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Susana Seivane
Dende O Meu Balcón

Artist release, digital only (
Review by Andrew Cronshaw

Listen "Muiñeira de Armenteira" (excerpt)

Twenty-one years ago I reviewed Galician gaiteira (bagpiper) Susana Seivane’s first album, a sparkling production of arrangements in which she was accompanied by a bunch of leading musicians in the upsurge of energy in Galician traditional music. That had gained encouragement from the musics and musicians of Ireland and Scotland, but has a different and distinctive form of melodiousness and rhythms. A band and further albums followed which, while featuring fine young Galician women singers such as Sonia Lebeynski and Guadi Galego, increasingly brought out Seivane’s own singing.

A woman playing gaitas had previously been a rarity, but Seivane was part of a burgeoning group of women players, and in her case it was less surprising, as her father and grandfather were well-known gaita makers and so she was surrounded by players and the music throughout her childhood.

Soon after the release of that first album, interviewing her for a cover feature for fRoots magazine gave me the opportunity to go back to Galicia, a land that’s been a big influence on my own perceptions of traditional music, ever since in my late teens on a trip there I’d first encountered an obviously living musical tradition. During the local Fiestas del Monte, in the streets and bars of the village of A Guarda, and up on the nearby Monte Santa Tecla overlooking the River Minho, I heard groups of gaiteiros, drummers and singers, a thrilling sound of skirling pipes, sometimes harmonising, driven by thudding bombo (bass drum), the rat-tat-tat of tamboril (deep, skin-headed snare drum, rope-tensioned like the bombo), the shuffle-rattle of pandeireta (tambourine) and the chik-a-chik of abrading cunchas (scallop shells), with the gathered company bursting into spirited vocals.

Listen "Rumba de Ons" (excerpt)

For this, her sixth album Dende O Meu Balcón (‘From My Balcony’), Seivane has returned to those roots, in classic tunes and songs, with the raw gaitas and percussion and strong melodies that so stir me still.

The tunes she’s chosen are memorable classics, over fifty of them in the twenty tracks. They’re mostly traditional but include recent additions to its living corpus. They come from the repertoires of Ricardo Portela, Herme, Moxenas, Muxicas, Os Morenos de Lavadores, Os Campaneiros de Vilagarcía, Marcos Castro, Pepe Romero, Suso Vaamonde and more. Largely grouped as suites, they include 6/8 muiñeiras, pasodobles, foliadas, the occasional polca, chouteira, xota, march, rumba, slow alalá, the universal, stately “Himno Galego”, and songs.

Listen "Himno Galego" (excerpt)

The package gives very sparse information. But it appears that Susana achieves that traditional line-up sound by multitracking herself, on a range of gaitas in a variety of tonalities, often two in parallel harmony as in the traditional ‘trio de gaitas’, plus traditional percussion joined by Carlos Freire, and vocals. Indeed this economy of personnel was perforce, as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown. The photo shows her on her balcony with her sister Saínza and their children with bombo, tamborils and pandeiretas, who are credited as guests. Saínza, and sometimes also the children, play with her in the many videos, to be seen on her Facebook page, that she made each evening during lockdown, the sound reaching out from the balcony across the village and surrounding green Galician countryside. - Andrew Cronshaw

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Photo: Ramón Yoshimura

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