Saturday, March 24, 2007

BENJAMIN ESCORIZA - Alevanta! (World Music Network)

Those who were disappointed when Radio Tarifa announced their indefinite break at the end of 2006, will find the blow softened by the début release of the Granada-born founder and singer of the outfit, Benjamin Escoriza. Alevanta! means “rise up!” in Spanish, but Escoriza has dug down into his flamenco roots for this first post-Tarifa release, producing a markedly less fiery but still invigorating tribute to the flamenco, rumba, buleria and tango flavours that were an essential part of his input to his erstwhile band’s sound. Aided in places by fellow Radio Tarifa members Fain Dueñas and Vincent Molino, Escoriza’s familiar guttural vocal arabesques are complemented by spirited, largely acoustic, instrumentation — flamenco guitar, accordion and percussion coming together to produce an agreeable concoction of Andalusian sounds.
It’s an album of impassioned singing over mellifluous, flowing rhythms; Rumba Del 14 in particular — with its catchy, shuffling beat, stop-start guitar, handclaps and Escoriza’s tremulous vocal — sounds like a laid-back Ojos de Brjuo, demonstrating a commercial edge likely to attract a whole new audience for the singer. But the songs also cater for the cutting edge Tarifa fusion with North African styles — El Ratón, which features Moroccan multi-instrumentalist Hassan Erraji, adds a welcome Arabic flavour, the shimmering rhythm and Arabic instrumentation (including bendir drum and ney flute) evoking the jubilant cross-cultural accomplishment of Rumba Argelina in particular. Ultimately though, some long-standing Tarifa fans might be slightly aggrieved at the more rooted approach — that electrifying vim so very much in evidence in the band’s work a bit more difficult to pin down on this polished, subtle suite of songs.
But the band went their separate ways for good reasons — the individual members needed to expand their remit, investigating the roots of their sound and exploring new avenues of European, Moorish and Sephardic music, and to that end who can argue against the addition of Benjamin Escoriza’s fetchingly flamenco-orientated set to the Arab-Andalusian masters’ body of work?

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