Tag Archives: Spanish music

Galician Land of Dreams

Fuxan Os Ventos - Terra De Soños
Fuxan Os Ventos – Terra De Soños

Fuxan Os Ventos Terra De Soños (Fol Musica, 2016)

This is a special re-edition of the Fuxan Os Ventos’ album originally released in 2009. This release of Terra De Soños includes a beautifully packaged hard cover book, a music CD and a DVD featuring the live performance and additional information about the band.

Terra De Soños showcases the work of one of the most veteran and influential Galician folk music bands in the past decades. In this case, the band got back together after 20 years and invited well-known Galician musicians to join them on stage in Santiago de Compostela (Spain).

Fuxan Os Ventos’ music features beautiful vocal work featuring several vocalists, zanfona (hurdy gurdy), guitars, flutes, gaita (bagpipe) and percussion.
Although the Fuxan Os Ventos lineup has changed throughout the years, the band members that appeared on Terra De Soños include Carmen Vázquez on vocals; Tereixa Novo on vocals; Xoán Fuertes on violin, bouzouki, guitar, and vocals; Alfonso Fernández on vocals; Maruxa Fociños on vocals; Moncho Díaz on guitar, flutes, vocals; Antón Castro on mandolin, zanfonas, ocarina, and vocals; Xosé Vázquez on traditional percussion and vocals; and Pedro Lucas on gaitas, flutes, ocarina, and vocals.

Fuxan Os Ventos was supported by a band featuring Xose Lois Romero as musical director, on accordion and traditional percussion; Simón García on acoustic bass; Benxamín Otero on oboe and English horn; Guillerme Fernández on guitar; and Roi Adrio on percussion.

The Cuarteto Saiva Nova also participated in the concert with Fernando do Campo on concertino; Iván Novo on violín; Sergio Sieiro on viola; and Rosalía Vázquez on cello.

Additional guests: Mercedes Peón on tambourine and vocals; Pepe Ferreirós on gaita, uilleann pipes and tambourine; Uxía on vocals; dancers Vicente and Jaime of Nova Galega de Danza; Guadi Galego on vocals; Rodrigo Romaní on harp; Sabela Rodríguez on spoken word; Xabier Díaz on vocals; and Miguel Lustres on accordion.

Fuxan os Ventos, also known as Fuxan, was founded in 1972 in Lugo, combining traditional song and dance with new compositions. They sing in Galician and their lyrics celebrate Galician traditional culture. Their repertoire includes songs about women, love, smugglers, blind men songs, clothes washer songs, seamstress songs, knife sharpener songs, etc.

Terra De Soños is a splendid recording by an essential Galician folk music band.

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Tradition and Getting Around it

Being a self-styled traditionalist doesn’t mean my musical tastes are so staunch that I shun any sonic adventurousness that steps over traditional boundaries. Cross the line into an over-reliance on gimmickry (which can take the form of too much technology or pop pandering for commercial purposes), and you’ve lost me. Taking chances by mixing traditions or styles in ways that leave musical integrity unscathed? You’ve got my attention.

 

Aziza Brahim - Abbar el Hamada
Aziza Brahim – Abbar el Hamada

 

Aziza Brahim, a Sahrawi woman who was born in an Algerian refugee camp as the war over the Western Sahara region was raging, doesn’t exactly go in for traditional Sahrawi music on Abbar el Hamada (Glitter Beat, 2016). Having lived and studied in Cuba and currently a citizen of Spain, some of her songs have an expected, and very welcome, Iberian and Latin edge. She even sings in Spanish for much of the album, the title of which refers to rocky desert landscapes and subject-wise deals with activist concerns like the ongoing plight of the Sahrawi.

The disc also digs into a measure of the “desert blues” sound that many Saharan musicians have become known for, as well as a few galloping rhythms that suggest a more laid back version of Senegalese m’balax (which has always had its own Latin flavors).

 

 

Brahim isn’t as frequent in her use of wailing, undulating tones as a lot singers with Arabic roots tend to be. Her approach is more pensive, but she sharpens her tone when needed, and partly because she also plays the bowl-shaped tbal drum while she sings, her voice fits the grooves as naturally as the grooves themselves, be they acoustic or electric. A stunning release all around.

 

Ana Alcaide - Leyenda
Ana Alcaide – Leyenda

 

She’s already a groundbreaker for use of the Swedish nyckelharpa (keyed viola) in the music of her native Spain, and now Ana Alcaide takes things a few steps further with Leyenda- World Music Inspired by Feminine Legends (ARC Music, 2016). Female folkloric characters from various cultures (including Spain, Mexico, China, Scotland and Alcaide’s own imagination) are celebrated in songs that range from lullaby-like softness to ritualistic and pulsating.

Nyckelharpa, baroque guitars and bouzouki are sweetened with other strings, reeds, percussion and celestial production values that surround Alcaide’s gracefully penetrating vocals and construct a pair of instrumentals that seem to tell otherworldly tales without any words at all. This is music that could serve as a soundtrack for any ancient or modern fantasy worth conjuring, or bring about just enough of a dream state to take you blissfully away from reality for a while. Either way, it’s stunning.

 

Money Chicha - Echo En Mexico
Money Chicha – Echo En Mexico

 

Chicha, the Peruvian-originated, organ-tweaked, fuzz guitar-laden psychedelic style of music with similarities to Colombian cumbia and Jamaican dub, continues on its revival path courtesy of Austin-based band Money Chicha. Their debut album Echo En Mexico (Vampisoul, 2016) is an irresistibly throbbing beat fest where unyielding layers of Latin percussion support keyboards, guitars and bass that are as trippy in their wall of sound as they are intertwined in their tightness. And tightness is indeed the key.

The chicha sound is one that must not lag in its skipping rhythms or spot-on melodic mesh that weighs in somewhere between surf rock, alternative Latin, Andean tradition, the ghost of Arsenio Rodriguez and music that simply wouldn’t appeal to polite society in Lima, Bogota or, well, Austin. Money Chicha go their own way by eliminating vocals entirely and giving the tracks a subtle funk push with a little extra breathing room among the instruments, resulting in a disc that satisfies to the frenzied max.

 

Nii Okai Tagoe - West to West
Nii Okai Tagoe – West to West

 

Lovers of African drumming and African music in general will happily tune in to West to West (ARC Music, 2016) by Nii Okai Tagoe. He’s a master of many a drum and percussion instrument affiliated with the Motherland and treads a beaten (beating?) path away from tradition by lacing his danceable pieces with horns, keyboards, violin, harp, bass and guitar.

Some unexpected turns are taken with arrangements as well, such as the blues sway of “3 Monkeys.” Not surprising for a gent who’s played with outfits as diverse as Baka Beyond and African Head Charge. This sort of thing has been done before, but Tagoe certainly does it spot-on.

 

Baird Hersey & Prana with Nexus - Chiaroscuro
Baird Hersey & Prana with Nexus – Chiaroscuro

 

A very different take on percussion and its relationship to the human voice can be heard on Chiaroscuro (Bent Records, 2016) a collaboration involving Baird Hersey & Prana with Nexus. Nexus is a virtuosic percussion ensemble; Prana is a group of singers who all specialize in singing two pitches simultaneously. That dual pitch knack helped inspire Garry Kvistad of Nexus to invent the vistaphone, four octaves worth of chimes gathered into one instrument and the perfect companion to the harmonic series scale of notes that the singers use to achieve their second level of vocal prowess.

The grandiosely-titled tracks on the album (“The Rituals of Dusk,” A Crown of Radiant Fire,” etc.) combine orchestral drums, gongs, glockenspiel, marimba, vibraphone, xylophone, voices and the debuting vistaphone to create music that I can only describe as equal parts refined and primal, rhythmic and atmospheric, structured and seemingly spontaneous, eerie and comforting, earthy and not of this earth. Repeating patterns of percussion and wordless voices ascend to mesmerizing heights and hover there, exploring in sonic terms the disc’s titular concept of light and dark contrasting yet harmonizing.

The three concluding compositions (including a mind-and-ear-altering Balinese monkey chant) are voices unaccompanied and lose nothing in the absence of their percussive counterparts. So is this disc the pinnacle of traditional music, the complete lack of it or something else altogether? Get it and decide for yourself. And prepare to be spellbound.

 

9Bach Anian
9Bach – Anian

 

I don’t know a great deal about traditional Welsh music and thus can’t say how closely 9Bach adheres to it with their latest release, Anian (Real World, 2016). But I am quite taken with the shimmery emotiveness of singer/pianist/composer/lyricist Lisa Jen’s lead vocals, as well as the sparse yet very sturdy support her bandmates offer on guitar, bass, percussion, harp, hammer dulcimer and harmonies.

 

 

While some of the instruments used reportedly stray from tradition, the end result is a perfect fit, with modern production adding a kind of cool mist to softly enveloping music that often has a melancholy, longing feel offset by pure beauty. Anian is one to savor repeatedly.

There’s also a bonus disc, Yn Dy Lais (In Your Voice), that features Welsh-influenced poetry and storytelling rendered in English by the likes of Peter Gabriel and Rhys Ifans. It’s meant to make the nuances of the Welsh language more accessibly artsy and is worth a listen, but the lovely sounds on the first disc are the true reason to get this album.

 

Roddie Romero and the Hub City All-Stars - Gulfstream
Roddie Romero and the Hub City All-Stars – Gulfstream

 

A world away but still bringing tradition to a different level, Roddie Romero and the Hub City All-Stars take music with roots as old as the Louisiana bayou itself and jolt it full of rock, soul, blues, zydeco and funk energy. Gulfstream (Octavia Records, 2016) is a swampy, sultry, swaggering, sizzling slab of deep-south musical gumbo that will delight anyone who loves the celebratory sounds of New Orleans and Lafayette and appreciates the need to cool down for a ballad like the Aaron Neville-ish title track. It’s a party, albeit from the heart.

 

Richard Bona - Heritage
Richard Bona – Heritage

 

Richard Bona, the “African Sting,” melds his smooth Cameroonian roots music with the sounds of Afro-Cuban band Mandekan Cubano on Heritage (Qwest Records, 2016). African and Latin musical traditions have been best friends for a long, long time thanks to their shared origins, and Mandekan Cubano’s piano, dual percussion, trumpet and trombone lineup expertly underpins Bona’s joyous salsa-infused numbers and his softer side. Primarily a bassist but adept on numerous instruments, Bona adds unexpected touches like electric sitar to the range of Afro-Latin delights that comprise a very fine release.

 

Luisa Maita - Fio da Memoria
Luisa Maita – Fio da Memoria

 

Brazilian music, a familiar world staple for decades, has more recently been fused with electronica to degrees that some traditionalists have accepted and others rejected. Put me in the former category. It’s telling that Luisa Maita waited six years since her first album to put out a followup; perhaps she wanted to see how the Brazilian/electronica scene would play out in the interim. Her sophomore release Fio da Memoria (Cumbancha, 2016) has the breathy, sensual feel that’s nearly a given when it comes to female Brazilian singers, and the tunes roll out on a foundation of grooves rooted in samba, even if they’re not always rendered on organic instruments.

Maita’s steamy sentiments translate well, as the sung-in-English “Around You” demonstrates, and she’s got some stories of substance to tell, like “Na Asa,” a musical tale of dreams realized. Fio da Memoria is a keeper for sure, but Maita’s vocal mix of subtle and searing would benefit even more from backing that likewise balances real and electronic sounds equally.

 

Various Artists - The Rough Guide to Ethiopian Jazz
Various Artists – The Rough Guide to Ethiopian Jazz

 

If you need a reminder of how well traditional Ethiopian music meshes with jazz, The Rough Guide to Ethiopian Jazz (World Music Network, 2016) will handily serve. Trailblazer Mulatu Astatke kicks off with the horn-heavy proclaiming of “Gamo” and things jump ever further back into the Swinging Addis feel of the 60s and 70s from there.

While at only 9 tracks the collection can’t cover the whole spectrum, what you get is choice. Serpentine instrumentals are the bulk of it, including NYC’s Budos Band providing impressive overseas translation of the sound, but the soulful vocal thrills of Tlahoun Gessesse and Gabriella Ghermandi show just how large a role male and female voices also played (and play) on the scene. A superb sampler.

headline photo: Richard Bona

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Suitcases Express Iberian Music Tales

Kepa Junkera & Sorginak – Maletak (Fol, 2016)

Accordion player Kepa Junkera and his regular companions Sorginak have released one of Kepa’s finest albums in years. Although Kepa Junkera is still known as a virtuoso’s accordionist, he’s also taken an interest in percussion and plays a wide range of percussion instruments. He’s joined by the all-female ensemble Sorginak, who sing and play frame drums.

Maletak (suitcase) makes reference to the old accordion cases Kepa kept in a loft that reminded him of his numerous travels. On this occasion, Kepa and his colleagues explore the folk music and rhythms of the various regions of Spain.

The regions covered include the Basque Country, Castile and Leon, Catalonia, Aragon, Cantabria, Galicia, Castile La Mancha, Asturias and Extremadura. Even though Kepa has composed all the music, he adds more authenticity to the project by bringing in an impressive list of guest musicians representing various folk music traditions.

Kepa follows the lead of Spanish folk music innovator Eliseo Parra, who appears as guest on the album. Parra has been exploring the folk music of the Iberian Peninsula and has reintroduced dozens of traditional musical instruments and rhythms.

As indicated earlier, the album features extensive use of percussion, especially frame drums along with the accordion, Spanish guitars, zanfona (hurdy gurdy), gaita (bagpipe), horns along with many guest vocalists and vocal ensembles.

The guest vocalists include Sorginak, Ion Elustondo, Beloki, Imanol Urkizu, Xabi Solano, Eliseo Parra, Gritsanda, Amadeu Rosell, Guillem Ballaz, Beatriz Bernard, Rocio Sapiña, Lourdes Escusol, Xabier Diaz, Adufeiras de Salitre, La Ronda de Motilleja, Hermanos Cubero, Pandereteras de Fitoria, Acetre, Amigos de Extremadura, and Olga y los Ministriles.

The extraordinary ensemble of musicians includes Kepa Junkera on accordions and percussion; Sorginak on percussion; Daniel Do Pando on trompa; Ibon Koteron on alboka; Oreka TX on chalaparta; Jose Luis Montón on guitar; Josete Ordoñez on guitar; Antonio Serrano on harmonica; Diego Galaz on fiddle and mandolin; Germán Diaz on zanfona (hurdy gurdy) and Pedro Lamas on saxophone and bagpipe.

Kepa Junkera’s album design always attracts attention. The beautifully packaged CD contains a large horizontal 24-page booklet with lyrics, photographs by Igotz Ziarreta and Santi Yaniz, and a set of 10 cards that are pieces of a jigsaw puzzle developed by Rober Garay and Alberto Palomera.

Maletak is a beautifully-crafted music project by a talented and diverse group of musicians that illustrates the rich diversity of Spanish folk music. Highly recommended.

Buy Maletak in the Americas

Buy Maletak in Europe

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Flamenco Guitar Sensation Amós Lora to Perform Today in Madrid

Young flamenco guitarist Amós Lora, one of the best guitarists of his generation, will perform today, July 21 as part of the Estío concerts in Auditorio Conde Duque, Madrid. Lora Amos will present his new album, Así lo veo, at 20:00 (8:00 p.m.).

Amos Lora’s band for tonight includes José Carmona “Rapico” (dance), Rafiki Jiménez (vocals), Luis Miguel Manzano (guitar), Luis Guerra (piano), Reinier Elizarde “El Negron” (bass) and Manu Masaedo (percussion ).

Amos Lora (born September 21, 1999) was taught by masters such as Diego del Morao, Manuel Parrilla, Paquete, David Cerreduela, Carlos de Jacoba, Tomatito and El Entri.

He’s a young performer who fell in love with and since 2013 has been studying at Madrid’s prestigious Ateneo Jazz Madrid school under the guidance of Felix Santos.

Amos Lora has performed at major festivals and venues inside and outside of Spain, including Guitar across the Stylesin Prague; Zagreb Summer Festival; Mont de Marçan Flamenco Festival; Lisbon Flamenco Festival; and this year, at the Istanbul International Guitar Festival.

Lora regularly participates in charity events by the Spanish Red Cross and other organizations such as the “Quejío Solidario” festival in Seville and “Flamenco P’atós” in Madrid.

In 2012 he released his first album, Cerro negro (Nuba Records) and was also included in the Flamenco Guitar (Rough Guide, 2014) compilation.

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Old Time Music Traditions of Castilla-La Mancha

Vigüela - Temperamento - Traditional Music from Spain
Vigüela – Temperamento – Traditional Music from Spain
(Arc Music EUCD2635, 2016)

Spanish folk music band Vigüela specializes in traditional music from the Castilla-La Mancha region. Unlike other Spanish groups who have modernized folk music with new arrangements, Vigüela present traditional music old style.

The band’s lively repertoire includes various song and dance styles such as malagueñas, rondeñas, cantares de esquileo (shearing songs), fandangos from La Mancha, wedding songs, tonadas de segadores (harvest songs), seguidillas, jotas and more.

The lineup includes:

Carmen Torres Delgado on vocals, castañuelas (castanets), botella de anís (anise bottle), sartén con cuchara (pan and spoon), varas de varear (split cane clappers), piedras (stones), panderetas (tambourines), almireces (mortars) and palmas (hand clap percussion).

María del Rosario Nieto Palomo on vocals, almireces, panderetas, varas de varear, stones, tijeras de esquilador (shearing scissors), and palmas.

Pablo Garro Delgado on vocals, laúd (lute), bandurria, guitar, botella de anís (anise bottle), harnero con dediles de caña (large wire sieve), galdarras (cowbells) and palmas.

Elena Pérez Fernández on vocals, bandurria, rabel (rebec), triangle, almirez, varas de varear (split cane clappers), stones, frame drums, and palmas.

Juan Antonio Torres Delgado on vocals, rabel de vejiga (bladder rebec), rabel de piel (skin rebec ), guitar, zambomba (friction drum), harnero con dediles de caña (large wire sieve), media fanega (wooden half bushel), pandera de piel de cabra, pandero de piel de cordero (goat skin frame drum), almirez (mortar) and palmas.

The CD booklet contains photos and extensive liner notes in English and Spanish.

Temperamento is a fabulous introduction to the folk music of Castilla-La Mancha in southern Castile, the land of Don Quixote, windmills and red wine.

Buy Temperamento – Traditional Music from Spain in the Americas

Buy Temperamento – Traditional Music from Spain in Europe

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Music Inspired By Legends and Mythologies of Female Beings

Ana Alcaide – Leyenda (ARC Music EUCD2647, 2016)

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.

Buy Leyenda

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Artist Profiles: Acetre

Acetre
Acetre
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.

Discography:

Extremadura en la frontera (1999)
Ramapalla (1987)
Acetre (1989)
De malteseria (1994)
Canto de gamusinos (1999)
Barrunto (2003)
Dehesario (2007)
Arquitecturas Rayanas (Nuba Records/Karonte 2011)
Edipo Rey, soundtrack (2015)

http://www.acetre.com/

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The Diverse Sounds of Iberia and Cuba at EXIB 2016 Day 2 Showcases

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 at EXIB 2016 - Photo by Angel Romero
Lara Bello at EXIB 2016 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

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).

 

Jaqueline at EXIB 2016 - Photo by Angel Romero
Jaqueline at EXIB 2016 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

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.

 

Praça do Giraldo audience at EXIB 2016 - Photo by Angel Romero
Praça do Giraldo audience at EXIB 2016 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

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.

 

Paulo Ferreira on Portuguese guitar at EXIB 2016 - Photo by Angel Romero
Paulo Ferreira on Portuguese guitar at EXIB 2016 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Jerónimo Mendes on fado guitar at EXIB 2016 - Photo by Angel Romero
Jerónimo Mendes on fado guitar at EXIB 2016 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

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”.

 

Mel Semé at EXIB 2016 - Photo by Angel Romero
Mel Semé at EXIB 2016 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

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”.

 

Projeto Alma - Photo courtesy of EXIB 2016
Projeto Alma – Photo courtesy of EXIB 2016

 

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.

 

La Corrala at EXIB 2016 - Photo by Angel Romero
La Corrala at EXIB 2016 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

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.

Related articles:

The Passionate Music of Alentejo, the Focus of EXIB 2016 Opening Concert

Three Continents Represented at EXIB 2016 Day 1 Showcases

Related links:

Lara Bello
Mel Semé
Projeto Alma
La Corrala

Headline photo: Lara Bello, David Minguillón and David Gadea at EXIB 2016 – Photo by Angel Romero

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Sketches of Spain

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.

 

Davide Salvado - Lobos
Davide Salvado – Lobos

 

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.

 

Cristina Pato, Davide Salvado, Anxo Pintos, Roberto Comesaña - Rustica
Cristina Pato, Davide Salvado, Anxo Pintos, Roberto Comesaña – Rustica

 

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.

 

La Banda Morisca - Algarabiya
La Banda Morisca – Algarabiya

 

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.

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A Musical Pangea

Ana Alcaide and Gotrasawala ensemble -  Tales of Pangea
Ana Alcaide and Gotrasawala ensemble –
Tales of Pangea
Ana Alcaide & Gotrasawala Ensemble

Tales of Pangea (ARC Music EUCD 2601, 2015)

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.

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