Dance Tunes from the Pennsylvania Coal Mines 1928-1930


1. Ritki Zito
2. Horska
3. Michal ai Stefan v Kafehauze Pt 2
4. Hrai abo zadatok dai       

5. Sanok


6. A pod lesom zimna voda
7. Za vodov salata
8. Maloruska kolomeika
9. Dievký na valale
10. Voienský cardas


11. Yak som ishol prez les
12. Pod buchkom zelena trava
13. Sedliatský zabavný - čsardáš
14. Stefanova solo maqýar - čsardáš
15. Ked ten vala horal - čsardáš


16. Skotsi krak
17. A ti tsigan dobre hrai
18. Gadowski čsardáš
19. Kachacha Polka
20. Ritka buzha


21. Yanko Laidak ma trubel z avtomobilom Pt 1
22. Yanko Laidak ma trubel z avtomobilom Pt 2
23. Galizia
24. Yanko v Pittsburgu
25. Yanko wraca sie domu s polismenom
26. Kaška

Among the most entertaining aspects of ethnic music on surviving 78 rpm discs is the bewildering variety of local and regional styles encountered on vintage recordings. However, entertainment is frequently tempered by frustration when one tries to put the music into some sort of context, either bv placing it in a larger framework or, better vet. by locating and talking to surviving musicians or those who knew them. None of this has been possible in putting this particular collection together, though perhaps its publication will bring some new information to light. Meanwhile, some general observations.
Given the lengthy border between Hungary and Slovakia, it's no surprise that both countries shared a predilection for the tsardas, a distinctive country dance whose popularity spread far and wide in a stylized form during the ascendancy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, even entering the classical repertoire in works by Liszt and Brahms following its introduction to fashionable society ballrooms in the early 1840s. much as the polka and waltz were doing across Europe at the time.
The polite, well-schooled sound of most early European and American čsardáš records reflect the music's persistent appeal among the titled classes. But in 1928, the Victor Talking Machine Company began to release a series of records made by central and western Pennsylvania Slovak immigrants whose livelihood (along with Irish. Polish. Ukrainian. Lithuanian and other emigre laborers) was gained primarily from the region's anthracite coal mines and refineries.
These Slovak-American cardas bands had little in common with their urbanized counterparts beyond basic tunes and dance structures. The raw, dissonant energy of their music reflects the rough ambience of hard labor and rowdy dance halls. Victor's Camden, New Jersey studios, in an industrial suburb of Philadelphia, were close enough for easy access to the musicians, whose dance tunes and informal skits sold well throughout the broad Pennsylvania mining region.
The csardas (or čsardáš) has always been associated with gypsy musicians, with some accuracy. Gypsy bands using violins, bowed bass and cembalom were reported as early as the eighteenth century, and certain musicians became celebrities in the nineteenth. The association remains on these records; several skits involve gypsy caricatures, who are invoked in tune titles as well. The dance itself is characterized by duple rhythms and contrasting slow and fast sections.
Instrumentation on these performances remains close to early models, though clarinets, cornets, accordions and pianos supplement or replace the cembalom. Despite these less "authentic" elements, the rustic feeling of the music suggests what it may have sounded like in the Old Country of the early nineteenth century, before the csardas became a refined diversion for the aristocracy. These recordings are almost anti-aristocratic in their good natured rambunctiousness. Conventional intonation and harmonies are the first victims, as dissonance seems gleefully sought for its own sake, especially on the codas.
Michael Lapčak's band, in February 1928, was first to record the čsardáš in the rough and ready fashion. Curiously, both sides of his Victor disc feature slow sections with schottische rhythm, suggesting some New World cross-fertilization. Lapčak's 1930 recordings for Columbia were the only ones from any of these groups to be made outside Victor's Camden studios.
Victor invited Michael Tokarick's band to record in May; of the groups in this collection, his was the only one to use a cembalom, an instrument normally considered essential to the čsardáš. The group also recorded several polkas, which Victor recycled pseudonomously into its Polish, Lithuanian and Ukrainian catalogs. Though it was a good band, Tokarick used it primarily as a backdrop for a series of skits, depicting the immigrant character Janko (John) Lajdak getting drunk, going to court, fixing his car, looking for a job and in other comic situations. Instrumental excerpts from several of these sides are included here.
Michael Stiber's group recorded once, in January 1929, mixing a couple of polkas into a session which also produced some tough, vigorous čsardášes, complete with yelling and foot stomping. Last to appear was the Pachac and Juskanic band in December 1929, which featured the wildest sounds of all. Its repertoire even included an unusual multi-strain Ukrainian kolomyjka.
These 1928-30 sessions occurred during what was to be an all too brief window of opportunity which allowed strong traditional East European string music to appear on records. Michael Tokarick appeared in the RCA Camden studios again in 193