The holidays beckon and nothing says Christmas more than the music of the season. So, what’s been filling my head recently? Certainly not holiday music, but instead, a decade old YouTube series just discovered, a group of Argentinian acoustic musicians with amazing talents, and a New York based jazz band that transports you back to mid-century Paris.
Let’s get started!
Don’t ask me how I discovered this decade-plus YouTube series. Instead ask me how I’ve somehow missed its wide variety of artists, playing all genres and styles, at some of the most unlikely venues on the planet! Then slap me for being so unaware. This show started on a small balcony in Dublin in 2006, and has since morphed into a worldwide music network. And I just found it in 2018. Go figure.
All videos in this series follow the same format. A local band or artist is set up on a balcony or rooftop (or sometimes near an urban river-scape) literally anywhere in the world. After a very short introduction from a hipster, the band performs a signature tune. Upon completion, the hipster returns, has a short dialogue with band members about the song, and introduces each band member, and then roll credits. Where are these balconies located? According to The Orchard, episodes have been recorded in 65 countries. The productions values aren’t very grand (the single camera sometimes struggles to focus on each performer during the song) but the locale and music's authenticity make for compelling video.
While some of the tunes and genres might not be your thing, you're sure to find something to enjoy when surfing through Balcony TV's large catalog of performances. Reggae, ska, roots, African, rock, metal, singer songwriter, just about every genre has had its day on this web series (shout out to my talented friend Emily whose band The Belle Sounds recently appeared). Start your journey through the network’s more than 15,000 videos, here.
La Familia de Ukuleles
With the emergence of the ukulele in the last ten years, you’ve no doubt seen a local group of senior citizens performing Beatles tunes at a community function, or maybe you saw Grace VanderWaal’s stunning debut on America’s Got Talent. So you might think a group of South American acoustic musicians named La Famila De Ukuleles would play standard soprano ukes while singing ethnic tunes from the hills. If that’s what goes through your head, yeah, you’d be totally wrong.
The “family” is a group of Buenos Aries-based musicians who play various types of ukuleles and guitars accompanied by string bass, different combinations of horns and fiddles, and an unbelievably talented washboard percussionist. Songs are led by the smokey black velvet-voiced songstress Melisa Muńiz (she plays a mean trumpet also), and of course, all members sing back-ups. This totally acoustic group has wide repertoire range. For example, check out Aye! Contigo Amor , Moonrise Swing , and for something completely different, this super sassy send-up of These Boot Are Made for Walking.
You might notice that the personnel differs in each video. Check out the all female lineups, featuring Muniz and fellow femme-fetales as The Bourbon Sweethearts giving the business on Don’t Touch Me Tomatoes and this set of tunes featuring the oh-so-popular Ukulele/String Bass/Trombone/ Female Vocalist grouping. And when you're done with all that (if you don’t get lost in their dozens of other videos) check out their appearance on Balcony TV.
The Avalon Jazz Band
Pining for that old school “chunk-chunk-chunk” swing sound of 1930’s Parisian jazz? Look no further than The Avalon Jazz Band from New York City. This traditional jazz combo has been killing the swing and gypsy jazz genres since 2011, with the authentic vocals of Swiss-born Tatiana Eva-Marie and a stellar cast of guitarists, accordion, and fiddle players behind her. The all-acoustic band evokes the memory of Django Rheinhart and the days of (say it with your worst French accent) . . . gay old Pareee . . . .
For starters, check out this tasty cover of Charles Trenet's Ménilmontant, and obligatory rendering of Porter's I Love Paris , then head over to this cover of the Meghan Draper-inspired Zou Bisou Bisou (or maybe Mrs. Draper was inspired by Ms. Eva-Marie!). After all this check out the rest of their YouTube lexicon, containing plenty of absolute musical gems.