Monday, September 16, 2013

¡Golpe Tierra!

                                                                                      © SKepecs 2013
by Susan Kepecs
Cuban son y rumba’s my groove – soy salsera de corazón.  But right now Golpe Tierra, the Afro-Peruvian jazz outfit led by by Mad City bass boss Nick Moran and guitarist Richard Hildner Armacanqui, is the hottest band in town.  The Afro-Peruvian sound bears some resemblance to Cuban son y rumba, or for that matter Puerto Rican bomba y plena – but the rhythmic differences stand out.  Afro-Peruvian musica criolla evolved under an entirely different set of historical circumstances than Afro-Caribbean music, in part because the number of slaves imported to New World regions where indigenous population density was high – that would be Peru, and Mexico – was so low by comparison.  
Golpe Tierra’s Afro-Peruvian jazz bailable is a beacon of bright, fresh sound.  The band usually operates as a trio, all players at the top of their game – Moran on bass, Hildner on guitar and Juan Tomás “Juancho” Martínez Paris (formerly of Canteca de Macao, the Madrid-based altermodern worldbeat band that played the Madison World Music Festival and the Cardinal last fall) on cajón and lead vocals.  Moran and Hildner have Peruvian ritmos in their blood – “we were fans of the music since childhood,” Moran says.  But they didn’t dive into the complexities of the sound until they had the opportunity to back up cajón master Juan “Cotito” Medrano – renowned for his work with Latin Grammy-nominated Afro-Peruvian worldbeat band Novalima – when he came to town to play at the Marquette Waterfront Festival in 2009.  Cotito turned out to be one helluva guru, and a year later his two Madison disciples launched Golpe Tierra – somewhat incongruously, at a world music fest in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.  The band’s maintained a moderate Madison profile ever since, playing the Cardinal’s Friday Happy Hour more or less monthly and catching an occasional festival – but if it’s not on the verge of fame yet, it deserves to be.
                                                             © SKepecs 2013
Last Friday Golpe Tierra, with special guest of honor Cotito, played a pair of stratospheric sets at the Cardinal’s regular 5:30-7:30 PM Happy Hour.  Holy cow.  Cotito’s a force of nature, plying his powerful voice on Afro-Peruvian standards while creating mind-bogglingly complex rhythms with his hands on that resonant wooden box, the cajón. I haven’t figured out the dance steps to these beats yet, though I’ve been trying for a while – there’s a zapateo, common to Spanish-influenced Latin American folk dances everywhere, and an African move that’s close to a rumba, and more steps that fall in between – but Friday afternoon a small company of Afro-Peruvian dancers beautifully trained by Cotito’s niece, Guisella Medrano, who lives in Madison, served up new insights.  The Cardinal was packed, and by the end of the second set almost everybody was dancing. 
Golpe Tierra and Cotito wrapped up at the Cardinal just before 8 PM.  Like magic, they reappeared (with about half of the Cardinal crowd, unwilling to give them up, in tow) on the Memorial Union Terrace half an hour later for MEChA’s annual Reventonazo, where they blew the roof off the big stage on the lake.  
                                                                              © SKepecs 2013

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