Location: Nevada City, Calif.
Occupation: I make my living as an accordionist, singer, guitarist and composer.
Connection to Balkan music/dance: I am the leader of a quartet called Beaucoup Chapeaux (Many Hats) (website; Facebook), and among the four of us we play accordion, clarinet, bass clarinet, piccolo, violin, oboe, tenor guitar, plectrum banjo and dobro, and we all sing. We play a fair amount of Balkan music, as well as music from France, Italy and North America, and originals, and we’re the only group doing so regularly in our area. We’ve been very fortunate for the past five and half years to have a weekly gig here in Nevada City. We’ve also made two tours of the Pacific Northwest and have performed at various other venues throughout Northern California. As such, we’ve introduced many people to this music, and continue to do so. I am now happy to be able to recommend the Mendocino Balkan camp to our audiences. Beaucoup Chapeaux is working on our second CD, which will have original songs and instrumentals, as well as music from Greece, Macedonia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Italy.
Number of times at Balkan camp: This was my first time at camp.
Experience at camp: There is a lot to like about the Mendocino Balkan Music and Dance camp. To begin with, it takes place at the Mendocino Woodlands, which is a stunningly beautiful location and facility. Functioning as a group campground since 1942, the rustic redwood cabins and halls sit amongst tall redwood trees. The air often has that wonderful tang of the ocean which is only a few miles away, and early morning fog often roams through the grounds. As to the classes, I couldn’t have asked for two more exceptional teachers than singer Merita Halili and accordionist Raif Hyseni. The nightly bands and dances were also marvelous. Delicious and nutritious meals are a huge factor in my enjoyment of . . . well, anything, and the meals were wonderful. As a night owl, I especially enjoyed the late night savory dishes provided by the kitchen, a very necessary provision when one plans to play, sing and dance until the wee hours of the morn.
Considering my late-night habits, it should come as no surprise that one of my favorite things about camp was the kafana. A kafana is, simply put, a bar which sells and serves various kinds of drinks. The kafana at Balkan camp does that, and much more. Inspired volunteers create a delightfully intimate and magical space out of one of the dining halls, decorating the redwood walls with twinkle lights and lovely ethnic fabrics. The room itself is graced by a huge open stone fireplace. As evenings can get quite chilly along California’s North Coast, it was used every night. Throw in a small stage, some tables and benches, room to dance, and of course the bar itself, and you end up with a very charming community gathering spot. Whether we were entranced by the beauty of the kaval student concert, or dancing to the music of the wild and cheezy Fetatones until 4 a.m., the kafana was always a warm and welcoming place to be.