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Balkan Superstars: Sounds of the Traveling Folk with the Oddjob Ensemble

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balkan2Unless you have recently celebrated your bar mitzvah it’s unlikely Klezmer music plays a significant role in your life. However, the Oddjob Ensemble are coming Fri., June 10, to The Haul in Grants Pass to prove the sounds of Eastern Europe are for more than scoring wacky scenes involving problematic depictions of Romai travelers.

Hailing from Santa Rosa, the Oddjob Ensemble fuses folk in the tradition of Balkan and klezmer with the sounds of contemporary artists like Tom Waits and the gypsy-jazz of Django Reinhart. The result is a Hans Zimmer-esque romp. This sound is the brainchild of accordionist and composer Kalei Yamanoha.

“I’m self-taught on the accordion,” says Yamanoha. “I grew up across the street from a huge accordion festival in Cotati California, so every year I would go to the festival and I think that had an influence on me.”

Despite a lack of formal training Yamanoha composes and directing the band absent the use of even sheet music.

“I do all the writing and arranging,” says Yamanoha. “I usually write the songs on accordion, play them solo for a while until I feel like they are at a point when I could bring them to the band, then I write all the parts for each instrument. We do it all by ear, so I sit down with all the members and teach them all the harmonies. I really try to not have everyone playing the same part.”

Though this seven piece ensemble is anything but Americana they have benefited greatly from the folk revival that has given rise to a glut of bluegrass and Dixieland groups on the Sonoma County scene.

“The ‘80s and ‘90s and early 2000s kind of hit hard in terms of the electric music scene. So I think now people kind of want to go back to the roots, which as simpler. You don’t have to deal with amplifiers and all that stuff.”

While in the future there may be potential for a robust and healthy Klezmer orchestra scene the Oddjob Ensemble currently enjoys little competition. Their unique taste in dress and overall all circus side show vibe certainty separates them from the crowed. “Sonoma County is interesting because we have a huge punk rock and hardcore scene and a huge Americana scene but there’s not much in between which is sort of where we are. We fall into this kind of niche we’re able to cross over. I always try and book with bands that are similar to us, kind of a vaudeville-ish Eastern European vibe. But, we also have played with some Indie pop bands and some Folk Punk bands. I try to play with as many different people as possible to get the farthest reach possible.”


The Oddjob Ensemble

9 pm, Fri., June 10

The Haul, 121 SW. H St, Grants Pass



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