The Dolomites: Alien accordion

Is he human, or is he accordian?

The Dolomites play Japanese-tinged Romanian music.  Gypsy oom-pah-pah
with a Japanese pop punch.  Accordion and tuba meet taiko drums.  The
Dolomites was founded by Stevhen Koji Iancu, who goes by Stefanko. 
Stefanko has lived in Tokyo, Portland, Mexico, and New York.  But the
place that defines him is outer space.
 
So your background is Japanese and Romanian, how did you end up blending gypsy and Japanese music traditions?

I blend traditional Japanese folk and enka melodies with gypsy, Balkan,
and other elements from many tribes and traditions around the globe.  I
came to blend these traditions as I noticed parallels in the melodies
and chord progressions, as well as the root of the spirit and soul in
which these sounds derive.  It seems that the gypsy traditions have more
of the fire element and the Japanese have more of a watery element so
it just came natural to mix the two together.  

Did you grow up with Balkan music? 

Yes, but actually Japanese music came first in my childhood.  I heard
enka, Japanese folk songs, music by Koga Masao, Ichiro Fujiyama and
Misora Hibari.  I also listened to Outer Space Police, the Power Ranger
theme songs from the 80s including Dynaman, Jaspion, Shaliban, and San
Vulcan.  It wasn’t until middle school that I came across some obscure
gypsy accordion cassette tapes from Romania by Costel de La Bolitin.  I
also found some records by Maria Tanase, a Romanian folk singer.  Then I
got into brass bands from Zece Prajini, like Fanfare Ciocarlia, and the
balkanization spread from there.

You’ve lived all over, when people ask where you’re from which are the places that define you?

I define myself as being from outer space as we are all in and from
outer space. Other than that I don’t really believe that any place quite
defines me. Its more important to me to define the place that I am in,
where and whenever this is, and how I fit in to that place. I am
naturally drawn to Japanese and Romanian traditions because of family,
but I wouldn’t say they define me, nor does High Wycombe,
Champaign-Urbana, Portland, New York, Tokyo, Okinawa, Bucharest, San
Francisco or Los Angeles, which are places I have lived.

I just read that Japan is the biggest music market in the world
behind the U.S.  How was it living in Japan and playing Balkan music
there?

There were some challenges in the beginning but I ended up having some
of my best experiences in my career touring and playing all across
Japan.  I was blessed to work with very solid musicians that picked up
material fast and precise. They also taught me a lot about Japanese
rhythms as well and were just great hard working people. I look forward
to going back to Japan and performing there again.

What elements of Japanese music seeped into the Dolomites sound?

The enka melodies, bits and pieces of the Outer Space Police Theme songs from the 80s, and traditional Japanese folk songs.

How was it touring with Gogol Bordello? What did you play and where did you go?

It was dramatic, entertaining, and educational.  I played accordion, we toured the Midwest and the East Coast of the U.S.A.

Who are the Dolomites, currently?

The Dolomites core members are Stevhen Koji Iancu on accordion and
vocals, Natsumi Suzuki on keyboards and percussion.  Natsumi also
performs Japanese tribal fusion belly dance. DJ Joro Boro has recently
been added to the mix incorporating electronic beats, samples and
sounds. Depending on the city we are in we have tuba or bass, drums or
percussion that join us in the line up.

 
What are the Dolomites up to next? Any touring this year, or a new record?

After the Symbiosis Festival we will do some west coast dates and in
between we will focus on a new EP called “Showa Love”, which focuses on
music from the Showa era in Japan (1926-1989).  Elements of hip hop,
moombah, global and electronic beats are also being thrown into the mix
to create these original compositions. Touring shall resume in the fall
and winter in the US, Mexico and Japan.
 
I read that food tends to be a part of your live show, or it was, is that still the case?

The “Smell the Muzik” tours are a part of Dolomites history as we did
used to have certain songs about food and cooked up a dish on stage to
accompany the music. It was our way of stimulating the audience with a
sense of taste, smell and sound. Those days were pretty crazy!

What can we expect from a Dolomites show?

Nowadays our focus is more on creating a mystical, unforgettable
atmosphere that takes one on a journey through deeper theatrical realms
of spirit, culture, dance and sound.  Given the proper time and place,
one should expect to be transported into an alien realm that has a new
sound with a mysterious feel of nostalgia.  Something that one could not
experience elsewhere.   
 
 
Except maybe in outer space.  



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Sister of accused Boston Marathon bombers arrested for…

The sister of the accused Boston Marathon bombers was arrested in New York City for threatening a woman over the phone, saying she could "put a bomb on you," police…

Local

Mayor announces public housing improvements

Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at the Lincoln Houses in East Harlem on Wednesday, calling for the scaffolding to come down at NYCHA complexes across…

National

Peter Theo Curtis: American released by Syrian militants…

An American writer freed this week from two years in the captivity of insurgents in Syria spoke briefly outside his family's Cambridge home Wednesday of…

Local

Bratton defends 'broken windows' work as NYPD support…

Sixty percent of those polled said they support the "broken windows" theory approach popularized by Commissioner Bratton since his first term in the 1990s.

Television

'So You Think You Can Dance' recap: Season…

Season 11’s top four dancers gave their final performances before America’s Favorite Dancers are announced next week.

Going Out

Labor Day in NYC: Make the last weekend…

Soon, it’ll be time for wool accessories and knee-high boots. Even the Pumpkin Spice Latte has already arrived — but we still have one last…

Going Out

Things to do this week in NYC, Aug.…

MUSIC The Electric Zoo Festival Aug. 29-31, 1 p.m. Randall’s Island Park $99-$369, www.electriczoofestival.com The electronic music celebration returns for a fifth year, with 150,000 attendees…

Going Out

5 things to do this weekend in NYC

The Electric Zoo Festival Aug. 29-31, 1 p.m. Randall’s Island Park $99-$369, www.electriczoofestival.com The electronic music celebration returns for a fifth year, with 150,000 attendees expected. David Guetta,…

NFL

Mario Manningham on the bubble as Giants play…

Former Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham hopes his second go-around with Big Blue doesn’t end with Saturday’s final cut day.

NFL

Source: Stephen Hill 'faces a battle' to make…

A team source says Stephen Hill, who has battled injuries and poor performances during his first two years, is no lock to make the Jets’ final roster.

Sports

Serena Williams leaving legacy of talented American women…

It seems only a matter of when, not if, Serena Williams will win her 18th career grand slam championship.

College

When are 2014 college football playoffs? (Schedule, date,…

When and where are 2014 college football playoffs? A look at the schedule, date, TV, time for the semi-finals at championship game.

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

4 healthy ingredient swaps to make your meals…

When it comes to eating well, everyone knows they could be doing better. But cooking in an apartment on a busy schedule is a recipe…

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…