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About Us

Goddess of Arno  is a 4-piece ensemble of talented women who have been involved with Balkan folk music for over 20 years together. The group focuses on the music of the southern Balkans - Macedonia, Albania, Greece, Bulgaria, with an emphasis on the music and styling of the Rromani (Gypsy) people of these areas. The musicians of Goddess of Arno love the exotic rhythms and scales, which the southern Balkans absorbed from the Ottoman Empire, and the passion of the Rromani music, which also offers opportunities for instrumental improvisation.

Goddess of Arno was originally formed as accompaniment to Svirka, Women's Balkan Chorus (a fixture on the ABQ folk music scene since 1979), and in 1994, developed its own identity - known for exciting dance parties and concerts. The group has performed throughout the southwest and in 2002 released its full-length CD, Balkan Dance Party!!  The CD was nominated for 2 New Mexico Music Industry awards in the categories of "Best Production" and "Best Instrumental", and won the "Best Instrumental" category for the recording of "Beranche."

Goddess of Arno musicians:  

Barbara Basinger  - accordion, daire and vocals, has been studying and performing Eastern European, Balkan and Mid-Eastern music extensively since the late 1970's. She has studied accordion with Raif Hyseni (Albania), Simeon Atanasov (Macedonia-Rom), Angel Nazlamov (Bulgaria), Joshua Horowitz (Klezmer) and many other world-renown ethnic accordionists. Classically trained on the piano as a child, Barbara brings a technically polished sound to the band, which is complimented by her intricate improvisational style. With her in-depth knowledge of music, she contributes much to the band in the way of arranging and harmonizing. Barbara teaches piano and accordion in her studio in Albuquerque, and she has also taught chorus in the public schools. Barbara was a member of The Rebbe's Orkestra, Klezmer and Judaic band for 6 years and she is a founding member of the popular Svirka, Women's Balkan Chorus, begun in 1979.

Beth Cohen  - violin, guitar, tambura and vocals, is well known as a vocalist, string musician and music teacher in the Albuquerque and Santa Fe areas. She has been running her own music studio in Albuquerque since 1983, where she teaches voice, guitar and violin to students of all ages.  In 1991, Beth received a Bachelor of Music degree in voice (performance track) from the University of New Mexico. Since 1995, she has been the musical director and cantorial soloist at Congregation Nahalat Shalom, also directing their intergenerational Community Klezmer Band and teaching Bar/Bat Mitzvah classes.  Beth began singing and accompanying herself with the guitar when she was 7, and studied jazz piano from ages 9-17.  Beth is a founding member and performs with The Rebbe's Orkestra. From 1984-1999 she was a member of Svirka, still performing with the Balkan chorus as a guest artist. She is also a member of the vocal trio Earth Angels and the folk trio Village Idioms. Ms. Cohen has performed in all kinds of bands including Celtic, cowboy/western, classical, reggae, international folk, blues and Middle Eastern.

Barbara Friedman  - Bulgarian and Macedonian tamburas, electric bass and vocals, successfully combines expertise in Balkan singing, experience in instrumental music and undying enthusiasm. She supplies the band with source material, ideas, talent and excitement. For over 25 years Barbara has been singing and playing music professionally as a member of Svirka and many other Middle-Eastern and Balkan groups. An avid collector, student and performer of Eastern European music, she regularly attends workshops and studies with the top musicians and ethnomusicologists from Europe and the USA, as well as Esma, the Queen of Macedonian Rrom (Gypsy) singers. Ms. Friedman contributes much to her bands with her knowledge of languages, vocal styles and ornamentation, as well as instrumental styles and techniques. Barbara is also a member of The Rebbe's Orkestra and she is a special guest member of The Nahalat Shalom Community Klezband. Barbara is skilled on the baglama (Turkish stringed-instrument), which she occassionally plays in Svirka and Goddess of Arno, and played for many years in the Middle-Eastern ensemble Erenler. Barbara also works as a public health nurse for the town of Los Lunas, NM.

Leanne Mennin  - percussion and vocals, has been involved with Balkan music and dance since the 1960's. She was a dance director for eight years with the renowned, Los-Angeles-based, Aman Folk Ensemble, and has taught and performed extensively in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. Leanne is a respected teacher of Balkan music who has taught workshops throughout the Western U.S. Here in Albuquerque, she is the director of the popular Svirka, Women's Balkan chorus. With her special gifts and knowledge of Balkan folklore and culture, Leanne has influenced and inspired a Balkan micro-culture to develop here in the Southwest; bringing people together through their enjoyment of music and dance. As a performing musician, Leanne's rich voice and her skills as a percussionist provide a strong foundation for the group's tight sound. Leanne is also the director of Senior Arts, Inc. and she works as a substitute teacher for ABQ public schools.