Feature photo by Ryan Mihalyi
“I began as a vocalist almost by accident” says Spanish singer/songwriter Jairo Zavala, AKA “DePedro”, speaking from Tucson, Arizona by phone. He continues, “I used to play with a Spanish Rock called ‘La Vaca Azul’ and when we lost our vocalist, I got to replace him, as I seemed to be the one that was least out of tune.”
It may be one of many fortuitous coincidences that have marked his professional life, says Zavala. Although Spain has always seemed to be a fertile source of poet singer/songwriters, he now spends a lot of time in Arizona, as does DePedro’s music. A few years back, when playing and composing for Spanish alt-folk singer Amparo Sanchez (previously known as Amparanoia), he developed a friendship and collaborative relationship with several members of Calexico, the renowned indie Latino band from Tucson, after they did a cover of a song he wrote for Sánchez. He has since toured with Calexico and written the song “Victor Jara’s Hands” for them, and they have also helped produce his two albums in their Tucson studio.
He comments that he and the Calexico musicians found quite a bit of common ground in their respective melting pot cultures, explaining that on the one hand, Spain’s diverse musical forms from the Arab-born Flamenco to Mediterranean tunes and even the northern Celtic melodies as well as his own African-style guitar playing made it easy to find harmony with Calexico’s Mexican-based southwestern beats. Zavala adds that the Arizona connection has changed the color of his tunes, and that from Calexico he also learned to above all, transmit emotions with the music. However, DePedro’s sweet gentle, melodies are tinged with the Americas in even more ways. His father was Peruvian, so he grew up listening to Latin American folk artists such as Chilean activist ensemble Intillimani and Argentine poet songwriter Atahualpa Yupanqui.
And the name DePedro? Another almost accidental event, says Zavala: “I just tried to think of a familiar name, and chose DePedro because my sound is like a friend’s music, tunes that even seem like you might have heard them before, that have helped you get through life’s different circumstances. And familiar influences are precisely what DePedro’s music draws from, he muses: “… what I have nearby…experiences, friends, family, it’s what makes me feel alive. And music can share all that easily, because it’s such an ephemeral art. It happens so quickly it’s almost over just at the moment you realize it’s happening, but then it stays with you, and you feel it for a long, long time.”
DePedro will perform at the World Music Fest on Sept. 20