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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
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Los Changos

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 28, 2004
37 West 26th Street
New York, NY 10010

About the Author:

Los Changos

Los Changos
Featuring: Julio A. Santillán - Guitar and Composition
Yulia Musayelyan - Flute
David Hodges - Bandoneón
Felipe Salles - Clarinet
Franco Pinna - Drums
Marta Gómez - Voice
Fernando Huergo - Bass

37 West 26th Street

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 28, 2004

Program: (The Related Dance in Parenthesis)

Nanina (Tango)
La Huella (Chacarera)
Anit (Vals)
Tristeza (Zamba)
Cochuna (Milonga)
El Bosque de la Memoria
El Tata
Cantor Legüero (Vidala)
El Bailarin de Los Montes (Gato)

Tonight's set at Satalla, toward the end of Thanksgiving Weekend, was worth the trip. Los Changos is an upbeat, warm, and vibrant group of young musicians, who interweave Argentinean culture and music in original compositions and arrangements (even in recognition of relatives) to all forms of Argentinean dance (Tango, Milonga, Chacarera, Vals, and even Modern Ballet). Julio Santillán, the group's leader, uses his musicians in a variety of eclectic and versatile works, with introductions to the audience, relating to the composition, whether personal or geographical. Marta Gómez, vocalist, sings as if she were an instrument, with an international, abstract sound, blended to mood and music.

The first piece, infused with Tango, included contemporary vocalizations and was dedicated to Mr. Santillán's mother. Chacarera folk dance emanates from the North of Argentina, and La Huella leaned heavily on the flute for lyrical rhythm. The next piece, about political anti-violence, featured David Hodges on bandoneón in a lovely and lilting melody, and Ms. Gomez continued her repetitive, abstract vocalizations. Ushuaia, geographically introduced, ends with an evocative bandoneon, in windy, whispery, wandering notes. The Zamba (Samba) was sad, melancholy, and Brazilian in style.

Cochuna relates to a river in Argentina, and its Milonga rhythm (a rapid Tango) is contemporary with staccato flute effects. Franco Pinna's drums were powerful here, and the entire ensemble was effervescent. Julio Santillán led a three-part future ballet, intended for choreography, sung in Spanish by Ms. Gómez. I preferred her vocals in Spanish, as there was too much reliance on abstract vocalizations in other works. The first portion of the ballet, Cintia, relied on Mr. Hodges' bandoneon, Mr. Salles' clarinet, and Ms. Musayelyan's flute. Mr. Santillán composed this work, which he conducted. Portions of the work were reminiscent of Philip Glass' six-note segments, although here they were in two or three-note segments. Gustavo, for Mr. Santillán's uncle, fused with flute, was quite mellifluous. Another folk work was dedicated to Mr. Santillán's grandfather.

An additional Samba was presented, dedicated to a dying Argentinean composer. Mr. Santillán's guitar was soft and sensitive, and Ms. Gómez sang the lyrics in Spanish. Mr. Hodges added a small passage, and I realized that he and his bandoneón were all too hidden in tonight's concert. The bandoneón is intrinsic to Argentinean culture and dance music, and there was all too little bandoneón heard at Satalla tonight. The encore piece, a Tango, did happily include the bandoneón, and the entire ensemble joined Mr. Santillán's lead.

Julio Santillán has a good concept and some excellent music for concerts and potentially for dance, more performance than social. Perhaps his dream of a ballet score will materialize in the near future. One final note: Mr. Huergo, on bass, did not seem to be featured, but his performance was remarkable and relevant to the strength of this concert.

Los Changos at Satalla
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Los Changos at Satalla
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Los Changos at Satalla
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

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