Chris Strachwitz spent many years taking pictures of the people, places and events that he was fortunate to be part of. In the 1980’s Chris also started taking more home movies and videos of concerts, parties, talks, and other behind-the-scenes activities. We have begun preserving over 700 hours of these videos. Some are on our website and YouTube channel. This week we will share new videos to enjoy.

Founded in 1995, the Magnolia Sisters recorded their first Arhoolie album as the duo Ann Savoy and Jane Vidrine. Subsequent albums added two more “sisters” — Lisa Trahan and Anya Burgess to form a rare all-female Cajun band. The group has always found vintage Cajun songs and made them into their own. Here they are appearing on “Panhandle Country” hosted by Arhoolie’s own Tom Diamant in 2010. They cover the 1959 Alex Broussard song, “Le Sud De La Louisiane” extolling the virtues of Louisiana living and eating.

In 1991-92 Henry Kaiser and David Lindley recorded and released “World Out Of Time, Volume 1” that featured the music of Madagascar, including two tracks by Tarika Sammy. Arhoolie Foundation Advisory Board member Elijah Wald wrote “Tarika Sammy are a sound man’s nightmare. Like a Malagasy New Lost City Ramblers, they change and rotate instruments constantly. All the instruments are acoustic, and the range of tone and timbre is extreme, from guitar to concertina to a two-sided box zither. And Tarika Sammy are not satisfied with a laid-back, folksy sound. To the non-Malagasy listener, Tarika Sammy’s music seems to have a strong African influence, suggesting Kenyan guitar styles and South African vocal harmonies. Hanitra (a member of the band), however, views “African music” as something completely foreign and different. “Our music is not at all African, except one song that we’ve just invented very recently,” she says.” Listen to this performance at Down Home Music in El Cerrito in 1997 and judge for yourself what it sounds like.

Benton Flippen was an innovator of a distinctive and driving style of old-time string music. He lived in Mt. Airy, NC and started playing the banjo in his early teens and picked up the fiddle when he was about eighteen years old. Benton’s fiddling style was known by unusual fingering patterns and his effective use of slides and a strong rhythmic bowing technique. “No point to sound just like the other man.” he said. “Don’t even try, ’cause you can’t. You got to sound like yourself, have your own style. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. It’s all creamed ‘taters, just fixed a little different.” Chris Strachwitz filmed him in 1996 at the Fiddle Tunes (Port Townsend, WA) with Paul Sutphin on guitar.   

The music of Jose Moreno harks back to a time over a hundred years ago, to the late 1800s when just a fiddle, guitar, mandolin, and perhaps a string bass made up an “orquesta tipica” or “conjunto regional” along the lower Rio Grande Valley (El Valle). Jose Moreno is highly regarded along the border and has been recognized as one of the true interpreters of traditional Tejano/Mexican music from that region. In this video he plays a portion of “El Pichi Huila,” an indigenous tune that can stretch to 30 minutes and be played over and over. Chris Strachwitz recorded and interviewed him in 1999, the same year Arhoolie released his only major label record, “El Fidelero Del Valle.”

Statement on the passing of Chris Strachwitz

Arhoolie Records Founder
July 1, 1931 – May 5, 2023

We celebrate the life of our founder, friend, and great record man Chris Strachwitz. He died peacefully at home in Marin County, CA, surrounded in his last days by dear friends and family. Over his 91 years, Chris captured the music that represents the best “down home music” the world has to offer.

He was at the forefront of nearly all the roots revivals over the last 60 years including blues, zydeco, Cajun, Norteño and Tejano music. His drive to document traditional music helped introduce the nation to our diverse musical heritage. He had the foresight to save music that might have otherwise been lost to obscurity and played a role in strengthening cultural traditions through his records, films, and most recently the Arhoolie Foundation. He cared for those around him, fought for royalties and recognition for Arhoolie artists, and provided counsel to countless musicians, writers, film makers, and academics.

Plans for a public celebration of his life will be announced in the coming weeks. Today we’re thinking of all that Chris brought to our lives and the lives of the musicians and fans with whom he shared his passion.