Waila! ...don't stop dancing!


Tracks 1-4 are performed by El Conjunto Murrietta

01. La Sanja - "The Ditch" (3:02)
02. El Caballito Bronco - "Little Wild Pony" (2:40)
03. Y Cantatumbas - "Tumblings" (3:12)
04. Lucila (6:38)

Tracks 5-11 are performed by Mike Enis and Company

05. Agnes Polka (2:19)
06. Soy Norteño (3:09)
07. Cholla Polka (3:19)
08. Mesquite Polka (3:07)
09. Enis Special (1:59)
10. O'Dam-Cho - Two-Step (2:03)
11. To-Hono Polka - "Far Away" (2:26)

Tracks 12-17 are performed by Los Papagos Molinas

12. Tengo Mieto - Polka (2:28)
13. Tohono Chote - Chote (3:26)
14. Buttermilk - Polka (2:25)
15. Pisinimo Chote - Chote (2:43)
16. Winston Polka - Polka (2:47)
17. Hochude Waila - "Lizard Dance" Polka (2:40)

Tracks 18-23 are performed by Elvin Kelly y Los Reyes

18. Chen Wen Wen Chona - Polka (2:54)
19. La Zapateada - Redova (2:12)
20. Ester - Polka (3:03)
21. La Pipla - Chote (1:58)
22. El Gallo - Guaracha (3:03)
23. Ojos Peludo - Polka (2:40)

Total Time: 67:55




Originally released in 1972, these are the legendary first two recordings of waila, the energetic social dance music of the Native American peoples of the southern Arizona desert. Also referred to as "chicken scratch", the vibrant melodies of saxophone, accordion, and electric guitar glide across the solid backbeat of bass and drums performing polkas, schottisches, and mazurkas. This newly remastered collection brings together classic recordings of this musical hybrid rooted in the contacts between European immigrants and the Tohono O'odham peoples.


Some of the craziest, most infectious high-energy dance music of the Southwest is waila, sometimes called “chicken scratch,” created and perfected by the Tohono O’odham tribe (formerly called Papago) of southern Arizona.

There’s even a Waila Festival that takes place every May at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Canyon Records, that venerated purveyor of American Indian music both traditional and contemporary, recently re-released four of its classic 1970s waila albums on two CDs.

Waila! consists of the groundbreaking Chicken Scratch! (featuring two bands, El Conjunto Murietta and Mike Enis & Company) and its sequel, Chicken Scratch with Elvin Kelly y Los Reyes & Los Papagos Molinas. Both were originally released in 1972.

Then there’s The American Indians Play Waila, which consists of the first two albums by the Tohono O’odham band called The American Indians.

Waila — a word that comes from the Spanish baile (dance) — is predominantly instrumental music in which the lead instruments typically are the saxophone and accordion. At least since the rock ’n’ roll era, waila bands usually also include electric guitar, electric bass, and drums.

The history of waila is one of those tales of cultural cross-pollination that make America great. When German immigrants moved to Texas and introduced the accordion to the Mexicans already living there, the resulting proto-Tex-Mex sound swept the American Southwest (and northern Mexico, for that matter).

Tohono O’odham musicians, who had been introduced to European instruments by Catholic missionaries, took up the new sound, though the accordion wouldn’t become a staple in Tohono O’odham dance bands until the last half of the 20th century.

According to the Waila! liner notes, until the late ’40s, the typical band consisted of a fiddle, an acoustic guitar, bass drum, and snare drum. Sax and accordion came later — as did the wah-wah pedal, which American Indian John Manuel hooked up to his accordion in 1976 to produce some otherworldly sounds.

The nearby Pima tribe also embraced waila. Most of Los Reyes’ members, for example, are Pimas.

The songs come from old tribal melodies, Mexican songs, and European sources. Waila bands play a number of styles — polka, mazurka (originally a Polish folk-dance style), chote (a form of the German schottisches), and Mexican cumbia.

On some recordings, the guitars seem just slightly out of tune and the drums just a little clunky. I’m not sure if this is done intentionally, but the effect gives the music a strong DIY edge, an aura of roughness that distinguishes it from some of the squeaky-clean, overly precious polka records out there.

and get your own copy of the record

again here :-)


Rain Dance

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