Traveling around the world via accordion….

Started in San Antonio on the banks of the river with Santiago Jimenez, Jr. But then, only a short stroll away at the International Accordion Festival in La Villita, Mahala Nola transported us to Bulgaria and Serbia. Then we switched to music sounding as though it was being performed along the Seine by Musette Explosion, a trio based in New York City.

Paused between stages for a Pakistani kebab from Rickshaw Stop.

Then went back riverside for the ruckus-causing group Buyepongo from Los Angeles. And we ended up listening to Russian-Ukranian-conjunto(?) played by the Flying Balalaika Brothers.

And that was in only four hours. If you are reading this before 8 p.m. on Saturday, September 12, stop and zip over to La Villita before it’s too late. Incredible music rarely heard in one venue, and it’s admission-free.

Sampling Luminaria San Antonio 2014

If you didn’t meander through the streets from the Central Library to the Tobin Center last night, this evening brings another opportunity to experience the art, lights and sounds of Luminaria San Antonio 2014. Los Angeles-based La Santa Cecilia plays the main stage tonight. Had the opportunity to enjoy this group performing at the International Accordion Festival a couple of years ago. For a preview, watch the Tiny Desk Concert provided by National  Public Radio.

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Forget Lawrence Welk: Accordions speak many languages.


Posting after an event, after I’ve been there and have taken photos, is much more enjoyable than writing about it in advance. But this is important.

You would be angry with me for not alerting you ahead of time because this is San Antonio’s best festival. Well, second best. Right after the San Antonio Book Festival. And that says a lot in a city known for non-stop-fiesta-ing.

(Pause here and scroll to the bottom first if you would like a soundtrack to get you in the mood for this post.)

The International Accordion Festival takes place Saturday, September 13, from noon to 11 p.m., throughout La Villita. And it’s admission-free.

Expect a United Nations of sound. Some traditional. Some contemporary. All highly addictive. And it’s admission-free.

Expect the unexpected.

Accordion with a dizi, Chinese bamboo flute, and a pipa, Chinese four-string lute, employed by the Cross-Strait Trio. Chinese and Taiwanese musicians who collided while studying ethnomusicology in Texas.

The New York-based Matuto. “Appalachia-gone-Afro-Brazilian sound.”

Tsuumi Sound System. “Finnish Urban Ethno?”

The Italians, Canzionere Grecanico Salentino. With their traditional drum, the tamburello, that “sounds like a beating heart:”

The style is based on the ancient ritual of healing a dangerous tarantula bite called pizzica tarantata and a local cultural phenomenon called tarantim. Their music includes frantic strumming and mad trance-inducing dancing.

And on a much slower note, the lyrics of one of the Cansionere Grecanico Salentino’s more serious songs translates as though written to apply to immigration politics in Texas:

…we children of the horizon, washing us up, spilling us out.
No police can abuse us more than what we’ve suffered already.
We’ll serve as your servants
the children you never had
our lives will be your adventure tales.
We carry Homer and Dante, the blind man and the pilgrim, the smell that you’ve lost
the equality you’ve repressed.
No matter the distance, millions of paces,
we will come,
we are the feet
and we carry your weight.
We shovel the snow, comb the lawns, beat your rugs,
collect your tomatoes and insults….

Find the entire schedule here, and more about the artists here. And it’s admission-free.

And, how incredibly generous. Blue Squeezebox of Austin allows me to embed a whole soundtrack….