Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Rare Folk (I): the most original folk band ever is born

It’s time to start talking about Rare Folk, a band that is special for me because, well, I’m usually not a big fan of Spanish bands, but these guys live about 15 km from where I do. This not only has some kind of sentimental value, but also means (and this is the best part) that they play where I live rather often. I’ve been to three of their concerts and hopefully there will be more!

So, what kind of music does Rare Folk do? The answer is not flamenco, which is probably the first pick for stereotype-lovers. They started with celtic folk (the most noticeable instrument in their music being Rubén Díez’s flute), and, according to the critics, they created freestyle folk. I guess someone had to call it something, since it’s not easy to describe at all. It’s basically a mish-mash of folk, jazz, rock, psychedelic stuff, African rhythms and electronic music, but a very original and well executed one. They have three albums in which their music, although mixed with other stuff (as I said above) is predominantly celtic folk, and these are the three albums I’ll write about this time. I’ll save their last two CDs for another post, CDs in which they start flirting with electronic music and their sound becomes more mature (I can’t really explain why certain music is mature or not, it’s just a feeling, you know). Those two CDs are my favourite ones, although traditional folk lovers will prefer the first three albums.

The guy on the left, Mangu, uses a double mandoline, a "manguline" ("mangulina" in Spanish)

Anyway, I’m going too fast. Let’s do it step by step. Beginnings. Rare Folk is actually a relatively old band, as they have a stable lineup since 1992, although their first studio songs were recorded two years later. Their first album is called Rare Folk (I know, I know) and it’s  theoretically close to traditional celtic folk music, although they do add drums and electric guitar and stuff and do it in their own way. Still it’s clear they’re “looking for their sound”, if you know what I mean. But take this CD and compare it to, let’s say, something from The Chieftains. Rare Folk is close to traditional celtic music compared to other albums from the band, but it’s in fact a very original effort. Listen to the guitar in Ballerinah (and in a few other songs actually), the oriental feel in Nunaina, the flamenco influence in Jaipur... it’s not really traditional stuff. You may find a song or two that are closer to real celtic music, like Joe’s Smile. All in all, the album is a breath of fresh air and its originality is much appreciated.

Rare Folk released their second album four years later, in 1998. In my opinion, it follows more or less the path of its predecessor: celtic folk mixed with different styles (especially rock) depending on the song. The best tracks for me are the beautiful and relaxing Nieva en el Carmen, the celtic folk and flamenco mix En la Parra and the rocking Dalle que Non Mira.

The band started the 21st century with UnimaVerse, an album in which we can hear the first glimpses of electronic music in this band, as well as a bigger oriental/African influence, and, of course, some rock elements. The contributions from other musicians are a big plus, as we can see in Djarama, Buba Kif, Sambala or Groove Rare. Songs as Ueli No Rest or the aforementioned Sambala make one want to attend one of their concerts... and well, these songs are much better live (as most music, I guess). It’s the kind of stuff that makes you want to jump and jump, which is what the bassist (cool guy, I have a couple of pics with him, supernice) does throughout the whole concert.

Anyway, I think I’m totally losing my thread, although I think I don’t really have much more to say here. Only that my favourite songs on the album are L’Avionetto (beautiful, beautiful, love the flute) and Panoramix (ok this one's here because I'm a huge accordion fan).

I don't really know what happened this time, when I clicked on "insert video" I couldn't find most videos, so I just copied the link. You'll get there just by clicking anyway. Also, some of the songs I mentioned aren't on youtube, so I'll try to upload them in the next few days.

The facebook page for the blog, in case you want to check out more random songs, discuss music and stuff:

Bonus track: I mentioned The Chieftains briefly. One day I may write about their album with Van Morrison. I've never been a big fan of Van Morrison, but this album is outstanding.

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