"Las Seis Tentaciones"
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Putting in an order for "Spanish folk music, hold the flamenco" is a bit like putting in an order for "Spanish omelet, hold the eggs," verdad?
Not anymore. The tradition-minded, all-instrumental quartet, La Musgana, is here to engage our ears and broaden our musical palates with Iberian oldies that have nothing to do with foot-stomping guitar rhythms or bull ring trumpet heraldry.
With a repertoire drawn almost exclusively from the traditional dances of provinces in the Spanish interior, La Musgana puts wind instruments in the lead--an assortment of rustic flutes and bagpipes join clarinet and occasional accordion to carry the melodies. The rhythmic pulse, thudded by tabors and other venerable hand drums and embellished by flashing cittern chords, often conjures images of medieval feasts and rites. But La Musgana isn't strictly antiquarian: there's a smidgen of synthesizer on a song or two, and Carlos Beceiro is one funky fellow on electric bass guitar when he has a mind to be, suggesting that his ears have been tuned to the greatest hits of Sly Stone as well as the greatest hits of olde Salamanca.
Fans of traditional Celtic and British folk should take readily to La Musgana, whose sound has close parallels to those styles. Sometimes the Spanish quartet calls to mind the Chieftains, or the more traditional side of Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span. Jethro Tull fanatics who hold that rock band's flute-playing and British-folk influences dear also should check this out; in the second movement of "Charro Zamorano," La Musgana sounds as if it's ready to go living in the past in more ways than one. The dance rhythms aren't quite as wild-eyed and ferocious as a Celtic jig or reel, but there's plenty of movement, and the parallel harmonies of contrasting flutes make the brighter songs an airy delight. La Musgana mixes it up with tense numbers full of portent, mystery and gravitas that sound suffused with grand historical intrigues. Maybe this is what Jimi Hendrix envisioned when he sang about "Spanish Castle Magic."
(Available from Xenophile, 43 Beaver Brook Road, Danbury, CT 06810; (800) 468-6644.)
La Musgana plays Friday at 7 and 9 p.m. at the San Juan Capistrano Regional Library, 31495 El Camino Real, San Juan Capistrano. $4 adults; $3 for ages 12 and under. (714) 493-1752.