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Written in fRoots issue 322, 2010

Los Espejos
Nano Stern Music NSM 003 (2009)


Own label, no number (2009)

As I first experienced a couple of summers ago at Viljandi festival in Estonia, where audiences flocked to his every appearance and venues had to be upsized, young Chilean Fernando “Nano” Stern is a live phenomenon,.
      I hadn’t expected to be so enthusiastic. “Oh yeah, another singer-guitarist”, I’d thought, scanning the festival programme. But this one’s special. Whether he’s inspiring young musicians as a mentor at Ethno camps, sitting in learning the traditions of others, charming a small audience or commanding big festival stages, musicality and communicative ability flow out of him. Back home in Chile he has a band, but for several years he’s also been travelling solo round Europe, meeting and playing with musicians as he went, and picking up whatever instrument needed playing – as well as being a fine guitarist he’s a good, wild fiddler, easily shifting to bass or newly-acquired Swedish sälgflöjt. Lately, solo and in duo shows with Slovenian puppeteer-accordionist and Ethno Histria organiser Matija Solce, he’s been having the same effect on Australian festivals as he did at Viljandi.
     Whether this would all come across from a CD to a listener who hasn’t seen him I can’t tell, but his latest album is a classy piece of work, made back home in Chile, Nano producing and playing acoustic and electric guitars, bass, violin, sälgflöjt and percussion joined by his band on piano, Hammond, flutes, sax, cello, bass and percussion. On gigs he mixes his own songs with occasionals from Victor Jara and other writers, but Los Espejos is all his own compositions, and they’re strong. To swingy, syncopating tunes reflecting a variety of South American and other forms, the lyrics (in Spanish, which even for non-understanders is a mellifluous singing language) muse largely on love and loss with poetic clarity and economy of words, and his singing is clear-eyed, direct and as fluently right as his playing.
     He’s only played a couple of small gigs in Britain, but doubt he’ll be back. Go see.

     www.nanostern.com, www.myspace.com/nanostern

     In Sweden, at an Ethno camp at Rättvik, Nano met guitarist Mattias Pérez, who has his own trio MP3 and is a member of the Outhouse Allstars and a guitarist of choice for Swedish roots musicians. He played on Los Espejos, and their duo instrumental album Otoñal is a an empathic, unflashy mix of their developments, on Nano’s nylon-strung guitar and Mattias’s 12-string, of largely traditional South American, Swedish, Norwegian and Estonian tunes, joined for a couple of tracks by Mattias’s fiddler wife Nina.


© 2010 Andrew Cronshaw

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