Sunday, June 16, 2013

patiently cultured

My complaint that we do not have access to cultural events in Melaque is not absolutely true.  We have some very good live music in the local gathering places.

And I am not talking about the garden variety guitar strummer who knows nothing more than the tourist standards.  There are performers who write and perform their own work -- or who creatively resuscitate the stuff that the strummers suffocate.  Thursday nights at La Oficinia, for example.

But Saturday night, our section of  the beach was visited by a world class musician -- (Paco Renteria) and his band.  That adjective ("world class") gets thrown around far too easily.  So easily that it is what powers the humor in the Mel Brooks's To Be or Not to Be phrase: "world famous in Poland."

But Renteria is the real deal.  A serious student of flamenco guitar.  World tours.  Played with Carlos Santana and Luciano Pavoratti.  Composer and performer of the Mexican trailer music for Spielberg's The Legend of Zorro.

But enough of the appeal to authority.  The proof of a musician is in the listening.  Not the boasting.

The Cultural Center at Cihuatlán is not the best venue for subtle music.  It is essentially a concrete box.  Imagine a high school gymnasium.  Now, replace all the walls with concrete, and try listening to Mahler.

And add an evening with a heat index hovering around 100, fill the unventilated concrete box with people, and then let them wait an hour and a half for the band to show up.

Mexicans amaze me.  They can be the most patient people in the world.  I appeared to be the only expatriate in the auditorium.  If these conditions were transplanted to Oregon, the house would be empty before the band showed up.

But this audience knew what was in store.  And they got it.

Renteria plays a musical style he has tagged free play.  It is as if he had taken chunks of flamenco, classical, Oriental, and progressive jazz rhythms, and popped them in a Waring blender.  The result is a style of music that is as intellectually challenging as it is for this group of virtuoso musicians to perform.

An example.  Renteria, who plays the flamenco guitar, and the violinist got into an Annie Get Your Gun duel of who could press his instrument to the highest range.  It was not only good music, it was marvelous showmanship.  They had the audience in their respective fingers.

The band consists of three guitarists, two percussionists, a violinist, and a saxophonist.  On the jazz pieces, they glided smoothly through each of their improvisational pieces.  In the flamenco sets, they were an appropriate backdrop to Renteria's fingers.

The concert was everything he said it would be.  "The most important thing in music is the human emotion.  Woman is a muse.  I play like it is my last concert; play with all my soul, all of my emotion.  I invite the audience to travel with me on my 'bus.'"

Well, Paco, it was a great ride.  Thanks for the tour.

Now, I just wish I could hear him and his band in a venue appropriate for their talent.

But there I go again about culture availability.  I should -- and am -- happy with what comes our way.

Note -- I was going to insert a YouTube video for your pleasure.  But there are plenty to choose from.  Make your own pick.

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