first supporters of Danças Ocultas was Gabriel Gomes, the accordionist of Portugal’s most famous world music band Madredeus. He encouraged them to explore their own sound worlds.
Dancas Ocultas’ collaboration with choreographer Paul Ribeiro and the Gulbenkian Ballet, regular appearances at international festivals and a highly acclaimed showcase at the World Music Expo (WOMEX) in 2010 have resulted in wide international recognition.
The line-up includes Artur Fernandes on diatonic accordion; Francisco Miguel on diatonic accordion; Filipe Cal on diatonic accordion; and Filipe Ricardo on diatonic accordion.
Danças Ocultas (EMI VC, 1996) (EMI VC, 1998) Travessa da Espera (L’Empreinte Digitale, 2002) Pulsar (Magic Music, 2004) Tarab (Numerica, 2009) Alento (iplay / Galileo MC, 2011) Arco, EP (Uguru, 2014) Amplitude (Uguru/Galileo Music, 2016) Dentro desse mar (Galileo Music, 2018)
Steve Riley was born in Mamou, Louisiana in 1969. He grew up there, a prairie town of Mamou where Cajun French is spoken on the street, the national holiday is Mardi Gras and a poor family is one without a fiddler or accordion player. Steve learned how to play the accordion and became Mamou’s favorite son.
He plays a single-row diatonic instrument made by his cousin, famed accordionist Marc Savoy. Steve concentrated on learning Savoy’s elanorate style and the music of the Balfa Brothers.
At age 15. Steve was a young prodigy, noticed by Dewey Balfa who invited Steve to join his band. Under Dewey’s guidance, Steve grew as a performer, learning hundreds of French-language songs and how to sing them in Balfa’s singular hurts-so-good style and learning fiddle as well.
In 1988, Steve and David Greely formed the Mamou Playboys which rapidly gained prominence on the international folk scene without sacrificing the support of Louisiana fans.
The group’s first album, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, came out in 1990, followed by ‘Tit Galop Pour Mamou (1991), Trace of Time (1993), Live! (1994), La Toussaint (1995), Friday at Last (1997), and Bayou Ruler (1998). In 2001, the band released Happytown.
Bon Rêve, released in 2003 marked a return to traditional Cajun music and was performed completely in French.
Throughout the years, Steve Riley added zydeco, swamp rock and roots country to his Cajun music mix.
In a land where accordion is king, Steve has inspired countless young men and women to follow him and keep Cajun music’s favorite instrument alive.
Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys – 30 Years Live (Valcour Records, 2019)
Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys celebrated its 30th anniversary with an outstanding live performance in Lafayette, Louisiana. 30 Years Live demonstrates why Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys has become one of the finest acts in the Cajun music scene.
On 30 Years Live, the band treats the listener to a set of originals and Cajun classics. What makes Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys such a fascinating and enjoyable live act is its ability to absorb and intertwine various musical influences from the American south: traditional music from southern Louisiana, blues, rootsy country music, rock, and more. Lyrics are in English and Cajun French.
The band is led by Cajun award-winning accordion maestro Steve Riley of Mamou in Evangeline Parish, Louisiana. The Mamou Playboys includes fiddler Kevin Wimme, guitarist Sam Broussard, bassist Brazos Huval and drummer Kevin Dugas.
For this celebration, the band was joined by former member David Greely on fiddle and vocals and various guests, including Chris Stafford on organ and piano, Melete Terry on vocals, Alena Savoy on vocals and Paul “Bird” Edwards on rubboard.
VILDÁ is a Finnish duo that performs a unique mix of mystical joiks and sounds of the Sami people together with vibrant accordion. VILDÁ includes Hildá Länsman on vocals, joik, frame drum; and Viivi Maria Saarenkylä on accordion and backing vocals.
When Hildá and Viivi listened to each other’s music for the first time, they came up with the idea of combining traditional yoik and accordion.
Hildá Länsman is a rising yoik singer from Utsjoki who has performed at the New Music Competition and at the Helsinki Music House’s great concert arena. She won the Risteys (Crossroads) award for her vocals at Finland’s first Ethno Gala in 2017.
Viivi Maria Saarenkylä is an internationally acclaimed accordion player. She was declared accordionist of the Year in Finland in 2018.
” Arctic fells, frosty winds, wide waters and deep forests. That is our home – the North. For us it is the birthplace of our attitude as well as many memories, a source of inspiration, stories and tradition, a vast play ground full of endless trails to travel. “
Kepa Junkera was born in Bilbao (located in the Basque region of Spain) in 1965. His first musical dream was realized when the band Oskorri became interested in a boy who played the trikitixa (Basque diatonic accordion) with such extraordinary skill. From 1983 onward they have shared an uninterrupted musical friendship and Junkera has played on most Oskorri albums as well as been a guest performer on several of their tours and concerts.
A composer as well as a performer, Junkera’s first original pieces were recorded in 1988 on the album Kepa, Zabaleta eta Mutriku. His two subsequent albums, 1990’s Triki Up and 1991’s Triki Zoom, are outstanding examples of a blend between jazz and trikitixa dance music.
In 1992 Junkera’s European experiences were reflected in Trans-Europe Diatonic, a special diatonic accordion trio project with John Kirkpatrick and Riccardo Tesi. The album, recorded in Belgium and followed by a long European tour, was the genesis of many international friendships Junkera has continued to nurture.
After releasing Kalegira Al-Buk, an album with an international folk rock sound, and Lau Eskuetara (recorded with Julio Pereira), Junkera joined forces with Ibon Koteron, a master of the alboka, a unique Basque wind instrument made out of two ram’s horns. Their album, Leonen Orroak (1996), explored the folk music of Junkera’s Basque homeland.
Junkera has performed on the road and in the studio with many important international folk musicians such as Béla Fleck, Carlos Núñez, Paddy Moloney and Phil Cunningham. Bilbao 00:00h, an album of unusual scope and vision, is one of these collaborations.
Kepa Junkera suffered a stroke while on tour in Belgium on December 5, 2018 and was recovering in a hospital.
Triki Up (Elkarlanean, 1990) Trikitixa Zoom (Nuba Records, 1991) Trans-Europe Diatonique (Silex, 1993) Kalejira Al-Buk (Elkarlanean, 1994) Lau Eskutara (Elkar , 1995) Leonen Orroak (Elkar, 1996) Bilbao 00:00h (Resistencia, 1998) Maren (EMI, 2001) K (EMI, 2003) Athletic Bihotzez (Fundación Athletic Club, 2004) Hiri (Elkar, 2006) Etxea (Warner Music Spain, 2008) Fandango: Provença Sessions (Hiri Records, 2009) Kalea (Warner Music Spain, 2009) Fandango: Habana Sessions (Hiri Records, 2010) Beti Bizi (2010) Herria (2010) Ultramarinos & Coloniales (Warner Music Spain, 2011) Galiza (Fol, 2013) Trikitixaren historia txiki bat – Una pequeña historia de la trikitixa, with Sorginak (2014) Maletak (Altafonte, 2016)