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Polka Heartland

Sep 16, 2015 11:17PM ● Published by Erik Dittmann

All Photos Courtesy: Dick Blau

Gallery: Polka Heartland [9 Images] Click any image to expand.

"From Prague to Paris to Pennsylvania and points beyond, polka became a pillar of ethnic and regional identity. Folklorist, musician, and lifelong polka devotee Rick March serves up a delightful dish of 175 years of polka history and its relevance in forgoing American culture. In this authoritative and richly illustrated book, March and photographer Dick Blau celebrate the 'heart' in Polka Heartland.”  Daniel Sheey, PhD, curator and director, Smithsonian Folkways Recording 


Polka is a tradition that has enriched our region’s culture.  “I decided to write this book because I’ve had a life-long familiarity with polka, and I decided about 35 years ago that polka is perhaps the least studied of American musical traditions, which is why I ought to study it . . . Wisconsin has the greatest variety of different ethnic styles of polka of any state.  The research hasn’t been done, but I’d hazard a guess that this state has the most polka bands per capita in the US . . . It’s fascinating that something that started as a pop culture craze in the 1840s is still alive and kicking about 175 years later. That’s longevity,” stated author and folklorist Rick March, who together with photographer Dick Blau brings us Polka Heartland.   

Polka Heartland captures the beat that pulses through the heart of Midwestern culture and offers up the fascinating story of how “oompah-pah” came to be the sound of middle America. From the crowded dance tents at Pulaski Polka Days, to an off-the-grid Mexican polka dance in small-town Wisconsin, Polka Heartland explores the people, places, and history behind the Midwest’s favorite music and shows how polka continues to influence American musicians.  Author Rick March and photographer Dick Blau take readers on a joyful romp through this beloved, unique, and richly storied genre in Polka Heartland:  Why the Midwest Loves to Polka. 


Dick Blau 

Photo:  Tom Bamberger      

Photographer Dick Blau has co-authored three books on the culture of celebration: Polka Happiness, Skyros Carnival, and Bright Balkan Morning.  He calls his work an ethnography of feelings.  A self-taught filmmaker and photographer, he is Professor Emeritus and co-founder of the highly regarded Department of Film at UW-Milwaukee.


Rick March 

Photo:  Dick Blau 

Author Rick March has participated in the Midwest polka scene for more than three decades as a bandleader, sideman, deejay, and writer.  He is a preeminent scholar of Midwest music history and culture, served as State Folklorist for Wisconsin from 1983 to 2009, and was the longtime host of Down Home Dairyland on Wisconsin Public Radio.


In Print, Today, Arts+Entertainment history culture wisconsin polka September October 2015

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