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In Conversation with Andrea Zapata-Girau

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Guitarra de Palo 2

In Conversation with Director, Co-Producer, Co-Scriptwriter, Editor and Cinematographer Andrea Zapata-Girau on the U.S. Premiere of Guitarra de Palo

Andrea Zapata-GirauAndrea Zapata-Girau studied classical guitar in Mayeusis Conservatory (1994-2004) and studied music at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama. In addition, she studied Audiovisual Communication at Pompeu Fabra University (Barcelona) and relocated to Finland, where she graduated from the TAMK School of Music, Art and Media in 2011, where she specialized in Film Editing and Image Manipulation. She began her professional career in the companies Infinia and Evasion Digital (Madrid) in the post-production of movies such as Manolete (Menno Meyres) and El Hombre Que Camino Mirando Las Estrellas (Carlos Duarte).

From 2006 to 2007 Andrea directed the short-films, Red and Jiskra, which were screened in galleries and festivals in Finland, Sweden and Estonia. In 2008 she presented her first solo exhibition and received excellent reviews from the Finnish Press. The same year, with the support of the Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC) and the Arts Council of Finland, she created the Cuban Film Festival Kuubalaisen Elokuvan Päivät. In 2009 she directed the medium-length movie, Magec Ula Salam. Andrea has edited video-installations and short films for Nordic artists Riikka Kuoppala, Hannaleen Hauru and Elina Bäckman, which were screened in museumssuch asNew York’s Museum of Modern Art and international festivals.

Tomas Peña: What is the significance of the title, Guitarra de Palo?

Andrea Zapata-Girau: A Guitarra de Palo is a guitar with a wooden peg box. That’s the way guitars were made in the past. The title is a symbol of the origin of guitar and its roots. There’s actually a scene in the movie where we see the famous guitar constructor Mariano Conde making wooden peg box guitars.

The film takes the viewer on a musical journey that spans three continents.

It’s a journey through the roots of flamenco and its modern day fusions with styles such as jazz, Afro-Cuban music and contemporary classical music. It was filmed in different countries with the participation of many world-renowned musicians and dancers. The cinematography is beautiful; the sound design is by the Goya (Spanish Academy Awards) Winners Pelayo Gutiérrez and Nacho Royo-Villanova.

Why did you choose to forego narration?

The images, the music and the soundscape tell the story. There is no narrator but there is a narrative and a visual and musical dialogue built by the association of different concepts, references and shots.

Guitarra de PaloWhere was the movie filmed?

The movie was filmed in Madrid, Córdoba, Havana, Cuba, Berlin, Russia, New York City, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and the Cayman Islands, over a four-year period (2009-2013)

For the benefit of those who may not be familiar with the genre, can you provide me with a brief overview of Flamenco?

Flamenco is an instrumental or vocal music with an intensely rhythmic improvisatory character. It was born in the South of Spain and has deep roots in Arab, Gypsy, Jewish and East Indian music. The essence of Flamenco is the cante (singing), toque (guitar playing) and dance. Flamenco is also an attitude, a lifestyle.

What is Flamenco Jazz?

Flamenco-jazz is a unique form of jazz music developed in Spain. It’s an encounter of flamenco and jazz that combines the freedom and improvisation of jazz with the rhythms and styles (palos) of flamenco and the harmonic richness of jazz with the cadences of flamenco. At Symphony Space we’ll have the pleasure of listening to icons of this style such as Jorge Pardo, Javier Colina, Raimundo Amador and Jerry González.

Has the merging of Flamenco, with other genres (cultures) had an impact on traditional Flamenco?

Spain has been a cultural melting pot for 4000 years due to the different invasions, migrations and mercantile routes (Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs, Jews, Gypsies, Celts, Goths, Vikings, French, English), so the fusion with other cultures is nothing new, it’s part of the essence of Spanish culture and music.

The film and performance is dedicated to the memory of the famed Flamenco guitarist, Paco de Lucía (1947-2014). Tell me about the importance of Paco de Lucía.

Paco de Lucía opened doors for many, inspired various generations of musicians and raised guitar and flamenco to the highest level. He was the most international of our artists, the greatest ambassador of Spanish culture. It’s a great loss.

Is this the first time that the legends of Flamenco and Flamenco Jazz will perform on the same stage?

This is the first time they perform on the same stage anywhere in the world! It is going to be a historic occasion.

New York has always welcomed the greatest names in Flamenco and the evenings of April 4th and 5th will be no exception. I urge everyone to support this once-in-a-lifetime event.

Congratulations Andrea. Thank you for speaking with me.

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For Additional Information Visit: guitarradepalo.com

Full Cast

Antón Jiménez flamenco guitar, Jerry González trumpet and conga player, Lola Greco dancer, Raimundo Amador flamenco-blues guitarist, Jorge Pardo flutist, Rafita Jiménez flamenco singer, Oleg Nehls accordionist, Antonio Serrano harmonicist, Mariano Conde guitar maker, Javier Colina double bass player, Fernando Favier drummer and percussionist, Tom Auffarth bass player, Luis Guerra pianist, Miguel Blanco big band conductor, Triana Cortés flamenco dancer, Pedro Giménez elder man, Alain Pérez bass player, Javier Massó “Caramelo” pianist, Lucky Losada percussionist, Compañía Danzares dance, Alfonso Losa dancer, Kelian Jiménez dancer, Vicente Sureo “Morito” percussionist, Georvis Pico big band drummer, Fernando Hurtado big band trumpeter, Antonio Molina big band trumpeter, Norman Hogue big band trombonist, Santiago Cañada big band trombonist, Ariel Brínguez big band saxophonist, Luis Verde big band saxophonist, Rafael Águila big band flautist, Kevin Robb big band clarinetist and saxophonist, Rafa Serrano big band baritone saxophonist, Pájaro Juárez big band electric guitar, Juan Viera big band percussionist, Niko Meinhold arranger, pianist and melodica player, Jacob Sureda pianist, David Moreira violinist, Bernardo Parrilla violinist, Nantha Kumar tablas, Juan Fernández “Panky” palmero, Miguel Ángel Bautista palmero, Miguel Ángel Fernández palmero, Ramón Vázquez bass player, Adrián Jiménez boy, Gabriela Giménez Palacio girl, Juan Jiménez younger boy, Gabriel Amador boy singing, Daniel Amador boy, Cipriano Morón seller of guitars.

The film and the performance will take place on April 4 & 5, 2014 @ 8:00 pm at Peter Norton Symphony Space, New York – 2537 Broadway at 95th Street. There will be a pre-performance discussion moderated by Ned Sublette on Friday, April 4th at 7:00 pm.

General Admission: $20 | Students/Seniors/Children: $15 | Symphony Space Members: $15 | For tickets go to: www.symphonyspace.org, call: 212.864.5400, or visit the box office.

A graduate of Empire State College with a dual major in journalism and Latin American studies, Tomas Peña has spent years applying his knowledge and writing skills to the promotion of great musicians. A specialist in the crossroads between jazz and Latin music, Peña has written extensively on the subject.

Interviews

In Conversation with “Drum Poet” Pazcual Villaronga

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Pazcual Villaronga

PAZCUAL VILLARONGA was born and raised in Spanish Harlem, New York. He attended Haaren High School and New York City Community College and graduated from Hunter College, earning a degree in Communications and a Master’s Degree in Bilingual Education. 

Known as the “Drum Poet,” Pazcual recites poetry while accompanying himself on the congas (often joined by other musicians), creating an innovative fusion of poetry and discussion that takes his verses to a new level. 

Pazcual is the recipient of the Golden and Silver Poet Awards in California and placed third in La Canción Bilingüe – The Bilingual Song Competition in Washington, D.C. He has read poetry at Columbia University, Teachers College, Hunter College, Hostos Community College, Manhattan Community College, and Connecticut’s Housatonic Community College. 

His published works include the highly successful “Caracol” (Poems For The Children), “By The Music Inspired,” “Poet,” “Fire From Hell,” “Compendium,” and “Stereotypes and Cycles.” His most recent collection of poems and CD is titled “On Whatever Day Saturday Happens To Fall.” Pazcual’s work has also appeared in “Around the Mulberry Bush – An Anthology,” “Windfall – An Anthology,” and “Fahari.”

Now retired after over three decades of teaching, Pazcual is preparing several collections of poetry and a children’s book and performs with The Lehman College Latin Jazz Ensemble, directed by Victor Rendón. 

Pazcual Villaronga and the New Drum Poets: On Whatever Day Saturday Happens to Fall
Pazcual Villaronga and the New Drum Poets: On Whatever Day Saturday Happens to Fall

TOMÁS PEÑA: Welcome, Pazcual! Tell me about the project. 

PAZCUAL VILLARONGA:  “On Whatever Day Saturday Happens to Fall” is my salute to the musicians and their creative souls. Also, to the percussive rhythms and melodies, they share with us each and every time they perform. Also, it is my way of sharing with the world, through poetry, how they inspire me and the power and beauty of their musical creations.

TP: Thank you for sharing an advance copy of the book and CD with me and for taking me on a fascinating bilingual literary and aural journey. Before we delve into the project, I’m curious to know what drew you to poetry and the spoken word.

PV: Growing up, I was shy and introverted. Poetry was my way of expressing myself. When I was in high school, my friend Jose showed my writings to a teacher (Dr. Richstone) and the teacher replied, “There are better things you could do with your time.” Undaunted, my friend showed my writings to another teacher (Mary Lamboss), and she said, “You are the Poet Laureate of Harren High School!” Later, I formed the “Drum Poets” and began reciting poetry with percussion and music.

TP: How did the project come about, and why did you choose this title?

PV: It began with Víctor Rendón’s “Fiesta Percusiva” (2008), where I recited the poems “Soy Chicano” and “In the Pocket.” Shortly after, Victor appeared on José “Joe” Massó’s “Con Salsa!,” who played selections from the album on the air. He encouraged me to “make more music like this.” Shortly after, Víctor asked if I was interested in pursuing the project, and I immediately said, “Yes!” Victor Rendón agreed to produce the record with the following conditions: Trust him implicitly and don’t breathe a word about it to anyone until the project is completed. The rest is history!

The title, “On Whatever Day Saturday Happens to Fall,” is inspired by trumpeter John Walsh, who composed the song “On Whatever Day of the Week Saturday Happens to Fall” (the tune appears on Chris Washburne and the Syotos Band’s “Paradise in Trouble”) and whose philosophy is, “On Whatever Day of the Week Saturday Happens to Fall, musicians must answer the call and give their all.” Walsh’s philosophy resonates with me because it applies to poets and creative souls who must be in the moment when the muse appears.

The New Drum Poets: Paz Villaronga, Yasuyo Kimura, Louis Bauzó, Victor Rendón and Wilson "Chembo" Corniel
The New Drum Poets: Pazcual Villaronga, Yasuyo Kimura, Louis Bauzó, Victor Rendón and Wilson “Chembo” Corniel

TP: The recording contains a collection of your poems set to music: Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Puerto Rican rhythms, Jazz, and Latin Jazz and features an impressive lineup: Víctor Rendón, Wilson “Chembo” Corniel, Louis Bauzo, Yasuya Kimura, Mike Viñas, Amy Quint Millan and José Luis Armengot. Additional guests include Andrea Brachfeld, Henry Brun, Ariel De La Portilla, and Roman Diaz (see below for specifics). Tell me about the poem, “Right Pocket/Left Pocket.”

PV: My mother was concerned about my dad, who drank excessively and played pool at a local social club. She asked me to check on him and bring him home. When I arrived, my father was intoxicated and staggering. Shortly after, a neighborhood hustler and “aprovechao” (exploiter) named Chano challenged my father to a game of pool. My father immediately asked me, “How much money do you have?” And demanded I give it to him. Then, miraculously, he took a breath and straightened up. After that, it was “right pocket, left pocket!” Long story short, my father and I left the social club fifty dollars richer! When Victor and I arranged the tune, he had just acquired a set of “timbalitos” (9-1/4 and 10-and 1/4 timbales), which have a very distinct sound. If you listen closely, you will hear Victor mimic the sound of the cue ball striking the billiards.

TP: Your words conjure up images. I felt like a fly on the wall! I also enjoyed the poem, “El Chembito,” where percussionist Wilson “Chembo” Corniel masterfully accompanies you. 

PV: The poem was born while listening to Chembo’s solo on the tune “Lagos” which appears on Victor Rendon & the Bronx Conexion Latin Jazz Big Band’s “True Flight” (2016). I realized that in Chembo’s hands and in the hands of the masters, you feel and hear the connections between past and present and are privy to a glimpse of the future. Chembo has a way of taking you along for the ride as he time travels between rhythms, feelings, and emotions! His hands never falter, and his ideas are always fresh!

TP: The poem, “I Saw You (Tribute 4 Miles)” talks about a unique experience you shared with trumpeter José Luis Armengot onstage.

PV: Yes, Jose was standing to my right, and he was soloing on the tune “Fragile.” I turned to Jose; he was wearing dark glasses and leaning back like Miles used to, and I saw Miles! At the time, I was not aware that Jose idolized Miles. Later, I read the poem to Jose and I said, “You are Miles!”

TP: Tell me about the poem, “In the Pocket.”

PV: The poem is inspired by Omar Castaños, who said, “Some musicians express themselves and don’t say a lot. But every once in a while, you will find an artist who sits in the pocket, and everything is pushed away. I saw it happen when the masterful Luis Bauzo took a solo at “Gonzalez y Gonzalez” (NYC) in front of a packed house and stopped the room. The poem was born at that moment!

TP: The poems mentioned earlier are examples of what listeners and readers can expect. There is much more to savor! The CD and book will be released on December 1, 2022. Is there a CD Release Party or a live performance in the works? 

PV: We have yet to set a specific date, but, yes, it is in the works. 

TP: “On Whatever Day Saturday Happens to Fall” will be available at: http://amazon.com via https://cdbaby.com, and all the major digital streaming, and download sites (iTunes, Spotify, etc.). Also, readers can listen to and download the CD on Pazcual Villaronga’s Website: http://conceptovillapaz.com.

TP: Closing thoughts?

PV: If I have touched you with one word, phrase, or poem, I have done my job as a poet!

TP: Indeed, you have! “On Whatever Day Saturday Happens to Fall” recalls the writings of the Nuyorican poet and playwright Pedro Pietri, playwright Tato Laviera, activist, journalist, media personality Felipe Luciano, and Latina poet Sandra Maria Estevez, among others. Rarely has the spoken word, Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Puerto Rican rhythms, and Latin Jazz come together as organically and beautifully as it does on this exciting and innovative project. Highly recommended!

The Original Drum Poets: Jorge Alicea, Davis Alicea, Roxanna Rodriguez, Pazcual Villaronga, Ray Alicea, and Omar A. Castaños
The Original Drum Poets: Jorge Alicea, Davis Alicea, Roxanna Rodriguez, Pazcual Villaronga, Ray Alicea, and Omar A. Castaños
TRACKS

1. Drummers Prayer
2. By the Music Inspired
3. In the Pocket
4. What Do You Do?
5. El Chembito
6. How Many of Us Listen?
7. Bongo Habla Otra Vez
8. Que No Se Te Olvides
9. Right Pocket/Left Pocket
10. On Whatever Day Saturday Happens to Fall
11. I Saw You (Tribute 4 Miles)
12. Alma Jibarita
13. Puerto Rican Trilogy
14. Puerto Rican Trilogy
15. Puerto Rican Trilogy
16. Speak Easy
17. Soul Riffs
18. Entendian Voz
19. Another Night in Tunisia
20. En Las Manos de Los Maestros
21. Afro, Is That You?
22. Now and Then

THE NEW DRUM POETS

Pazcual Villaronga – Executive Producer, Poetic Voz, Conga and Shekeré
Víctor Rendón – Producer, Drum Set, Timbales, Pailitas, Shekeré, Batá (Okonkolo), Coro
Wilson “Chembo” Corniel – Congas, Batá (Itótele), Guataca, Coro
Louis Bauzo – Bongos, Congas, Barril (Primo), Batá (Iyá), Bonkó Enchemiyá, Güícharo Puertorriqueño, Coro
Yasuya Kimura – Congas, Bongos, 1st and 2nd Cajón, Maraca, Coro

SPECIAL GUESTS

Michael Viñas– Bass
Amy Quint Millan – Piano, Coro
José Luis Armengot – Trumpet

ADDITIONAL GUESTS
  • Andrea Brachfeld – Flute
  • Henry Brun – Conga, Shaker
  • Ariel de la Portilla Acoustic Bass
  • Roman Diaz (Batá and Various Percussion)
  • Diego Lopez (Batá and Various Percussion)
  • Allan Molnar First Marimba
  • Yumi Suehiro Second Marimba
FEATURED PHOTO

LEFT TO RIGHT: Pazcual Villaronga, Yasuyo Kimura, Louis Bauzo, Víctor Rendón, Wilson “Chembo” Corniel.

POETRY BY PAZCUAL VILLARONGA
  • COMPENDIUM (1991)
  • POETRY (1995)
  • BY THE MUSIC INSPIRED (2002)
  • FIRE FROM HELL (2004)
  • CARACOL – P0EMS FOR CHILDREN (2009)
  • ON WHATEVER DAY SATURDAY HAPPENS TO FALL (2022)
ARTIST WEBSITE
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