Catalan! Arts

Compilation CD World Music from Catalonia 2007
Compilation CD World Music from Catalonia 2007

Barcelona is the European capital of World Music of the moment. For years, the so-called “So Raval”, a district in the city centre turned into a haystack of mixed sounds and quality original proposals, has triumphed around Europe.

But the musical wealth of Catalonia does not end in the Raval. This is a particularly good time for La Garriga (the origins of La Troba KungFu), Girona, the lands of the Ebro river and the peripheral districts of Barcelona (where the rumba has found great successors in groups such as Barrio Negro and Talegueros), for example. And if we refer to music in Catalan, we must also count the contributions to World Music of performers and instrumentalists from València, such as Miquel Gil and Al Tall.

All of the mentioned names form part of the selection of 20 records that Philip Sweeney, an English music critic specialised in the genre, has made for the CD World Music from Catalonia 2007. A compilation that includes traditional song passed through a modern musical sieve, rumba, hip hop, bulerías and other flamenco styles performed by the young children of the working class outskirts of Barcelona, and dance songs and havaneras, all mixed between the many other styles that make up the rich variety of proposals that can now be heard in any corner of Catalonia.

This CD forms part of a series of four CDs intended to promote Catalan music internationally. The rest of the CDs are: Electronic Music from Catalonia 2007, Jazz from Catalonia 2007 and Pop Rock from Catalonia 2007.

If you want to listen to the tracks on this CD, click on the links below.

Benvinguts al paradís
Obrint Pas: “Malaguenya de Barxeta" (3.40)
CD: “Benvinguts al paradís”
Author: Obrint Pas

Given the great catalan brass band tradition, no compilation should be without an example of this great music, and Obrint Pas, normally a rock group, fulfil this requirement splendidly with a strange and wonderful concoction mixing the old song la malagueña with a wild circus-like mix of punching trombones, skirling pipes and voices.

Que levante el dedo
Peret: “La fama no me cambiará" (3.48)
CD: “Que levante el dedo”
Author: Celia Sánchez Mustich, Pedro Pubill “Peret”

Pedro Pubill, aka Peret, son of a gypsy family from Barcelona’s carrer de la Cera, has been through several regenerations since he became the first star of pop rumba in the sixties. An evangelist pastor in the seventies, he re-emerged into the spotlight as musical centrepiece of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. His latest record is a triumphal return to top form featuring items such as this lovely cuban guajira, with a typically incisive but droll lyric.

La música relaja a los presos
Talegueros: “Otra copa" (4.59)
CD: “La música relaja a los presos”
Author: Talegueros

An edgy introduction which could be straight from a Cuban clandestino production opens this piece of tough and exciting hip-hop, followed up by loping bass, good vocals and the ghost of Camarón wailing in the background, personified in fact by the group’s guitarist/vocalist Pakito.

Barrio Negro: “Pétalos y espinas" (5.01)
CD: “Báilame”
Author: Raúl Martín, Toni Martín

An extremely promising young duo, the brothers Toni and Raul Martin from the Barcelona barrio of El Carmel learnt their love of classic gypsy rumba from their Sevillean father. They handle a wider range of songs, however, including this terrific deep flamenco bulerías, full of powerful chords and an unusually well-designed bass part.

Tierra de calma
Miguel Poveda con Juan Carlos Romero: “Náufragos del hambre" (5.24)
CD: “Tierra de calma”
Author: José Luis Ortíz Nuevo

From his beginnings as one of the youngest prodigies of flamenco voice, Poveda has gone on to carve a reputation as one of Spain’s finest pure cante jondo singers, and this powerful deep soleá shows his art per-fectly.

Un que de tan llest és tonto i un que de tan tonto és llest
Estanislau Verdet: “M’agradaria ser un lemür" (4.12)
CD: “Un que de tan llest és tonto i un que de tan tonto és llest”
Author: Pau Vallvé

A curious and refreshing musical presence, calling to mind French artists as diverse as Jean-Louis Murat and the eccentric nouvelle chanson eminence Katerine. Despite strong opposition from his Ode to Fluimocil, apparently Sr. Verdet’s favourite prescription drug, the dreamy double-tracked allure of this conjunction of lemur and theremin wins the slot.

Jirones de mí
Saray: “Refugio en Aviñon" (3.52)
CD: “Jirones de mí”
Author: Saray, Manuel Hernández, Jacinto González

A Southern girl by birth, Saray learnt the art of flamenco in the Andalucian peñas of her adopted home, Catalunya, and gradually developed a stylistic mix of light flamenco pop. For this, her third record, she worked with a young Sevillean producer, Alberto Mira, who created a polished selection including bulerias and colombianas, ballads and dance grooves, typified by this song in memory of one of Saray’s heroes, Pablo Picasso.

Immigrasons: “Corrandes d’exili” (5.08)
CD: “Immigrasons”
Author: Joan Oliver “Pere Quart”, Ovidi Montllor

Supported by the cultural authorities in Catalunya and Buenos Aires, and the Mercat de Música Viva de Vic, the Immigrasons project gives musical expression to the experiences of Catalan immigrants to Argentina and Argentinians exiled in Spain. the striking arrangement and vocal by Silvia Perez Cruz constitute a fine example of Immigrasons’ artistic success.

Miquel Gil: “Gola ampla" (3.29)
CD: “Eixos”
Author: Miquel Gil, Traditional

Like the group al tall of which he was co-founder, Miquel Gil comes from València. since embarking on a solo career as a singer-songwriter, he has incorporated a whole range of Mediterranean styles, from Greek rembetika to his own cant Valencia, via Neapolitan and Mallorcan song. His latest CD contains contributions from guests such as Raül Rodríguez, son of Martirio, and the ubiquitous Joan Garriga. This song combines the traditional old Catalan garrotin form with a very contemporary lyric on the evils of the residential property spiral.

Vistas al mar
Marina Rossell: “El meu avi" (3.20)
CD: “Vistas al mar”
Author: José Luis Ortega Monasterio

One of the most distinguished revivalists of the nineteenth century habanera form, an early Hispano-Cuban forerunner of the tango and the danzón much associated with the port of Barcelona, with a swaying ode to a grandfather who fought and perished with the Spanish Navy in the colony.

Almasäla: “Habanera del adiós" (4.07)
CD: “Eolh”
Author: Paloma Povedano

If Marina Rossell’s habaneras have a restrainedly classical quality, this one, composed and performed by the group’s singer Paloma Povedano, has a rough vitality, aided by the smoky vocal, atmospheric palmas, driving string section, and the guest accordion of the ubiquitous Joan Garriga.

Vámonos de juerga
Daiba: “Zúmbale" (2.55)
CD: “Vámonos de juerga”
Author: Raúl Ibáñez “Biri”

For pure rumba spirit, look no further than the tightly meshed assem-blages of ventilador guitar, close formation palmas and voices which comprise the choruses on this track.

Barcelona Mondobeat: Nación Electrolatina
Barxino: “El detective del ritmo" (4.14)
CD: “Barcelona Mondobeat: Nación Electrolatina”
Author: Barxino

A beautiful piece of mood music, somewhere between a danzón and a bolero, by another group invoking in its name the charismatic red-light atmosphere of Barcelona’s Barri Xino district. The shimmering guitar, piano, insistent güiro and dark melody infuse the track with an opium-like languor.

Meritxell Naranjo: “Què volen aquesta gent" (4.23)
CD: “Cantautar”
Author: Lluís Serrahima, Maria del Mar Bonet

A rivetting performance by the singer Meritxell Naranjo of a song by the great Maria del Mar Bonet and Lluís Serrahima, aided by an equally fascinating arrangement for violin, a Cuban laud, guitars and muted musical percussion by Santi Noriega and Yuri Mykhaylychenko. From a CD of new versions of the classic Seventies singer/songwriters by a cast of younger artists.

Noh iha crisi
Canimas: “El desig d’entrar m’ofega" (3.47)
CD: “Noh iha crisi”
Author: Irene Tarrés Canimas, Eduard Canimas

Another highly distinctive voice, Eduard Canimas clothes his songs in a richly wrought instrumentation mixing Marc Ribot style electric guitar, skittish keyboards and a percussion section apparently including many of the Canimas family’s kitchen implements.

Dins la taifa
La Carrau: “Rumba del nord" (4.23)
CD: “Dins la taifa”
Author: Carol Durán

Finally, another enjoyable pop-rumba, an MP3 song-letter from a cold city of the North to a lover back in the musical warmth of Catalunya.

Política de verbena
Gertrudis: “El Nadal més tropical" (3.13)
CD: “Política de verbena”
Author: Gertrudis

The group which currently represents best the salsa side of Catalan rumba, with excellent percussion, exciting keyboard tumbaos, super-tight choruses, plus a violin, and on this track, a flute worthy of the best Cuban charangas.

Envit a vares
Al Tall: “Santa Goretti" (3.17)
CD: “Envit a vares”
Author: Vicent Torrent, Miguel Blanco

Al Tall has spent 3 decades recreating the historic music and instrumentation of Catalan tradition, from the old jotas to the Moorish forms of the Mediterranean coast. This eerie medieval-sounding piece is a rumba, but as far removed from Peret and Gertrudis as it’s possible to be.

Mirando el mundo al revés
Che Sudaka: “Arma dispuesta" (2.17)
CD: “Mirando el mundo al revés”
Author: Che Sudaka

An easy listening cocktail of nursery-rhyme songs spiced with Jamaican ragga toasting, Colombian cumbia marinera, revolutionary-sounding catch-phrases, sampled street sounds, strummed guitars – all elements pioneered with international success by their friend Manu Chao – make this group solid supporting players in the manu chao mestizo school of Barcelona.

Mirando el mundo al revés
La Troba Kung-Fú: “Bufa el vent" (3.49)
CD: “Mirando el mundo al revés”
Author: La Troba Kung-Fú

This is the new group of Joan Garriga, a talented accordionist and bandleader, and leading light of the new Barcelona roots rock elite. His previous group, Dusminguet, displayed true rumbero spirit, combined with a love for cumbia and vallenato, as well as influences from Morocco, Tennessee, and elsewhere. The new band has all the same strengths, as this rollicking dance number demonstrates.