Chango Spasiuk - Sounds from the Red Land
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Chango Spasiuk
Tarefero de mis pagos - Sounds from the Red Land
Piranha (

cd cover Wherever nineteenth-century European immigrants converged in the Americas, the accordion always followed. Argentina welcomed more than its share of players from Italy, Germany and Eastern Europe, and as elsewhere, the accordion-based dance music that evolved reflects a hybrid meld of local influences. In northeastern Argentina's Misiones region, bordering with Brazil, along with accordion and bandoneón, those influences include Spanish and Portuguese guitar, African percussive traditions, and the music of the indigenous Guaraní, historically organized into missions by the Jesuits, who made singing and music education major elements of their work.

Accordionist Chango Spasiuk's Ukrainian grandparents immigrated to Argentina at the end of the nineteenth century, bringing with them the accordion, violin and double bass sound and dances of Eastern Europe, most notably the schottische, polka and waltz. The resulting fusion is chamamé (a Guaraní term for a dance done lightheartedly, but also translated in Spanish as enramada, a leafy bower or sunshade to protect against the tropical sun, indeed, a place for entertainment and repose). Chamamé is a sprightly 6/8 genre first identified in print in the early nineteenth century; as with other forms noted before the advent of recording technology, not much is known about how the music changed in the ensuing century before the first chamamé 78 was released by RCA in Buenos Aires in 1930.

Overshadowed by tango's international status, chamamé is not widely known outside Argentina, where Spasiuk is a leading contemporary exponent and innovator, having learned from his father and uncle. He blew away the cogniscenti at the Rotterdam World Music Expo in 2001, and has become a favorite on the European circuit, reflected in his recent selection as a BBC Radio 3 Awards winner in the "World Music Newcomer" category. A gifted and profoundly expressive performer, Spasiuk taps into a higher animating spirit; he plays like a man possessed, visibly transported by the affecting swirl of sound that emanates from his enchanted squeezebox. In some ways, Tex-Mex accordion madman Esteban Jordan comes to mind, but Spasiuk's rapt, dervish-like stage presence broadcasts a grounded music of great beauty and feeling, quite antithetical to the compelling musical chaos born of Jordan's troubled personal trajectory.

Spasiuk has released a half dozen of Argentine titles, but Tarefero de mis pagos (in homage to the maté harvesters of Misiones) is only his second European outing. The Charm of Chamamé, released by Weltwunder in 2003, cherry picks from his Argentine releases, including a notable collaboration with Mercedes Sosa. Tarefero was recorded in Buenos Aires in July 2004; superbly backing Spasiuk are Juan Núñez (bandoneón), Victor Renaudeau (violin), Marcos Núñez (guitar), Sebastian Villalba (guitar, vocals), Juan Pablo Navarro (bass), Chacho Ruiz Guiñazú (Peruvian cajón, berimbau, assorted percussion), Marcos Villalba (Peruvian cajón), and various guests. Simply said, this richly textured music has the power to possess the beholder, wringing the last ounce of sentient passion from performer and audience alike. Without pretense or affectation Tarefero articulates a certain dark melancholy, so much a part of Argentine history, and yet, sustains a sense of optimism before the tragic destination of all human endeavors. This is an exquisite recording that will speak profoundly to anyone who finds hope in the tenacious spirit of the global south to which we all increasingly belong. - Michael Stone

CD available from cdRoots

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