Artist Profiles: Mercedes Peón

Mercedes Peón

Mercedes Peón who was born in La Coruña (Galicia, Spain) in 1967 has dedicated many years to recovering traditional music in her native Galicia and to teaching it in town schools and cultural associations. She has pioneered the formation of various female groups of singers and tambourine players.

Peón has also fronted several prestigious musical bands in Galicia and hosted a section about early Galician music on the local TV show Luar (Homeland).

As a music researcher, she published a book by installments titled Raiceiras (Roots women) that contains part of her field work in collecting songs. Peón has lectured on Galician folk music throughout the world and has received numerous awards for her teaching and her dedication to preserving the Galician tradition. “Ever since I was fortunate enough to fall In love with the songs of the people of Imense (a small town on the Galician “Death Coast”) I have spent years searching for those tunes that only the eldest among us can still remember because much as we may regret it over these last generations the oral transmission chain has been broken both here and In most of the world.”

The multitalented artist runs a record label called Discotrompo that promotes Galician traditional and folk music. Peón has also organized several festivals among them the traditional music festival for the Federation of European Cultural Associations and another called “Galicia Terra Unica”.

As a performer, as well as an accomplished singer, she is also a master of Galician bagpipes and of several traditional percussion instruments. Peón was awarded the special jury award in the Cídade Vella festival in Santiago de Compostela, the prize tobest singer and bagpipe performer at the Santiago de Compostela Folk Days and the Macallan award for Galician pipers at Lorient’s Festival Interceltique.

Peón has performed at many festivals throughout the world and she appeared as a guest on recordings and in live performances by artists such as Xosé Manuel Budiño, Manu Chao and Carlos Núñez.
Isué was her first solo album split between arrangements of traditional pieces and her own multicultural original compositions featuring a wide array of traditional Galician and international musical instruments combined with modern instruments. “… these years have witnessed the birth of a new phenomenon more commercial than cultural called “Celtism” which has assimilated apart from tunes from the Northern territories the pieces that were being composed by new Galician artists who took our traditional music as a springboard.

The fact is that by chance or design during this time I have had the pleasure to discover music from other ethnic groups especially from North Africa and find in them so many affinities both in rhythm and expression with our melodies that I have good reason hr wanting to look further south (or North if we refer to Africa) for musical connection and communion. Nevertheless I plead “not guilty” if this new album is wrongly categorized (though everybody is free to pigeonhole it as they wish).

That said I myself must face the ever-complicated task of defining what this new venture into the realms of music means for me. I humbly consider that this record made with all my loving care expresses many of the things I have learned and my knowledge of the Galician oral tradition (no doubt my understanding of it and my means of expression are the channel for these feelings I let fly from deep within me to whoever wishes to share them).

I should also stress that in order to place it stylistically it could be defined as fusion music for as I said before current trends move in that direction mixing modernity with the oldest sounds and creating somewhat paradoxically totally innovative sounds with intimate harmonies that do not leave aside the frenzied rhythm of Galician traditional patterns such as “ribeiranas” and “empunadas”.

To cut it short these are sincere and complicated melodies matching oldness with modernity and so on. But above all the work is infused with passion and love. My advice therefore is that you listen to ‘it and then say what you will.”

Discography:

Isué (Resistencia RESCD106, 2000)
Arjú (Discmedi DM 838-02, 2003)
Sihá (Discmedi DM 4325-02, 2007)
Sós (Do Fol, 2010)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.

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