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Pokey LaFarge and his eight-piece ensemble bring American folk music to Windmills Craftworks.

Born Andrew Heissler, Pokey LaFarge grew up with the swinging rhythms of string ragtime and early jazz and makes music that will have you doing the twist all night long. He tells us about his music and inspirations.

1. Going traditional.
I’ve been a student of American traditional music since I was a kid because of my two grandfathers (One was an American historian and the other was a banjo player). I chose a path and philosophy in life that’s consistent with the culture of early American music. Consequently, I love to play within the tradition and bring my own style to audiences today.

Beyond the BANJO

1. Musical doppelganger. Jimmie Rodgers

2. Most challenging audience. Musicians

3. Most memorable performance. Cain’s Ballroom, Red Rocks and Radio City Music Hall – all were meaningful and humbling in different ways.

4. Recording or playing live. Playing live. Feeling the crowd and helping folks have a good time is a big part of why I do what I do.

5. Blues vs jazz for a rookie. Jazz is usually more jubilant and upbeat than a blues tune.

2.The hook, line and sinker.
Early on, I got into CCR and Zeppelin and all the classic rock artistes that eventually led me to blues greats like Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters and country and blues legends like  Jimmie Rodgers and Bill Monroe.

3. The story behind the name.
 It’s actually a bonafide nickname. I had this sort of slow-poke quality about me as a kid; My mom, and then the rest of my family, started calling me Pokey because of that and it just stuck.

4. On your music wall.
Jimmie Rodgers, Bing Crosby, Bob Wills, Lefty Frizzell, Eddie Lang, Bob Dylan, Big Bill Broonzy, Blind Blake, Louis Arm strong, Duke Ellington, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Bessie Smith and so much more.

5. Contemporising tradition.
The biggest challenge when it comes to that is all the misconceptions about what it is I’m doing. The idea that I am ‘retro’ or ‘vintage’ for instance, which is not my perception of it at all.

6.Plight of American folk music today.
I don’t think there’s a whole lot of music out there today that can be put in that category. Folk music is more than simply throwing a banjo in your song or trying to sound like Johnny Cash.

January 24 to 26. 9pm. At Whitefield. Tickets (Rs 500 upwards) on bookmyshow.com.

Susanna Chandy

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