The Changing Language of the Accordion in Tohono O’odham Waila Music
Ethnographic focus on identifying shared cultural practice often obscures the fact that many times such choices result from individual desire and taste. This chapter illustrates the importance of such personal choices and explores a means for including individuality in an explanation of shared cultural practice, similar in some ways to what the anthropologist Lila Abu-Lughod has called “the ethnography of the particular.” Despite variations in performance practices, O'odham listeners uniformly value waila because it connects them to each other and “makes them happy.” The focus on how and why waila musicians play the accordion the way they do show how the music also links O'odham to non-O'odham and to much wider social, musical, and even economic circles. Yet even as waila musicians engage with the non-O'odham world, they simultaneously hold it at bay.
Keywords: shared cultural practice, accordions, musical instruments, ethnography, O'odham, waila