ShellacHead Annual 2014: Tropical Sound Waves

Well, another year, another trip around the sun and all that jazz. It’s been a gray and wet couple of months here in Oakland, and yes, California needs the rain, but it’s left me pining for some sun and fun. The ShellacHead Annual is usually a sample of records I’ve collected over the year, but this year I decided to take a musical sojourn to the Caribbean. Here’s a selection of 78s and 45s from my collection that showcase the great diversity and musical connections of one of the world’s most vibrant musical zones. 26 tracks from Jamaica, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Colombia, Honduras, Martinique, Curacao, and elsewhere. The first 200 downloads are free, or until the end of January, whichever comes first.

I hope it gives you a bit of warmth and musical sunshine during the depths of winter. Enjoy!


Clarinetist Selimi and vocalist/violinist Hafize were brother and sister, coming from a long line of famous musicians from the city of Leskovik at the southern border of Albania. By the mid-1920s they were living in Istanbul where they were the star attractions of the Albanian music scene. Selimi and Hafize recorded for Columbia during a session in Istanbul in 1928. Columbia made some 300 recordings the following year in Albania itself. To this day, the beautiful deep voice of Hafize is considered a benchmark for female Albanian singers of the southern repertoire, and Selim’s reputation as a clarinetist is highly regarded.

Col 72007a

Col 72007b

Col 72010


One of my favorite recording artists in any genre is the Greek accordion player Andonis “Papadzis” Amiralis (1896-1959). Papadzis was born in Smyrna, like so many of the best Greek musicians of the time. In addition to accordion, (“armonika” in Greek), he played several string instruments. He recorded many instrumentals, with guitar accompaniment, in the 1920s and 1930s, and also recorded with well-known singers of the time, such the legendary Dalgas. His style is highly ornamented, as was the common approach at the time. Contemporaries such as Yangos Psamatianos and Michalis Trimis use a similar approach. The accordion became a regular part of rebetiko ensemble later, in the 1940s and 50s, but the style was a simpler, more modern approach.

First up are two classic zeibekika. The zeibekiko is a dance that was originally associated with the Turkish Zeibeks, and later became a staple of the rebetika repertoire. The zeibekiko is played in 9/4 rhythm, which gives the melodies an unusual loping quality. The Bohoris is an “easy mark”, according to Tony Klein’s Mortika cd. O Bohoris was recorded in 1932.



This record, attributed to “G. Kourtis,” is almost certainly a dub from an early Victor of Papadzis. The Standard label was started by the Tetos Demitriades.



The syrto is a 4/4 dance, one of the most common found in Greece. The syrto has many varieties, and this one’s title suggest it originates from Smyrna.Standard9032a


In contrast, here’s a “kalamatiano syrto” from 1929.Col 5616ba


After Papadzis, the next well-known accordion player is Yangos Psamatianos. He didn’t record as much as Papadzis, at least under his own name. Here he is playing a manes. It’s not an instrumental, but a modal improvisation on both accordion and vocal. This was recorded in 1929.

Col 12318b


Here are a couple Victor sides from 1909. I have no idea who the accordion player is on these records. Another lingering mystery is the question of what kind of accordion is being played on these recordings – piano or button style. Compare the sousta to the version I posted here.