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Byron Shire
April 21, 2021

The gypsy music within

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Mandy Nolan

Ku Promotions present an evening of Catalonian and Gypsy music with Woodford favourites Baix Empordà. The Duo spoke with The Echo about their unique act.

Can you tell me what it is about Catalonian and Gypsy music that you find so compelling?

We have put these two styles of music together in the one gig because we think that they bring two different aspects of folk music that are connected in the scene of Spanish tradition. The Gypsies arrived through the migration routes and settled in the south of Spain; they came with their music, which, merging with the musical influences from the moors that had settled in Spain at the time, developed into what we nowadays call flamenco. There is a rich history of musical influences all through Europe, and we believe that in bringing both styles together we pay homage to the confluence of these styles through the history of humanity.

The compelling part of the Catalan music we are bringing to the mix is the romantic and sentimental way in which it tells a story of customs, tradition, and aspects of human life that never get outdated. Gypsy music brings along exotic rhythms and melodies, with clever musical arrangements, that have an infectious energy and seem to be innately created to celebrate in festive ways the coming together of people around the camp fire.

What are the major themes that you deal with in the music?

The songs that we bring from the northeast coast of Spain are mostly love songs, which tell a story of unrequited love, of exile, of nostalgic memories of lands and people left behind, memories of exotic sceneries, and longing for re-encounter with the land and their people. There are also some songs that tell the story of how life was lived back in the early 1900s, with touches of humour expressed through the lyrics, but captured by the music itself in lovely musical narratives.

The songs speak of customs and traditions that are currently almost lost, taking us back to other times, when romance and broken-heartedness was the main theme for popular songs.

As a father / daughter act you are unique! How did you come to be playing together? How does it bring you closer?

I started singing these songs when I was in my mother’s womb, as she was already part of those original cantadas too. The musical backdrop of my childhood is basically these habaneras and tavern songs, and they coloured every scenery, every encounter with friends and family, as we would always end at up dinner parties with the guitar and singing two–three-part harmonies till late at night. I grew up and moved on from that scene, going on to learn how to play the piano professionally in the conservatory, moving more towards the classical world, and forgetting a bit about the tradition of the habaneras.

This journey eventually brought me to Australia, to train as a music therapist, and it was here that I found a great violin player, Moshlo, who fell in love with the songs and suggested we play them in an unprecedented arrangement of vocal, guitar and violin. We produced a CD, which I was very proud to present to my father in one of my family visits to Spain, and that got the ball rolling again, so that the following two years after that we sang at different cantadas in the Costa Brava, and we managed to get an invitation to perform those at Woodford last year and this year again, with a very warm response both from audience and organisers. Music was the beginning of our life together, and after a long break, it has brought us back together in more ways than one.

How do audiences respond to the music and the stories?

The feedback we get from the audience is extremely warm and appreciative. It is the combination of the uniqueness of the tunes, the harmonies, the way our voices merge with each other, the chemistry of father/daughter on stage, the stories that go along with the songs, the context of the past that transpires through the music and stories into the present moment, and the sense that the show is a little bit of history in the making; all these factors put together add up and make of the performance a very compelling and evocative event that bring lovely emotions of encounter and connection.

Why do you think we still have such resonance with the music?

Hearing my father sing these songs is a bit like going back to the source… the sound is very authentic. Simple. Pure. It is derived from sophistication and pretension. Simple melodies and harmonies but at the same time very evocative and exotic… the fact of not understanding the lyrics has never seemed to be an issue with any of the audiences as the music seems to speak for itself, capturing emotion and evoking so many of those basic human experiences such as longing, nostalgia, love, broken-heartedness, joy of the encounter, saying goodbye…

What should we expect for your local show? 

We like to think you’d come out feeling inspired, touched, with a sense of having travelled across the globe through music, captivated by the sweet melodies to begin with, during the first bracket of songs (with Baix Empordà), followed by a bracket of Spanish tunes backed by the lively and skilful music of the Romaniacs, and followed by an energising and festive bracket of gypsy tunes that one cannot listen to without getting up and dancing. The combination of these two styles of music promises a night out with a lot of variety and appealing to people of all ages and backgrounds. It’s a not-to-be-missed night if you are around Byron Shire on the night.

They are joined by The Romaniacs at Coorabell Hall on Saturday.

Tix are $25 presale or $30 at the door and are available
at kupromtions.com.au/?p=1518.


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