Category Archives: Artist Profiles

Artist Profiles: Parno Graszt

Parno Graszt

During the last decades the name of Parno Graszt (White Horse in the Roma language) became the equivalent of authentic Hungarian Gypsy music.

The band is based in Paszab, in northeastern Hungary. During social ceremonies music is shared between each one of the community: instruments are passed from one hand to another and practically everyone is a dance master. There is no band and there is no audience. There is one unified festive gathering. Whether they play in their backyard or on a festival stage for 10,000 people, the same spirit of cheerful delight vibrates in the air.

The sound of Parno Graszt is rooted in the traditional Gypsy songs of northeastern Hungary, representing a specific local dialect of Roma music. Their instruments are acoustic guitars, double bass, tambura, accordion, spoons, milk jug and ‘oral bass’ which is a continuous vocal improvisation made by the percussionist. Occasionally, the 10-piece group takes the audience for a time journey where the dancers, using an archive video projection, are performing parallel with their grandparents on stage.

World music radio stations discovered Parno Graszt after the breakthrough of Hit the piano (Rávágok a zongorára) in 2002, which was the first Hungarian record in history reaching the Tot 10 of World Music Charts Europe. The much anticipated second album In my world (2004) featured Kalman Balogh, a world-class Hungarian Gypsy cymbalist.

Since then Parno Graszt has played throughout Europe in venues and festivals like Concertgebouw (Amsterdam), Couleur Café Festival (Belgium), Paleo Festival (Switzerland), Tribu Festival (France) and Sziget Festival (Hungary).

As a recognition for their work in preserving Romani culture and heritage, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and the BBC produced a music documentary about Parno Graszt. The movie was selected for the Official Film Screening at WOMEX 2008 and was screened worldwide via IMZ World Music Films on Tour.

In 2007, the band celebrated its 20th anniversary. On that occasion, DJ Gaetano Fabri (remixer of Taraf de Haidouks, Kocani Orkestar, Mahala Rai Banda) made his debut remix for Parno Graszt’s Gelem Gelem.

In 2008, the Paszabi Gypsies were invited to India where they spent two weeks in Rajasthan, the alleged motherland of the Roma people, meeting and playing with local musicians, tracing their roots, looking for familiar faces, customs and melodies. The result of this unique musical exploration was a DVD.

Band Members: Jozsef Olah on vocals, guitar, tambura; Viktor Olah on vocals, guitar, dance; Sandor Horvath on vocals, spoons, dance; Janos Jakocska on vocals, guitar; Maria Varadi on vocals, dance; Maria Balogh on vocals, dance; Krisztian Olah on accordion; Janos Olah on double bass; and Istvan Nemeth on oral bass, milk jug.

Discography

* Hit the piano (Rávágok a zongorára) (Fono Records, 2002)
* In my world (2004)
* Ez a világ nekem való – This World Is Made for Me (2007)
* Reggelig mulatok – Don’t Stop Till the Break of Dawn, CD+DVD (2011)
* Paris Budapest Caravane (Fremeaux & Associes, 2013)

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Artist Profiles: Paquito D’Rivera

Paquito D’Rivera

Born in the island of Cuba, Paquito D’Rivera began his career as a child prodigy, playing both the clarinet and the saxophone with the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra He eventually went on to premier several works by notable Cuban composers with the same Orchestra.

A restless musical genius, Mr. D’Rivera formed and performed with various musical ensembles as a teenager and became one of the founding members of the Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna, which he subsequently conducted for two years and was also founding member and co-director of the innovative musical group Irakere, whose explosive mixture of jazz, rock, classical music and traditional Cuban music had never been heard before. The group toured extensively throughout America and Europe, won several Grammy nominations and a Grammy.

In May of 2003, he received a Doctorate Honoris Causa in Music, from the Berklee School of Music, adding this to his many numerous awards including a Lifetime Achievement Award for his Contribution to Latin Music along with Dizzy Gillespie and Gato Barbieri.

In addition to his awards and recognitions, including six Grammys, Paquito made history for being the first artist to win Latin Grammies in both Classical and Latin Jazz categories, for Stravinsky’s Historia del Soldado and “Brazilian Dreams with New York Voices” in 2003, the other historic recipient is Wynton Marsalis.

In 1996, he received a Grammy for his highly acclaimed recording, Portraits of Cuba. In 2000 for his Tropicana Nights, along with a nomination in the classical category for his Music from Two Worlds, featuring compositions by Schubert, Brahms, Guastavino, Villa Lobos, and by Mr. D’Rivera himself.

In 2001 Grammy for his Quintet’s recording of Live at the Blue Note. He was also nominated in the Classical Crossover category for The Clarinetist, Vol. 1. In 2002, he won again as a guest artist on the recording of the Bebo Valdes Trio.

While Paquito’s discography includes over 30 solo albums in Jazz, Bebop and Latin music, his contributions to classical music are impressive. They include solo performances with the National Symphony Orchestra, and with Brooklyn Philharmonic, the London Royal Symphony, and the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra. He has also performed with the Bronx Arts Ensemble, the St. Luke’s Chamber Orchestra, the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, the Costa Rican National Symphony, and the Sim?n Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, among others.

Paquito also keeps busy by frequently touring around the world with his ensembles: the Chamber Jazz Ensemble, the Paquito D’Rivera Big Band and the Paquito D’Rivera Quintet, and in the 2005 with the guitar duo of Sergio and Odair Assad, in “Dances from the New World”.

In his quest to bring the Latin repertoire into the forefront of the classical arena, Paquito has successfully created, championed and promoted all types of classical compositions!, including three chamber pieces composed by Paquito, recorded by Yo-Yo Ma and Paquito, live at Zankell Hall, Carnegie Hall, September, 2003.

In addition to his extraordinary performing career as an instrumentalist, Paquito has rapidly gained a reputation as an accomplished composer. His works often reveals his versatility and widespread influences, which range from Afro-Cuban to the dance hall, to influences encountered in his many travels, and back to his classical origins.

In 2002, The National Symphony Orchestra and the Rotterdam Philharmonic commissioned Paquito, to write a concerto “Gran Danzon” (The Bel Air Concerto) for the acclaimed flutist Marina Piccinini under the baton of Maestro Leonard Slatkin at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

A gifted author, Mr. D’Rivera’s book, My Sax Life was published in Spain by the prestigious literary house, Seix Barral and contains a prologue by Guillermo Cabrera Infante. It’s been translated into English, published by Northwestern University Press. You can also listen to it in Mr. D’Rivera’s own voice by Recorded Books in Spanish available in the Internet and in libraries alike. His novel Oh, La Habana is published in Spain by MTeditores, Barcelona.

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Artist Profiles: Paco de Lucia

Paco de Lucía

Paco de Lucía was one of the greatest guitarists in the world. He was born Francisco Sánchez Gómez in Algeciras, a port city in the province of Cádiz, in the southernmost tip of Spain on December 21st, 1947. His stage name (Lucia’s Paco) is a tribute to his mother Lucía Gómez.

His father, Antonio Sánchez, a day laborer, played guitar at night as a way to supplement his income. His father, Paco’s elder brother Ramón de Algeciras, and flamenco guitar master Niño Ricardo were de Lucía’s main influences. His first performance was on Radio Algeciras in 1958.

The training ground for a flamenco guitarist, de Lucía once said, “is the music around you, made by people you see, the people you make music with. You learn it from your family, from your friends, in la juerga (the party) drinking. And then you work on technique. Guitarists do not need to study. And, as it is with any music, the great ones will spend some time working with the young players who show special talent.

You must understand that a Gypsy’s life is a life of anarchy. That is a reason why the way of flamenco music is a way without discipline, as you know it. We don’t try to organize things with our minds, we don’t go to school to find out. We just live… music is everywhere in our lives.”

In 1958, at only age 11, de Lucía made his first public appearance and a year later he was awarded a special prize in the Jerez flamenco competition. At 14 he was touring with the flamenco troupe of dancer Jose Greco. He worked with Greco for three seasons.

It was while on tour with Greco in the United States of America that de Lucía met the great Sabicas, an influential guitarist whose name became synonymous with flamenco in the United States, who encouraged him to pursue a more personal style. De Lucía would follow Sabicas’ advice a few years later in his debut at Carnegie Hall in 1970.

In flamenco, the guitarist first and foremost, must not get in the way of the singer,” de Lucía once explained. “There is a dialog going on. The cantaor (singer) sings the words. There are no songs per se in flamenco, just short lyrics, so the guitarist follows the call of the singer. Part of the tradition in flamenco is not playing too hard or too much. You need to support the singer, help him.”

Back in Spain, de Lucia joined Festival flamenco Gitano, an annual flamenco showcase tour that lasted for seven years, and recorded his first album in 1965, at the age of 18.

With La Fabulosa guitarra de Paco de Lucía, released in 1967, de Lucía began to distance himself from the influence masters such as Niño Ricardo and Mario Escudero and by Fantasia Flamenca, recorded in 1969, he had defined his own style. His superb technique was displayed in well-structured pieces that departed from the flamenco tradition of theme and variations.

In 1968, he met Camarón de la Isla, one of the leading flamenco singers at the time. Their association was chronicled on more than 10 records. Their album Potro de Rabia y Miel (1991) was perhaps the last studio release by Camarón de la Isla, who died in 1992.

 

Paco De Lucía – Fuente y Caudal

 

De Lucía’s new style became more evident in El Duende flamenco (1972), Fuente y Caudal (1973) (which included the hit instrumental Entre Dos Aguas’).

 

 

Next came Almoraima (1976) which some consider a masterpiece. These albums were followed by Paco de Lucía Interpreta a Manuel de Falla (1980), a superb tribute to the iconic Spanish classical composer who was an admirer of flamenco music, and, in 1981, Solo Quiero Caminar.

 

Paco De Lucía – Almoraima

 

Paco de Lucia was criticized by flamenco die hards for his ventures into other styles. His own sextet, formed in 1981, included bass, drums, and saxophone. Paco also had high profile collaborations, especially with jazz musicians, most notably with pianist Chick Corea and fellow guitarists John McLaughlin, Larry Coryell and Al DiMeola. The remarkable results of these collaborations have been documented in several releases including the guitar trio albums Castro Marin (1979), Passion Grace and Fire (1982) and Friday Night in San Francisco (1981).

Paco de Lucia also recorded soundtracks for films such as Carlos Saura’s Carmen, Borau’s La Sabina, and the ballet Los Tarantos, presented at Madrid’s prestigious Teatro de la Zarzuela in 1986.

 

Paco de Lucía

 

However, as if to make a point, de Lucía returned to pure flamenco in the spectacular Siroco (1987), a brilliant outline of his style, and then twist and turned back towards fusion with Zyryab (1990) that featured his sextet enhanced by pianist Chick Corea.

Through his Brazilian percussionist Rubem Dantas, Paco de Lucía introduced the cajón, a previously unknown Peruvian instrument to flamenco. Since then, the cajón has become a standard feature in most flamenco ensembles. Spanish instrument makers have created cajón variations,  developing what is now known as cajón flamenco or caja.

De Lucía shrugged off the complaints or the concerns that he might lose his roots or betray the essence of flamenco. “I have never lost my roots in my music, because I would lose myself,” he once said. “What I have tried to do is have a hand holding onto tradition and the other scratching, digging in other places trying to find new things I can bring into flamenco.”

 

Paco de Lucía

 

There was a time when I was concerned about losing myself,” he once said, “but not now. I’ve realized that, even if I wanted, I couldn’t do anything else. I am a flamenco guitarist. If I tried to play anything else it would still sound like flamenco.”

In 2004, Paco de Lucia won the 2004 Prince of Asturias award of the Arts. This is the most important and prestigious award of its kind given in Spain. The other contenders were American rock musician Bruce Springsteen, French dancer Maurice Bejart and British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.

In 2004, after living several years in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, Paco de Lucia moved back to Spain. He chose the ancient historic city of Toledo, which is near Madrid, but is much quieter.

In 2010 Paco de Lucia was presented with an honorary doctor of music degree from Berklee College of Music, recognizing his achievements and influence in music, and for his enduring contributions to American and international culture.

 

 

Discography

* Los Chiquitos de Algeciras, with Pepe de Lucía (1961)
* Dos guitarras flamencas en Stereo, with Ricardo Mondrego (1965)
* Doce Exitos para dos Guitarras Flamencas, with Ricardo Mondrego (1965)
* Música Clasica Transcrita para Guitarra, with his brother Ramón de Algeciras (Polygram, 1966)
* Canciones Andaluzas para Dos Guitarras, with his brother Ramón de Algeciras (Polygram, 1966)
* Dos Guitarras Flamencas en América Latina, with his brother Ramón de Algeciras (Polygram, 1966)
* La Fabulosa Guitarra de Paco de Lucia (Polygram, 1967)
* Fantasía Flamenca de Paco de Lucía (Polygram, 1969)
* El Duende Flamenco de Paco de Lucia (Polygram, 1972)
* Fuente y Caudal (Polygram, 1973)
* Paco de Lucía en vivo desde el Teatro Real (Polygram, 1975)
* Almoraima (Polygram, 1976)
* Paco de Lucia plays Manuel de Falla (with the group Dolores) (Polygram, 1978)
* Solo Quiero Caminar (Polygram, 1981)
* Castro Marin (Polygram, 1981)
* Friday Night in San Francisco (Polygram, 1981) with John McLaughlin and Al Di Meola.
* Live…One Summer Night (Polygram, 1984)
* Hispanoamérica, a collection of Latin American pieces recorded in the 1960s and 1970s by Paco De Lucia and his brother, Ramon De Algeciras (Polygram, 1984)
* Siroco (Polygram, 1990)
* Zyryab (Polygram, 1990)
* Concierto de Aranjuez (Polygram, 1991)
* Live in America (Polygram, 1993)
* The Guitar Trio (Polygram, 1996)
* Antologia (1996)
* Luzia (Polygram, 1998)
* Cositas Buenas (Universal Music Spain/Verve-Blue Thumb 80001939-02, 2004)

Bibliography

* Paco de Lucia and family: The master plan by D. E. Pohren (Bold Strummer Ltd, 1992)
* Paco de Lucí­a, Scores Book 1: The Fabulous guitar of Paco de Lucia, transcribed by Jorge Berges. Ventilador Music, 2003.
* Paco de Lucí­a, Scores Book 2, Fantasía flamenca de Paco de Lucía
* Paco de Lucia Scores Book 3 Fuente y Caudal
* Paco De Lucía Scores, Book 4 (Almoraima)
* Paco de Lucia en vivo by Juan José Tellez. Plaza Abierta, 2003. 620 pages.

Videos

* Directo Alemania (1996) DVD
* Light and Shade (Arthaus Musik, 2001) DVD

Interviews

Interview with Paco de Lucia

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Artist Profiles: Pablo Ziegler

Pablo Ziegler

The internationally acclaimed Argentine pianist and composer Pablo Ziegler has been hailed as one of the world’s leading proponent of the nuevo tango. A classically trained pianist and a veteran of the vibrant jazz scene in his native Buenos Aires, Ziegler is taking South America’s most sultry and passionate music into new territory. Ziegler joins a small group of contemporary artists that includes trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and pianist Marcus Roberts who are recording both classical and jazz projects today. Ziegler is the only artist currently involved with tango projects in both genres.

Ziegler and the other members of his Quintet for New Tango – Héctor Del Curto (bandoneón), Oscar Guinta (bass), Horacio López (drums) and Quiqui Sinesi (guitar) are as adept at traditional and contemporary tango forms as they are performing jazz and world music. By using percussion and improvisational elements Ziegler enriches the nuevo tango legacy and further explores the common ground between tango and jazz.

Born in Buenos Aires in September 2, 1944 Ziegler studied music from the age of 4 until 13 in a classical music conservatory. He learned tango from his father, a tango violinist. As a teenager Ziegler fell in love with jazz. Ziegler became a professional jazz musician and formed his own band. The popularity of his jazz trio Pablo Ziegler Terceto led to his being invited in 1978 to join Astor Piazzolla’s New Tango Quintet. Until he joined the Astor Piazzolla Quintet, Ziegler had never performed tango professionally, but his ability to improvise and his virtuosity were exactly what Piazzolla wanted.

Ziegler remained with the Astor Piazzolla Quintet for the next ten years, appearing at jazz festivals all over the world. For him it was like attending the New Tango University.

In 1992, Ziegler started his own quintet and changed the instrument mix, replacing the traditional violin with a drum to explore new rhythm structures. In addition to leading his own ensemble, Ziegler has also collaborated with jazz vibraphonist Gary Burton, the Italian singer Milva and other internationally renowned artists.

A chance encounter during the summer of 1997 in Buenos Aires sparked the idea of a musical collaboration between Ziegler and Orpheus, the celebrated, New York-based chamber orchestra that performs without a conductor. The result was Tango Romance, a recording with new arrangements or adaptations written especially for the recording by Ziegler of his own music, works by Piazzolla and two classics from the late 1930s by Juan Carlos Cobián.

Pablo Ziegler is also active composing music for film, theater and television.

Discography

* La Conexión Porteña, cassette (Sony Music 4-461745, 1991)
* Los Tangueros, Emanuel Ax and Pablo Ziegler (Sony Music SK 62728, 1996)
* Asfalto: Street Tango (BMG/RCA Victor 09026-93266-2, 1998)
* Tango Romance – Music of Buenos Aires with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (BMG/RCA Seal 09026-63233-2, 1998)
* Pablo Ziegler &Quinteto (BMG 0902663500-2, 1999)
* Bajo Cero (Enja ENJA 9145-2/US: Khaeon, 2003)
* Tango and all that Jazz, with Stefon Harris (Zoho, 2007)
* Buenos Aires Report, with Walter Castro and Quique Sinesi (Zoho, 2007)
* Amsterdam Meets New Tango, with the Metropole Orkest (Zoho, 2013)
* Desperate Dance (1201 Music, 2015)
* Tango Nuevo (Steinway & Sons, 2016)
* Jazz Tango (Zoho, 2017)

Web Site www.pabloziegler.com

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Artist Profiles: Pablo Mainetti

Pablo Mainetti

Born in Buenos Aires (Argentina), Pablo Mainetti is one of the best-known and most respected bandoneon players in the world. He completed his studies of bandoneon, harmony and composition before specializing in chamber and contemporary music.

Throughout the course of his career he has recorded and played with all of the top tango artists in the Rio De La Plata area and has worked under the direction of masters Beba Pugliese, Nestor Marconi, Daniel Binelli, Rodolfo Mederos and Rodolfo Alchurrin.

He has performed in festivals such as the Spanish-American Encounters of Bogota, the Cervantino and Tango festivals of Granada, as well as the Argentina Week and the Universal Exhibition in Lisbon, Portugal. In 1996, Harmonia Mundi released Concerto for Bandoneon, his tribute to Astor Piazzolla.

Discography

* Astor Piazzolla Tango – Concerto for Bandoneon, with Orquesta de Cambra (Harmonia Mundi, 1996)
* Gran Hotel Victoria (Epsa Music, 2000)
Compartiendo Tangos, with Orquesta Sinfónica Provincial de Bahía Blanca (1999)
* Tres Rincones (2004)
* Tango Reflections Trío, with Adrián Iaies and Horacio Fumero (2005)
* Complicidad, with César Angeleri (Acqua Records, 2006)
* Borges poeta –Voces–, with Inda Ledesma – Oscar Martínez (2009)
* Partes de la suma (2011)
* Un Puñado De Buenos Tangos, with César Angeleri
* Amaramara, with Cristina Banegas (2016)

Web site: www.pablomainetti.com.ar

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Artist Profiles: Oudaden

Oudaden at Rainforest World Music Festival- Photo by Suchens, courtesy of Sarawak Tourism Board

Oudaden, one of Morocco’s mythical groups of the last twenty years, draws its inspiration from traditional Amazigh (Berber) music. The group is passionately devoted to its roots, which they update into a lively music that enjoys the support of North African audiences since its early days, while more and more international sspectatoraudiences rapidly become enthusiastic.

 

Oudaden at Rainforest World Music Festival- Photo by Suchens, courtesy of Sarawak Tourism Board

 

Their music is an innovative mix of traditional bendir and nakus sounds; these traditional Amazigh instruments they combine with modern ones including banjo, electric guitar and tam-tam. In their universal lyrics they explore the subtleties of love as well as the economic and social difficulties of their region, being the spokespersons of Amazigh culture.

After several successful tours in the United States of America and in Europe, especially on the stages of Bercy and the Zenith in Paris, and 14 albums contributing to the revival of Amazigh songs, the group has attracted the attention of international media and world music professionals.

 

 

Partial Discography

* Tafokt Ortbadlt
* Intlk Ayadil Ifr
* Empreinte (Buda Musique, 2011)
* Mayna (2012)

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Artist Profiles: Otros Aires

Otros Aires

Otros Aires is a Tango Nuevo group founded originally in Barcelona (Spain) in 2003 but now based in their native Argentina. The band mixes tango and milongas songs from the early 20th Century with electronic melodies, sequences and lyrics from the 21st Century.

Thr 2017 lineup includes Miguel Di Genova on vocals, guitar electronic sequences; Martin Paladino on drums and percussion; Emmanuel Trifillo on bandoneon; and Diego Ramos on piano.

Discography

* Otros Aires
* Dos
* Vivo en Otros Aires (Galileo Music, 2009)
* Tricota (Galileo Music, 2010)
* Otros Aires 4 (Galileo Music, 2013)
* Perfect Tango (Galileo Music, 2016)

web site www.otrosaires.com

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Artist Profiles: Orquesta Aragón

Orquesta Aragón

The Orquesta Aragón is truly one of the most historic names in Cuban music. Founded in 1939, Aragón has been performing throughout the world with their irresistible form of Cuban roots music.

One of the pioneer charanga style bands, a type of ensemble that uses violins and flutes over a swinging rhythm section, Orquesta Aragón is responsible for many classics of the Cuban repertoire.

Orquesta Aragon’s extraordinary adventure started on September 30, 1939, when acoustic bass player Orestes Aragón Cantero brought his small charanga to Cienfuegos, the third largest town on the island, for their debut.

The band featured violins, piano, flute, percussion and a singer. Charangas were specialized in the danzón, a style that was then about fifty years old with its vocal variant, the danzonete, it was quite the rage at the time.

The group, which called itself Rítmica del 39, then Rítmica Aragón before settling on its final name of Orquesta Aragón at the end of 1940, also played waltzes and fashionable Spanish tunes.

The band was just one of a number that played at dances and parties, but its founder’s personality was to make all the difference. He held advanced social ideas (he was active in the popular socialist party, with communist allegiances), so he declared war on stardom.

Performance fees were to be shared out evenly between all the musicians. It was out of the question that the lion’s share would go to the director, or a star singer. “I want to found a musical family”, he said. “I’m not looking for virtuoso players but musicians with human qualities.”

Aragón was to conduct the band that bore his name for nine years, until a serious lung infection forced him into early retirement in 1948. Aragón appointed violinist Rafael Lay, who was only 20 years old but had already played for seven of them in the band, to take up the baton.

On Lay’s instigation, Orquesta Aragon gave its first concerts in Havana, which to provincial musicians had always been held up as an impenetrable fortress. In 1953, when the vogue for cha cha cha swept out the mambo, the Aragón seized its chance. It clinched a recording contract with American label RCA Victor, that was very active in Cuba, and in no time had a string of successes.

In 1954, flutist Richard Egües brought his stunning virtuosity and unequaled sense of improvisation to the band. Orquesta Aragón meant cha cha cha, and the world over people danced to the rhythm of the band from Cienfuegos.

In that ten-year period, the Aragón sang “I’m going to the moon for my honeymoon”, and treated Cuba to its first demonstration (home-made) of stereophonic reproduction.

Audiences were invited to tune into their radios and televisions simultaneously, and heard the sound of Egües’ flute or Lay’s violin pass from one speaker to the other. There was a succession of trips: Panama, Venezuela, United States, right up to 1959 and the triumph of the Revolution.

Embedded with its founder’s left-wing ideals, the band placed itself at the service of the new regime. All of Cuba’s musicians became State employees and were awarded the same salary, which boiled down to extending to the whole of the profession the co-operative principle instituted in the past by Orestes Aragón.

Since then, the Aragón served the people, to get them to dance but also instruct them, introduce them to their musical heritage. The band traveled the length and breadth of the country, which had just tasted agrarian reform and one of the largest ever literacy campaigns ever undertaken, to play in sugar cane production complexes, villages, factories, schools and hospitals.

The revolution knew how it could turn music to its advantage to spread its message. It was fast to form the habit of sending musicians abroad to act as ambassadors for Cuba’s culture and new values.

In 1965, the grand Cuban Music Hall tour brought the Aragón to France for the first time, where the musicians were mobbed throughout their three-week residence at Paris’ Olympia Theater.

In November 1971, the Aragón discovered Africa, long after Africa had discovered the Aragón. The countries of Black Africa had lived through the end of colonialism and access to independence to the accompaniment of the cha cha cha.

The Cuban models had far-reaching influence on modern African forms, starting with the Congolese rumba. To Africans ears, the Aragón was “the” standard by which Cuban music was judged and almost everywhere it went, the band was given a welcome befitting a head of state.

Africa in return left its mark on the group’s music, with musical pieces such as Muanga, by Franklin Boukaka from the Congo, and later the Bembeya Jazz National.

In the 1980s the Aragón went through a difficult period. Rafael Lay was killed in a car crash in 1982, Richard Egües left the band in 1984, and the musicians who had been there from the very beginning (timbalero Orestes Varona) or played during its golden age, followed each other into retirement.

Today’s Aragón consists of a mixture of old and new members, including the children and nephews of the original legends. Rafael Lay Jr, the son of original front man Rafael Lay Sr, now leads the group. While they maintain the classic sound of the past, they also incorporate the new flavors in Cuban music.

Orquesta Aragón’s hits include such classics as Sabrosona, Cachita, Bodeguero, Nosotros, Esperanza, Pare Cochero.

Partial Discography

That Cuban Cha-Cha-Cha (RCA International 2446, 1990)

Exitos De La Orquesta Aragon (Orfeon 10838, 1992)

Sabrosona (Orfeon 11383, 1995)

La Insuperable (Iris 618, 1996)

La Original Orquesta Aragón (International Music 1920, 1996)

Gold (Habacan 2461, 1996)

Cuba: Sus Mejores Interpretes Celia Cruz/Orquesta Arag?n (Orfeon 13005, 1997)

Cha Cha Charanga! (Tumi, 1997/Candela 4284725, 1997)

Cuba Es Una Maravilla (Musica Del Sol 7019, 1997)

Quien Sabe, Sabe (Lusafrica 262612, 1998 /USA: Candela 4285549, 1998)

Latin Roots Aragón/Jose Fajardo (Sony Discos Inc. 82891, 1999)

Años De Oro (DC Productions 9212, 1999)

Legends Of The Century: Cha Cha Cha (P.O.W. Records 83149, 1999)

Los Inéditos “En Vivo” (DC Productions 9201, 1999)

La Insuperable (1999)

Chaonda (1999)

Orquesta Aragón (International Music 82006, 1999)

Los Reyes Del Cha: 1939-1999 (60 Aniversario) (International Music 7054, 1999)

Cuban Originals (BMG U.S. Latin 69938, 1999)

Ritmo Cha-Onda (Fania B200 2000)

Los Aragones En La Onda Del La Alegria ( Fania B250 2000)

Por Siempre Aragón (2000)

100% Cuban, Sonora Matancera/Orquesta (Lideres Entertainment Group 950 047, 2000)

Siempre Charanga (Bongo Records 22001, 2001)

Vol. 4 (International Music 5003, 2001)

La charanga eterna (Lusafrica 362112, 1999)

Cha Cha Charanga (2001)

La Original Orquesta Aragón De Cuba (Orfeon 13844, 2001)

La Nueva Orquesta Aragon (Ultra Music Ltd. 1101, 2001)

La Aragón, Comin’ At U! (Universal Music Latino 160 506, 2001)

En Route (World Village 468006, 2001)

La Cubanisima Orquesta Aragon (2002)

Richard Egues Grandes Hits Con La Aragón (2002)

Bongo y Charanga (Sono Logic 1008, 2002)

Por Siempre Aragón (Egrem, 2002)

The Lusafrica Years (Lusafrica, 2009)

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Artist Profiles: Orquesta America

Orquesta América
For over 50 years, Orquesta América have been one of Cuba’s most recognized and prized bands. Their road to fame and popularity began in March 1942 when Enrique Jorrín, America’s founder and director made a change to a danzon number and incorporated the rhythms of the cha cha cha. This arrangement proved so popular that Jorrín decided to create entire songs with the new cha cha cha genre.

Along with Aragón, Conjunto Chapottin and Benny Moré’s Banda Gigante, Orquesta A merica were the main musical exponents in Cuba during the 50’s golden era of music. As the years went by modern orchestras became increasingly more and more popular and the love for traditional music faded but by the mid 90’s European audiences became increasingly aware of the beauty that lay in the traditional music of Cuba.

It was at this point that Mo Fini, Tumi Music’s founder decided to bring the legendary Orquesta America back to prominence and recorded the seminal 4CD box set entitled Orquesta America with Cuban All Stars – Las leyendas de la Música Cubana. The success of Las Leyendas de la Musica Cubana made Orquesta America, once again, one of the most sought-after live bands on the Cuban music circuit. Today they play in Havana’s most prestigious venues.

Discography

* Las Leyendas de la Música Cubana (Tumi Music TMGBOX1)

* Cha cha cha (Tumi Music TMGCD3)

* Bolero (Tumi Music TMGCD4)

* Danzón (Tumi Music TMGCD5)

* Guaracha (Tumi Music TMGCD6)

* Desde la Habana te Traigo (Tumi Music TUMI074)

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Artist Profiles: Natacha Atlas

Natacha Atlas

 

Natacha Atlas was born in Belgium, the daughter of an Egyptian father and an English mother. Natacha grew up in the Moroccan suburbs of Brussels, becoming fluent in French, Spanish, Arabic and English, immersing herself in Arabic culture, Egyptian “shaabi” pop and learning from childhood the raks sharki (belly dance) techniques that she uses during her spectacular live performances.

Even more remarkable than Natacha’s dance moves is her unmistakable voice, rich in nuance and grounded in Arabic music.

Natacha moved to England as a teenager and became Northampton’s first Arabic rock singer. Since then has involved herself in a wide variety of musical projects. Dividing her time between the UK and Brussels, she sang in a variety of Arabic and Turkish nightclubs, and spent a brief period in a Belgian salsa band called Mandanga. As she commuted between Northampton and Brussels, however, she began to attract the attention of the Balearic beat crew ¡Loca! and Jah Wobble, who was then assembling his Invaders of the Heart. Wobble was looking for an wide-ranging Middle Eastern singer and fell in love with her voice.

In 1991, both these projects became a reality. Timbal by ¡Loca! started out as a track on Nation Records’ Fuse Two compilation and became a massive dance club hit, while Wobble’s http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000007641/musidelmund-20/002-7906139-4219234?%5Fencoding=UTF8&camp=1789&link%5Fcode=xm2 | Rising Above Bedlam – five tracks which Natasha co-wrote – attracted much critical acclaim and a Mercury award nomination.

The success of Timbal consolidated Natacha’s relationship with the ground-breaking Nation Label, who introduced her to TransGlobal Underground (TGU), at that time enjoying Top 40 success with http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00000DEO0/musidelmund-20/002-7906139-4219234?%5Fencoding=UTF8&camp=1789&link%5Fcode=xm2 | Templehead.

First guesting with TransGlobal Underground in 1991, Natacha became two years later a member of the core quartet of TransGlobal Underground, as lead singer and belly-dancer. A couple of years later, it was TransGlobal Underground’s Tim Whelan, Hamid ManTu and Nick Page (a.k.a. Count Dubulah, who helped her to make her first solo album, Diaspora.

 

 

Diaspora came out in the summer of 1995 to critical acclaim. Natacha combined the dubby, rhythmic-driven global dance of her longtime associates Transglobal Underground, with the more traditional work of Arabic musicians like Tunisian singer-songwriter Walid Rouissi and Egyptian composer and ud master Essam Rashad. The result was a collection of songs of love and yearning that genuinely fused West and East.

On her second LP, Halim, Natacha explored further her deeply felt affinity with Arabic musical heritage.

In parallel with the success of her solo albums she remained a full-time Transglobal Underground member, and Transglobal Underground composed her backing band, until they left Nation Records in 1999, and they have remained allies throughout her subsequent career. Atlas has appeared on most TGU albums and its members are usually involved in the production of her solo albums.

 

Natacha Atlas

 

1997’s Halim followed, and then Gedida in 1999 , both creatively and naturally fusing Middle Eastern and European styles, and delighting an ever-increasing audience in both territories.

 

 

In 2000, Natacha released The Remix Collection, in which material from the first three albums was reworked by a variety of remixers, including Talvin Singh, Banco de Gaia, Youth, 16B, Klute, the Bullitnuts, TJ Rehmi, Spooky and Transglobal Underground.

Natacha’s fourth album Ayeshteni was released in 2001.

2002’s album, Natacha Atlas and Marc Eagleton Project’s Foretold in the Language of Dreams, was a considerable divergence. No beats; a calm recording, involving a slightly smaller group of musicians than normal, including Syrian qanun master Abdullah Chhadeh, whom Natacha married in 1999.

Aside from her own projects, Natacha remains very much in demand as a guest singer for the recordings and performances of a remarkably wide range of musicians, including Nitin Sawhney, Jocelyn Pook, the Indigo Girls, FunDaMental, Ghostland, Abdel Ali Slimani, Toires, !Loca, Musafir, Sawt El Atlas, Franco Battiato, Juno Reactor, Dhol Foundation, Jah Wobble, Jaz Coleman, Apache Indian (on his chart hit Arranged Marriage), Mick Karn, Jean-Michel Jarre’s Millennium Night spectacular at the Pyramids, Jonathan Demme’s film The Truth About Charlie, and David Arnold’s film scores including Stargate and Die Another Day.

Natacha Atlas spent a lot of time in her father’s homeland, Egypt. There, she worked with members of Transglobal Underground and Egyptian musicians. Her album, Ayeshteni, was recorded and composed there.

In 2003, she released Something Dangerous, a solo album of contrasts and collaborations, in which she injected Middle Eastern music into UK pop, pulling in dance music, rap, drum’n’bass, R&B, Hindi pop, film music and French chanson.

 

 

On Something Dangerous (2003), Atlas not only combined more styles than ever, but for the first time on an Atlas album it featured guest vocalists, and more singing in English than she did before. There is a collaboration with English composer Jocelyn Pook (who, among other things, created the score for Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut), it has Atlas’ Arabic vocal lushly surrounded by Pook’s western classical orchestration for the Prague Symphony Orchestra. Another guest is West Indian Princess Julianna, whom Atlas met when they were both guesting with Temple of Sound.

On the Arabic side, Atlas used Abdullah Chhadeh and one of Egypt’s finest shaabi trumpet players, the late Sami El Babli (deceased in a car crash shortly after the recording), to whom the track is dedicated. Atlas and Sinead O’Connor, who last recorded together on John Reynolds’, Justin Adams’ and Caroline Dale’s 2002 Ghostland album, trade aphorisms in ‘Simple Heart”.

With Mish Maoul (MNTCD 1038), released in April 2006, Atlas’ career came full circle to touch base with her roots.

The new album returned to the music she grew up hearing in the Moroccan suburb of Brussels, particularly when the Golden Sound Studio Orchestra of Cairo makes its entrance. It also reunited her again with Temple of Sound’s Nick Page (aka Count Dubulah), with whom she first worked in Transglobal Underground and who helped produce her very first solo album Diaspora.

 

Discography

Diaspora (Beggars Banquet/MCA, 1995)
Halim (Beggars Banquet, 1998)
Gedida (Mantra/Beggars Banquet, 1999)
The Remix Collection (Mantra/Beggars Banquet, 2000)
Ayeshteni (Mantra/Beggars Banquet, 2001)
Foretold in the Language of Dreams (2002)
Something Dangerous (Mantra/Beggars Banquet, 2003)
Best of Natacha Atlas (Mantra/Beggars Banquet, 2003)
Mish Maoul (Mantra/Beggars Banquet MNTCD 1038, 2006)
Ana Hina (World Village, 2008)
Mounqaliba, In a State of Reversal (Six Degrees 657036 1170 2 0, 2010)
Mounqaliba – Rising: The Remixes (Six Degrees Records, 2011)
Expressions: Live in Toulouse (Mazeeka Music, 2013)
Myriad Road (Decca, 2015)

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