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Accordion Tribe

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Schweizer Filmpreis 2005 - Bester Dokumentarfilm
Visions du Réel Nyon 2004

Accordion Tribe

CH 2004 87'

Director: Stefan Schwietert
Script: Stefan Schwietert
Camera: Wolfgang Lehner
Sound: Dieter Meyer
Editing:: Stefan Krumbiegel
Music:: Guy Klucevsek, Maria Kalaniemi, Lars Hollmer, Bratko Bibic, Otto Lechner
Production:: Maximage

Stefan Schwietert 2004 87'

Five highly individual musicians from different countries get together to form the ACCORDION TRIBE and to achieve the seemingly impossible: return their long disregarded instrument to the worldwide recognition it once enjoyed as a powerhouse of emotions. The film follows the charismatic musicians as they journey through Europe, resplendent with rich musical heritage, searching for new beginnings, looking to the past and tradition, whilst embracing the contemporary. Accompanied by exciting aural landscapes of trancelike intensity, ACCORDION TRIBE is a magnificent showcase for the transforming power of music.

“You can dig out the most crazily constructed and most dissonantpieces, which are so difficult, and the accordion in someway makes everything warm-hearted again and all at once ithas a warmth and becomes cosier in some way.” Austrian OttoLechner has been playing the accordion since he was four yearsold: compositions of his own, traditional popular music and jazzimprovisations. Bill Klucevesk, known from the New York jazzavant garde, joined him up with Finn Maria Kalaniemi, whoteaches at the Sibelius academy, Lars Hollmer the self-taughtSwedish musician and Bratko Bibic from Slovenia, a new-waverwho has played together with Tom Cora and the Nimal band, toform the Tribe.
Lechner may be right in a way and the public can thank him forit: the quintet is worth listening to in an unprecedented way,especially when the musicians also venture onto the often thinice of improvisation and avant-garde sound experimentation.The Tribe's broad musical spectrum is brought together inStefan Schwietert's film with observations of the musiciansin their everyday life. Composing, improvising, rehearsing, concertsand repeated travelling. By coach, train and plane, alwayson the move through geographical regions that are as differentas the sounds of their music. A brief stop at a service stationor train station, a cup of coffee, a waitress's smile, some jokingremarks, a few friendly words. And they already have to moveon. Yet they all have a home, a house or an apartment, withtheir characteristic landscapes. These can also be seen, alongwith short conversations and interviews that supplement themost important thing: the ACCORDION TRIBE's music.
Visions du Réel Nyon

Instigator and original conceptualist of the project is New York accordionist Guy Klucevsek. Guy is known as the “rebel with an accordion” throughout the jazz and avant-garde world from his work with Bill Frisell, John Zorn, Anthony Braxton, Laurie Anderson and others, plus the numerous albums he's released on his own. Guy, of Slovenian descent, was raised on polkas, then quickly expanded his interest into classical music studies for accordion. His influences are vast, including composers Penderecki, Xenakis and Ligeti, folk melodies of Eastern European and traditional music from around the world. Guy is a master of the free-bass accordion and, as with the other players in this project, his music goes beyond style and categorization. His recordings and performances are bizarre collections of inexplicable sounds and segues, melodies and improvisations. From a solo accordion piece that sounds like a cartoon train wreck to a delicate chamber piece with piano, violin, viola, cello and bass, his range, sophistication and power are unequalled. Guy has toured and performed in Europe, USA and Canada.

Maria Kalaniemi, from Finland, is a master of free-bass button accordion. She is, in fact, recognized as Finland's leading contemporary accordionist. Once a member of pioneering group Niekku, from the famed Sibelius Academy Folk Music Department, where she now teaches, her roots are in folk and classical music but her sights and abilities go far beyond existing styles. Technically brilliant as a player, and adept at improvisation, she is also a very powerful, intuitive and sensitive composer, with pieces that stylistically touch in numerous areas but feature her own personality as the driving force. Melody is the meaning and with Maria, listeners are sure to feel her message deeply. Maria has released many albums, the latest a duo with pianist Timo Alakotila. She is also a member of a female melodeon quintet called The Helsinki Melodeon Ladies and a Swedish-Finnish music group Ramunder. Maria has toured and performed with Aldargaz and with the Maria Kalaniemi Trio throughout Europe, USA and in Canada.

Sweden's Lars Hollmer is a true eccentric. From his home in Uppsala, Lars concocts imaginary worlds with accordion, keyboards and electric band, worlds that often sound completely crazy but are as deep-rooted and heartfelt as the simplest melody, which he also is known to produce with great ease. He has an illustrious past as founder and co-conspirator in Swedish bands Samla Mammas Manna, Zamla Mammas Manna and Von Zamla. But it's his recent past, present and future which are the most challenging and interesting. His numerous albums under his own name and with his later constellations Looping Home Orchestra, Treasure Hunters and others are brilliant excursions of unpredictable fantasy adventure. Lars has toured and performed throughout Europe and in Canada with all his various groups. His most recent adventure is to Japan for project Sola with Japanese ensemble. Concerts took place in 2001 and a recording is due in 2002.

Bratko Bibic hails from Slovenia. Member of 70's legends Begnagrad, who recorded two stunning albums, Bratko eventually took his accordion to Nimal, a multi-national conglomerate of like minded souls, including cellist Tom Cora (USA) and top Swiss players known for their work with the also legendary Debile Menthol. Nimal's three albums include some of the most challenging yet melodically and rhythmically stimulating music ever made. Bratko's compositions were highlights, showcasing his accordion skills and illustrating his huge capacity for truly wild arrangements. In recent years, Bratko has toured as a solo, performing provocative sets of traditional, modern and post modern material, using his voice as an equally provocative instrument and demonstrating the full potential of the accordion through complex and spontaneous sound experiments. In 2000, Bratko reactivated and enlarged his Ljubljana based quintet The Madleys. They toured Europe and recorded a new CD “In the Family Garden”. Music featured on the CD is related to his silent movie/live music project which he presented for the first time in 1999 (Part One) and in 2001 (Part Two) on behalf of Slovene Cinematheque.

The self-taught musician Otto Lechner comes from Austria and started playing accordion at age four. He lost his eyesight completely when he was 15. “I am blind but I think a lot in colours: greys and blues”, he says. Otto's performances include his own compositions and adaptations of traditional and popular music and waltzes, sometimes combined with jazz improvisations. Lechner is musical director of two ensembles in Vienna, Otto's Jazz Ensemble Oh Je and Das Erste Wiener Strenge Kammerorchester. He travels with Theatre Without Boundaries and composes music regularly for theatres and radio plays all over Europe. Recently he has performed with Joe Zawinul and Maz Nagl, among many others. His music is not dance music, but instead can, at times, sound very melancholic, coming from deep within.