Welcome to the Scandinavian Cyber-Posten!
The Scandinavian Cyber-Posten is my blog for the band. Ever since I started reading The Machine's Pump on the Brave Combo website I've wanted my own blog. After all, I'm a creative and intelligent person and I have thoughts on a lot of things. Here's a place where you can read what I think about a variety of topics. I hope you enjoy what you read. If you have any feedback on what I've written, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, March 23
Something about polkas--------------------
OK, I've been writing an awful lot about country music lately. I grew up in the hills of South Pierce County and listened to a lot of country music growing up. I rejected country music in high school but later, in college, grew to love it's open honesty. That said, I'm still a polka player at heart and run a polka band, so I thought I'd maybe write something about polka music.
Sunday night I saw the episode of The Simpsons with the guest spot by Brave Combo. If you don't know who Brave Combo is (are?) then you should click on the previous link and go to their website immediately. They're what I consider to be the nation's best polka band. I've heard them play everything from wacked-out Latin stuff to rock jams to good ol' fashioned polkas and they do it better than anyone. That's not to say there aren't some darn good straight-up polka band out there like the Harry Faint Revue (featuring George Staiduhar, accordion god) and Steve Meisner and Eddie B and his Versatones and all sorts of other great bands. Brave Combo has a particular edge, though, and it's what I feel is going to carry polkas into their next place in the world.
Brave Combo plays polkas right along side other great musical styles of the world. When I started my polka band I came from the more traditional polka background: polkas are old music for old people. I just really loved the music so I ignored the old part and started digging in. After a while I began to wonder where polka music fit in the wider world of music. Too often it seemed relegated to the "cultural dustbin" of poor musicianship and lackluster following. Once I started looking a little outside the traditional polka areas I discovered Brave Combo. A friend in college had a bootleg of one of their live shows that she lent to me. I heard a group that played polkas unapologetically; a group that used the ethnic flavor of the polka as a strength. Brave Combo drew from polka's rich, foamy European broth to pull out the vital essence and kick it into high gear. That was an eye-opener.
What was, and still is, even better about the Combo is that they also play a bunch of other music from other styles and do it legitimately. The modern listener born after World War II has grown up in a world with unprecedented access to different styles of music and is quite used to hearing all sorts of sounds. Brave Combo sets real, true, vigorous polkas up next to other vital ethnic musics and, in so doing, puts polka where I think it belongs: in a place of honor next to country, blues, rock, jazz, swing, bluegrass, zydeco, Cajun, Tejano and any other great musical style. Polka is every bit as legitimate a musical expression as salsa or gamelan or West African or anything else from around the globe. Polka belongs to the world of music.
The kinds of polka that we have in the US and Canada vary from region to region. In Texas, for example, there's a lot of Czech and German, some Polish and a lot of Tejano (which is good stuff! I wish I could play accordion like Flaco Jiminez!). In Pennsylvania or Ohio, however, there's a lot of Slovenian and Polish and much less German and Czech. Here in the Northwest we get a lot of Scandinavian (yay!) and some Slovenian and German; very little Polish. East of the mountains there's some Tejano but that mostly stays within the migrant farm work communities. I do love listening to the radio in Eastern Washington because they play all that great Tejano music!