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Article

Jelena Jovanović

(b Vranje, Serbia, June 11, 1897; d Feb 21, 1969). Serbian singer (pesmopojka) and song writer. She was one of the most prominent performers of the 20th-century Serbian and Balkan urban vocal tradition. Widely known as a veseljak (lively character), she was respected for her fidelity to local traditions, for her intensely expressive and nuanced vocal style, and for her dedication to bring out the meaning of the texts she sang. She started singing at a very early age; as a young girl she was paid for her singing. She sang in her own home on everyday occasions, to guests, and at family and public celebrations. Her repertory encompassed love, family, and narrative songs, mainly concerning specific events, places, and personalities of Vranje. She is the author of the song ‘Dimitrijo, sine Mitre’, one of the hallmarks of Vranje vocal tradition, which traces its roots in tradition found in written sources from the late 19th century onwards and still practiced today....

Article

Trena Jordanoska and Dimitrije Bužarovski

(b Glišikj, Kavadarci, Republic of Macedonia, 1918; d Skopje Sept 25, 1976). Macedonian folk singer. His lyric tenor voice, with its distinctive timbre (simultaneously light and warm), was recognized soon after his first performance in Radio Skopje in 1948, and it was established as a model for the male vocal repertory of traditional Macedonian music. He sang softly, with richness, in a narrow piano dynamic spectrum, and with delicate use of vibrato and ornaments. He became an idol among Macedonian audiences worldwide and has been adored by Balkan audiences as well, taking tours in Europe, Canada, USA, and Australia.

His recorded repertory of over 230 songs (without variants) is published on dozens of LPs and cassettes. 359 recorded songs have been digitized and stored in the Buzarovski Archive (BuzAr) in 2005. His diverse repertory was carefully selected with a refined musical taste, mainly from urban traditional songs of all genres—love, elegiac, patriotic, and humorous songs. His voice was well suited to ensemble performance, resulting in duets with V. Ilieva, A. Sarievski, Mirvet Belovska, Dragica Nikolova, Blagoj Petrov Karagjule, Violeta Tomovska, E. Redžepova, Anka Gieva, and Atina Apostolova....

Article

Vasil S. Tole

(b Përmet, Albania, May 2, 1929; d Përmet, Jan 26, 2014). Albanian folk music performer. A clarinettist and vocalist, nicknamed ‘Përmeti’s nightingale’, founder of the instrumental iso-polyphonic group (saze ensemble) in the Southern town of Përmet (1944–2004). At a young age, he showed a special ability to design and make instruments. He was taught to play the lute and the clarinet by the saze masters in the city of Korçë. Then his family returned to Përmet, where he joined the saze of Vangjel Leskoviku (1944). At Përmet, he organized his own saze and participated in the Folk Music Festival in Tirane (1952), where he was awarded the First Prize for the best folk clarinettist. His saze was composed of a clarinet, two lutes, two accordions, a frame drum, and a violin. The saze played instruments and sang at the same time. He is a composer of songs, clarinet ...

Article

Barry Jean Ancelet

(b Lafayette, LA, Feb 14, 1951). American fiddler, guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter. Doucet has become arguably the most widely recognized Cajun musician ever. His formative influences within Cajun and Creole music include acknowledged masters such as Dewey Balfa, Canray Fontenot, and especially Dennis McGee, as well as lesser-known but no less important masters such as Varise Conner, Lionel Leleux, and Hector Duhon. Other influences include the folk rock, country, and swamp pop influences of his youth. Doucet first approached Cajun music in the 1970s in a group called Bayou des Mystères. He then founded a rock-country-Cajun fusion band called Coteau, the first such band to attract the attention of the younger university crowds. After Coteau dissolved, Doucet turned to his long-running band Beausoleil, which was informed by an eclectic collection of influences that reflect the complex history of Cajun music, including traditional, classical, rock, and jazz elements. Beausoleil has played all over the world and recorded more than 30 albums for many labels, including Swallow, Arhoolie, Rounder, Rhino, and Alligator. These albums have garnered 11 Grammy nominations and two wins. Doucet has also recorded albums with other musicians, including Marc and Ann Savoy, Ed Poullard, and his brother David Doucet. He has performed with symphony orchestras and with the Fiddlers Four. Along the way, he has made ingenious use of old material, for example, turning unaccompanied ballads that John and Alan Lomax collected in Louisiana in ...

Article

Jada Watson

(b Seguin, TX, July 6, 1953). American country/folksinger-songwriter. She grew up in a musical home, began playing guitar at a young age, and started writing songs at the age of six. When she was 14 she began performing in honky-tonks. After college Griffith taught kindergarten by day and performed in honky-tonks at night. It was not until 1977 that she decided to pursue a career in music. She self-promoted her first two albums at folk festivals and formed her own backing band, the Blue Moon Orchestra. In 1987 she landed a recording contract with MCA Nashville and made her major-label debut with the critically acclaimed album Lone Star State of Mind, charting a single with the title track. The album also featured Julie Gold’s song “From a Distance,” which has become Griffith’s signature tune. After several unsuccessful albums Griffith transferred to MCA’s pop division in 1989 and recorded her first pop-oriented album, ...

Article

Brenda M. Romero

(b Costa de la Palma Ranch, nr Alvarado,Veracruz, Mexico, July 2, 1942). Mexican singer and traditional musician. Together with brothers Felipe and Marcos Ochoa (originally from Rancho de Zacaiste, Veracruz), José Gutiérrez (originally from Costa de la Palma) has performed traditional music of the Mexican state of Veracruz, on the Gulf of Mexico for over half a century. As a child he learned to play the arpa jarocha, the jarana, and the requinto, instruments of the emblematic regional music, son jarocho. His professional musical career began as a teenager in Boca del Río, Veracruz, in the early 1970s, when he performed with Lino Chávez in the Conjunto Medellín and learned the skills of a lead singer, the pregonero (“caller”). As pregonerohe acquired the ability to lead a call and response with the audience, and to improvise verses that comment on the immediate situation at hand or people in attendance. Performances playing the ...

Article

John Koegel

(b San Francisco, CA, Nov 7, 1875; d Flintridge, CA, Dec 25, 1954). American folklorist, writer, lecturer, music patron, and singer. Born into a wealthy family (her father James Hague was a prominent geologist and mining engineer), she used her inheritance to support her research into Latin American music, particularly Mexican American and Mexican folksong. Prior to moving to Pasadena, California, in 1920, she lived in New York and Stockbridge, Massachusetts. She studied music privately in France and Italy, was a member of the New York Oratorio Society, and directed church choirs in New York before she began work as a folklorist and folksinger by the early 1910s (she gave guitar-accompanied folksong recitals in that decade). Hague published numerous collections and studies of Mexican American, Mexican, and other Latin American folksongs; translated (with Marion Leffingwell) Julián Ribera y Tarragó’s Historia de la música árabe medieval y su influencia en la española...

Article

Trena Jordanoska and Dimitrije Bužarovski

(b Skopje, Macedonia, Dec 21, 1923; d Skopje May 4, 2001). Macedonian folk singer. Her recognizable, very expressive, nasal mezzo-soprano voice, praised for its pureness, its precision, quality, and rich ornamentation, brought her the attribute ‘The Uncrowned Queen of Macedonian Folk Song’. Sharing her professional career and celebrity status with the first generation of singers performing for Radio Skopje in the 1950s and 60s, she is among the singers who influenced the interpretational model of the repertory of traditional Macedonian music.

Born in Bošnjačko maalo, Čair, in a family of musicians (her father Todor Boškov was a gajda player in the ensemble Tanec), her first employment was at the tobacco factory in Skopje. Her first professional performances with the Tanec folk ensemble at the beginning of the 1950s with the songs ‘Niko Meandžiko’, ‘Što imala k’smet Stamena’, and ‘Air da ne storiš majko’ contributed to her engagement as a singer for Radio Skopje in ...

Article

Catherine Wojtanowski

(b Sarajevo, Yugoslavia [now Bosnia and Herzegovina], 1925). American singer and guitarist. Growing up in a Sephardic Jewish community, she learned Balkan folklore as well as traditional songs in the Ladino language with guidance from her grandmother. In 1946 she married a serviceman and immigrated to the United States, where she has become known as the Flame of Sephardic Music because of the strength of her commitment to this unique musical heritage. In addition to transcribing, performing, and teaching traditional Ladino material, Jagoda has composed and arranged new Sephardic songs. She also has performed material drawn from biblical verses, poems, and prayers. She has recorded several albums, which often recall her early experiences, including Memories of Sarajevo (1996) and Kantikas di mi Nona (Songs of my Grandmother) (1996). She also published The Flory Jagoda Songbook: Memories of Sarajevo (1996), which includes songs and stories about her family history. She is featured in the documentary ...

Article

Charles K. Wolfe

revised by Michael Ann Williams

(b Point Leavell, KY, July 13, 1895; d Springfield, OH, Sept 23, 1989). American country and folk music performer. Raised in Garrard County, Kentucky, Kincaid absorbed the religious music and ballad traditions of his family. He learned to play on a guitar his father reputedly acquired from trading a dog, and his “hound dawg” guitar became his trademark throughout his career. Kincaid dropped out of school after fifth grade and later resumed his education at Berea College Academy, completing high school at age 26. At Berea, Kincaid began to systematically collect ballads and other forms of traditional music. After graduation, he married his music teacher, a graduate of Oberlin Conservatory. Kincaid relocated to Chicago to attend the YMCA College and there auditioned with a college quartet at WLS, a local radio station. Kincaid, “the Kentucky Mountain Boy,” soon became a hit with his clear tenor and his rendition of traditional ballads such as “Barbara Allen.” By the early 1930s, Kincaid was one of the most popular radio performers nationally, and he augmented his radio salary with songbook sales and live performances. He also he recorded prolifically for Gennett, Brunswick, ARC, Decca, RCA, and others. He worked at radio stations in Pittsburgh, New York, Boston, Cincinnati, and Wheeling with his partner ...

Article

Kate Dunlay

(Dwayne )

(b Antigonish, NS, Feb 24, 1975). Canadian fiddler, pianist, composer, and singer. During his early years, he was immersed in the Scottish-derived traditional music of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. He took up the fiddle (which he plays left-handed) at age eight. MacIsaac studied under Stan Chapman along with sister Lisa, cousin Wendy MacIsaac, and neighbor Natalie MacMaster, all of whom are now well-known fiddlers.

In 1992 the teenaged MacIsaac released his first album, Close to the Floor. That same year he was invited to New York by theater director JoAnne Akalaitis to play in one of her husband Philip Glass’ works. Through this connection, MacIsaac eventually met and worked with Paul Simon and his wife Edie Brickell, as well as David Byrne. Over the years Glass has involved MacIsaac in other projects, such as Orion (recorded 2005).

The release of the innovative album HiHow Are You Today...

Article

Stephen D. Winick

[Michael ]

(b Limerick, Ireland, Nov 15, 1944). traditional Irish singer, mandolinist, banjo player, and bandleader of Irish birth. Moloney became interested in traditional Irish music as a university student. He began bringing his banjo and a tape recorder to music sessions in County Clare, where he met members of the Tulla Ceilidh band, as well as accordionist Tony MacMahon, fiddler Sean Keane (who would later join The Chieftains), banjo player Des Mulclair, and uilleann piper Willie Clancy. Inspired by the Clancy Brothers and the Dubliners, he and his friend Donál Lunny formed several folk groups. In the late 1960s, Moloney, along with his roommate, guitarist and singer Paul Brady, was asked to join the folk group the Johnstons, which performed a combination of traditional Irish songs and modern singer-songwriter material by such writers as Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot. They became immensely popular in Ireland, recorded many albums, and were able to tour widely on both sides of the Atlantic....

Article

Nicholas Tochka

(b Dukagjin, Albania, May 15, 1922; d Tirana, Albania, May 1972). Albanian folk singer . Born in the mountainous north-western region of Albania known for its rich folklore, he was an innovative performer on the çifteli, a two-stringed plucked chordophone used to accompany epic singing. Through radio and television broadcasts, his style as a rapsod, or epic singer, became highly influential. Rapsodë traditionally performed songs with heroic or historical themes in a strophic form accompanied by a simple unison instrumental part. Neli extended traditional performance techniques by creating more complicated, literary texts and lively, sometimes virtuosic, accompaniment patterns. Discovered at an amateur folk festival in his home district in the late 1950s, he became a member of the award-winning Folkloric Ensemble of the Mati Region. He came to national attention at the first National Folk Festival in Gjirokastër in 1968, and his repertory formed one of the primary bases for the collection of the Institute of Folk Culture. He also recorded a large number of songs for broadcast by Radio Tirana....

Article

Karel Steinmetz

(b Ostrava, 7 June 1953). Czech folk singer, poet, and composer. After completing his studies at Gymnasium (1971) and at a school of librarianship, he entered the field of popular music as a writer of lyrics (he has written song texts principally for singers from Ostrava). As a guitarist, violinist, flautist, and accordionist he is entirely self-taught. In the 1980s he began to appear at Czech festivals of folk music, singing songs of his own with their distinctive texts. Gradually he has become one of the most popular of Czech singers. He mainly sings his own songs, but also translations of songs by the Russian composers Vladimir Vysotsky and Bulat Okudzha, and settings of the poems of Aleksandr Blok. He has set, and sung, poems by the Czech poets Petr Bezruč and Jiří Šotola. His songs owe their popularity largely to the fact that he sings of ordinary people living ordinary lives; they are lyrical and epic, and often ironical and extremely funny. Nohavica is fond of using the dialect of the Ostrava and Těšín region. He has also produced successful translations of opera libretti for works performed at the Ostrava Opera (for example, Mozart’s ...

Article

John Koegel

[Samaniego, José Ramón Gil ]

(b Durango, Mexico, Feb 6, 1899; d Los Angeles, CA, Oct 30, 1968). Film actor and singer of Mexican birth. He moved to Southern California with his family during the Mexican Revolution in the later 1910s, and worked in Hollywood as an extra in such silent films as Cecil B. De Mille’s 1916 epi c Joan the Woman (with Metropolitan Opera star Geraldine Farrar). By the early 1920s he was starring in high-budget films such as The Prisoner of Zenda (1922) and Scaramouche (1923). In the later 1920s, as one of MGM’s biggest stars, he appeared as the romantic lead in a series of dramas and comedies, notably in Ben Hur (1925) and Ernst Lubitsch’s silent version of The Student Prince (1927). He also performed as a singer and dancer in three early MGM film musicals by the composer-lyricist team of Herbert Stothart and Clifford Grey: ...

Article

Vasil S. Tole

(b Tirana, Albania, April 3, 1933; d Aug 13, 2003). Albanian singer . Performer of the homophonic folk music of Central Albania, mainly the urban songs of Tirana, which she learned from her family. She was the youngest daughter of Bab Rexh Delia, honoured with the title ‘People’s Hero’. She grew up in a well-known Kruja family, recognized for cultivating folk music and songs in family celebrations. At about 15 years of age, she sang at the (State) Radio Television and made her first recordings of folk songs, accompanied by the central Albanian folk music orchestra directed by Muharrem Gura and Skënder Reka, which consisted of Skënder Reka on accordion, Liu i Nushit and Çerçiz Mehmeti on violins, Reshit Shehu on frame drum, Mustafa Zyberi on clarinet, Riza Selita on contrabass, and Emil Miloti and Fadil (from the Army’s orchestra) on guitar. She started her singing career at the Tirana Variety Show Theatre (...

Article

David Royko

[David Anthony ]

(b Danville, VA, June 8, 1951). American guitarist and singer. Influential in bluegrass, newgrass, and jazz-inflected new acoustic music, Rice was strongly influenced by Kentucky Colonels/Byrds guitarist Clarence White. Raised in Los Angeles, he moved to Louisville, Kentucky in 1970 and joined Bluegrass Alliance at invitation of mandolinist Sam Bush after meeting in a jam session. In 1971 he joined J.D. Crowe and the New South, appearing on their acclaimed eponymous Rounder LP, often referred to by its catalog number “0044.” In 1975 he returned to California and joined the David Grisman Quintet, an instrumental ensemble; he appeared on their eponymous album (Kaleidoscope, 1977). In 1979 he left Grisman to focus on his solo career, ultimately releasing more than a dozen albums (primarily on Rounder). As leader of the Tony Rice Unit, he emphasized instrumental new acoustic music, dubbed “spacegrass” by Rice, while albums released under his name typically included vocals and relatively straight bluegrass and singer-songwriter material. His exploration of the music of other songwriters, most notably Gordon Lightfoot, established Rice as a major vocalist in bluegrass and acoustic folk music before health problems curtailed his singing. From ...

Article

Trena Jordanoska and Dimitrije Bužarovski

(b Galičnik, June 20, 1922; d Skopje, Dec 19, 2002). Macedonian folk singer . He is considered a legend in the branding of songs from the western Macedonian region (Mijaci). He recorded 390 songs (for Macedonian RTV Music production and others) both as a soloist and in duets. Sarievski’s clear tenor voice is characterized by his very rich but subtle ornamentation of the melody. This is particularly evident in free tempo (ad libitum) songs such as Zajdi, zajdi jasno sonce, which has remained as a symbol of Sarievski’s special timbre and vibrato.

During his childhood he absorbed the music tradition of the village of Galičnik and its internationally famous wedding ceremony Galička svadba. His family moved to Skopje in 1931, where he became a member of the amateur folk ensemble Šar and performed while accompanying himself on an accordion. In 1945 he attracted attention at an audition for talented folk singers at Radio Skopje with the song ...

Article

Nicholas Tochka

(b Dragobi, Albania, June 18, 1948; d Tirana, Albania, Aug 12, 1987). Albanian folk singer . A path-breaking woman performer from the mountainous north-eastern region of Tropoja, she became one of Albania’s most recorded folk singers before her premature death from kidney disease in 1987. Following her first public appearances in her home village, she received a scholarship to study at the Arts Lyceum Jordan Misja in Tirana. After graduation she was appointed music teacher to her home district, where she also performed in the Folk Ensemble of the Tropoja District. She accompanied herself on the çifteli, a two-stringed plucked chordophone traditionally associated with men’s repertories in northern Albania. For a woman to accompany herself in this manner was ground-breaking, and fit into socialist ideological campaigns on the emancipation of women. She performed këngë trimash and këngë heroike, traditional men’s songs of valour and heroism about historical topics. She also recorded a number of highly popular works about the socialist autonomous province of Kosovo in Yugoslavia, including ...

Article

Jonas Westover

[Clyde Halemaumau ]

(b North Kohala, HI, Nov 21, 1930; d Kapa’au, HI, Dec 15, 2008). Hawaiian singer. Known for his high falsetto voice and his repertoire of traditional Hawaiian songs, Sproat grew up in an isolated area of the main island. His mother, a singer, encouraged his love of music. He studied with Edwin Lindsey, a musician who was the principal of his elementary school. From Lindsey and many of the slack-key guitar players he encountered, Sproat learned older, traditional Hawaiian tunes. A shaping influence was the music of the Hawaiian cowboy, or “paniolo.” He learned to play the ukulele and regularly included slack-key guitar accompaniment on his more than 400 recorded songs. He was also an important mentor to a generation of young Hawaiian singers. He received an NEA National Heritage Fellowship in 1988, and an annual festival of “falsetto singing and storytelling” bearing his name was initiated in ...