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Hillsdale Collegian: Pongracic’s band releases new album

Professor of Economics Ivan Pongracic and his band, the Madeira, transport the listener around the world with their blend of 1960s surf music and exotic, Mediterranean influences.

Pongracic and the Madeira’s new CD, “Tribal Fires,” came out on March 6, almost three and a half years since their last album. Pongracic plays lead guitar as well as co-writing the songs with his rhythm guitarist, Patrick O’Connor. The album also features the song “Giant,” which is a cover of one of Pongracic’s favorite bands, the Atlantics. He calls them, “incredibly innovative, very energetic, extremely good songwriters, [and] incredible musicians.”

The album also required the help of a guest percussionist who was brought in to help Pongracic and the Madeira achieve their Mediterranean and Californian blend of sound. This blend of California and exotic influence is typical of the surf music genre.

“It’s a serious underground scene,” Pongracic said.

Surf music has been growing in popularity since its inception in the early 1960s by instrumentalist Dick Dale. Pongracic calls Dale one of his major influences when writing his own surf music. It began as strictly instrumental, but the Beach Boys introduced vocals.

Surf music is a unique style of music with a unique, but expanding, audience. Freshman Jessica Rohr was recently introduced to the surf music genre through “Tribal Fires.”

“I like that ‘Tribal Fires’ has a strong rock feel to it, even though it’s surf music…and yet, most of the songs have an eerie undertone that fits with the tribal theme,” Rohr said.

After the Beach Boys, surf music disappeared until the 1980s but then was revived and continues to be a passion of people worldwide.

“It is kept alive by people that passionately love it, and even if there is no money in it, no glory in it, and often times no audience people continue at it,” Pongracic said.

Pongracic is not only the lead guitarist and co-writer of the Madeira’s music, but he has been one of the people keeping surf music alive for 16 years by attending festivals, keeping up with new surf artists, and playing with his band, the Madeira, for eight years. Although he can only get together to practice with his fellow band members one weekend a month, he finds plenty of time to practice on his own.

“I just love playing guitar, every time I watch TV, I’ll be playing. I’m not practicing anything in particular, I’m just playing,” Pongracic said.

Pongracic has recently taken a more active role in raising awareness for the genre of surf music. He has produced a modern surf compilation entitled “Brave New Surf.” He calls this compilation, “A very nice introduction to anybody that’s interested in finding out more about the genre.”

“Brave New Surf” is a mix of 20 different surf bands performing 20 different surf songs from around the world. Although Pongracic received feedback from the label, most of the work in compiling the songs and artists was his own. Pongracic is dedicated to keeping up with the latest surf bands and music, as well as keeping it alive and thriving.

“There is no money in this stuff; it has a fairly limited appeal. Most people will listen to music without vocals and say ‘no thanks’…and yet, it continues to draw these remarkable musicians,” he said. “There is something about this music that, when it connects with you, it does not let go.”

By Hannah Brinks

The Hillsdale Collegian

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