La Banane Enchantée

Contradancers of the world, unite! Don your dancing shoes, fancy costumes, and french accents, et préparez à être transporté par la musique puissante de La Banane Enchantée!

Photo: Steph Hodge

La Banane Enchantée play driving melodies on accordion and fiddle, giving the piano space to do its groovy thing. They focus on French-Canadian and Irish tunes, carefully chosen for danceability. Outbreaks of fiddle harmony, mouth harp, and pop songs lend variety and keep dancers entertained. A dance with La Banane Enchantée never stops pushing the feet round the floor, and is always a party.

La Banane Enchantée has played many dances throughout Massachusetts and beyond. Recent highlights include Greenfield, the Concord Scout House, the New England Folk Festival, and the Catapult Contra Showcase.

La Banane Enchantée has worked with callers George Marshall, Bob Golder, Rachel Shapiro, Mary Wesley, Tavi Merrill, Jean Gibson-Gorrindo, Susan Taylor, Jeff Kaufman, Dave Eisenstadter, Ann Cowan, and others.

Les bananes

Peter Buchak was started on piano accordion by his grandfather, then took up the even-nerdier diatonic accordion because it's easier to carry and more annoying to play. He learned to play for contra dances by sitting in at the MIT Contra Dance starting in 2004. He managed to write his Ph.D. thesis about accordion reeds. He also plays Anglo concertina and mouth harp and is the band's designated foot percussionist. Occasionally, a giant banana substitutes for him.

Edward Wallace was inspired to play fiddle music by a chance encounter with a Martin Hayes record, was taken by Max Newman to a contradance in 2004, and has been playing regularly for dances since joining The Cosmic Otters in 2007. He has played across the midwest and east coast with the Otters, as well as The Tune Hounds, The Screaming Laundry Hawks, Agnostic Fiddle Insurgency, La Banane Enchantee, and occasionally others. Known for his driving dance fiddle playing drawing on a variety of traditions, Edward hopes his next band has a shorter name.

Julie Vallimont, a former classical pianist and organist, fell in love with dance music and now plays that full-time. She was drawn to the music of Quebec partly because it's awesome, but also because she has family origins in Quebec and France and values trying to connect with those roots. Based in Somerville, MA, Julie performs nationwide with the band Nor'easter and several other collaborations, ranging from contra to English county dance to the livetronica project Firecloud. A skilled teacher, Julie loves leading music workshops at camps and festivals. She anchors the band with driving rhythm and dramatic chords, and is forced to play the straight man to Peter's jokes.

Julie Metcalf sometimes joins us on fiddle and mouth harp.

A short history of La Banane Enchantée

Fig. 1. Photos: Julie Vallimont, Scott Arfin.
Fig. 2. Over the years, the banana costume has evolved to become more anatomically accurate and less threatening. (Photos: Julie Vallimont, Steph Hodge.)

In just four short years, La Banane Enchantée has gone from the best pseudo-French-Canadian trad. band to play at the MIT contra dance this fall (so far) to the best banana-themed contra dance band in Southern New England. The musicians of La Banane Enchantée met playing in sit-in bands at the MIT Contra Dance in Cambridge, MA (Fig. 1). The band was born after Peter and Julie took an inspiring trip to Danse Neige in Quebec in 2008. They were soon joined by Prairie Wolfe, the first of several fiddlers to play in the band. Equipped with proper attire (Fig. 2), La Banane Enchantée has become the most prominent fruit-related Quebecois-influenced band in the Northeast US.