9 de octubre de 2011

Mariachi maestro

Mariachi maestro
Global Times | September 14, 2011 09:00
By Vera Penêda
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Mariachi maestro
Paco Rentería performs in Beijing September 16 and 17. Photo: Courtesy of Paco Rentería

If only the National Center for the Performing Arts (NCPA) would make an exception and allow barefoot spectators inside, we would be able to fittingly revel in Mexican mariachi guitarist Paco Rentería's China debut. Widely considered the best guitarist in his homeland, his music has featured in Hollywood productions and even earned a Grammy nomination. Rentería will premiere his latest work, Talismán,  in Beijing this Friday and Saturday on the opening leg of his Asia tour.

"What's the first thing you do when you get home? You take off your shoes! I enjoy playing as if I am comfortably at home," said the Mexican musician. True to his image of untidy hair and gipsy looks, Rentería ditches the leather shoes and the music stand. "Playing barefoot helps me connect with every surrounding I set foot in," he explains.

With roots in gipsy-flamenco, Afrikaans' sounds, oriental and progressive jazz rhythms, Rentería delivers trembling, soulful acoustic performances that seamlessly switch to obsessive, contagious strumming. Often defined as "new flamenco" or "world music," the musician prefers to label his style as "free-play." "It's a philosophy of life without clichés, prototypes or taboos. Music should be exempt of rules. Free-play gives me the freedom to merge different musical instruments from all over the world," explained the artist, who grew up listening to classical music, jazz and blues under the influence of his parents. "I liked them all. My personality and musical drive took me to combine all these influences. Free-play liquefies them, resulting in a new sound, a new rhythm."

Accompanied on stage by percussion, electric guitar, trumpet and sometimes violin, Rentería easily swings between uninhibited passion and deep introspect at concerts. The same emotions are captured in his latest album, Talismán. The song Gipsy Rock is a wild climax, where the tribal spirit of gipsy music meets Latin beats. Entre sábanas (Between the sheets) is a meditative melody with a hint of infatuation, while Piel de Mujer (Woman's skin) is a gripping hymn to the fairer sex. Beijingers with a thing for houhai bars might be surprised with the slight resemblance between Rentería's and some flamenco-inspired Xinjiang bands.

Stripped of shoes and lyrics, Rentería's music flows beyond cultural barriers. "Without lyrics, the melody can be understood and interpreted individually," he noted. "I perform each concert as if it was my last. Chinese audiences will see that I am just like them - eager to connect emotionally through music. It'll be vivifying," he promised.

Comparing Rentería to guitar virtuoso Carlos Santana is almost inevitable, as he hails from the west Mexican state of Jalisco, the shared homeland of Santana, tequila and mariachi music. With a career spanning 20 years, Rentería first picked up the guitar at seven. He holds university degrees in law and business administration, but music has taken him around the world and allowed him to share the stage with Santana and Italian tenor great Luciano Pavarotti.

"I'm deeply moved about bringing my music to a country with such diverse culture dating back millennia," Rentería said of China.

After concerts in Guangzhou and Foshan, Rentería will tour Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, Europe and the US.

Tickets are free but limited to Friday's show, so be quick! Global Times has five double passes to offer readers to see Saturday's exclusive recital. For your chance to win, ring the number below. http://www.globaltimes.cn/NEWS/tabid/99/ID/675196/Mariachi-maestro.aspx