It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but a lot has been going on. I’ve been working on a new film project: Hoosier Fiddlers: A Documentary Celebrating Indiana’s Fiddle Traditions. The film is currently in production and I am spending lots of time interviewing and recording fiddlers from around the state. It has been a lot of fun meeting new musicians and learning more about the ones I already knew.
Three of the featured musicians, Dena El Saffar, Julane Lund, and Lee Mysliwiec, play very different styles of folk music and I think some people will be surprised at the diversity of styles of fiddling here in Indiana.
Dena El Saffar is a founding member of the band Salaam “which has delighted audiences for years with its expansive repertoire of Middle Eastern and North African music…Iraqi-American band leader Dena El Saffar’s compositions take advantage her own eclectic musical upbringing to create a sound rooted in maqam (the modal system used throughout the Middle East), with tasteful forays into Latin, African, Balkan, Rock, Blues, and Classical styles”.(www.salaamband.com)
I met Lee Mysliwiec, also of Bloomington, Indiana, at a weekly old-time in 2001. I love his fiddle playing and his attitude about life as well. He is a patient and excellent teacher and is really well known at Clifftop (Appalachian String Band Festival) for his free fiddle and banjo lessons and you will often find him busking on the streets of Bloomington.
Julane Lund plays traditional Norwegian music on the Hardanger fiddle and Norwegian-American tunes on the regular fiddle. I met Julane at the Indiana State Fair Fiddle Contest, sponsored by Traditional Arts Indiana, in 2006. We ended up in a tie for first place and had to do a play off where Julane won. It was very dramatic! I also learned that she lived only 5 miles from my house- I couldn’t believe my luck! She’s a wonderful musician and has travelled all over the world with her music, including Bashkortostan.
I love Philadelphia, and when in Philly, I go to Fergie’s Pub, 1214 Sansom St., on Saturday from 4-7 p.m. In the corner of the downstairs bar is the best traditional Irish music around. The mood at Fergie’s is beyond cozy and the jigs, reels, and banter are fierce and energetic.
Philadelphia has loads of fantastic Irish musicians and this is a regular spot for some of the best. The session has been held down by guitarist Darin Kelly since it began 11 years ago. It’s best to get there early as it can get crowded; some days are standing room only. The exchange of tunes between the musicians never dominates over patrons conversations; this is an unamplified affair. Kudos to the proprietors as there is not 1 TV in the whole place-a rarity in this day and age. Another pint? Of course!
The Golden Ace Inn, Indianapolis, IN This eastside bar has been owned by the McGinley family since 1934. The weekly Irish session, begun in 1999 by Doug Lammer, is hosted by Jim and Kate Smith and Jenny Thompson, and has been strongly supported by the McGinleys throughout the years. A group of dedicated sessioneers ensure a lively evening with high quality musicianship each Tuesday from 8-10p.m. (often later).
The decor is nostalgic and homey, the music always lively, and the budget-friendly burgers ($3.75, including chips) are fantastic and rated as “One of Indy’s Tastiest Burgers” by the Indianapolis Star. You will be met with classic Midwestern friendliness and will feel welcome at this bar (I may be a little biased hailing from Indiana myself!).
The session focuses on traditional Irish dance tunes: jigs, reels, hornpipes, polkas, and slides with the odd song thrown in. Make no mistake, this isn’t an open “jam” but a traditional Irish session that is friendly to listeners and newcomers who understand (or are willing to learn about) the tradition.
Here are a couple of YouTube videos that feature the session as well as the owner of the bar talking about its history: