POLKA HAPPINESS

by Charles Keil, Angeliki Vellos Keil, Dick Blau

The Authors

Charles Keil is one the leading ethnomusicologists in the world. He is the author of four ground-breaking books, including Urban Blues, Tiv Song, My Music, and Music Grooves. Charlie is also the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. Keil is Professor Emeritus of American Studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Angeliki Vellos Keil is the editor of the Autobiography of Marcos Vamvakaris. (Vamvakaris is the most famous of Greek bouzouki players, virtually defining the "Never on Sunday" style of music for both Greece and everyone else as well!)

Dick Blau's photographs, films, and videotapes have been widely exhibited, published and collected both in the United States and in Europe. His work is in the Museum of Modern Art, the Chicago Art Institute, the Brooklyn Museum,the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, etc. Dick is Professor of Film at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The Team

Blau and the Keils are longtime collaborators. In addition to co-authoring Polka Happiness, they have recently finished another manuscript, The Instruments: Romani Musicians in Greek Macedonia, which will be published by Wesleyan University Press in 2001. Continuing to follow their interest in polka music, the Keils and Blau are currently working a volume of essays and pictures, this one titled Polka Theory. Look for Polka Theory in a couple of years from the University of Chicago Press.

Bright Balkan Morning will be published by Wesleyan University Press in 2001.




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Polka Happiness

Celebrating the lively dance music that has drawn together generations of Polish Americans, Polka Happiness captures the energy, excitement, and shared sense of belonging embodied in polka sociability. With rich descriptive material and 150 historical and contemporary illustrations, the book focuses on the musicians, the fans, and the cultural institutions that keep the polka party going. From family gatherings and weddings to local fan clubs, night spots and churches to regional and national festivals, the polka scene is a year-round carnival, full of hi-jinks, hilarity, ethnic pride and tears -- an intensely felt experience drawn from sources deep in Polish America.

polka The testimony of musicians and fans, old timers and young enthusiasts, tells how polka culture has resisted the melting pot for more than a century. Interviews, memorabilia and photographs spotlight the stars of the polka world -- Li'l Wally, Walt Solek, Eddie Blazonczyk, Frank Yankovic, the Dyna-Tones -- as well as the many regional favorites in Buffalo, Milwaukee, and Chicago that have delighted millions of fans.

Polka Happiness chronicles the immense popularity of the music in nineteenth century Europe and its enduring popularity in the United States. After tracing the history of polka's spread throughout the world, the authors focus on the emergence and intense rivalry of the Chicago and Eastern styles in the United States. the book also traces the role of the International Polka Association in establishing networks, promoting events and providing an environment in which Polish Americans can celebrate and nourish their cultural heritage.

For twenty years the authors have been part of the social world of polka music and dancing in the bars, church halls, and ballrooms of Rust Belt America; their exuberant descriptions reflect the enthusiasm of wholehearted participants.

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Excerpts from Reviews of "Polka Happiness"

"Polka Happiness is an inspiring account, with a strikingly eloquent photographs. It is based on material collected over twenty years of visiting dances, fan club meetings, national and regional conventions, interviewing musicians, promoters, disc jockeys, fans, and generally gathering information on 'Polonias', the Polish areas of big cities. This is research con amore."

"The book's appeal extends beyond the academic; polka people will also read this with pleasure. It is printed in the Visual Studies Series, and with its brilliant photographs, it could almost stand as an art photography book."

Popular Music,
Volume 13, Part 3,1994
Helmi Jarviluoma
University of Tampere

"Polka Happiness...is a definitive look at the music and the colorful, high octane cast of polka musicians and accordion-happy fans. It's also one of the few books ever written on Polish-style polka."

Milwaukee Sentinel
Jerry Resler
12/11/92

"Scattered through Polka Happiness, Dick Blau's photos are nearly all dynamic and joyous, full of smiles and dancing, powerful evidence for the thesis of "polka happiness." Blau's photographs place the viewer in the thick of polka parties that are recent, lively, and ongoing."

American Music
Vol.12, No.3 (Fall 1994)
Robert Walser
Dartmouth College



For Polka Reviews check out Barry Nostradamus Sher's Polka Pages.