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issue 31, 1986
MARIA DEL MAR BONET
Ariola-Eurodisc 1-206626 (1985)
Chansons Et Musiques Traditionnelles Du Quebec (Anthologie de la musique traditionnelle française, vol. 7)
Le Chant du Monde LDX 74759 (1985)
Vanstory VS 3638 (1985)
Le Pont De Bois
Le Chant du Monde LDX 74842 (1979)
Maria del Mar Bonet has for some time been extremely popular in the Balearics and Cataluña, and during the timespan represented by 13 albums her audience has spread around the Mediterranean, despite the fact that she sings in Catalan. (Presumably as European audiences can take popular music in one foreign language, English/American, so they can take it in another.)
Her vocal style is Iberian; think of perhaps Amália Rodriguez, Flora Purim, Lydia Mendoza and Judy Collins and you're in the right direction. Material is in part translation, part original, and part traditional. Accompaniments, on guitars, lutes, bouzoukis, mandolin and percussion, are by her regular colleagues Lautaro Rosas, Javier Mas and Jordi Rallo, joined by session musicians, and by Fethi Zhgonda's musicians from Tunis, who contribute to the pan-Mediterranean feel with qanun, nai, tar, violin and darbuca.
Maria del Mar Bonet is an international performer. Though she doesn't specifically present her own tradition, her style, language and material are strongly identified with her regional culture, and that makes her a valuable and interesting addition to the mainstream. With her Catalan she adds flavour, colour and intelligence to European popular music; with her status she enhances the image and standing of Catalan.
Chansons Et Musiques Traditionelles Du Quebec is the result of a collecting raid by 15 members of l'Association Le Bourdon on (mainly) the county of Beauce in Quebec in July 1970.
The collecting method appears to have been, to say the least, unsubtle and hasty. Three large villages were chosen by a native guide, and in each of these the team (just enough for a rugger side, strangely enough) stayed three days. On the first evening a petite féte' was held in the village hall at which members of the team performed and to which they invited local singers and musicians. The next two days were spent following up contacts made during the first evening.
The results of such a collectors' club outing are of course bound to be a part of what's there, and may well include valuable material. The result in this case is a record not bursting with great ethnic art, but not without value, particularly in giving a perspective on the French tradition, much as Appalachian collections give insights into British material, or Cape Breton into Gaelic. It's just that the method might well make a more sensitive modern folklorist throw in the Nagra.
If mariachi music appeals, the LP by Los Sabandenos might well. It isn't mariachi, but it has a strong mariachi atmosphere, energetic and fun. It's Canary Island popular music, as sung mainly at Christmas in the Basilica of Candelaria. No trumpets (apart from one note on what sounds like a hunting horn or conch); male lead vocal and chorus, accompanied by guitars, mandolins, lutes and exuberant rattling and thumping percussion.
Uña Ramos plays pan-pipes and flutes in the South American style, writes good tunes, some in the aforementioned idiom and some with French/ Latin influence, and is excellently accompanied on charangos, guitars and percussion by José Luis Castiniera de Dios and Narciso Omar Espinosa. The recording, made in France, is crystalline; the sleeve is one of my all-time favourites.
There's one thing I can't figure out, though. I know South American pipe and flute players tend to go for a pitch on the sharp side of the accompaniment, but Ramos pitches so sharp when playing flutes that listening becomes uncomfortable. His pan-pipes are fine, his technique is good, accompaniments are well in tune within themselves. It doesn't appear to be an accident; this is a glossy studio job, not a field recording.
Exit reviewer, puzzled.
© 1986 Andrew Cronshaw
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