Mike Gordon
Greetings! I'm the leader of Balkanarama, to the extent that anyone's in charge, and webmaster of this site (hence this totally gratuitous personal page). I co-founded the band with my wife, Jody, back in 1997, and manage its repertoire.

I've been playing Balkan music in one form or another since the late 1970s. Until 1989, while I was living in Los Angeles, I performed with the the Aman Ensemble, Anthony Shay's Avaz International Dance Theatre, Kárpátok Hungarian Folk Ensemble, the Avaz Tamburica Orchestra, Trudy Israel's choir Nevenka and a couple of short-lived folk dance bands. I recorded an album with Avaz, a 45 single (remember those?) with Kárpátok and a cassette with Nevenka, all of them no doubt long out of print.

I also wrote and published "Hungarian Táncház Music," a book that included sheet music for five Hungarian dance cycles (Dunántúl, Szatmár, Székely, Mezöség, Szék). It's known as "The Red Book" among táncház musicians in the U.S. It, too, is out of print, but I'll make some more one of these days -- contact me at if interested.

In the early '90s, when I was living in Atlanta, I formed the now-defunct band Ersatz Kolo.

I moved to Seattle in 1996 to work at Microsoft and began jamming with musicians who were part of Seattle's active Balkan music scene. A small group of us started playing for dancing on Friday nights in Greenlake. After about six months, in early 1997, we decided to call ourselves Balkanarama, a name first used by this Web site, and began our long, slow climb to stardom and fame. Balkanarama has released two CDs: Nonstop, in 2000, and Black Sea, in 2002. You can hear samples of all the songs on both CDs.

In 1997, I contributed a clarinet solo on one tune to a well-received CD by Guarneri Underground in Seattle. Here's a sound clip (394KB .wav) that includes what one reviewer called my "wailing, klezmer-like" playing.

In 2002, I joined a side project called Monsoon Teacup, playing original, world-influenced pop songs written by my wife, Jody Levinson.

I've been to the Balkans twice, visiting Hungary (including a month-long concert tour with Kárpátok in 1985), Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia. I've studied Balkan music in the U.S. at East European Folklife Center camps on the West Coast and other sessions with Balkan musicians. I've studied Hungarian music in the United States with Béla Halmos and members of the bands Újstilus and Tilinkó, and in Hungary with the Újstilus and Jászsági Ensembles. I once spent an entire night locked in a hotel basement in the student quarter of Budapest jamming with Márta Sebestyén and assorted members of Téka and Muzsikás.

I play several instruments with varying degrees of skill. My main instrument with Balkanarama is clarinet, though I play alto sax on a few tunes as well. I play electric bass with Balkanarama and Monsoon Teacup. I used to be reasonably handy on kontra, the three-stringed Transylvanian chord viola, and have been known to dabble in Bulgarian and Macedonia tambura. Back in L.A., I played tamburica music, mostly on bugarija but also on brac at times. I've performed in public on several flavors of bagpipes, including Bulgarian and Macedonian gajda and Hungarian duda.

In real life, I was a newspaper writer, editor and designer for many years before getting involved in online projects. After working as a reporter, editor and designer in Southern California and Atlanta, I launched Access Atlanta, the online service of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, on the old Prodigy online service, whence it eventually migrated to the Web. At Microsoft, I was executive editor of Sidewalk, a great network of local city guides that ended up being sold to another company. Now I work for MSN Shopping, Microsoft's consumer shopping site. Yes, I've met Bill.

I had the good sense to marry Jody in 1981. She owns her own Web site design company, making us an all-Internet family. We have two weird teen-age sons, Eric and Alan; two cats; and a great view of Mt. Rainier from our family room on clear days.