Story Three: Arabic Accordion Master

In the third squeezebox story, we hear a style of accordion music that we may not have had the chance to listen to all that often. Meet Elias Lammam, the master performer of the Arabic accordion. A native of Lebanon, Elias studied the classical Arabic accordion for 13 years before he came to the U.S. We will visit his accordion classes, learn how the accordion became an important sound in various styles of music in the Middle East, and understand how the accordion isn’t always a populist instrument — for Lammam, it’s an instrument of prestige that requires a lifetime to master. Along the way, we’ll also get a quick lesson on how the Arabic tonal system works, and how the accordion must be modified to accommodate the difference.

Unlike other stories in this show, where the accordion brings people of shared heritage together, Lammam’s story highlights how a single accordionist can bring together people of various backgrounds to build an awareness and appreciation of musical traditions from distant places. We hope you enjoy Lammam’s masterful and passionate performance.

If you’re interested in reading more about the background and immigration history of people from the Middle East in California, you can find information on the background page.

Special additional thanks to Professor Scott Marcus and Professor Anne Rasumussen for their help with this story.