“A lot of us are familiar with the Latcho Drom, but there are so many other trails and paths to look at”, says guitarist and composer Carlo Basile of Guitarras de España, describing a musical exploration that is culminating in the first festival of Chicago’s Flamenco Fest this year.

Basile explains that the Andalusian Trail concert emerged out of “Flamenco Without Borders”, a previous series of concerts in residency at the Instituto Cervantes. This concert, presented as part of the Flamenco Festival, will condense two trails: the journey of the oud from Iran through Syria, that made its way to Europe and became the guitar, which Basile calls the “Arabic” roots of the Spanish art form, as well as the path coming from India to Spain with the gypsies.

The concerts also continue an investigation of the common ground between Flamenco and these other genres that has evolved from Basilo working closely with artists Saraswathi Ranganathan and her ensemble Surabhi on the Indian roots of the Mediterranean genre, and with Ronnie Malley on its Arabic roots.

Basile is the first to admit that since “music has no DNA”, having a clear picture on the origins of a genre as multicultural as Flamenco is at times difficult, commenting, “…it’s criss-crossing paths that we are trying to make sense out of in performance.”

All of these strands will come together in this first concert of Flamenco Festival 2017 in Chicago, which will include Arabo-Andalusian poetry and music by Ronnie Malley on oud and harmonium, as well as Rajasthani folk dance by Kinnari Vora, flamenco and Mid-Eastern dance by Marisela Tapia accompanied by Basile on guitar, Ranganathan on veena, Dhananjay Kunte (tabla), Diego Alonso (guitar), Greg Nergaard (bass), and Bob Garrett (percussion).

Asked about revelations and insights gleaned in the course of his exploration of the roots of Flamenco, Basile answers, “I just realized how little I know! I never want to say for sure, for sure, when it comes to music, but there’s the idea when I hear the call to prayer in Islam, and then I hear Sara [Saraswathi Rangathan] sing an Indian scale, and then I hear the introduction to like a Flamenco tango, they seem to come from the same place. But now, also, I feel like we’re creating more interesting fusion pieces that are new and original. It’s great to explore the traditional pieces, but also, the surprise and the gift of all this is that we’ve all come together, but not in a contrived way, in an authentic way. And Lord knows, we need more of this in the world right now.”

The Chicago Flamenco Festival takes off on February 21 with a Las Guitarras de España and Intercultural Music Production, “The Andalusian Trail: The Roots of Flamenco,” at the City Winery.

Feature photo: Carlo Basile/Saraswathi Rangathan

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