La Orquestina del Fabirol
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La Orquestina del Fabirol
Sonifolk (

cd cover La Orquestina del Fabirol essays the dance music of the 19th and early 20th century Pyrenees, drawing on a handwritten notebook of violin transcriptions passed through three generations of a prominent musical family in Acumuer, a village of Alto Aragón. The group comprises a septet of voice, guitars, bass guitar, requinto, laúd (lute), salterio (small hammered dulcimer), diatonic and chromatic accordions, dulzaina (a medieval double-reed precursor of the oboe), gaita (double-reed bagpipe), whistles, acoustic bass, pandero (frame drum) and hand percussion, with guests on piano, violin, sax and zanfona (Galician hurdy gurdy).

Industrialization and the radio's advent brought new sounds to the Pyrenees (including the bolero, cha-cha-cha, guajira, habanera, mazurka, polka, schottische, foxtrot, tango and waltz), along with an influx of construction and railway workers. This work demonstrates that the process that informs world music is nothing new. Local bands quickly assimilated insurgent musical styles, in accord with local aesthetics and instrumentation, augmenting an evolving repertoire of local standards with new sounds, while maintaining the resonant, emblematic timbre of Basque vocal style.

"Tuesten" opens with a piano lead that is decidedly ragtime in character, punctuated with a brief scatted solo that introduces a bright clarinet-like lead on dulzaina with violin support. "Polca miseria" and "O tango'l dallo" anticipate the early French gypsy sound popularised by Django Reinhardt. "En un salon d'Acumuer" begins as a lethargic accordion habanera, but with the addition of dulzaina, Grappelli-like violin, percussion, and finally, saxophone, eases into a jazzy lope. "Romanze de o carrilano Quinón," a wry reflection on the changes wrought by the railroad's arrival, oscillates between a snappy 6/8 figure and a swaying cha-cha, punctuated with vocal interjections worthy of Perez Prado at his funkiest.

"Testamento de a tierra dolente" (testament of a suffering land) is a waltz that expresses the dour perspective of local working people. Counter to the compelling warmth of the vocal chorus, the lyrics convey the darker perspective embedded in these songs: "With acid thirst, history has paid me back... Be damned the silence of this cemetery where I hear the dead cry out... In all that swarm of corpses, shall there be no one who cries out for hunger and demands some bread?"

This is a subtly captivating recording whose musical and philosophical depth reveals itself only slowly, paradoxically combining a wistful remembrance of (and a certain melancholy for) things past with a readiness to embrace what the greater world has brought to a community undone in the process of social transformation, elegiac witness that the music of "world fusion" long predates current metropolitan tastes - Michael Stone

Listen to "Romanze de o carrilano Quinón"
(p)©2003 Sonifolk, Spain, used with their permission

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