Eliseo Parra is one of the treasures of Spanish world music. He focuses on the lesser known folk roots of various Spanish regions, including Castile, Extremadura, and Asturias. Parra is an innovative singer and multi-instrumentalist, who specializes in Spanish percussion and stringed instruments.
On his latest CD, De Ayer Mañana, Parra uses an extensive collection of conventional and unconventional musical instruments, including kitchen utensils and garden tools. With his instruments, accompanied by excellent musicians, Parra recreates ancient folk songs and gives them an inspired new life.
La Jambre is a wonderful discovery. This imaginative group comes from southern Spain, but it does not play Flamenco, nor Gypsy rumba. Instead, it plays revitalized versions of traditional folk songs from Andalusia. The approach on Saltalindes is very contemporary, with an exhilarating mix of funk bass, trap drums, reeds and other instruments.
Bebe has been called a punk rebel, but her music has little to do with punk rock. She is an urban singer-songwriter who shows her Andalusian wit and good humor in her lyrics. Her style is hard to categorize. On Pafuera Telarañas one
can find hip hop beats, folk, pop, ska, R&B, and Flamenco rumba.
One of the most interesting Flamenco recordings is the debut CD, Son de la Frontera, by Son de la Frontera. Purist curmudgeons have already manifested their lack of enthusiasm for this group, claiming that it is not Flamenco. But, how do you tell musicians from one of the cradles of Flamenco (Morón de la Frontera), some of whom are direct descendants of legendary Flamenco performers, that their music is not Flamenco?
Son de la Frontera use ardent flamenco beats (primarily handclaps and taps), guitar and cante jondo singing. What makes them peculiar is the use of the Cuban tres as a solo instrument. The tres is certainly not a Flamenco instrument, but when it’s played by fiery flamenco musicians it undoubtedly sounds like it.
Madrid composer, flautist and sax player musician Lorenzo Azcona produced and released his CD Bajo la piel (under the skin). Stylistically, composes contemporary instrumental music that has a cinematic feel. Sometime he ventures into jazz and chamber music. Other times he explores world sounds through the use of percussion, zanfona (hurdy gurdy), didjeridu and other instruments.
The Rough Guide to Flamenco Nuevo focuses on Flamenco innovators and new trends in flamenco. There are many artists included who certainly deserve more attention from the international public. The ubiquitous fusionists Ojos de Brujo are included as well as veterans like virtuoso sax player Jorge Pardo, known for playing with Paco de Lucía and Chick Corea. There are lesser known veterans such as Diego Amador and Flamenco jam master Diego Carrasco.
Andalusian singer-songwriter Javier Ruibal writes some of the most beautiful Spanish songs I’ve heard. He has grown in popularity in the UK. Ruibal is not a flamenco singer, although he uses Flamenco elements in his music.
Some of the new blood in Flamenco and its offspring are represented on Rough Guide to Flamenco Nuevo: master guitarist Jerónimo and Son de la Frontera (mentioned earlier). Other artists made it to the compilation that perhaps shouldn’t have. French Gypsy rumba is not exactly Flamenco and there are dozens of similar bands in Spain that are just as good if not better.
Another Flamenco angle is provided by innovative cellist José Luis López. He has recorded a CD, Soleando, where he plays Flamenco with a cello. The result is an intriguing and ear-catching mix of chamber classical music with Flamenco melodies and beats. The album is available from flamenco-world.com.
Eclectic keyboardist and accordionist Tomás San Miguel has recorded an extraordinary series of primarily instrumental albums that feature San Miguel on accordion and Ttukunak on chalaparta (an ancient Basque percussion instrument). Dan Txa is the latest album in the collection. The new pieces are inspired by Basque melodies and txalaparta rhythms. In addition to San Miguel and Ttukunak, the album features Dissidenten percussionist Marlon Klein, sax player Jorge Pardo and guitarist Antonio Gómez.