A brief history of Slovenian and Cleveland-Style polka music
The word polka comes from the Czech word pùlka literally meaning "little half", a
reference to the short half steps featured in the dance. The word's familiar form
has been influenced by the similarity to the Czech word polka, meaning Polish woman.
The polka is a lively Central European dance and is also a genre of dance music familiar
throughout Europe and the Americas. It originated in the middle of the 19th century
in the Czech lands and is still a common style in Lithuanian, Czech, Croatian, Slovenian,
Polish, German, Hungarian, Austrian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Russian, and Slovakian
folk music. In light classical music, many polkas were composed by both Johann Strauss
I and his son Johann Strauss II; a couple of well known polkas were composed by Jaromír
Vejvoda, the author of Škoda Lásky also known as the "Beer Barrel Polka" and "Rosamunde".
When one talks about Slovenian-Style polka they speak of an Americanized style of
the music based upon the traditional Slovenian folk songs. This style of music came
about when immigrants from Slovenia taught the old songs to their children. These
children, as adults, translated the old traditional lyrics from Slovene into English,
and arranged them in a polka beat. In the beginning Slovenian-Style polka was just
music for local ethnic clubs and union halls. It is usually associated with Cleveland
and other Midwestern cities as that is where most Slovenian immigrants put their
roots down when they came to America.
In 1986 an important event took place in American cultural history that eluded the
attention of most Americans. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences,
the U.S. organization of musicians, producers, recording engineers and other recording
professionals dedicated to improving the quality of life and cultural condition for
music and its makers, which are famous internationally for the Grammy Awards, established
a new award category, for polka music. The first recording artist honored with this
new Grammy Award was the 71-year old Slovenian-American band leader from Cleveland,
Ohio named Frankie Yankovic, known and loved for several decades as "America's Polka
Old time ethnic music is what Frankie Yankovic and his colleagues played. These polkas
are mostly popularized versions of many different tunes and dances from the original
folk music from Slovenia and surrounding countries. The repertoires of polka artists
is not simply one type of dance music suggested by the term polka but are rather
a large variety of pieces of music styles including waltzes and jazzy style of polkas.
The Cleveland-Style of polka music is generally played at a faster tempo and features
different instrumentation than the traditional music. The polka bands from Cleveland
always included two accordions with at least one piano accordion, a chromatic accordion,
or button box, a saxophone or clarinet, and a rhythm section including such instruments
as drums, bass, and banjo. The main melody instruments in the band were the accordion
and the saxophone. The epicenter of the Slovenian & Cleveland-Style of polka is undoubtedly
Cleveland, "The Polka Town", and northeast Ohio, but it is also popular in Pennsylvania
With the commercial success of Frankie Yankovic and other musicians Cleveland-Style
polka music was soon introduced to a wider audience. In addition to Frankie Yankovic,
the most important pioneers in developing the Cleveland-Style of polka music included
Matt Hoyer, Louis Spehek, William Lausche, Josephine Lausche & Mary Udovich, Joe
Kusar, Johnny Pecon, Johnny Vadnal, Eddie Habat, Kenny Bass, Ernie Benedict, Ray
Champa and Frankie Mullec. Following these pioneers hundreds of descendents of the
original Slovenian immigrants took to playing this style of music. If you want to
hear the pioneers of Cleveland-Style polkas, please scroll down for some 78 RPM recordings
from 1920s - 1950s.
Johnny Pecon Orchestra
Joe Kusar Trio
Kenny Bass & His Polka Poppers
Matt Hoyer Trio
Johnny Vadnal Orchestra
2013. www.polkas.nl - 03739 Jávea, Spain.
Just click on the accordion to start the song.
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This will allow you to visit other pages of polkas.nl while listening to the old
78 RPM records.