La Banda del Pepo
Tanto por Hacer (Galileo/Nufolk, 2009)
La Banda del Pepo means Pepo’s band, and what a band. Pepo Sanchez is a singer-songwriter from the Spanish region of Murcia, which is located in southeastern Spain. Bathed by the Mediterranean, Murcia has a long history of contacts and commerce with other Mediterranean cultures. La Banda del Pepo embraces and explores these cultural influences. Even though Murcia is not part of Andalusia (the cradle of flamenco), Murcia has deep flamenco roots. The Cante de las Minas festival is one of the most reputable flamenco contests in Spain. And flamenco definitely marks La Banda del Pepo’s music. The group describes itself as a flamenco fusion band. But the band’s second recording features more than flamenco hybrids.
When Pepo decided to record his second album, he went to one of his favorite producers, multi-instrumentalist Efren Lopez, who also comes from Mediterranean Spain, from the Valencia area, north of Murcia. Efren Lopez is well known for his L’Ham de foc and Amam Amam projects. L’Ham de foc was one of the most creative Spanish world music acts in recent years. Efren accepted the offer and his concept was that only the best musicians in the region would be able to provide the right sound for Pepo’s album. That’s how a supergroup was formed, putting together some of the finest musicians of the Spanish Mediterranean, gathered around Pepo. The band members include musicians from Malvariche, Jerez Texas, Malagüero, Miquel Gil & banda, and L´Ham de Foc.
On Tanto por Hacer (So much to do), Efren Lopez provides fascinating musical arrangements and a wide variety of stringed instruments. Lopez spent some time in the eastern Mediterranean, in Greece, and he brought back musical forms and instruments from the other end of the Mediterranean. Thus, La Banda del Pepo’s music is a mesmerizing melting pot of western and eastern Mediterranean sounds.
Pepo Sanchez’s poetic lyrics remind me of Jaiver Ruibal’s work. His lyrics mix themes of love with social change, unity and respect for other cultures. The rest of the touring band is formed by Carmen Hernández (vocals and chorus), Diego López (percussion), José Antonio Aarnoutse (Spanish guitar), Juan José Robles (saz, bouzouki and Spanish guitar), Osvaldo Jorge (percussion) and Paco Espada (electric bass) .
The last cut on the album is a tribute to the great Andalusian rock bands on the 1970s. Bands like Triana, Iman, Medina Azahara, and many others, revolutionized Spanish rock my mixing Flamenco with progressive rock, blues and jazz elements. La Banda del Pepo brought back Triana-style electric buleria arrangements, including vintage string synths, electric guitar and mini moog solos.
As an added bonus, the CD package includes a DVD with clips documenting parts of the recording sessions and live cuts.
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