Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Spanish double shot

Posted By on 01.31.07 at 01:15 PM

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Two radically different strains of Spanish music will be presented tomorrow night, February 1, at the Chicago Cultural Center. At 6 PM the Madrid-based group La Musgaña play their first Chicago date in more than a decade—they played the Old Town School back in 1995—working a style that’s got nothing to do with flamenco. On the recent Temas Profanos (Mad River) the group delivers an ancient sound that reflects Spain’s northern European roots,  combined with Moroccan elements. In northern regions like Galicia and Asturias certain Spanish groups play straight-up Celtic music, but La Musgaña work in the middle, sculpting melancholy melodies on accordion, bagpipes, and wooden flute over nimble electric bass lines (and sometimes jaunty hand percussion). The group isn’t overly concerned with purity, but they do manage to preserve an oft-ignored part of Spain’s rich musical heritage. That said, I have an almost irrational dislike of Celtic music, so don’t expect to see me down there.

At 7:30 the 22-year old flamenco dancer David Perez Almagro takes the stage joined by musicians from Seville’s La Union's annual Festival El Cante de las Minas. It’s one of the first events in this year’s Flamenco Festival 2007, which severely pales in comparison to the last few installments. Legendary guitar innovator Paco de Lucia plays Symphony Center on February 13, and France’s sorta-flamenco stars the Gipsy Kings play House of Blues the following two nights, but both acts were already on national tours. In the past the festival has presented more interesting cutting-edge, established, and upcoming acts: Esperanza Fernandez, Jose Merce, and Son de la Frontera. This year the schedule seems like it was an afterthought. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the lackluster programming follows the departure of Michael Orlove (from the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs) from helping to organize the festival.

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