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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

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

Alexander M. Cannon

(b Savannakhet, Laos, 1947). Laotian composer and singer. He began his musical training by studying Lao folk songs with Buddhist monks. Before age 20, he already had garnered a reputation as a creative maulam, or narrative singer of lam (or lum)—a genre of traditional vocal music from southern Laos of solo or male–female repartee singing accompanied by khene and oftentimes a small ensemble. He later studied composition and performance and was employed in 1965 by the Department of Lao National Fine Arts. In 1968, he entered the army and worked as a singer for the National Radio Broadcast. After the Pathet Lao came to power in 1975, he worked at the military radio station singing propaganda songs. In 1979, he escaped to Thailand, and in 1980, immigrated to the United States, first living with his cousin, Bountong Insixiengmay, in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He soon relocated to Minneapolis—a city with a large population of Lao émigrés—and 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

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

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

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

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 ...

Article

Karel Steinmetz

(b Vsetín, Moravia, 27 June 1929; d Vsetín, 11 Feb 2017). Czech folk singer. Trained in dressmaking, she worked between 1945 and 1949 as a furrier’s seamstress. From 1950 until her retirement in 1985, she was the manager of a shop selling gramophone records in her native town. Her musical talent, inherited from her parents, was evident from her youth, when she began to appear as a singer in local choirs and folk ensembles. From 1952 she was a soloist with the Brněnský rozhlasový orchestr lidových nástrojů (BROLN, ‘Brno Radio Orchestra of Folk Instruments’), with whom she performed hundreds of times in the then Czechoslovakia and also abroad (in Vietnam, China, Mongolia, the USSR, Korea, Cuba, Belgium, the UK, Senegal, Bulgaria, Romania, Japan, the USA, Canada, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, and Denmark). She also performed with various folk ensembles (Vsacan, Jasénka, Kyčera, and the dulcimer ensemble Technik, whose leader, Jan Rokyta, decisively influenced her later development as a singer), and between ...

Article

Joti Rockwell

(b Oceanside, CA, Feb 20, 1981). American mandolinist and singer. Learning bluegrass mandolin as a child in Southern California, he began his musical career with a victory at the Walnut Valley Mandolin Championship at age 12, an appearance as part of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Bluegrass Youth All-Stars also in 1993, and his first solo album Leading Off (Sugar Hill) the following year. His band Nickel Creek, which included Sean Watkins (b Vista, CA, 18 Feb 1977) on guitar and Sara Watkins (b Vista, CA, 8 June 1981) on fiddle, performed throughout the 1990s and released their eponymous album on Sugar Hill in 2000. Produced by Alison Krauss, the album established a number of musical hallmarks for the band: polished vocal harmonies, contemporary songwriting, and virtuosic, progressive-bluegrass-oriented instrumental work.

During his tenure with Nickel Creek, Thile pursued a variety of solo projects, including collaborations with Mike Marshall and Béla Fleck. After achieving an unusual degree of commercial success for a bluegrass-related band, Nickel Creek ceased touring and recording in ...

Article

Don Cusic

revised by Travis D. Stimeling

[Crosby, Ronald Clyde ]

(b Oneonta, NY, March 16, 1942). American folk and country singer, guitarist, and songwriter. A high-school dropout, he traveled around the United States playing banjo, guitar, and other instruments and singing a repertory consisting principally of songs by Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and Jimmie Rodgers. By the early 1960s, he was performing at Greenwich Village folk clubs and on college campuses across the country, finding particular success among Texan audiences in Houston, Dallas–Fort Worth, and Austin. In 1966, while in Austin, he met Bob Bruno, with whom he formed the folk-rock band Circus Maximus; it recorded an album for Vanguard in 1967.

Around the same time, Walker also earned success as a songwriter, notably with “Mr. Bojangles” (1968), a hit for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in 1971. Also in 1971, Walker relocated to Texas, where he became a luminary in Austin’s emerging progressive country music scene. In ...

Article

Bill C. Malone

revised by Joti Rockwell

[Arthel Lane ]

(b Deep Gap, NC, March 3, 1923; d Winston-Salem, NC, May 29, 2012). American country- and folk-music singer, guitarist, banjoist, and harmonica player. Blind likely from birth, he was active as a local musician until his 1960 encounter with folklorist Ralph Rinzler. He gave his first northern concerts as part of a group led by the banjoist Clarence “Tom” Ashley and subsequently pursued an independent career, performing at the Newport Folk Festival and signing with Vanguard Records in 1963. At Rinzler’s suggestion, he emphasized more traditional musical elements, focused his efforts on the acoustic rather than the electric guitar, and gained popularity among folk-revival audiences throughout the 1960s. His son (Eddy) Merle (b Deep Gap, NC, 8 Feb 1949; d nr Lenoir, NC, 23 Oct 1985) began performing with him in 1964 and quickly developed as an acoustic guitarist. In 1972, Watson joined “Mother” Maybelle Carter, Earl Scruggs, and other leading country-music artists on ...