About the Band



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The word "Kef" refers to that spirit and energy shared by a group of people in celebration. It is a state of being, an intangible quality approaching ecstasy, often brought forth by musical experience. Kef is a Turkish concept that people across the Balkans, throughout the former domain of the Ottoman Empire, have taken as their own. Similarly, much of the music of the Balkans bears the unmistakeable imprint of Turkish influence, and combined with Slavic, Romany and the many other regional and ethnic identities existing where the music is performed and enjoyed, Balkan music has become an intensely rich tradition.

Today, Balkan music is enjoyed not only among the diverse populations of its origins, but around the world – from recreational folk dances to arena concerts with thousands of fans bouncing to hip hop, funk, pop and electronica fusions. There is hardly a musical aesthetic not represented somewhere under the umbrella of "Balkan music."

Kef, the band, has been performing for dancers, festivals and sit-down audiences since 2007. Its music is a sampling of the regional genres found across the Balkans, from Bulgarian wedding music to Serbian brass band, and from 1960s radio-style orchestrations to simple melody/drone-based village music. Most repertoire comes from the folk tradition, learned from recordings or directly from notable musicians in the Balkan music community. Each member brings a unique aspect to the music stemming from the diversity of their individual musical experiences and aesthetics.

Band Members:

Nisha Calkins-Godfrey


Nisha, like most cellists, has a strong background in Western classical music. In addition, she has participated for many years in Mark Levy's East European Folk Music Ensemble at the University of Oregon, and also has studied gamelan as a member of Gamelan Sari Pandhawa. In 2008 she travelled to Bali to attend the Cudamani Summer Institute. Her role as cellist in Kef has evolved from melody voice to being the center of the rhythm section covering the bass lines and occupying that unique role that only the cello can fill.

Dan Gibson, guitar

Dan started his musical journey at the age of 10 when he was given his first guitar. His love for strings and music blossomed from there. He has played in a variety of ensembles, ranging in style from jazz and classical, to rock and Balkan music. His primary instruments are guitar and bass, but he enjoys playing mandolin, tambura and percussion, as well as singing. While attending the University of Oregon, he was a member of the East European Folk Music Ensemble.

Alex Lowe, trumpet

Alex is an experienced trumpet player, with a diverse background in classical and jazz traditions. He has studied with George Recker and been a member of the Oregon Jazz Ensemble, and has had a number of appearances with the Oregon Mozart Players, the Eugene Symphony, and various brass ensembles. Alex currently plays lead trumpet in Blue Skies Big Band and is a frequent orchestra member for musicals at the Cottage Theatre.

Sharon Rogers, accordion and vocals

Sharon is a skilled multi-instrumentalist and singer with a long history in the Eugene folk music scene. She is a founding member of Accordions Anonymous and Sweet River, and can be heard on KLCC's monthly live radio show, The Front Porch Revue. Sharon earned her B.A in general music and vocal performance, and M.A.T. in music education at Oregon State University. She currently works as an elementry music specialist in the Eugene School district.

Cody Simmons, trumpet and truba

Cody's interest in Balkan music began with Mark Levy's University of Oregon East European Folk Music Ensemble. He quickly found Balkan music to be a rich brass tradition, opening a whole new world of repertoire and technique beyond the standard jazz and classical genres that form the basis of a conservatory education. In 2006, after a number of years participating in the class, he eventually brought together a group of students and other colleagues from Eugene's rich music scene, forming the nucleus of the band that came to be known as Kef. Cody also plays with Blue Skies Big Band and the Oregon Brass Society British Brass Band, as well as playing the occasional musical theater show or classical gig.

Ken Sokolov, percussion

Ken is skilled on many instruments, including drumset, tabla, djembe, doumbek, guitar, fiddle, banjo, mandolin, bouzouki, and voice. He has a strong interest in traditional musics as well as modern cutting edge jazz and electronic, performing with musicians as diverse as reggae/zydeco pioneer Ras Cloud, Senegalese hereditary musician Mapate Diop and legendary Zimbabwean singer Thomas Mapfumo, to country superstar Ferlin Husky. Ken has played in the UO East European Folk Music Ensemble and currently plays with the Klezmonauts, Chibuku (with Afro/Polynesian guitarist Paul Prince), Woodland (mythic world fusion) and Treguenda.