Free Reed Fest Home Page

Talk about the festival's music and artists

Coming Attractions

Get on the mailing list to get updates on what's new at the festival, by e-mail.

The Philadelphia Weekly (Phila, PA)

Free Reed Festival Starting Thurs., June 1
By Liz Spikol

Have you by any chance noticed the accordion's comeback? This polka-issue instrument has suddenly taken on a veneer of cool. Now, other free-reed instruments are coming into their own--the bandoneon, the melodeon, the concertina and even the harmonica. Now is staging a festival to celebrate these lesser-known musical powerhouses. Aside from the traditional music with which the accordion is linked, the Free Reed Fest will offer musicians from all over the world with an equally far-flung approach. On Monday, Philadelphia will be represented by the Edge City Collective, a remarkable group of local musicians making music that's experimental, yet still accessible, improv. Featuring Ranji Kumar on accordion, the Collective is helmed by guitarist Scott Shaffer and rounded out by saxophonist John Thompson, bassist Michael Taylor and guitarist Jon Madof (the latter two of the well-known jazz duo Taylor/Madof). The Collective's festival appearance coincides with the recent release of their stellar CD, Guitarrasalto ( And given the success of last week's jazz fest at the Pie--of which Taylor/Madof were a part--this is just the beginning of far-reaching recognition of Philadelphia's burgeoning avant-garde scene.

Star Tribune, Minneapolis/St. Paul

Throw a virtual festival at

If the weather's lousy again this weekend, maybe it's time to throw yourself a virtual festival. Slather on the sunless tan lotion, pull up to your PC and hippie-dance in your swivel chair to the sounds of the FreeReed Festival at This month the world-music site has assembled a variety of tracks representing the far-flung "freereed" family (accordion, concertina, harmonium, harmonica, etc.). There's lots of folk flavors (from Laos to Louisiana), some avant jazz, even electronica (by Finnish wildman Kimmo Pohjonen). Just be sure to wear your cathode Ray-Bans. -- Tim Campbell

The Boston Herald

May 26, 2000 Friday puts the music first

We hear plenty these days about MP3, Napster and downloading music on the Web. What we don't hear as much about, maybe because they're not quite as glamorous, are music Web sites that are rich in content, useful and fun. is all of those. A world music site with a decidedly eclectic bent, has the advantage of experience - it's five years old - and a noncommercial attitude that's as refreshing as it is contrarian.

Calling itself a "sharezine," - a $ 20 annual subscription fee is encouraged, but not mandatory - offers an incredible range of information about music from around the globe, including CD reviews, profile stories and essays.

Just as useful are the links that the well-organized site provides throughout, which range from an encyclopedia of African music to artist sites. There's also plenty of access to both audio and video. Educating and entertaining, not selling product, seems to be what is about.

This leads to the event the site is hosting and producing beginning Thursday, the "Free Reed Festival." ("Free reed" means aerophone instruments such as the accordion, harmonica, sheng, harmonium and myriad others.)

For the month of June, the site will present a long list of performers such as Boozoo Chavis and Indian harmonium player Shiv Dayal Batish via audio and video. It is also planning radio station broadcasts (there are no Boston stations at this time).

There may not be an IPO on the horizon for, but that in and of itself is a breath of fresh air.

Boston Globe

Tuning in to a virtual accordion festival
By Patti Hartigan, Globe Staff, 6/9/2000

Cliff Furnald would be the first to admit that he has a sort of wacky passion for all things accordion. Right now, he's sitting at his computer producing the Third Annual Free Reed Festival, a month-long celebration of the accordion being held exclusively on the Internet. To Furnald, this seems like a perfectly logical endeavor, but to the uninitiated, the idea of a virtual accordion festival raises a lot of questions. As in, why, why, and why?

But the real burning question is: What do you wear?

Do you pull out the lederhosen and dust off the dirndl? Or do you rent a polyester tuxedo, something in the style of, say, Lawrence Welk?

''When people think of the accordion, they think of the guys in the powder blue suits playing the birthday parties,'' says Furnald, a freelance music critic and founder of, which is hosting the festival. ''We're going to surprise the hell out of them. They expect oompah, oompah, oompah, and there will be none of that.''

The festival will feature articles, reviews, and recordings contributed by 30 artists from all over the world. The site is updated with new material every day, and judging from some of the artists featured so far, this isn't about your typical polka band. For instance, a group called the Edge City Collective plays bizarre improvisational music that proves that even the accordion can be totally inaccessible. On the other hand, the avant-garde duo of Guy Klucevsek and Alan Bern create a fascinating sound that is nothing like anything you have ever heard on this instrument; at times, Klucevsek bangs on the instrument and makes the thing sound like a drum. On the more traditional side, there is Mats Eden, a Swedish musician who recorded waltzes and reels in his kitchen, offering a pure interpretation of vintage accordion tunes.

Admittedly, this stuff is an acquired taste, but Furnald says that last year's festival attracted about 25,000 visitors each week. The whole affair has the sort of quirky grassroots flavor that used to define the Internet before it got commercial. Furnald doesn't make any money on the festival: He just does it because he can. ''You could never pull this off before the Internet,'' he says. ''Maybe you could do a worldwide Mariah Carey festival, but you couldn't do a festival featuring avant-garde duets on the accordion.''

Of course, there are those who would be happier with the guys in the powder blue suits (there's one in every crowd). One visitor to the festival message boards wrote: ''Forget about all the Finnish nonsense, and Senegalese bongo drums, and whatever else this festival thing is all about. What the world needs is more Lawrence Welk.''

Los Angeles Times

May 12, 2000

World music on the World Wide Web? Absolutely, and logically. Where better to go than the medium that taps into every part of the globe? Even the phrase itself has a compatible sound.

But where to start to find the action around the Web? One way is right inside your browser.

The Web is seeing a growing number of periodicals with world music content, providing a continuing stream of monthly articles, reviews, etc. One of the most prominent, Dirty Linen (http//, is available on the Web as well as newsstands (in somewhat different editions). Among its many intriguing areas, it includes an amazingly detailed "Gig Guide" covering North American tours, events and festivals.

RootsWorld (http//, a sharezine, identifies itself as "a content-heavy site that focuses on the world's 'local' music, folk and folk-rooted music." It is an electronic periodical only, making its full content freely available. In addition to its numerous articles (the current issue touches on subjects ranging from African and Turkish music to the Caribbean, Okinawa and the music of the Gypsies), the site offers regional areas devoted to Africa, Europe, Asia, the Americas and the Pacific.

Music critic Cliff Furnald, who created the RootsWorld site, views it as an effort to sustain the content-oriented aspect of the World Wide Web. "We are not a planet of shopkeepers," he noted in a recent interview with, interestingly, Dirty Linen. "If there's one thing I want to do, it's to resist that shopkeeper mentality that has completely overwhelmed the dot-com planet."

Toward that end, Furnald and RootsWorld are about to launch the third annual Free Reed Festival. And if you think you've heard all you ever want to from the much-maligned accordion, think again. The festival takes place throughout the entire month of June, solely in the virtual world of the magazine's Web site (http// Featured artists include Zydeco legend Boozoo Chavis, Alan Bern (from the klezmer group Brave Old World), Finnish chromatic accordionist Maria Kalaniemi and Indian harmonium player Shiv Dayal Batish.

return to rootsworld

All contents © 2000 the artists and RootsWorld
No reproduction or use of these files may be made without written permission