Balkan party music in Seattle


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From Victory Music



Periodically, western music listeners appear more than ready to open their ears to music and rhythm from ever farther afield. It shouldn’t really be a surprise that a Seattle-based band playing high energy Balkan dance music has found a welcoming home. For many years, the Balkan dance underground has sustained aficionados of traditional and modern dance songs that are so tremendously popular in their home region (every Friday night you can enjoy Balkan dance and music at Seattle’s Greenlake VFW). The real surprise should be that a locally based band such as Balkanarama has cut loose with such a superb collection of multi-layered instrumental melodies and wailing, improvisatory solos like you’ll find on Nonstop.


“A superb collection … Balkanarama has a knockout album … Not to be missed!”

The band members are well-versed in the music of Eastern Europe, with their studies including stints with other Balkan bands and choirs, Bulgarian village ensembles, Croatian tamburica, Hungarian tanchaz music, klezmer and swing music bands. Quite an array! It all coalesced in 1997 after Mike Gordon (clarinet, gajda, tambura, vocals) and Jody Levinson (accordion, vocals) moved from Los Angeles [to Atlanta] to Seattle. The subsequent jams led other band members to the group, Fred Graves (alto sax, kaval riqq, vocals), Kathleen Hunt (tambura, def, vocals), Sue Niemann (dumbek, tapan, vocals), Matty Noble (violin), Tym Parsons (electric bass, electric guitar), Jana Rickel (tambura, percussion, vocals), and Kathy Sandstrom (tambourine, zils, vocals).

Balkanarama has a knockout album with Nonstop, but perhaps even more relevant, you can (and should) go see this band and enjoy the style of the Rom (Gypsy) wedding bands popular today in the southern Balkans. Not to be missed! Check out a better-than-usual website ( for their upcoming performance schedule.

— Richard Dorsett