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Ian Mikyska

Czech string quartet, founded 1999. Its line-up has remained constant since its foundation: David Pokorný and Vladimír Klánský on violins, Vladimír Kroupa on viola, and Vít Petrášek on cello. Although classical repertoire remains central to their professional lives, the Epoque Quartet is remarkable for the breadth and professionalism of its ‘crossover’ work. The quartet has performed with the leading artists of Czech popular music, arranged world music from various traditions (most recently with the clarinettist Irvin Venyš for their CD Irvin_Epoque), and given the premières of over 80 pieces, the style of which ranges from rock- and jazz-influenced music to contemporary art music, mostly by Czech composers including Jan Kučera, Petr Wajsar, Jan Dušek, Gabriela Vermelho, and others.

Their open-mindedness and long-standing interest in various musical fields allows them to perform stylistically in a way classically-trained ensembles often find problematic, particularly in terms of rhythm, feeling, and energy when performing jazz- and rock-influenced repertoire....

Article

Cathy Ragland

Mexican norteña duo. Los Alegres de Terán is noted for representing the very best of the música norteña tradition. Led by accordionist Eugenio Ábrego and bajo sexto player Tomás Ortiz—often called the “fathers of norteña music”—almost singlehandedly introduced this regional genre to a national Mexican audience. Though they recorded many traditional and original corridos and ranchera, they wrote some of the most endearing and expressive romantic songs. Originally from the town of General Terán, Nuevo León, México, the group relocated often, following migrant workers to towns on both sides of the Texas-Mexico border. Ábrego and Ortiz enjoyed a lifelong musical relationship and they continued to perform together, accompanied by several musicians, until 1987 when Ábrego became terminally ill. The group’s first 1948 recording, “Corrido de Pepito” (Ballad of Pepito), was on McAllen, Texas-based Falcón Records. The duo’s complex and close harmonic vocals brought to mind popular romantic trios like Los Panchos setting them apart from a somewhat harsh, nasalized regional ...

Article

Melanie Maldonado

Plena and bomba group. Los Pleneros de la 21 (LP21) have the distinction of being the longest-running group to specialize in performing Puerto Rican Plena and Bomba in the continental United States. Since 1983, this New York City-based, intergenerational group has taken these traditional genres from their local New York community to the international stage. The group has produced five albums that both celebrate traditional AfroPuerto Rican music and fuse it with other genres of their urban soundscape. LP21 was founded in the South Bronx by National Heritage Fellow Juan Gutierrez-Rodriguez and contemporaries who included Edgardo Miranda and Eugenia Ramos. Other luminaries who contributed to the evolution of the Grammy-nominated group include famed plena musician (plenero) Marcial Reyes and the distinctive bomba musician (bombero) Roberto Cepeda, a member of one of Puerto Rico’s premier musical families. The members of LP21 are more than musicians and dancers; they are educators and cultural activists who invest their time into their local community by providing workshops for children and adults in the historic community of El Barrio in Manhattan. Today LP21 boasts a membership and group of alumni that includes some of the most well respected pleneros and bomberos in the United States and Puerto Rico....

Article

Jay W. Junker

Hawaiian instrumental and vocal group. Blending harmony vocals, acoustic instruments, and a relaxed, inclusive stage presence, the Makaha Sons have enjoyed great popularity since their first album, No Kristo, in 1976. It bore the inscription E Malama (Iana) Pono O Ka ‘Aina E Na ‘Opio (The traditions of the land are perpetuated by its youth), which has been translated by the group into a diverse repertoire of classic and newly composed Hawaiian-language songs, English-language songs about Hawaii, and even some humorous material performed with a great flair for comedy.

They began as teenagers in 1975 when Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole (‘ukulele/vocals) met Jerome “Boogie” Koko (guitar/vocals) on the beach at Makaha. Israel’s older brother Skippy (guitar/vocals) assumed leadership with Louis “Moon” Kauakahi (guitar/vocals) contributing arrangements and Sam Grey playing pakini (washtub) bass. Their original name was Makaha Sons of Ni‘ihau honoring the place they lived and the small island on which the Kamakawio‘oles had family roots. After several changes, the group solidified as a quartet with Skippy and Israel, their cousin Mel Amina, and brother-in-law Moon....

Article

Maná  

Greg Schelonka

Mexican pop-rock band. The group was formed in 1978 by Fher (José Fernando Olvera), Gustavo Orozco, Juan Diego Calleros, Ulises Calleros, and Abraham Calleros. Initially they were known as Sombrero Verde and released two albums. They added the Cuban-Colombian drummer Alex González and became Maná with their eponymous 1987 album, promoted as part of the Rock en tu Idioma (Rock in Your Language) movement. They did not achieve commercial success until 1991 with “Rayando el sol” (Scratching the Sun). They became a key part in the Rock en tu Idioma movement with their later success, primarily due to their commercial appeal. Their breakthrough came in 1992 with the release of ¿Dónde jugarán los niños? (Where would the kids play?). They have continued to have commercial success and have won four Latin Grammy Awards, despite criticism that their music lacks innovation and focuses on mass appeal. Their lyrics include political themes, such as a tribute to Brazilian environmental activist Chico Mendes in “Cuando los ángeles lloran” (When the Angels Cry). In ...

Article

Dominic McHugh

Comedy team in musical theater and film. The Marx Brothers included: Chico [Leonard] (b New York, NY, 22 March 1887; d Hollywood, CA, 11 Oct 1961); Harpo [Adolph, later Arthur] (b New York, NY, 23 Nov 1888; d Los Angeles, CA, 28 Sept 1964); Groucho [Julius] (b New York, NY, 2 Oct 1890; d Los Angeles, CA, 19 Aug 1977); Gummo [Milton] (b New York, NY, 23 Oct 1893; d Palm Springs, CA, 21 April 1977); and Zeppo [Herbert] (b New York, NY, 25 Feb 1901; d Palm Springs, CA, 30 Nov 1979).

The world-famous Jewish American comedy team consisting of five brothers enjoyed a career on stage and screen that lasted roughly half a century. The principals were Chico, Harpo, and Groucho; Gummo left the act before they made any films, while Zeppo appeared in only the first five films. Each brother had a distinctive persona: Chico adopted a fake Italian accent and was a ladies’ man; Harpo was mute, wore a red wig, and was clownish; Groucho was renowned for his wit, brandished a cigar, and had a painted-on moustache; and Zeppo was the straight man....

Article

Matmos  

Mandy-Suzanne Wong

Electronic pop duo that performs, composes, records, and remixes experimental electronic music. Matmos comprises Drew Daniel and Martin C. Schmidt, whose earliest collaborations date from 1995. Originally based in San Francisco, where Schmidt managed the New Genres Department at the San Francisco Art Institute, Matmos moved in 2007 to Baltimore, where Daniel is Assistant Professor of English at Johns Hopkins University.

With its debut albums, Matmos (1997) and Quasi-Objects (1998), Matmos inaugurated its trademark aesthetic, configuring samples of unusual sound sources in compositions that straddle experimental electro-acoustic and electronic dance music. For example, in “Verber (Amplified Synapse)” (1997), the duo sampled and amplified the sounds of firing synapses in neural tissues of crayfish, adding other noise and a rock-based beat. Daniel and Schmidt make sure to identify their bizarre sound sources in liner notes and press releases, as they are interested in how this information affects the listening process. In performance, they “play” and sample their strange objects in real time, for instance walking rhythmically on rock salt, or touching the skin with a detector that produces sound when its electrical wires meet the body’s acupuncture points. Fascinated by the relationship between sound, electricity, and components of the human body, Matmos created one of its more notorious albums, ...

Article

Colette Simonot

Rock band. It formed in Anaheim, California, in 1986. Principal members are Gwen Stefani, vocals (b Fullerton, CA, 3 Oct 1969); Eric Stefani, keyboards (b Fullerton, CA 17 June 1967); Tom Dumont, guitar (b Los Angeles, CA, 11 Jan 1968); Tony Kanal, bass (b London, England, 27 Aug 1970); Adrian Young, drums (b Long Beach, CA, 26 Aug 1969). John Spence (1969–87) and Eric Stefani formed the band, with Stefani’s sister Gwen singing backup vocals. Tony Kanal joined after attending an early performance. After shifts in personnel following Spence’s death in 1987, Gwen Stefani took over lead vocals, and Kanal, Tom Dumont, Adrian Young, and Eric Stefani (who left in 1994) formed the core of the group. Interscope Records signed No Doubt in 1991, and they achieved commercial success with 1995’s Tragic Kingdom, which featured an eclectic mix of ska, new wave, pop, punk, and rock. Featuring the single, “Don’t Speak,” this album earned several Grammy nominations. While none of No Doubt’s subsequent albums has matched ...

Article

David Sanjek

The beginnings of the Orioles’ career entwine a memorable personal narrative with the origins of doo-wop. An 18-year-old, Baltimore-based, white Jewish woman, Deborah Chessler, was passionate about songwriting, but devoid of any strategy as to how to achieve success. She had sold a song, “Tell Me So,” to the African American vocalist Savannah Churchill, but the record came and went without a trace. In 1948 a friend interceded and alerted Chessler to a local vocal ensemble, the Vibranaires, which lead vocalist Sonny Til had formed around 1947. She contacted them and the group auditioned over the phone, convincing Chessler to become their agent. She subsequently contacted Jerry Blaine, the owner of Jubilee Records, who signed the group and changed their name to the Orioles, the state bird of Maryland. Chessler wrote songs for the group, including “It’s too soon to know,” composed expediently on a scroll of toilet paper. The record was released in ...

Article

Rob Jovanovic

Rock band. Formed as a studio noise experiment by two school friends, the singer and guitarist Stephen Malkmus (b Santa Monica, CA, 30 May 1966) and the guitarist Spiral Stairs (Christopher Scott Kannberg; b Stockton, CA, 30 Aug 1966), the group added the drummer Gary Young (b Mamaroneck, NY, 3 May 1953) and started playing often shambolic shows around northern California in 1989. Young frequently could be seen performing handstands rather than playing the drums or handing out toast to the audience before a show. The trio recorded their seminal debut album, Slanted & Enchanted (Matador, 1992), at Young’s studio. With the addition of the bass player Mark Ibold (b 17 Oct 1962) and the percussionist Bob [Robert] Nastanovich (b Rochester, NY, 27 Aug 1967), a friend of Malkmus from the University of Virginia, the band set out as a more coherent but still sometimes sloppy live outfit. ...