Ms. Alcaide sets high hurdles for herself. Beginning a few years ago when she mastered the Swedish nyckelharpa and adapted it to late medieval Iberian Sephardic music, she has tackled musical challenge after musical challenge. With “Leyenda,” she spotlights the myths and vestiges of an ancient, matriarchal world, examining the feminine aspects and strengths of a number of cultures.
As the great writer and observer of the human condition, H. G. Wells, put it in his “Outline of History,” “ … and opposed to the Old Man, more human and kindlier, was the Mother, who helped and sheltered and advised.
The psychoanalysis of Freud and Jung has done much to help us to realize how great a part Father fear and Mother love still play in the adaptation of the human mind to social needs. They have made an exhaustive study of childish and youthful dreams and imaginations, a study which has done much to help in the imaginative reconstruction of the soul of primitive man. It was, as it were, the soul of a powerful child. He saw the universe in terms of the family herd. His fear of, his abjection before, the Old Man mingled with his fear of the dangerous animals about him. But the women goddesses were kindlier and more subtle. They helped, they protected, they gratified and consoled. Yet at the same time there was something about them less comprehensible than the direct brutality of the Old Man, a greater mystery. So that the Woman also had her vestiture of fear for him …”
This is no collection of padded fairytales for children, but more a series of clear reminders, anthems and odes to the too-rarely spotlighted strengths of that half of Humanity. As on her past releases, Ana Alcaide here, on the twelve songs on “Leyenda,” meets the goals she sets for herself with exquisite planning and playing. A good gift for others and for one’s own music collection.
The lineup on Leyenda includes Ana Alcaide on vocals, nyckelharpas, keyboards, percussion, rural voices, atmospheres; Bruno Duque on whistles, moxeño, xaphoon, ney, dulzaina, and rural voices; Paul Castejón on keyboards, hang drum, backing vocals; Rainer Seiferth on acoustic, Baroque and Spanish guitars, and bouzouki; Wafir S Gibril on accordion and backing vocals; David Mayoral on the following percussion instruments; t’bel, tambourines, frame drums, darbuka, riq, castanets, sagal, daff, zarb, salad bowl, cowbell and caxixis; Rengo Ruggiero on hurdy gurdy, vocals; Bill Cooley on psaltery, Medieval lute, santur; Jan Grimbergen on oboe d’amore; Isabel Martin on backing vocals; Laura Fernandez Alcalde on backing vocals; and Oreka TX on chalaparta.
Acetre is one of the most experienced groups in the Extremadura (western Spain) contemporary folk music scene. Acetre was formed in 1976 and has gone through different stages. In recent years the ensemble has developed a creative musical work focused on two fronts: the reworking of traditional music and composing new songs and pieces in which there is always an ethnic element.
Group members carry out careful research and selection of old songs and tunes that they collect from the rich ‘extremeña’ oral tradition, enriching them with new arrangements.
Acetre is based in the Spanish border city of Olivenza in Badajoz, which links band members historically and geographically to Portugal. That’s why their concerts feature traditional styles from Extremadura such as perantones, rondas, tonadas festivas, pindongos or alboradas extremeñas along with Portuguese verdegaios, fado, corridillos, etc., which provide a virtual bridge between Extremadura and the Portuguese tradition.
In 2000 Acetre composed the music for the soundtrack of the animated film Marina, la princesa del fondo del mar (Marina, Princess of the Seabed). Other soundtracks followed after that.
In 2016, Acetre celebrated its 40th anniversary with a series of special concerts.
Extremadura en la frontera (1999)
De malteseria (1994)
Canto de gamusinos (1999)
Barrunto (2003) Dehesario (2007) Arquitecturas Rayanas (Nuba Records/Karonte 2011)
Edipo Rey, soundtrack (2015)
The EXIB 2016 opening act on May 6th was captivating Spanish vocalist and composer Lara Bello. Although she’s originally from Granada, Lara Bello is currently based in New York City. Lara’s concert at Praça do Giraldo in the Evora town center was one of the highlights of the day, delivering an entrancing mix of sounds of the Mediterranean: flamenco, North African, jazz and Latin America.
Lara Bello uses flamenco and jazz vocal stylings and was accompanied by two superb Spanish instrumentalists, guitarist David Minguillón and percussionist David Gadea.
Lara Bello’s discography includes Niña Pez (2009) and Primero Amarillo Después Malva (2012).
The second act, award-winning fado singer Jaqueline was one of the most popular acts that night. Her charismatic presence on stage and her passionate, powerful voice drew in a large crowd. Although we’ve been given an image of the melancholic fado singer, there was no melancholy there. Jaqueline delivered well-known songs that Portuguese members of the audience were very familiar with, and they sang along.
Jaqueline was accompanied by three virtuoso musicians, who got an opportunity to showcase their talent with an instrumental piece. The lineup included Paulo Ferreira on guitarra portuguesa (Portuguese guitar), Jerónimo Mendes on Viola de Fado (fado guitar) and Miguel Silva on bass guitar.
Jaqueline Carvalho was born in Lisbon in a family of musicians and singers from Madeira and Lisbon. She was a member of “As Miudas Mem Martins”, a group of Portuguese fado artists who performed throughout Portugal and abroad. In 2009 Jaqueline released her first album, titled “Fado”.
Cuban multi-instrumentalist Mel Semé was the third act on stage. He was joined by guest vocalist and guitarist Iraqis del Valle. The concert showcased Mel Semé’s acoustic side featuring Cuban-rooted jazz and pop songs.
Born in Camagüey, Cuba, Mel Semé began his music career playing with the older musicians who performed a type of Latin gospel music. After graduating from Havana University of music and forming part of the Havana Symphony Orchestra and the Camagüey Symphony Orchestra he lived for a while in Switzerland where he taught courses in percussion and performance. He is currently based in Spain and is the leader of the reggae and funk group, Black Gandhi. Mel Semé latest album is “Naturaleza”.
The fourth official showcase act was Portuguese world music band Projeto Alma. The ensemble crosses various musical and geographical boundaries, featuring genres from the Iberian Peninsula such as fado from Portugal and flamenco tango from Spain as well as Afro-Brazilian bossa nova, Latin American boleros, Cape Verdean morna and Argentine tango.
“O Outro lado da Rua” (the other side of the street) is the band’s first album.
Projeto Alma’s members include Teresa Macedo on vocals; Júlio Vilela on guitar; Zeca Neves on bass; Vitor Apolo on accordion; and João Abreu on percussion.
The last act on stage was La Corrala from Granada, Spain. The group features musicians from various parts of Spain who are based in Granada and come from the reggae and mestizo music scene. Granada has become a really attractive and affordable location for musicians from Spain and abroad (sort of like Asheville in the USA). La Corrala plays flamenco combined with Latin music and reggae beats, jazz, Argentine tango, blues, bossa nova and pop featuring original lyrics by the band’s vocalist. They were one of the highlights of the night.
La Corrala has released an EP with studio and live tracks. Band members include Manuel Jesús Afanador Herrera on vocals; Juan María García Navia on piano, flute and background vocals; Eduardo Tomás del Ciotto on electric bass; Jesús Santiago Rubia on percussion; Juan Peralta Torrecilla on trumpet, flugelhorn and background vocals; and Rubens García Real on guitar.
Not sure why, but I’ve recently been receiving a steady stream of music from the Fol label out of Spain. Some I initially put aside with the intention of getting to it later, only to have it seem to vanish in that strange manner that befalls neglected objects. So I set myself to being more attentive and more open-eared, and not surprisingly have been rewarded with sounds I’m enjoying very much. What follows are overviews of just a few, enough to make me realize how stupid I’ve been for not tuning in to the bigger picture. I promise I shall (or at least try to) from now on.
Guadi Galego is a sweet-voiced singer and pianist who straddles the vocal line between vulnerable and intense on what seems to be her second release, Luas de Outubro e Augosto. The songs are consistently low-key and beats of any sort are largely absent, and it doesn’t matter. With help from producer and multi-instrumentalist Pachi Garcia Elis, the disc is a short, entrancing flow of ballads that are sometimes minimally accompanied but often are built against walls of sonic ambience that, like Galego’s prominent vocals, carry a sense of both authenticity and experimentation.
Mixing largely acoustic instruments with tradition, plus hints of jazz and Celtic feel, Davide Salvado scores big on his album Lobos. Layers of percussion (some played by Salvado himself) underpin arrangements that range from melancholy to jaunty and are enriched with guitar, mandolin, sax, bouzouki, standup bass, accordion, violin, ocarina and harp. Salvado’s vocals are emotive yet understated, with an appealing everyman quality that goes straight to the heart and stays there. This one’s a definite keeper.
Salvado’s vocals and percussion are also part of a quartet called Rustica whose self-titled disc is a co-release with Zouma Records. (So why does my computer’s Windows Media Player display graphics that look Japanese when I put the CD in? I don’t know.) The other members of Rustica are Cristina Pato on gaita (bagpipe), Anxo Pintos on zanfona (hurdy-gurdy) and accordionist Roberto Comesaña. Traditional to the core, the music they create is spine-tingling, magical stuff that usually seeps its way along with a droning, shadowy mystique.
A few lively, danceable attacks break the spell as well as adding to it, and if I had my way, there’d be a higher quotient of fast moments to balance out the prevailing slow ones. Salvado goes more operatic here than on his own release, the musicianship is superb, and the album’s rather lean 31-minute running time doesn’t feel lacking.
I figured I would like La Banda Morisca’s Algarabiya when I saw the imagery the CD presented. On the cover are five guys walking a sandy landscape, one with a guimbri slung over his back. Better still, there’s the hamsa symbol in the band’s logo. Spanish music with ties to the country’s Moorish past is a particular favorite of mine, and it looks and sounds as if La Banda Morisca will go a good way towards filling the gap left by the demise of Radio Tarifa. The former’s combination of North African and Middle Eastern motifs with enhanced flamenco rhythms is a fiery delight that ignites every track.
JoseMari Cala’s undulating, serpentine vocals lead the way, and instruments that include oud, cumbus and the aforementioned guimbri recall Andalusian splendor while stirring sparks of Gnawa spirit. Oh, and what do you know- there’s guest player Vincent Molino, once a key member of Radio Tarifa, making the sound even more zesty with his superb reed work.
From the looks of the italicized small print, it seems the tracks were recorded in the far, far southern Spanish region of Tarifa as well. But La Banda Morisca aren’t simply imitators. (Most of their grooves are played on a drum set rather than hand percussion, for example.) What they certainly are is an incredibly tight band with an obvious passion for modernizing Spain’s rich musical past to just the right degree, and they do it very well.
Not content with her regular challenge of utilizing her good classical violin training to perform medieval Spanish and Sephardic music on a Swedish nyckelharpa (keyed fiddle), international award-winning Ana Alcaide goes outside her already-huge box to collaborate with Indonesian musicians here, commemorating a hypothetical fusion of elements into a musical “Pangea,” that being the name of a super-continent that existed before continental drift gave us the diverse world we live in today. This sort of goal would be far beyond the reach of most players, but Ms. Alcaide seems able to “cover her checks” on musical mergers and stretches. And hyphens.
The balance of rhythm and lead is not that to which most listeners are accustomed. She lightens simple percussion parts while heavying up the sympathetic resonance of nyckelharpa to create a solid foundation for intricate treble melodies. There is considerable resonance and ring throughout the release, using the studio mix as a crucial instrument or even section of its own. It works and is hypnotic.
There are traditional Indonesian flutes tuned outside the Western scale, and they hit the microtones that, as Muddy Waters put it, “fall between the cracks in the piano keyboard.” Thelonius Monk, a world music devotee, compensated for what he perceived as a gap in the musical scale by teaching himself to hit two adjoining piano keys lightly but in tandem. “Tales of Pangea” addresses the same issue with studio strategy.
It is a good record to have for vocal training, meditation, massage and preparation for spiritual and deeply intellectual pursuits.
We received two versions of this album, the original Spanish edition and the international release by Arc Music. Ana Alcaide is the remarkable Spanish world music artist who uses the traditional Swedish instrument called nyckelharpa to explore the musics of Spain, the Mediterranean and beyond. On this project, Ana traveled far away to Southeast Asia to collaborate with Indonesian musicians.
Ana Alcaide spent time in West Java (Indonesia), collaborating with local musicians to develop a fusion on Eastern and Western influences. The project came about when Franki Raden of Gotrasawala Festival invited Ana Alcaide to collaborate with Sundanese musicians. Ana worked with a collective of local musicians that was named Gotrasawala Ensemble.
The recording sessions took place in Bandung (West Java) and San Martin de Valdeiglesias (Madrid) with a mix of original compositions by Ana Alcaide, Rudi Rodexz and traditional pieces. The result is a beautiful set of melodic musical pieces where the distinct flavor of Asian bamboo flutes, percussion, vocals and zithers meets the European folk and classical traditions, jazz, and the mesmerizing hurdy gurdy-like sound of the nyckelharpa.
The lineup on Tales of Pangea includes Ana Alcaide on nyckelharpa; Bill Cooley on psaltery, ud, clay pot; Novi Aksmiranti on vocals; Rudi Rodexz on bansing (bamboo flute), kecapi (Indonesian zither), Hang drum, vocals; Riky Oktriyadi on kendang (barrel drum), selentem (gamelan metallophone), frame drums, hand percussion; Rudini Zhiter on kecapi (Indonesian zither); Iman Jimbot on suling (bamboo flute), vocals; and Ray Sandoval on Spanish guitar.
Tales of Pangea is a splendid album by a groundbreaking artist in the current world music scene.
Vocalist, songwriter and nyckelharpa instrumentalist Ana Alcaide has released a new video for her delightful song ‘En El Jardin De La Reina’ from her critically acclaimed album La Cantiga del Fuego.
Alcaide’s music draws on influences of magnificent Toledo, Spain and the Sephardic traditions of the city. She uses a wide range of world music instruments like the oud, santoor, bouzouki, mandola, medieval lute, darbuka along with her own playing of the nyckelharpa and Celtic harp. The final result is a sumptuous and intricate musical landscape.
The more unique an artist’s path to self expression is, the more heroic and delightful is the result. Ana Alcaide expresses herself with, to quote Wikipedia, “a nyckelharpa (literally “key harp”, plural nyckelharpor), sometimes called a keyed fiddle, … traditional Swedish musical instrument. It is a string instrument or chordophone. Its keys are attached to tangents which, when a key is depressed, serve as frets to change the pitch of the string“. Okay, that’s off the beaten path in itself, but here’s where it gets really good — She uses her nyckelharpa to play music, as her label puts it, “inspired by the journey of the Sephardic Jews and the city of Toledo.”
So meet Olga at the casbah, but not before dusk on Saturday. There is a hint of the exotic, Moorish flavor to her music, but none of the minor key drone one would expect of klezmer, another Jewish musical form. This is the sound of fresh air, hope and excitement, of packing for a better life, of pageantry and rhythm.
Spanish musician Ana Alcaide has become a familiar name in Europe thanks to her new album La Cantiga del Fuego that hit the world music charts in Europe at number three. The album will be available in Europe and North America in November 2012.
World Music Central’s Angel Romero interviewed Ana Alcaide to find out more about her background and La Cantiga del Fuego.
When did you begin learning music?
At six. My parents detected that I had a gift for music and signed me up for after school programs in my school.
Which was your first musical instrument?
How many instruments do you play now?
Primarily the nyckelharpa, violin and vocals. I have an ability to play instruments, specially the bowed strings (rabel, kamanche, other fiddles). There are many others that also attract me and that I use in studio recordings, such as the Celtic harp and santur. The problem is finding time to study all!
You use as your main instrument the nyckelharpa, a Swedish instrument that is not well known in Spain. How did you discover it?
When I was finishing my degree in Biology, I was given an Erasmus scholarship to study in Sweden and I lived in Lund for a year. Attracted by the great Swedish musical tradition, during my free time I tried to attend all the music events posible and in one of them I saw a nyckelharpa for the first time. I fell in love with its sophistication and depth of sound.
Where did you learn how to play it?
Two years later, in Toledo. Until then, I didn’t have the economic means to get one. Then I started to play in the streets of Toledo during weekends, since during the weekdays I studied violin at the conservatory. A few years later I returned to Sweden to complete mu music training and to deepen my knowledge of the nyckelharpa.
You latest album is titled La Cantiga del Fuego. What does it mean?
The name comes from a traditional Sephardic song from Thessaloniki in Greece, that describes a fire that took place in that city. This title seemed very symbolic and suggestive, and I used it as the main the thread of the entire work: ‘The cantiga del fuego is the voice that has always been inside and that leads us to be what we are, that ancient powerful voice that echoes inside us since ancestral times.’
The songs on Las canciones de La Cantiga del Fuego have a Sephardic nature but they are original. What sources did you use to write the lyrics and compose the music?
I like to compose new melodies in the ancient language. The composition process is a very special phase: I let myself be carried by my instincts and I leave the rational on the side. When an idea appears, I try to mold it and find the song. I’m passionate and have fun arranging and producing my musical ideas. It’s what I enjoy the most!
When I compose a song, I always begin with the melody, lyrics come later. Perhaps because I feel more an instrumentalist than a singer, and the world of melodies is where I feel it’s easier to create. For this album I had the collaboration of my great friend and poet Beatriz Moreno-Cervera, who wrote two of the lyrics for my melodies. It’s been a really fun and enriching collaboration, that I’m sure will continue in the future!
What musicians did you use to carry out this Project?
This has been my first large production experience and I have learned a lot. I used great musicians and friends who provided special and enriching sonorities, expanding and coloring my musical ideas. The list of collaborators is very long and begins with the musicians with whom I work regularly. On ‘La Cantiga del Fuego’ you can listen to the psaltery, santur and oud of Bill Cooley, winds by Jaime Muñoz, basses by Renzo Ruggiero, guitars by Josete Ordoñez and Rafa del Teso, percussion by Diego López and Sergey Saprychev. In addition, there are very specific special collaborations such as the voice of Iranian artist Reza Sheyesteh, the Greek lyre of Dimitri Psonis and the hansa veena of Ido Segal.
Do you plan to take La Cantiga del Fuego to the stage?
The album came out in May in Spain, but I’ve been presenting live since January. I’ve performed over 40 concerts this year, most of them in Spain and a handful in France, Italy and Portugal. It’s been a very intense and productive year. In the future I plan to do international tours.
La Cantiga del Fuego, which is an independent production reached number 3 in the European World Music Charts. What does this mean to you and did you increase your sales?
Undoubtedly, it’s a great recognition that fills me with hope and motivation to continue! Sincerely, I was not expecting it, and I am very grateful to everybody who has supported me and I feel a commitment to continue to offer the best of me. These types of recognitions don’t have an immediate direct effect in record sales, but rather positive long term consequences, such as more publicity and international recognition.
I understand that British label Arc Music is going to release the album in November
Yes, I’m very excited!! ARC Music is going to release the album worldwide and this is a very good opportunity to get international exposure for my music, as well as reaching places that I can’t reach. I’m very happy to work with the ARC team.
You live in the ancient city of Toledo, a city in which Jews, Christians and Muslims coexisted. Paco de Lucia lived in Toledo recently. What does it mean to live in Toledo? And why do you think it attracts musicians and other artists?
Toledo is a beautiful city that attracts numerous artists because of its extremely rich historical past, no wonder it’s known as the ‘city of the three cultures.’ It’s a city that allows itself to be rediscovered over and over again. To me, it means a daily environment for inspiration, and I love being carried away by its influence. I’ve lived here for 10 years and this environment has provided me the necessary ingredients to develop my musical and artistic career: spirituality, inspiration, history. I love living in Toledo, I carry her with me.
Lately, there seems to be a renewed interest in Sephardic music in Israel, Spain, the United States, Europe and several countries in the Mediterranean. Why do you think there is such an interest?
In Spain, the interest has to do with tourism reasons, since we have a Jewish heritage that has not been promoted enough. I don’t know the reasons in other countries. In any case, the story of the Sephardic peoples is really interesting: it means a great example of coexistence, exchange and cultural enrichment.
If you could gather your ideal musicians or bands, who would you call?
What a difficult question! Above all, I admire great producers and composers, such as Gustavo Santaolalla, Nycky Ryan (Enya), Mike Oldfield, Karl Jenkins (Adiemus), Alan Parsons, and Quincy Jones. I love the songs by groups like Abba and Roxette. I understand music in 360º.
Spain is suffering a great economic crisis. How is it affecting musicians?
Being a musician in Spain is not considered a serious or honorable job. It’s not well recognized academically or valued socially. There is no support for musical creation, or for projects, or tours. The few supports available are practically designated, since Spain is a very corrupt country. In general, people don’t understand that we musicians are professionals who play a role in society, like other professionals. We don’t have a professional association that represents or supports us, and we are much disunited among ourselves. The fundamental problem is a great lack of culture, a tremendous lack of vision that feeds the great cultural crisis that is eating up Spain. The radical measures of cuts in education and the arts show a great ignorance by those who are in charge and forecast a very dark future. It’s very disheartening to live in such an environment with so little motivation. As a Spaniard, I am not proud at all of this situation and sometimes I feel like running away.
What music are you currently listening to?
Lately I listen to soundtracks. I find very interesting the job of joining music and film. The latest album I purchased is the soundtrack of ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ by Harry Gregson-Williams.
What do you like to do during your free time?
I travel a lot. I always love to have a trip in mind so that I can dream about it and plan it. I’m very attracted to other cultures and learning more about them. I love to go out to the countryside, specially the mountains. I like to read and cook a lot. I’m interested in natural sciences, phytotherapy and natural remedies.
What country or countries would you like to visit?
In general all! I’d love to see India, Korea, Thailand and the south of Asia. I’d also like to see Albania. I would also like to know more about Latin America, where people seem happy and joyful. I’d like to go to Chile and Costa Rica. My next trip is to Mexico, a country that I know and love. I like to learn about places in depth. I prefer to stay in a place for a long time and get to know it well rather than traveling in a superficial way.
If someone were to travel to Toledo, what places would you recommend for sightseeing, food and music?
Above all, my recommendation is that they forget about maps and get lost in its streets. Aside from the main monuments, I recommend that they visit historical spaces that open only on certain days and that are quite charming (organized by consorcio de Toledo). Also the thematic routes, there are some that are really varied and interesting.
For food: La Abadía. To have a coffee or attend a concert, the Círculo de Arte de Toledo.
What other projects do you have?
My family. I have a beautiful son and a wonderful partner! I love being with them. If I had more time, I would study some natural medicine, Philosophy and Art History.
Fans of Celtic powerhouse Enya’s early work will likely dip into Spanish singer, songwriter and musician Ana Alcaide and find a reason to rejoice. Hitting the world music charts in Europe at number three with her La Cantiga del Fuego, Ms. Alcaide will soon be available to a worldwide audience with the recording’s release on the ARC Music label come November. With previous recordings Viola de Teclas and Como La Luna y El Sol to her credit, Ms. Alcaide pulls out all the stops on this latest project.
Drawing on influences of Toledo, Spain and the Sephardic traditions of the city, Ms. Alcaide flavors La Cantiga del Fuego with a wealth of world music instruments like the oud, santoor, bouzouki, mandola, medieval lute, darbuka along with her own playing of the nyckelharpa and Celtic harp against her sweet vocals to create a lush musical landscape that is delicately and intricately worked.
Writing all of the tracks on La Cantiga del Fuego, Ms. Alcaide opens with the brightly worked “El Pozo Amargo” before slipping seamlessly into the intriguing “Baila Donde El Mar.” Cleverly working with a wide range of instrumentation, La Cantiga del Fuego dips toes into Indian, Middle Eastern and Spanish influences effortlessly, stacking up a series of tracks that blurs musical boundaries.
Music fans are sure to enjoy “La Cantiga del Fuego – El Viaje” before delving into the fragile beauty of “Luna Sefardita.” Other gems include “”La Reina Ester,” “En El Jardin de la Reina” and “La Cantia del Fuego – La Cancion,” not to mention the fabulous duo “Mikdash Intro” and “Mikdash.”