Artist Profiles: Carlos Núñez

Carlos Núñez – Photo by Daniela Dacorso

Thoruhgout his career playing the gaita (Galician bagpipe) Carlos Núñez , a charismatic piper from Spain’s northwestern coast has collaborated frequently with the Chieftains, Ry Cooder, and Sinead O’Connor. Carlos Núñez tours with a dynamic ensemble that fuses individual and ensemble playing with bouzouki, Spanish guitar, dancing fiddle, and passionate whistles.

Núñez began his international career at the age of 13 as soloist with the Lorient Festival Orchestra. There he won the Macallan Trophy three years in a row for his performance on the gaita, an instrument he took up at the age of eight. Discovered there by The Chieftains, Núñez first collaborated with the Celtic superstars on the soundtrack to Treasure Island in 1989. Since then he has been a guest on several of their albums, including the Grammy award winners The Long Black Veil and Santiago. Núñez himself was the inspiration for Santiago, The Chieftains’ own exploration of Galician music.

Núñez also received classical training on the recorder at the Royal Conservatory of Madrid, but would not be swayed from his first love, the Galician musical tradition.

All of these experiences resulted in the recording of Núñez’s first BMG recording, Brotherhood of Stars (A irmandade das estrellas), co-produced by Núñez, Paddy Moloney of The Chieftains, and Ry Cooder. The album was certified platinum in Spain, breaking all previous sales records for this kind of music.

Núñez subsequently embarked upon a tour of all of the major Celtic festivals in Europe, culminating in a performance before an audience of 80,000 at WOMAD in Gran Canaria, Spain. This was followed by a world tour with The Chieftains in 1997. In 1999 Núñez was a featured performer on Paddy Moloney’s album Christmas in Rome, a collection of holiday music from around the world.

Two years in the making, Os Amores Libres (which translates as “Free Loves”), released in 1999, was an even more ambitious record than its predecessor, encompassing music and musicians from the Galician and Andalusian traditions within Spain, as well as the music of gypsies from Romania, Muslims and Sephardic Jews, all cultures who passed through Spain at one time or another, leaving their imprint upon the native music as well as carrying its influences abroad. The album was a serious piece of musical scholarship, illuminating this borrowing and trading of musical styles and revealing the inner connections among seemingly disparate cultures.

Carlos Núñez

Núñez enlisted the services of over 100 musicians to realize his vision, some world famous, others known primarily to knowledgeable insiders and serious devotees. Among the best known of these guests are Jackson Browne, Mike Scott (formerly of the Waterboys), Teresa Salgueiro (Madredeus), Derek Bell and Kevin Connell of The Chieftains, producer/keyboardist Hector Zazou, Afro Celt Sound System mastermind Simon Emmerson, Breton guitarist Dan Ar Braz, Donal Lunny (Bothy Band, Planxty), Flamenco vocalist Carmen Linares, Israeli vocalist Noa, and piper Paddy Keenan. Also appearing were such diverse performers as the Romanian Gypsy band Taraf of Caransebes, the Sufi Andalus Tangiers Choir, and Galician peasant vocalist Divina.

His third CD, Mayo Longo (BMG Music Spain, 2000) took Núñez closer to pop structures, getting airplay in pop radio. Todos os Mundos followed in 2002.

At thirty, he released his first CD with Sony Music, Almas de Fisterra, which was also released in France. It was a tribute to Finisterres (land’s end), which are found both in Galicia and Brittany. For three years Núñez spent many weeks in Brittany, selecting the best musical pieces. He collaborated with some of the most famous Breton musicans, such as Alan Stivell and guitarist Dan Ar Braz.

In 2004 Núñez entered the world of cinema. Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar asked him to compose a song for his movie Mar Adentro. This led to his participation in the movie score. The movie won an Oscar as well as 14 Goya awards (the most prestigious Spanish movie awards).

Cinema Do Mar (2005) explored the world of soundtracks, including music from Mar Adentro and several Japanese productions.

Throughout the years, Carlos Núñez has sold over 1.000.000 CDs worldwide and is regarded as one of the most reputable musicians in the Celtic music scene.

In 2016 Núñez participated in the movie J: Beyond Flamenco by Carlos Saura, the celebrated Spanish filmmaker who introduced the passion of the jota, a popular trasditional waltz-like castanet dance with its origins in Saura’s home province of Aragon.

Discography:

A Irmandade das Estrelas (BMG Ariola, 1996)
Os amores libres (BMG Ariola, 1999)
Mayo Longo (BMG Ariola, 2000)
Todos os mundos (BMG Ariola, 2002)
Almas de Fisterra (Sony Music, 2003)
Cinema do mar (Saint George, 2005)
Alborada do Brasil (Sony Music, 2009)
Discover (Sony Music, 2012)
Inter Celtic (Sony Music, 2014)

DVDs

Carlos Núñez & Amigos en casa (Sony/BMG, 2004)

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.
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