Right now, Spain is hot...musicalmente!. For the past decade or so a new generation of Spanish musicians have been looking both inwards to flamenco and bolero traditions, outwards to the music of the Latin Caribbean, especially Cuba and Mexico, and beyond to other sounds that reek of teen spirit the world over; hip hop, ska, punk, thrash, dub, reggae and rock 'n' roll.
For those who deal in labels, it's a style sometimes called 'mestizo'. In the wake of adoptive Spaniard Manu Chao and bands like Ojos de Brujo or Macaco comes Amparanoia, a pure blood mestizo project, lead by the charismatic Amparo Mercedes Sanchez. She cut her teeth with groups like Correcaminos (Roadrunners) and The Gang on the blues and rock scene of her native Granada, before moving north to Madrid in the mid 1990s. It was in the capital city's eclectic and polyglot neighbourhoods of Malasana and Lavapies that the future sound of Spain was nurtured, courtesy of endless jam sessions and all night parties. The area was like a cultural blender, into which political radicalism, youthful energy and all the musical styles that makes 'mestizo' such a magnetic proposition were chucked and then mashed up.
After treading the boards of clubs, bars and cafes in the capital, Amparo and her crew released a debut album, "El Poder de Machin", on the Edel label and followed it with a hi-octane collaboration with various Basque rock and punk musicians called "Feria Furiosa". A trip to Mexico in 2000 brought Amparo under the spell of the Zapatista movement and she has been a fervent supporter and proselytiser ever since. On her return from trips to Mexico and Cuba, Amparanoia teamed up with Beto Bedoya from Macaco and Eldys 'Muneco' Isak from Ojos de Brujo to form the La Realildad Soundsystem, which toured Spain and shocked the nation with it's overtly political edge and hedonistic sprit. Mestizo was officially out of the closet.
Meanwhile records by all these bands started to sell by the container load in Spain, and abroad. Amparanoia hit the international gig and festival circuit and signed to Virgin / EMI in the UK. A compilation of Amparanoia's greatest moments to date, entitled "Rebeldia con Alegria", was released throughout Europe and the band performed recently at the Royal Albert Hall with friends and fellow travellers Calexico. A subsequent tour was derailed by tragedy however, when piano player Caridad Borges was killed in a car accident in Camaguey, Cuba in October 2004. Her husand Jose Alberto Varona, Amparanoia's trumpet player, and her daughter Carirosa were both injured in the crash.
This doesn't spell the end however. Their tour of the UK has merely be postponed and if there was ever a crew with the courage and determination to overcome such a massive blow, it's Amparanoia. Theirs is the sound of modern Spain...eclectic, raucous, conscious, defiant and rhumbamentally entertaining!
Ivan Chrysler (courtesy of fRoots)