One of the more intriguing performers at this year’s International Accordion Festival should sound highly familiar to SA listeners, even if the group’s trappings seem slightly exotic. That group, Southern Scratch, is the best-known exponent of a Native American musical form known as chicken scratch or waila (taken from baile, the Spanish word for “dance”).
The chicken-scratch form, which originated in reservations within Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, is fascinating because its an example of Native Americans interpreting, and recreating, Chicano folk music. In spirit, it’s a bit like Jamaicans of the 1960s hearing American R&B on the radio, trying to play their version of it, and inadvertently creating ska and reggae.
Southern Scratch is an all-instrumental dance band from the Tohono O’odham Nation, whose brisk beats, guitar upstrokes, and button-accordion flourishes instantly recall old-school conjunto, even when they’re covering Irving Berlin’s “Cheek to Cheek.” They’ll perform at La Villita’s Maverick stage at 2 p.m. on Saturday, October 13, and at the Arneson stage at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 14.