02 May 2011

Monday's mp3: Heavenly Hispanic Harp

I'm not generally a big harp fan. Tell me that the music in heaven is primarily harp driven, and I start wondering how to sneak in some dumbeks and trombones and didgeridoos.

Experiencing the Latin harp playing of Correo Aereo's Abel Rocha some years back started a change of heart. The rhythm, the expression he brings to his playing began to redeem the idea of harp music for me. Now the redemption is complete, following last Saturday's concert at Olympia's Capitol Theater by the Celso Duarte Sextet.

Duarte's music is probably familiar to SoundRoots fans, even if his name isn't. Born in Paraguay, he plays both Paraguan ad Mexican harps, along with numerous other instruments. He became a member of Lila Downs' band La Misteriosa shortly after meeting her at a festival in Oaxaca, Mexico in 1998, and released his own debut album De Sur A Sur (From South to South) in 2006.

Last weekend's show was opened by Laura Rebolloso, though sadly I arrived too late to catch her set. My disappointment was short-lived once Duarte's troupe took the stage. The dancing, the singing, and mostly the music were sparkling examples of an updated tradition.

As energetic as the performance was, some of the musicians' energy seemed lost because of a setup that had them far apart on the large stage. At one point Duarte and his cellist brother played a duet, with the latter at the back of the stage in a dark corner. Unfortunate. Also unfortunate is that Duarte's website is currently down, though you can find his CD at Amazon -- and if you happen to be in NYC this week, you can get a CD at his show May 5 at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center. 

Here's a taste of Celso's heavenly harp stylings:

[mp3] Celso Duarte: Apolonita
from the album De Sur A Sur

By the way, the Olympia show was a benefit for the worthy nonprofit CIELO Project.

More Celso Duarte:
Listen / buy CD

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