Our Story

Band members consist of Karen Richards and Billy Crocker,  musicians Barb Thorne (darbuka, recorder, cello, and vocals), Chris Pavelko (upright bass, frame drums, riq). Guest Members :Josh Sherman (tabla), and Erich Reith (darbuka). 



THE BAND - How we came together  - Karen and Billy started playing piano, violin, and guitar duets together 5 years ago in the Ohio Univeristy Music Building in Athens .One of their early originals, featuring  Karen on the kemenche, became their "title track" and first name of the band, "The Mean Dark Gypsies". The song was a hit amongst the dancers we performed with and eventually was featured on the metal band "Forces of Nature"'s CD release of 2014.  Karen and Billy both have a strong interest in Arabic drumming and music which led them to attend Raquy Danziger's workshops both here in the US and in the Middle East. Through Raquy, they met Barbara Thorne, who is a skilled dumbek player and multi instrumentalist. The three attend the medieval festival Pennsic where they furthered their musical skills with musicians like Carmine Guida, Melissa Murphy of Ishtar, and Al Cofrin of Istanpitta. Traditional Turkish folk songs like Hijaz Mandira and Rompi Rompi are still a part of the band's set list. In recent years, Ancien has expanded its repertoire to include the Gypsy Roma genre, and features songs like the Hungarian traditional Amari Czi and original compositions like Brown Cow and Marianka.

Karen has a strong background in classical violin studies and attended Ohio University for violin performance and foreign languange education. More recently, she has taken up the dumbek and the kemenche (Persian violin) and studies with Raquy Danziger, an internationally renown musician whose main focus is Middle Eastern percussion. Karen has performed on stage with Raquy and her fellow students as the "Cavegirls". Thanks to her, Karen has gone as far as Turkey and Egypt to study Arabic music.Karen's primary focus with the band is violin, adding unique improvisations to Billy's original compositions.  She still plays the kemenche on several tunes, and is known to pick up the dumbek and the riq (Middle Eastern hand drum with cymbals) when we have a drum jam.


Billy has formal training in both classical guitar and piano, which he began when he was ten years of age. His interests have led him to blues slide guitar, Spanish and finger style guitar. His love for the dumbek was influenced by renowned percussionist Billy Woods, and Daveed Korup of Turku. He recently studied with Raquy Danziger a Virtuoso Dumbeck Player whose focus is on the “Split finger technique”. Billy is a talented improv musician who also composes original pieces for piano, guitar, and violin. He also has a healthy lust for world music, classical, medieval music and the blues, which can be recognized in his compositions. He continues his study of composition and counterpoint Under Dr. Richard Holsworth from Berkeley University . 


Eric Reith, is a highly sought after percussionist of Dayton Ohio , playing in  bands such as Puzzle of Light and Jah Sol too name a few. Playing genres from Irish ,Rock , R& B to World Fusion . Eric first began playing with Billy Crocker at the Ohio Renaissance Fair in a belly dance group called the “ Naughty Navels “ nearly 15 + years ago. The 2 hit off right away playing complex arabic rhythms and combinations with persuasion stops , rolls, fills and breaks that most people the pieces were composed and arranged . they were all improvisations. Eric is a guest member of Ancien as frequent as possible .

 Barbara Cale , is a multi - instrumentalist playing piano, violin , recorder, voice and Darabuka , who has graduated from Indiana University and is currently Band Director in at Bridgeport Middle School of WV . Barb is an excellent site reader strong percussionist and good improviser. She currently  studies under World Renown Percussionist Raquy Danziger and takes frequent trip to Istanbul Turkey to study abroad.