The Kings Singers
Beatrice Mayo Felip (chant), Patricio Hidalgo (chant, jarana), Pepe Habichuela (flamenco guitar), Lucilla Galeazzi (chant), Luciana Mancini (chant)
rec. February, April, August 2006, La Chapelle de l’Hopital Notre-Dame du Bon Secours, Paris
NAIVE V5188 [61.05]
This disc presents an exploration of the early and traditional music of Spain, Portugal and Latin America. It also aims to emphasise the similarities in these musical traditions that could point to a common source. As the booklet notes point out, rhythmic and harmonic parallels can be drawn, as well as those of instrumentation and blends of influence. One of the main countries the disc focuses on is Mexico. When conquered by Spain in the sixteenth century, Spanish music and instruments blended with the indigenous music and led to songs, melodies, stories and instruments that are still extant in Mexican traditional music today: such as the Fandango dance, the jacaras and the jaranas: the latter being a traditional guitar similar to baroque guitar.
The booklet notes are slightly uneven – they are very informative on some aspects. For example, we are given the legend of La Llorona in detail and there are notes on the Fandango and Jacaras. Other pieces are not mentioned or described at all, such as the rather charming instrumental piece La Dia Spagnola. Although there are words and photographs, the layout is rather dense and it all looks a little congested. Furthermore, the words stop at the 15th track, and there are no texts for any of the following songs – not good. There are full listings of instruments and sources but you’re still not quite sure who is who (as the photos are not captioned), or is doing what. One rather feels that the booklet lets the whole production down somewhat. Also why is the birth of the daughter of one the singers mentioned in the notes? This is a CD booklet, not the births, marriages and deaths announcement in a newspaper.
Los Impossibles commences with a negrillo from Portugal in which the words imitate criollo, the Portuguese spoken by Negros, which is in effect a mixture of different languages. This very colourful and well-performed work — lovely syncopations — is a strong opening to the disc, and raises the listener’s expectation; nor is one disappointed by what follows.
The other negrillo featured here is the rather fascinating Bastiao, which uses made-up words, the sounds of which imitate instruments or criollo. The disc also includes folksongs, such as jacaras, fandangos, purely instrumental episodes Villancico Catala, a very beautiful Catalonian folksong arranged for the Kings Singers. I much enjoyed Falalan — the tune of which will be familiar to the listener from Christmas music discs — and the ballad which presents the sad tale of La Llorona. The latter is here given an immensely powerful performance, full of raw emotion and passion. The disc finishes with the gentle Tantarantan, which makes quite a change from the previous rather boisterous and up-beat preceding works; it makes for a pleasantly calming conclusion.
We encounter high standards of performance throughout; very appropriate voices and instruments have been chosen and all the pieces work extremely well. I thoroughly enjoyed the music presented here, and just regret the fact that the booklet was not up to the standards of the music-making and the often thrilling works featured.
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Sa qui turo [3.45]
La Llorona [4.23]
La Petenera [4.26]
La Dia Spagnola [2.45]
Olvidate de mi [3.45]
La Lloroncita [2.23]
Villancico catalan [3.30]
El Baile [3.31]
El Guapo [3.02]