Gu-Achi Fiddlers,
Old Time O'odham Fiddle Music
(1988; Canyon, 1997)

Old Time O'odham Fiddle Music is the first commercial recording of the fiddle music of this Southern Arizona tribe, the Tohono O'odham ("The Desert People"), who were formerly known as the Papago. It was originally released on cassette in 1988, but this is the first time it has been released on CD. If you like fiddle music, order a copy right away!

Catholic Spanish missionaries first taught these Native Americans to play European instruments so they could perform at mass. The Papagos quickly incorporated the instruments into all their music. The music here is produced with two fiddles, one guitar, a snare drum and a bass drum.

In the mid-1800s, new dances and rhythms made their way to the Tohono O'odham. Among them were the polka, mazurka, schottische and quadrille. Some communities added the native traditional melodies for the Pascola and the Matachines, ritual dances of the Yaqui of the Sonora, Mexico region. The European dances and rhythms were undergoing radical changes in the hands of the indigenous peoples.

Over time, the fiddle music began to die away. Fewer and fewer young people cared to learn the art. But in 1984, a new contest started, the All O'odham Fiddle Orchestra Contest. Interest in this lost art was renewed and it has been making a slow comeback. There is a strong effort to preserve this historical music style for future generations.

The Gu-Achi Fiddlers are named after the town of Gu-Achi in Southern Arizona where they reside. The band is Gerald Leos Sr. (snare drum), Lester Vavages (fiddle), Tommy Lopez (bass drum), Wilfred Mendoza (guitar) and Elliot Johnson (fiddle).

Selections on this CD include "Ali Oidak Polka," "Bareterro Two-Step," "Black Mountain Mazurka," "Blackie Polka," "Sonora Church Two-Step," "Hohokam Polka," "Libby Bird Song Mazurka," "Pinto Beans Two-Step," "Cababie Two-Step" and "Dawn Mazurka."

Every tune on this CD is a knockout! It had me on my feet dancing during the first few measures and kept me moving through every tune. It is beautiful music with a fast beat and lots of lively movement. It is distinctly Spanish in origin, but with characteristics of its own. This is fiddling at its best. There is no way to select a favorite from these tunes. All are fabulous dance pieces!

This is a must-have for any Native American music collection. It is a unique sound that will quickly embed itself in any fiddle lover's heart!

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 31 May 2003

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