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Performers to bring a plethora of dance-friendly music to downtown Worthington at International Festival

WORTHINGTON -- The Nobles County Government Center courtyard in Worthington will be bursting with music -- especially of the lighthearted dance variety -- during the 2017 International Festival, July 14-15.

Ole Olsson’s Oldtime Orkestra will play music, demonstrate Scandinavian folk dance styles and teach simple folk dance steps at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Brainerd Public Library.
Ole Olsson’s Oldtime Orkestra will play music, demonstrate Scandinavian folk dance styles and teach simple folk dance steps at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Brainerd Public Library.
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WORTHINGTON - The Nobles County Government Center courtyard in Worthington will be bursting with music - especially of the lighthearted dance variety - during the 2017 International Festival, July 14-15.

Kevin Locke, a Native American Hoop Dancer, will perform twice as a headliner Friday, while the Rince na Chroi Irish Dancers bring their talents early Saturday afternoon. Tiyumba African Drum and Dance also will showcase their grooves and moves Saturday, as will the Sienkane Lao dancers and Anyuak traditional dancers.

If you’re perhaps more interested in dancing along to music rather than watching and listening, you’re not out of luck: both Malamanya and Ole Olsson’s Oldtime Orkestra offer ample opportunities for grabbing a partner and spinning around.

Malamanya: An enjoyable ‘bad habit’ As band founder Tony Schreiner explained it, “Malamanya means ‘bad habit’ in Spanish - it’s taken from one of our favorite songs - and I don’t wanna say it’s in reference to vices, but more to staying up late and dancing. That’s kinda of what we’re trying to convey, having a great time,” Schreiner said.

Schreiner’s Malamanya is a Twin Cities-based band that plays dance music from the Caribbean and Latin America, with a particular emphasis on traditional Cuban music. The 7-member band hails from around the country and world, and found each other through a mutual affection for a variety of Latin music.

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“Our band is a really tight-knit family, of all ages, and we came together due to our love of ‘old-school’ Latin and Caribbean dance music. The band started with two people, and we met more people along the way,” Schreiner said.

The band has been in its present form for about nine years, while evolving over time.

“A friend of mine and I started learning old Cuban music together, we found a trumpet player, met a conga player at a show, met our current singer who just moved here from Cuba, and now we have a full, awesome horn section with 3 horns - it’s been a step-by-step process,” Schreiner said.

Malamanya, despite its Latin focus, features musicians of “pretty varying descents,” according to Schreiner, who is of German origin.

“I fell in love with the music, and started learning from Cubans in Minneapolis, people who know the music; I met Louis, and he’s half Puerto Rican and half Panamanian - everyone has their own backstory. One is from Virginia, two members are from Minneapolis, and one is from Cuba,” Schreiner detailed. Added Schreiner, “A lot of it was pretty serendipitous and awesome.”

Since their ‘serendipitous’ formation nearly a decade ago, Malamanya has performed throughout the Twin Cities and Midwest, more recently attending an international jazz and blues festival in Panama. The ensemble recently released a self-produced record available on both vinyl and as a CD. The group plays an upbeat mix of traditional Cuban music, ‘old-school’ Puerto Rican and Cuban music from the 60s and 70s in New York City, and more. The depth and breadth of their sound has grown in concert with their repertoire over time.

“When we started, the instrumentation was very stripped down, with only one horn, a guitar, bass, congas and vocals. Then we added bongos, the tres (a traditional Cuban instrument), a mandolin, and the horns,” Schreiner said. “The greater number and variety of instruments gives us more of a big band sound that you began to hear in the late 60s and early 70s, and expanded our repertoire,” added Schreiner.

Using the tres, in particular, is something that sets Malamanya apart from other Latin or Cuban ensembles.

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“The tres is a folkloric instrument from Cuba, and we’re one of the few groups in town that uses that instrument live. It plays a part similar to the piano and is somewhat a cross between a mandolin and a guitar,” Schreiner said.

Another Malamanya hallmark is the combination of their audience interaction and lively dance tunes, which Schriner said has led to a diverse, engaged fan base.

“We try to unite the audience, with all of us on stage, under a great groove and melody. Anybody can dance to our music, and it makes you want to move. We cover all the bases - ballads, traditional Cuban rumbas, minimal drum and dance music - to unite the audience under a great groove that makes people feel fantastic” Schreiner enthused.

 

Oldtime Orkestra a rollicking blast from the (Scandinavian) past “Our group is founded on the myth that we have someone in our group named Ole Olsson - but we don’t,” Paul Wilson, a member of the ensemble said. Quipped Wilson: “He’s our manager, but we never seem to run into him.”

The five-person band (four are coming to Worthington) has been together playing Scandinavian folk music since 2002, and although the whole band has never participated in the International Festival before, Wilson has prior experience.

“Mary (Wilson’s wife) and I have performed at the festival before, as a duo, and also quite awhile ago with another group I play in. I think it’s a great celebration, and a good idea to get cultures together,” affirmed Wilson.

The Orkestra pumps out its mostly Swedish and Norwegian-based tunes with violins, an antique portable pump organ, the accordion, and of course, vocals.

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“Some songs are in Swedish and some Norwegian, and a few in English. It’s mostly dance music, so we actually play for dances occasionally. We’ve traveled around the Midwest, and have also played in New York City a few times at a Swedish midsummer festival there,” Wilson said.

The group is tightly knit, comprised of close friends who knew each other long before eventually forming the ‘Orkestra’ back in 2002. Wilson, the son of Swedish and Norwegian parents himself, admitted that everyone in the group has Scandinavian roots, although his parents were not avid fans of traditional music.

“They were fans of the music of their generation, which was big band and jazz, but for me, as a 28-year old, I got interested in my heritage. Being a natural musician, I began to delve into the music of Sweden and Norway, so I’ve been playing it for 35 years,” Wilson explained.

Given that much of what they’re playing is highly traditional folk music, you won’t find their set list on the U.S.’s Top 40, but back in Scandinavia, players continue to create to this day.

“We mostly play what you call ‘heritage music,’ but there’s quite a bit of newer music being written by younger players in Scandinavia. It’s harder to keep it going here (in the U.S.),” said Wilson.

One special Scandinavian touch that listeners may hear but not see during their performance is Wilson’s ‘Hardanger fiddle,’ or understring violin.

“My violin has four playing strings and then five ‘sympathetic’ strings that vibrate when the string above is sounded - they run under the fingerboard and through the bridge. I call it ‘early reverb,’ as you don’t have any control of the strings underneath, except with how you tune them,” Wilson said.

While Wilson and his wife look forward to enjoying the food and perusing the booths at the International Festival, they encourage attendees of their show to “Grab a dance partner, and go out and dance in the sun.” Concluded Wilson: “We’re really happy to be part of a festival like this where we’re sharing cultures.”

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