Accordion Music and Lore

Read about accordions

Robert Service's Accordion Poem (from an author best known for "The Cremation of Dan McGee". In the interests of historical accuracy I have not edited out the crude racial stereotypes that appear in one of the verses. I hope nobody will be offended)

Accordion movies

Music and recordings (Nordic)

Read About Maria Kalaniemi, Kimmo Pohjoinen, and other Finnish musicians

Helsingin Kaksirivinaiset This is an accordion ensemble of five ladies, led by Maria Kalaniemi. It is one of her early efforts. I don't know if the group was a one-off thing, or if it plays on a continuing basis. I hope for the latter, since they are really good. The title means "Helsinki Two-Row Ladies." The "Two-Row" refers to the kind of accordion they play. Kalaniemi's main instrument is a five-row free base accordion, but this ensemble uses two-row diatonics. Usually these are used for Irish music with a lot of fast fingerwork, but little chromatic or harmonic interest. This album doesn't break new ground in terms of the music played, but it is really a revelation in the use of these two-row beasties. With Irish tuning, the two rows each have a diatonic scale, but with one row offset by a half tone from the other. That means that the full chromatic scale is, in principle, available, though with very odd and inconvenient fingering. Kaksirivinaiset exploit the possibilities to play all sorts of minor-key nordic favorites, but with a great dynamism and ensemble feeling. One of my favorites is Kaksi Taunoa, which I have also heard Norrlåter do up at the Saltoluokta Folkmusikveckan, on a conventional chromatic with stradella (chord) bass, backed up by the usual ensemble.

This is a short album, with only five short tracks adding up to an all too brief 15 minutes of happiness. More of this please, ladies! Here is a Youtube video of the Kaksirivinaiset playing Severi Suhosen Jenkka (and here is the great Esa Pakarinen as Severi himself playing it in the great Reino Helismaa flick Rovaniemen Markinoilla. . Or here, as the same character in a 1967 recording, as the same character.. )


Maria Kalaniemi ("Red Album") An album of some of the early classics from the Finnish queen of the accordion. See Maria herself playing Elin Polkka here.


Maria Kalaniemi, Iho








Maria Kalaniemi, Ahma

Maria Kalaniemi and Accordion Tribe

Maria Kalaniemi and Sven Albäck, Airbow/Luftstråk/Ilmajuosi

Maria Kalaniemi, Finnish Tango

Kimmo Pohjoinen, Kielo This is not your father's accordion, not unless your father is Darth Vader. Some of the tracks are more rhythmic than melodic. In fact, much of Pohjoinen's music puts me in mind of joik for accordion. Pohjoinen is a remarkably talented accordionist and composer, playing on what seems to be a free-base accordion like Kalaniemi. The music on this disk is heavily electronically modified, but not so much so that the virtuosity or purity of the accordion notes is lost. I use the word "notes" advisedly, because the entire album is "constructed" with accordion (except for a small track using harmonium). This means that Pohjoinen uses his accordion not just to make sounds in the conventional way, but also as a percussion instrument, riffling the bellows, clicking keys, tapping the body, and also somehow achieving an unfathomable bass-drum effect. These noises are accompanied by Pohjoinens incohate vocal lines, some of which are joik-like chants, some of which are almost jazzy. All this sounds weird, but it's not a joke, and it's much more successful than it sounds in description. The music has to be heard to be believed.