Bula Learns to Dance



Bula Learns to Dance cover


“Bula” is the nickname of the daughter of some dear friends of mine.  Almost from the time she could walk, Bula has danced.  It was her joyful dancing that inspired me to write the title piece of this collection of songs played on guitar.

While putting this album together, I started to realize there are two themes running through it.  First, there is dancing, and the sensuality and pleasure in movement.  Second, this recording has become a family album.  Many of the pieces are dedicated to family members and friends (who are sometimes as close as family, maybe closer).

It is also something of a snapshot of myself.  It’s been a good 6 years between the last CD and this one.  In that time I have learned a bit more, grown a bit more, and lived a lot more.  This album is a reflection of all that growth and all those changes.

A great deal of my learning is due to Ricardo Iznaola, whose invaluable guidance and guitar instruction has helped me play the music in a way that brings out the feeling of the songs.  The voice of the songs comes from the guitars made by Edward Dick, a wonderful luthier, whom I have to come to appreciate as a friend.  The three guitars he has made for me appear on this album.  My first EVD steel string guitar was stolen and recovered.  I named it “George” after a dear friend who passed away at the same time.  The nylon string guitar is called the Firenze model by Edward: the Italian name for Florence.  I named it Flo for short.  The third guitar is the one I bought to replace George.  Its big, bold sound, the first time I played it, made me think of the name “Betty” (or maybe it was listening to a lot of Paul Simon around that time).

I want to thanks Marlo Mortensen and the folks at Olde Town Music in Littleton, Colorado, and Kit Simon and all my good friends at the Olde Town Pickin’ Parlor in Arvada, Colorado.  I’ve taught lessons at these places, and learned a great deal too.


Michael Engberg: Bula Learns to Dance

The  button above will take you to the shop and you can listen to all the songs by clicking on the links below.

Penelope in Morocco (M Engberg)

Michael Engberg:  “George” guitar, James Messerich: dumbeks, percussion

Thanks to James, I have started to explore Arabic rhythms and scales over the last couple of years.  Thinking of movie I saw as a child, “The Perils of Penelope” and the perils of this particular musical exploration, I had to take Penelope to Morocco.

Bula Learns to Dance (M EngbBULA 6erg)

Michael Engberg: “George” guitar

The title song, dedicated to Veronika “Bula” Wojciechowski.  When she was first learning to talk, Veronika had trouble saying her own name and began calling herself Bula.  Almost as soon as she could walk, Bula has danced.  She has since begun to study ballet, to refine here natural, dramatic flair.  My young friend’s playful spirit, as she moves to music, inspired me to write this song.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow (H Arlen and EY Harburg)

Michael Engberg: “George” guitar

The arrangement for this piece evolved over time, while playing at restaurants and coffee-houses throughout Denver, and in many other places, (including Kansas).  This song has always been an anthem of fantasy and freedom.  Treated with the free, loose tempo, more of its wistful, whimsical nature is brought out.

Freight Train Medley(Elizabeth Cotton, mostly)

Michael Engberg: “Betty” guitar Ernie Martinez: dobro

Michael Publicity 2Ernie and I do a lot of this sort of stuff.  Usually we play together as “The Unknown Brothers” performing cowboy songs and folk songs.  In addition to the popular freight train song, this medley features “The Wilson Rag” also by Elizabeth Cotton and a folk tune “Buck Dancer’s Choice”.

Balletto (Vincenzo Capirola)

Michael Engberg: “Flo” guitar, percussion

Vincenzo Capirola (1474-1548) published a book of lute music in 1517, which included this pretty piece, the 1st of three Renaissance dance tunes I have included on this album.

Pretty Maid Milking a Cow

Michael Engberg: “George” guitar

There is a legend that this tune (originally an Irish fiddle melody) came from the “Little People”.  Regardless of its origins, it is a beautiful thing.  I played at a music competition one year and won!

My Favourtie Things (Rodgers and Hammerstein)

Michael Engberg: “George” guitar, Daria Joanna: cello, James Messerich; dumbeks and percussion

I dedicate this one to Jarrad Meiers; one of the better roommates I have shared a place with over the years. He likes this song, and I’m hoping by including this dedication, he may be inspired to do the dishes or the vacuuming a little more often.

Kemp’s Jig(anonymous)

Michael Engberg: “Flo” guitar and percussion

There is a story that Kemp was an actor, a dancer and a friend of Shakespeare.  It is said he once danced his way from Stratford to London, thus earning his name to this tune.  I don’t know about the veracity of the story, but I like this piece quite a bit.

Roman’s Holiday (M Engberg)

Michael Engberg: “George” guitar

Roman, Bula’s father, has three older daughters, two sons and is husband to Roxanna, an irrepressible woman with no end of projects and plans for her family.  We’ve spent many good times together, drinking wine and listening to Roman’s collection of Euro-disco from the 70’s and 80’s.  So I hint at the Euro-disco groove in this song for Roman.

Duke of Fife – Joy of My Life (trad; original arrangement by Duck Baker)

Michael Engberg: “George” guitar

The original title for the first piece in this medley is “The Duke of Fife and His Welcome to Deeside”.  I shortened the title, but extended the piece by adding “Joy of My Life”, a quicker tune that seems to complement “The Duke” rather well.

Breakfast with a Morning Person (M Engberg)

Michael Engberg: “Betty” guitar, Steve Gaskin: “pots n’ pans” percussion

I am a morning person.  My father is a morning person.  My  mother is most definitely not a morning person.  Don’t bother chatting with Mom until after her second cup of coffee.  I dedicate this song to my poor mother, who has had to endure the enthusiasm characteristic of morning people; this is not an easy thing! (Good morning, Mom!!)

Saltarello (Vincenzo Galilei)

Micahe Engberg: “Flo” guitar, percussion, acoustic bass and concertina

Vincenzo Galilei, a decent musician and composer in his day, was the father of Galileo Galilei, (even though history describes Galileo as a bastard).  Originally written for the lute, I had fun dressing this piece up with some extra percussion and whatnot (an influence from my work with Bedlam Abbey, a Medieval  group I play with!).

Beatles Medley 2 (Lennon and McCartney)

Michael Engberg: “George” guitar

Many of the Beatles’ songs lend themselves beautifully to solo, acoustic guitar.  I dedicate this to Robynne Pennington, my partner in Many Hats Recordings and to her hand-fasted mate, Carolee Laughton.  Carolee asked if I could arrange the first song, “And I Love Her”, and play it over a Valentine’s evening dinner at a small French Bistro.  I added “In My Life” to make the medley, being another favourite of theirs and mine as well.

Also, I want to dedicate this song to Ed Cleaver and his wife Colleen, who have been very good friends over the years.  They have always been supportive of my musical efforts. Colleen loves Beatles’ songs too.  So this medley goes out to you both as well.

The Fatal Beer and the Broken Zipper

Michael Engberg: “George” guitar, Steve Gaskin: drums

I put this together awhile ago, when I was listening to a lot of Leo Kotke.  Leo is known for assigning colorful titles to his own tunes.  Here is a my attempt: Imagine a guy at a summer picnic, drinking an enormous amount of beer.  Suddenly he is hit with a desperate need…only to find that his zipper is stuck!  Hopefully, you can see that too, in song with no words!

Little Wing:  Jimi Hendrix

An homage to a classic.

I Remember Jay (M Engberg)

Michael Engberg: “George” guitar, Kelly Blakeney: flute

When I was a graduate student in Oxford, Ohio, I taught guitar on the side.  John and Bobby Kinne were students of mine, and became incredibly good friends.  With three young sons, Jay, Alex and Reuben, it was a lot easier for me to go to their house for lessons thank for them to come to the store where I was teaching.  I got to see these boys grow up.  John and Bobbi are two of the neatest parents I have ever known.  It was plain how much they loved their boys.

Jay Kinne graduated from high school and joined the marines.  He became a fine young man, who unfortunately was cut down by cancer at age 20.  Jay’s father wrote an e-mail to me, saying, “Jay was 20 years old.  He never married and he has no kids.  When his mother and I pass away, and his brothers pass away, there will be no one to remember him”.

I remember Jay as an incredibly thoughtful, intelligent kid with a sense of humour.  He always seemed a Huck Finn figure to me, with the red hair I associate with Mark Twain’s classic character, along with an impish sense of fun.

Having moved away from Oxford years ago, I never got to know Jay all grownup.  I dedicate this song to him.


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