This Ain’t No Mouse Music!

The Story of Chris Strachwitz and Arhoolie Records

May 6, 2015, 6:30pm
Film and discussion at the Goethe-Institut
Organized by the German Historical Institute, the Goethe-Institut, and the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

  • Event Report

    On Wednesday, May 6, 2015, a film and discussion event, "This Ain't No Mouse Music: The Story of Chris Strachwitz and Arhoolie Records," was co-organized by the German Historical Institute and the Goethe-Institut Washington and hosted by the Goethe-Institut. The event featured the showing of the documentary film of the same name and a lively audience discussion with the film's subject, immigrant entrepreneur Chris Strachwitz, facilitated by Smithsonian curator and archivist Jeff Place.

    Chris Strachwitz, the founder of roots music publisher Arhoolie Records, was born in Gross Reichenau, Lower Silesia, Germany in 1931 (now Bogaczów, Poland) to an aristocratic family that was forced to emigrate in the wake of the Soviet Union's occupation of Poland in the wake of World War II. Arriving in Nevada as a teenager, Strachwitz went on to attend high school and college in California and became fascinated by the United States' rich and varied regional music genres, eventually becoming an entrepreneur devoted to tracking down, recording, and publishing a wide array of roots music in order to bring it to the attention of the broader public. 

    The documentary, produced and directed by Chris Simon and Maureen Gosling, traces Strachwitz's career from his first journeys in the early 1960s to the deep South to meet and record renowned local blues performers through his forays into Louisiana to investigate Cajun music and New Orleans jazz, hillbilly and bluegrass music in Appalachia, norteño and conjunto music in south Texas, and many other genres. In the discussion that followed the film, Strachwitz described in further detail some of his experiences as a "detective" of sound and his continuing search for interesting music that reveals the continuing breadth and depth of the American experience, from Croatian-American family bands to "sacred steel"-gospel music performed on lap steel guitars. More information about the film can be found at thisaintnomousemusic.com.

  • Invitation

    Roots music icon Chris Strachwitz is a detective of deep American music—music that is the antithesis of the corporate "mouse music" dominating pop culture. Since 1960, he has been the guiding force behind legendary Arhoolie Records, bringing Cajun music out of Louisiana, Tex-Mex out of Texas, blues out of the country—and into the living rooms of Middle America. He also brought rural musicians to Europe, introducing wildly enthusiastic audiences to the rhythms of bluesman Lightnin' Hopkins, Zydeco king Clifton Chenier and others.

    Born a German count, Strachwitz fled his homeland after WWII at age sixteen. In the United States, he discovered, and pursued, a musical landscape that most Americans missed. He takes his audience on a hip-shaking stomp from Texas to New Orleans, Cajun country to Appalachia, as he continues his passionate quest for the musical soul of America.

    The documentary This Ain't No Mouse Music! The Story of Chris Strachwitz and Arhoolie Records had its world premiere at the 2013 South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, TX and has since won a number of prizes and awards. Director/producers Chris Simon and Maureen Gosling met thirty years ago while working with world-renowned documentarian Les Blank. They each have struck out on their own since those days. Maureen directed and produced Blossoms of Fire, a feature documentary tribute to the Isthmus Zapotecs of southern Oaxaca, and has also edited many documentaries for PBS. Chris Simon produced and directed four independent documentaries, including the prizewinning Down an Old Road and My Canyonlands, and has made numerous other films for non-profits.

    Join us for a film screening and discussion with Arhoolie Records founder Chris Strachwitz and archivist and curator Jeff Place (Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage). A reception follows the discussion.

    Organized as part of the German Historical Institute's project on German immigrant entrepreneurs.

    The screening and discussion will take place at the
    Goethe-Institut, 812 7th St. NW, Washington, DC 20001
    202-289-1200 or info@washington.goethe.org
    Tickets $7/$4

    For more information on the documentary, see: thisaintnomousemusic.com
    USA, 2013, 92 min., Directors: Chris Simon and Maureen Gosling

    Click on image to enlarge or print (pdf).