Cover art of 'The Storyteller'

Andrej Toplišek’s experimental Oberkrainer music project “The Storyteller”

Andrej Toplišek is a Slovenian musician at the forefront of experimental Slovenian and Alpine folk music in the ‘Oberkrainer’ style which was created over half a century ago by the Avsenik brothers from Slovenia. I’ve previously written about his projects Postkarte aus Slowenien and Tradicija in Umetnost as well as his accordion method book. I’d like to tell you about his new album “The Storyteller” because it pushes even more boundaries than his previous projects, and is again an album created with a specific intention and purpose. And like his other projects, this one can be listened to again and again, without it getting old.

Andrej Toplišek Septet’s incredible 2023 concert tribute to 70 years of Avsenik’s music

The Storyteller

“The Storyteller” (“Pripovedovalec zgodb” in Slovenian) begins with an introduction in Slovenian (over the top of some jazzy Oberkrainer style compositions that aren’t titled on the album, but set the mood for the album), by the ‘storyteller’ who wants to tell you of a romantic story, through the songs that are about to follow.

It then rips into an energetic polka in true Toplišek style, with vocals in English, which is a real rarity in the genre. The entire story on the first half of the album are sung in English by Andrej Toplišek, Mike Orešar, and jazz, pop and classical vocalist Klara Veteršek. Klara’s voice and jazz influence offers something completely new to the style which I love.

History of English vocals in Oberkrainer music

Andrej Toplišek Sextett is one of the few Oberkrainer style groups from Europe to record and release several songs with English vocals. The other group that comes to mind, is iconic Austrian ensemble (and 2005 Eurovision entry) Global Kryner, who created amazing Oberkrainer style covers of rock and pop hits from the 20th century.

Another comes to mind, whose English vocals were never released: the Avsenik brothers ensemble (Ansambel bratov Avsenik) had recorded English vocals for an American audience, but they were never released as an album, with only a few recordings unofficially shared online in recent years, like “My Dog” (Moj Floki/Mein Dackel), “Let the music play” (Harmonika in orglice/Die ganze Welt ist voll Musik) and “Christmas makes darkness so bright” (Zvezde na nebu žare/Sterne der heiligen nacht). Additionally it should be noted that some Oberkrainer style quintets from the United States and Canada have featured English lyrics for popular Alpine folk songs.

Pushing boundaries

Something Toplišek has proved to be good at, is pushing the boundaries that most of us perceive to exist within this genre. The second half of the album showcases another limit that Toplišek has surpassed: the 2/4 (polka) and 3/4 (waltz) format. While keeping the high calibre Oberkrainer instrumentation (piano accordion, guitar, electric bass, trumpet and clarinet), side B features a song for each season of the year, sung by Andrej in Slovenian, in various time signatures (for example using 5/4 and 3/4 within the same song), introducing a beautiful Jazz-Oberkrainer hybrid.


I hope upon reading this post, you give the album a try, and approach it with an open mind. Had the Avsenik brothers not creatively combined several contemporary styles with existing traditional Alpine folk music in the 1950s, the Oberkrainer style as we know it would not have existed. And without newer ideas introduced by other ensembles throughout the second half of the 20th century (such as Alpski Kvintet/Alpenoberkrainer), the style would not have evolved. In fact, even Avsenik’s own music had changed and evolved significantly throughout his life.
While we need to honour the vehicle of expression that Vilko and Slavko Avsenik have created for us, we should also remain open minded to new ideas and new creations that build upon the style, which Toplišek is successfully executing with each project.


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