The Accordion in the Americas: Klezmer, Polka, Tango, Zydeco, and More!

. October 2012. 360p. 978-0-25203-720-7.
Simonett (Latin American studies, Vanderbilt Univ.; Banda: Mexican Musical Life Across Borders) has edited a comprehensive volume of the accordion’s presence and influence in North, Central, and South America. The essays, by different music scholars, seek out the deeper meaning of many people’s intense love-hate relationship with the unconventional instrument. Simonett suggests that perhaps it is the cultural identification of the accordion as a folk instrument that sometimes gives it a bad reputation; it is a marker of low art and a fixture in taverns, brothels, and dancehalls. Simonett’s compilation is much different from Marion Jacobsen’s Squeeze This!: A Cultural History of the Accordion in America, as it delves deeper into the social aspects of the accordion and covers a wider geographic area. The book is a careful examination of several very different cultures and genres, including not only zydeco and polka but also the little-known music of groups such as the Tohono O’odham, an indigenous people living in southern Arizona.
VERDICT Simonett’s book is an excellent collection of ethnomusicology scholarship that will be of interest to those who like world music, ethnography, or unusual instruments.

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