Halloween parties

Mystic Bowie and the Pallbearers

by Seth Rogovoy

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., October 26, 2001) – Halloween often brings out the child in grownups, but they need to channel their Halloween spirit into a pursuit more socially acceptable for adults than ringing people’s doorbells and asking for candy. Fortunately for adult trick-or-treaters, there are a few musically-oriented Halloween parties scheduled for Halloween night.

Club Helsinki in Great Barrington (528-3394) is getting an early jump on Halloween tomorrow night, with a Halloween party featuring door prizes and a best costume contest. The musical portion of the evening features Mystic Bowie and the Pallbearers.

Bowie is familiar to Helsinki audiences as one of the lead singers with Tom Tom Club, the Talking Heads offshoot band. With his own group, the Jamaican-born singer performs a blend of reggae, funk, ska, zydeco and bits of soca, samba and calypso thrown in – in other words, the makings of a hot, Caribbean dance party.

Tonight, Club Helsinki features a mini-bluegrass festival starting at 9, with Jim and Jennie and the Pinetops and local outfit the Beartown Mountain Ramblers. Jim and Jennie’s brand of bluegrass emphasizes the music’s Appalachian, old-time roots, and their songs pay homage to the high-lonesome sound of mountain music, with piercing harmonies and soulful cries.

Mass MoCA is using the opportunity to program one of its very popular dance parties, this once called “Day of the Dead Fiesta,” featuring Tex-Mex accordion legend Santiago Jimenez Jr.

The Grammy Award-winning singer and squeeze-box virtuoso comes from the First Family of norteno music. His father, Don Santiago Jimenez, virtually invented the conjunto instrumental style, mixing corridas, polkas and boleros, and Santiago Jimenez Jr. carries on his father’s tradition on two-row button accordion backed by singers and guitars on Spanish songs that address the unique situtation of Mexican-Americans living in South Texas.

Jimenez’s more famous brother, Leonardo “Flaco” Jimenez, was responsible for popularizing the conjunto sound by mixing it with jazz, rock and r&b, and performing with pop figures like Doug Sahm, Ry Cooder, Dwight Yoakam and the Texas Tornadoes.

Revelers are encouraged to attend the “Day of the Dead Fiesta” in costume, and prizes will be awarded for the best ones. The dance party, which will include instruction provided by Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, is at Mass MoCA on Halloween night, Wednesday, October 31, at 8. For reservations call 662-2111.

The Dream Away Lodge in Becket (623-8725) is also throwing a party on Halloween night, a masquerade with entertainment provided by all-star folk progeny The Mammals – featuring Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, Ruth Ungar, Alicia Jo Rabins and Michael Merenda -- and the band Suitcase.

Just as Santiago Jimenez’s music dates back to the turn of the century, when his grandfather performed, and Jim and Jennie’s harkens back to the pre-Bill Monroe roots of front-porch music in the early-20th century, so does the music of Estudiantina Invasora, a Cuban outfit performing at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield (443-7171, ext. 10) on Sunday night at 7, claim roots going back to the early part of the last century.

In fact, the first group of estudiantinas, or students dressed in traditional university uniforms who roamed the streets of eastern Cuba playing a variety of instruments for fun or money, dates back to the late 19th century.

By 1927, this musical tradition was already experiencing its first professional revival, when twin brothers Luis and Manual Valera Carvajal founded Estudiantina Invasora, based on the student groups of 30 years earlier. The group originally consisted of two guitars, two tres, bass, trumpet, drums and two singers who also palyed the guiro and maracas. With the exception of one tres, the instrumentation and repertoire of the group remains the same to this day.

The group continues to give over 300 performances in its hometown of Santiago de Cuba annually. In addition, the group has performed nationally in Cuba’s most prestigious theaters and festivals, including the Festivals of the Caribbean and of the Trova, both in Santiago de Cuba, the International Festival of the “Son,” and the International Cubadisco festival in Havana.

[This column originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on October 26, 2001. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2001. All rights reserved.]

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