Waila! Making the People Happy
Central European immigrants brought polka music to America in the mid-19th century but the people in the O’odham Indian nations in Arizona’s Sonoran desert have made the mixture of accordions, saxophones and percussion all their own.
Taken from the word baila, which means dance in Spanish, Akimel and Tohono people have created waila, a form of music that embodies polka and Mexican tejano, cumbias and Norteño. And one family, the famous Joaquin Brothers, have taken waila (pronounced y-la) all the way to Carnegie Hall to show that “Indian music” is what culture and language make it to be.
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