Category Archives: Artist Profiles

Artist Profiles: Camarón de la Isla

Camarón de la Isla – Photo by Mario Pacheco

You only had to listen to Camarón once to know that he was a genius” – Paco de Lucía.

Camarón de la Isla was one of the greatest Flamenco singers of the 20th century.

José Monge Cruz, known artistically as Camarón de La Isla, was born in San Fernando (Cádiz) in 1950. He was the second oldest in a family with eight children. He was given the nickname Camarón because of his blond hair and for being from the island of San Fernando (Cadiz). He began to sing at the age of four. “At home, everybody danced and sang, even if they weren’t performers”, he used to say.

Since his childhood he worked as a professional flamenco singer, performing in private parties and gatherings at the inns of Cádiz and Málaga. Camarón made frequent trips throughout Andalusia, sitting next to elderly cantaores to learn the old ways of singing. He performed with the Miguel de los Reyes company and later joined the group of the Madrid tablao (flamenco nightclub) Torres Bermejas.

Camarón de la Isla

His first album came out in 1969, accompanied by de Paco de Lucia on guitar. Thanks to his recordings with de Lucía he became a top artist in flamenco festivals.

La Leyenda del Tiempo, released in 1979, was a seminal album that featured one his greatest hits, “Volando.” This album caused a lot controversy at the time because it was a move away from traditional flamenco that angered many purists.

Because of his personal character and the sound of his voice, the generations of cantaores coming after him consider his style as a model to be followed. He won the National Award of the Chair of Flamencology and the Mairena de Alcor contest.

Camarón died in 1992.

Discography:

Al Verte las Flores Lloran (Philips, 1969)
Cada Vez que Nos Miramos (Philips, 1970)
Son Tus Ojos Dos Estrellas (Philips, 1971)
Canastera (Philips, 1972)
Caminito de Totana (Philips, 1973)
Soy Caminante (Philips, 1974)
Arte y Majestad (Philips, 1975)
Rosa María (Philips, 1976)
Castillo de Arena (Philips, 1977)
La Leyenda del Tiempo (Philips, 1979)
Como el Agua (Philips, 1981)
Calle Real (Philips, 1983)
Viviré (Philips, 1984)
Te lo Dice Camarón (Philips, 1986)
Flamenco Vivo (Philips, 1987)
Soy Gitano (Philips, 1989)
Potro de Rabia y Miel (Philips, 1992)
Camarón Nuestro (Philips, 1994)
Paris 1987 (Philips, 1999)
Integral, a 21 CD boxed set with remastered versions (Universal Music, 2005)
Camaron en la Venta de Vargas (Philips, 2006

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Artist Profiles: Buika

Buika

Buika (pronounced BWEE-kah) was born Concha Buika on the Spanish island of Mallorca, to parents who arrived to Spain as political exiles from Equatorial Guinea. They lived in the island’s capital city, Palma de Mallorca, where, Buika remembers, the only black resident other than her family members was a man hired to stand in the doorway of a gift shop, like just another novelty on display.

She was a skinny girl with an Afro that curious neighbors would reach out to touch — hair which she later learned to style from photos of her early musical idols Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. Her father, a writer and activist, left the family and returned to Guinea, and her mother raised Buika and her five siblings in a household “filled with people, food and music.” She grew up singing and playing instruments – guitar, piano, bass. She has recently taken up cello.

“I am African and an African does not have musical training,”she explains. “An African can’t live without music. When my grandmother was upset with someone and so mad she couldn’t speak, she would sing what she wanted to say to them instead. My first memories are of hearing music playing. Like meals, music was part of our daily life. There has always been music in my head and in my heart.”

Buika also found a second home among the community of Gypsy families who had settled in Palma. She played after school in that marginal neighborhood, and as always, music was a part of those long childhood afternoons, which are echoed today in Buika’s instinctive embrace of flamenco’s emotional deep song, and the copla. But as much as she is currently identified with the copla, and credited with reinventing that classic romantic Spanish style, Buika herself refuses to define music by genre or style. She says considers all artists and all kinds of music to be “a gift from God,” but allows that she’s most drawn to music, borne on society’s fringes, that expresses her own desire to tell it like it is.

It’s not just about music, it’s a way of life,” she says. “It’s about not running away from yourself. Some people sing about what they would like to happen, but in the copla and el cante [flamenco song], we confront who we are, with all of our fears and all of our defects. In the United States there’s also a great tradition like this: it’s called the blues.”

When she was seventeen, Buika’s aunt recommended her for a job singing r&b in a hotel in Mallorca. Not ever having considered singing professionally, the teenager said no, but relented when she learned the gig paid more than she could make doing other jobs available to her. “Since I got on that stage I’ve never stopped working,” she says now.

Buika soon took off to the see the world. She spent some time in London, and in 2001 the singer ended up in Las Vegas, where she worked in casinos as a Tina Turner impersonator, with the requisite wig and platform shoes. She later divided her time between Mallorca and Madrid, where she found soulmates in a community of artists “more interested in the show than in the business.”

“Not all artists want to see ourselves as just sexy girls, some of us want to communicate what we have inside and practice our art,” Buika says. “I look for music that helps us live and that feels good. I want to keep giving love and passion to my music and my audience.”

In 2015, Buika released her eighth album, Vivir Sin Miedo, with vocals in English, Spanish and a mix of the two languages. Vivir Sin Miedo was recorded over four months in Miami, New York, London and Madrid, and features various guests, including Me’shell Ndegeocello and Jason Mraz.

Buiika currently lives in Miami, United States.

Discography

Mestizüo, with Jacob Sureda (Blau, 2000)
Buika (DRO Atlantic/Warner Music Spain, 2005)
Mi Niña Lola (DRO Atlantic/Warner Music Spain, 2006)
Niña de Fuego (DRO Atlantic/Warner Music Spain, 2008)
El Último Trago, with Chucho Valdés (DRO Atlantic/Warner Music Spain, 2009)
En Mi Piel, compilation (Warner Music Spain, 2011)
La Noche Más Larga (Warner Music Spain, 2013)
Vivir Sin Miedo (DRO EastWest/Warner Music Spain, 2015)
Para mí (Warner Music Spain, 2017)

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Artist Profiles: Biella Nuei

Biella Nuei

Since 1984 Biella Nuei have been studying, recovering, expanding and popularizing traditional music from Aragon, a region situated in the north of Spain, below the Central Pyrenees.

Aragon’s mostly unknown musical heritage is rich and diverse. The band uses unique instruments such as the salterio (a string-drum), chiflo (a three hole flute), the gaita de boto (large bagpipe) and the Aragonese dulzaina (traditional pipe), numerous percussion instruments; tunes and rhythms such as fandangos, rumbas, dances (ritual dances), romances, and polkas.

To this musical base, Biella Nuei added other instruments such as the diatonic accordion, lutes, darbukas and tevilats (Arabic drums), the cajon flamenco and the contrabass in order to recreate ancient traditional tunes or simply create new melodies and harmonies.

Biella Nuei

“Besides two albums on our own (Las aves y las flores and Solombra) which include part of our live repertory, we have taken on a wide and fruitful ethno-musical research work in our region. Eight record-and-books documenting, preserving and spreading part of Aragon’s rich heritage have already been published as a result of our work.

We make also traditional instruments in our workshop, organize courses on music and pedagogical concerts; we publish records and books in this domain and counsel many Ethnographical Centers… Three members of Biella Nuei are teaching at Saragossa Folklore School.”

To date we have already given hundreds of performances throughout Spain, France, Italy and Germany. Along with our own pieces, we present a personal revision of our traditional music while incorporating elements and resonances of other musical roots.

We have presented many successful shows, like Flamenco Norte, which we crafted by blending the music of Aragon with music and songs from the Gypsy tradition, along with other Arabic influences and also with those of flamenco.

For the purposes of research, in 1988, we founded the Archives of the Oral Traditions of Aragon, the main documented resource of the oral traditions specific to the Aragon’s people. The work of our studies, archives and publications are reflected in nine CD-books.

Discography:

Las Aves y las Flores (1994)
Solombra (Coda Out, 1997)
Sol d’ibierno (2006)
Al Natural (2007)
Biella Nuei & Azawan, Romper el muro
Biella Nuei & La Fraternité (2011)
Biella Nuei y los Bufacalibos, Oyendo crecer la Hierba (2011)
Biella Nuei y La Santa Pereza (2013)

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Artist Profiles: Berrogüetto

Berrogüetto – Photo by Xoan Piñón

Berrogüetto was a crucial band in the Galician folk music scene. The six members of the band had great careers before starting this project, as they came from other important Galician bands such as Matto Congrio, Fia na Roca, Armeguin, etc. The band was started in the spring of 1995 and its music could be described as Contemporary Galician music. Berrogüetto worked both with the elements of the tradition and with the spirit of experimentation that defines the contemporary Arts.

Berrogüetto also included in its live shows the great voices and the tambourines of the seven women from the traditional all-female group Cantigas e Agarimos. This voice-tambourine sound is one of the most representative and original musical traditions from Galicia.

Berrogüetto celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2006 with the release of their fourth album 10.0. The group disbanded in 2006.

Musicians: Anxo Pintos: gaita, zanfona, violin, sax, flute, piano; Santiago Cribeiro: accordion, keyboards; Kim Fariña: violin; Isaac Palacín: drums, percussion; Guillermo Fernández: acoustic and synth guitar; Kiko Comesana: Celtic harp, bouzouki; and
Guadi Galego: gaita, piano, vocals.

Discography:

Navicularia (BOA, 1996)
Viaxe Por Urticaria (Do Fol, 1999)
Hepta (Do FoL, 2001)
Navicularia (La Voz De Galicia, 2002)
10.0 (Berrogüetto Música, 2011)

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Artist Profiles: Bernarda de Utrera

Bernarda de Utrera was born Bernarda Jiménez Peña in 1927, in Utrera, near Seville. She came from a legendary family of Flamenco performers. Bernarda was the daughter of José el de Aurora and Chacha Inés and the granddaughter of Pinini. Pinini, according to those who remember him, was a gipsy whose profession was not that of “cantaor” (singer). Nevertheless, when he began singing everybody stopped doing anything and listened to his songs.

La Calle Nueva s'alborotao
porque Pinini s'amborrachao"
"Nueva Street is in a mess 
'cause Pinini got drunk"

This is the song that people used to sing in Utrera (Seville), the village where this Gypsy man was born, when he appeared drunk and singing all along Nueva Street, where he lived. Bernarda, Pinini’s granddaughter, inherited that magic that all the gifted have, and when she sang, her wonderful, imaginative and voracious voice made easy what really seems too difficult: singing with rhythm.

Fernanda de Utrera was Bernarda’s sister, with whom she sang for the first time at family gatherings and private parties. Both sisters continued singing together since then. They even managed to record twenty albums.

Bernarda was one of the Flamenco artists featured at the Spanish Pavilion at New York’s World Fair. She won the Bulerías award at the Córdoba National Contest of Flamenco Art in 1957. Moreover, she also won the National award of Flamenco. She also won the prize known as The Best Music of the year 1988 in Radio Paris, and was given the Andalusian Arts’ Medal.

At the age of 72, Bernarda recorded her first solo CD. It was a unique CD because it was the first time Bernarda sings without her sister Fernanda.

Bernarda de Utrera was a master of flamenco rhythms such as the bulerías, tientos and seguiriyas. She died on October 28, 2009 in Utrera, Spain.

Discography:

Fernanda y Bernarda De Utrera: Sevilla, cuna del cante flamenco (1959)
Canta y baila Andalucía (1962)
Por ver a mi madre diera (1962)
Jaleo flamenco (1966)
El flamenco de Manuela Vargas (1966)
Festivales flamencos (1966)
Festival de cante jondo Antonio Mairena (1967)
El cante de Fernanda y Bernarda de Utrera (1967)
Quisiera ser como el aire (1967)
Si me ven hablar contigo (1967)
Archivo del cante flamenco (1968)
Potaje gitano de Utrera (1968)
Romance de la reina Mercedes (1968)
Al mismo juego (1970)
Antología de las bulerías (1971)
Fiesta en Utrera II (1971)
Duende del cante 1972)
Su cante (Movieplay, 1972)
Triana, ay mi Triana (1974)
Manuela Vargas, flamenco puro (1975)
Utrera canta (1982)
Magna antología del cante flamenco (1982)
Antología del cante gitano de nuestra tierra (1986)
Medio siglo de cante flamenco (1987)
Maestros del flamenco. Bulerías (1988)
Flamenco. En concert à Paris (1988)
Cante flamenco (1988)
Maestros del cante (1990)
Raza y compás (Pasarela, 1990)
Testimonios flamencos. Historia del flamenco (1996)
Cultura jonda 7 (1997)
Cultura jonda 10 (1997)
Quejío, ritmo de la sangre (1997)
Un gitano de ley (1997)
Utrera en directo (1998)
Cantes inéditos (1999)
Gitanas de Utrera por bulerías (2000)

Solo:

Ahora (LunaDisco 1998)

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Artist Profiles: Beselch Rodríguez

Beselch Rodríguez

Beselch Rodríguez was born in La Laguna, Tenerife, Canary Islands. He has become one of the leading timple performers in Spain. The timple is a small guitar from the Canary Islands and it is related to the Portuguese cavaquinho and braginha, which are the predecessors of the Hawaiian ukulele.

Self taught, he began as a folk music performer with Agrupación Folklórica El Moral. As timplista (tiemple player), his career began in 1998. After touring throughout the islands, he was the winner of the Certamen de Timple Juventud y Cultura in 2000. In 2004, Spain’s Instituto Nacional de la Juventud (INJUVE) selected him as one of the musicians that would participate in the prestigious Circuitos de Música INJUVE 2004 in the category of folk music.

He has shared the stage with numerous Spanish and international world music acts, performing at the top world music festivals in Spain.

His first solo CD is In-diferente (2009), in which he performs renovated timple sounds.

The second album, titled “Habitat” (2012) represented the re-encounter with his traditional roots.

In terms of evolution, Beselch developed his electric timple personal project, completed in 2012 and was made possible after several months of work with American luthier Jonathan Mann. Together, they created a new sound and timbre that’s is already part of the universe of this artist. With this new proposal, Beselch Rodríguez started a new path in fusion and interpretation.

Besides developing his musical activity as timplista, Beselch Rodríguez has participated in numerous projects and recordings, and works regularly with leading groups and performers of the Canary Islands.

Discography:

In-Diferente (Multitrack, 2008)
Habitat (Multitrack, 2012)
Timples y Otras Pequeñas Guitarras del Mundo (Multitrack, 2015)

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Artist Profiles: Azarbe

Azarbe

Azarbe is a folk music group that was formed in Murcia in 1999 with a classic format of the traditional bands of the Spanish Southeast.

The majority of its members come from the traditional music scene, and they had experience performing in well-known groups such as Cuadrilla Maquilera, directed by Manuel Luna.

The group has a wide repertoire rooted in the strength of traditional Murcian tunes (aguilandos, jotas, malagueñas, marches, etc.) and original songs that incorporate influences from the entire Mediterranean musical arch.

Musicians:

Oscar Esteban: cajon, darbuka, drums, percussion.

Pedro J. López: Spanish guitar, acoustic guitar.

Carmen María: voice, tambourine, percussion.

Emilio Mateos: Spanish lute, classical guitar, flamenco guitar.

Eugenio M. Concepción: violin.

Paco Morales Nicolás: fretless bass, 5-string Spanish guitar, tenor guitar, percussion.

Discography:

Acuarela de mi tierra Producciones (Trenti, 2001)
Cuerdeando (B. Producciones, 2003)
De la huerta al noroeste (Sonopress, 2007)
Vengo de la romería (Discmedi, 2010)
Murcia por Navidad (Surefolk, 2012)
15 años de folk (El Sr. Guindilla Records, 2015)

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Artist Profiles: Atlántica

Atlántica

Atlántica was formed in 1988, months after Marcos Bárcena and Kate Gass met in France, at the Saint Chartier International Traditional Music Festival. After that, they worked in the field of traditional music, first as a duo and later as a quartet with percussionist Miguel Cobo and accordionist and keyboard player Ramón Bueno.

The band’s versatility was one of their principal assets. The sheer variety and quantity of the instruments Marcos Bárcena and Kate Gass played in their concerts was remarkable, because both musicians share a multi-instrumental approach and a knowledge of the music of Celtic roots from many countries.

Their first album, called simply Atlántica, appeared in 1996. While working together as a duo, Marcos Bárcena and Kate Gass also found time to be members of Luétiga, a group devoted to research, arrangement and interpretation of Cantabrian folk music (Cantabria is a region in the north of Spain located between Asturias and the Spanish Basque Country).

With Luétiga, Marcos Bárcena and Kate Gass recorded three albums: La Ultima Cajiga (1992), Nel el Vieju (1994) and Cernula (1996). They also took part in the Misa Popular Cántabra, a folk mass composed by Nobel Samano, which was performed by Luétiga with two choirs and a group of dancers.

In 1998 Marcos Bárcena and Kate Gass decided to leave Luétiga to follow their own musical direction and put all their energies into their own projects, mainly recording the second Atlántica album, Transitus and arranging a live repertoire as a quartet, combining Celtic pieces from Ireland, Scotland, Brittany and North America with music from Cantabria, Galicia and Asturias

Atlántica also performed concerts with conferences about Cantabrian folk music for senior citizens and high school students, they animated ceilidhs with the aid of two callers, and participated, together with the Markab Theatre Company, in La Leyenda de los Besos, a musical play based on a short story by Manuel Llano.

The band had a show for kids called Atlántica con el Medio Ambiente, where they combined music with dances, games and stories about the environment. During the 1990s Atlántica was present in most folk festivals in Cantabria and the band played in many other places throughout Spain, as well as in Portugal and Wales.

Atlántica’s performances in more than sixty schools in Cantabria gave it extensive experience with kids.

Transitus includes dance tunes and songs from Cantabria and other Celtic regions, together with their own compositions in traditional style. By Transitus they meant to define a meeting point between the musical traditions of different places sharing common roots. It is a musical journey where they try to give their own vision of Celtic music, a global vision born out of their own experiences and contacts with this world. Transitus means a transit both through space, since they took the listener to the music of different countries, and through time, reflecting several periods, with a nod to the Iron Age men and a wish for the survival of traditional roots and the union of the nations.

The group disbanded in January of 2006. Ramón, Miguel and Jorge stayed together and formed another band named Garma.

Kate rested from music for 2 years for various reasons including the stress of working in a men’s world and being a single mother with 2 adolescents, and a sick mother. Marcos went on a spiritual adventure for a year and a half from which he returned in 2007 and later released an album of his own compositions, titled Marcos Barcena.

In May 2007 Kate took up her musical career again, this time as a solo artist working on a project called “Solistas Internacionales” with Paco Diez (Spain), Wafir (Sudan), Magali(Peru), Yoshie (Japan) and Laurent (France).

Discography:

Atlántica (Several Records, 1996)
Transitus (Resistencia, 1998)
La luz del iviernu Lugas (El Tripulante, 2000)
Lugas (El Tripulante, 2001)
En directo (RTVE Música, 2002)
Desde esta orilla (RTVE Música, 2004)

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Artist Profiles: Anxo Lorenzo

Anxo Lorenzo

Anxo Lorenzo was born in Moaña (Spain) in 1974. He commenced his musical life at the age of 5 and 3 years later he entered the Conservatorio Superior de Música in Vigo. His teachers were Patrick Mollard, Fred Morrison, Antón Corral and Moxenas among others.

From the age of 12 he has played in traditional music groups such as Xarabal, Duos Pontes, Semente Nova and Lembranzas Galegas. His experience covers such varied matters as music research, teaching, concerts and tours throughout Spain, Ireland, Scotland, England, France and the United States.

Anxo Lorenzo has managed to fuse the unadulterated natural sound of the gaita (Galician bagpipes) with a wide variety of alternative music styles such as: Flamenco Chillout (Chambao), SKA (Skape), (Poncho Ka), Rock (Los Feliz), Pop (Amistades Peligrosas) converting the gaita into an avant-garde instrument without giving-up his Celtic roots. As a musician, soloist and composer Anxo continues with his research into various fields of music.

Discography:

La Sombra Del Lobo, with Spiritu 986 (BMG España, 2000)
Tirán (2010)
Confuxon (Zouma Records, 2014)

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Artist Profiles: Arcángel

Arcángel

While in his early twenties, Arcángel became part of a select group of flamenco singers. He maintains this position because he wants to, because he can and because he knows how to do it.

Francisco José Arcángel Ramos, better known as Arcangel, was born in Huelva in 1977. His family was originally from the town of Alosno, known as the birthplace of fandango and the main source of the province’s rich folklore. At a mere 10 years of age, Arcángel demonstrated an unprecedented command of the local fandango when he took First Prize in a children’s competition organized by a flamenco association in Huelva called “La Orden” (“The Order”). This trophy was the prelude to a long series of honours that would eventually encourage Arcángel to dedicate himself professionally to his passion for singing flamenco.

Arcángel is capable of maintaining control of his singing technique, including compás, voice tuning and musical structure, while broadcasting an endless reverberation of perfectly rounded tones. That’s how you connect! And we’re not talking about his influence in the feminine arena, which we know nothing about, but to his amazing ability to present a cante (flamenco song) in one go, at a slow radiant pace while barely taking a breath.

Without a doubt, he has an Olympic temperament, comparable to the bullfighter’s ability to ‘moderate, adjust and control’ a charging bull. One of Arcángel’s outstanding characteristics is the intelligent way that he updates the traditional styles from his homeland. He revives them by adding infinite melodic overtones and by minimizing constraints.

In 2012, along with Fahmi Alqhai, he received the Giraldillo for Best Music at the Flamenco Biennial of Seville for the show Las idas y las vueltas. In 2015 he released his album “Tablao”. In February 2017 he was awarded the Medal of Andalusia.

[Translated by Rita Granda]

Discography:

Arcángel (Virgin, 2001)
La Calle Perdía ‎(Ediciones Senador, 2004)
De Oscura Llama ‎(Anemos, 2009)
Quijote De Los Sueños (Sony Music, 2011)
Las Idas Y Las Vueltas ˙ Músicas Mestizas ‎(Alqhai&Alqhai, 2012)
Tablao ‎(Universal Music, 2015)
Al Este Del Cante (Universal Music, 2018)

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