The opening ceremony of the Iberoamerican music expo (EXIB) took place last night, May 6th at the Azkuna Center Auditorium in Alhóndiga Bilbao. Alhóndiga Bilbao is an impressive cultural center housed in a former wine warehouse at Plaza Arriquibar 4 in Bilbao.
The Alhóndiga Bilbao sat empty for decades until 2010, when it was redesigned by French industrial designer Philippe Starck. The city of Bilbao turned Alhóndiga Bilbao into a multi-purpose center for the arts, physical activity classes and workshops, and entertainment that includes the auditorium, a movie theater, restaurants, media library, art exhibit space and a gym. Alhóndiga Bilbao is also called Azkuna Zentroa (Azkuna Center) in tribute to former Bilbao mayor, Iñaki Azkuna Urreta.
The opening ceremony was hosted by Miami-based Venezuelan blogger Ely Bravo (Inspiruliba) and Basque Public TV journalist Roberto Mosso. Ely and Roberto used Spanish, Basque and a little English for the international participants. The hosts gave a historical overview of EXIB, which is only one year old. They also gave a preview of the artists that will be showcasing this year and also featured videos of artists supporting the event, including salsa icon Rubén Blades.
The first musical performance was by Portuguese traditional ensemble Os Camponeses de Pías. The all-male choir specializes in Canto Alentejano; this is a unique vocal style from the Alentejo region in south-central Portugal. It’s a rural style that comes from farming and ranching communities. UNESCO declared Cante Alentejano an Intangible Heritage of Mankind.
Os Camponeses de Pías walked on stage, singing and wearing traditional outfits representing the rural origin of the music: farmers, cowboys, and shepherds. The ensemble features several lead vocalists who begin the songs with an a cappella introduction and are later joined by the full ensemble.
The Choir and Ethnographic Group “Os Camponeses de Pias” was formed in the mid-1960s with the goal of performing work songs adorned with costumes and instruments of agricultural work. The group is based in Pias (Portugal), supported by Serpa’s City Council. The choir has several recordings, including the recent CD titled “O Cante à Moda das Pias” (Pias-style Song).
The next performance featured the iconic virtuoso accordionist and composer Kepa Junkera accompanied by the all-female ensemble Sorginak. Junkera is probably the most visible and best known Basque artist right now. For years he has worked with musicians from various parts of the world, celebrating the music of the Iberian Peninsula, Latin America, Celtic traditions and beyond. His most recent work takes him back to his Basque roots. His band last night was Sorginak, a group of young women who sing and perform primarily percussion, using tambourines, round and square frame drums and cans, as well as traditional Basque instruments such as the popular chalaparta (spelled txalaparta in Basque) idiophone and alboka horn.
Argentine vocalist and percussionist Juan Iñaki joined Junkera and Sorginak during part of the performance. Although Iñaki’s family has Basque roots, his vocal style is deeply-rooted in Argentine folk music tradition. He also plays several percussion instruments, ranging from a large drum to small hand percussion.
Argentine folk music singer-songwriter and percussionist Juan Iñaki had his own performance. He has one of the finest voices in the Argentine folk music scene. Juan hails from Córdoba in Argentina. He studied music composition at Universidad Nacional de Córdoba (UNC). His music combines Argentine folk music genres such as chacareras with rhythms from Latin America. His discography includes “Qué hermoso sueño” (indie release, 2000), “Yo soy Juan” (EMI, 2003), “De la raíz a la copa” (indie release, 2008), “Orgánico” (2013) and De siesta y monte (2015).
The local flavor continued with the Basque duo of Iñaki Salvador and Ainara Ortega. Salvador is a renowned jazz pianist. Ainara Ortega is a young gifted vocalist who delivered songs in Spanish and Basque. Her repertoire includes pop, traditional folk music, jazz and Brazilian-inspired songs. Special guest Juan Iñaki returned to join the duo on percussion.
Iñaki Salvador is a jazz pianist, arranger, composer and educator. He has released several recordings, including Novecento, el pianista en el océano (2002), Te doy una canción (2010), Lilurarik ez – Mikel Laboarekin solasean (2010), and Espacio abierto (2011). He’s currently a music professor at Musikene Conservatory in San Sebastian.
Ainara Ortega is a graduate of Musikene Conservatory. In 2011 she formed a duo called Kantaginjazz along with pianist Iñaki Salvador, fusing Basque songs with jazz. She also created the project “Cine para dos” (movie for two) in 2013, also with Salvador, where they take movie soundtracks and songs and infuse them with jazz. Her debut album is titled “Scat.” Ainara currently runs her own music school in San Sebastian.
Throughout the evening, the hosts highlighted migration and the musical connections between the peoples of the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America.
The final musical performance brought back all the artists on stage for a series of collaborations.
More about EXIB: exibmusica.com
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV 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 albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.