Published in Folkworks 2010
Nothing celtic in my May column, but as it is getting hot and Cinco de Mayo is coming up, here are some tunes from the American Southwest that are a lot of fun to play in jams/sessions. I have played them in sessions from a bit north of the Mexican border to a bit south of the Canadian border and many places in between. Two favorite tunes in this genre are El Churrumbé from New Mexico and Purple Lilies from Arizona, which I cover in this column.
El Churrumbé is a Cleofes Ortiz, who was born in 1910 on Pajarito Plateau near Rowe, New Mexico, and began playing for dances in his teens. He stopped playing in the 1920s until he was rediscovered 50 years later.
fiddle band music of the Tohona O’odham people of Southern Arizona. Utilizing instruments originally introduced by Spanish missionaries, the fiddle band sound is an unusual mix of polkas, two-steps, and mazurkas utilizing violins, guitar, and drums. One great CD is by the Gu-Achi Fiddlers, entitled “Old Time O'odham Fiddle Music”. It is not virtuostic and the fiddles are on the scratchy side, but the exuberance and more than compensate. This distinctive twin fiddle style eventually changed into a newer Native American style known as chicken scratch or waila (which replaced the fiddles with a saxophone and electric guitars).