'The individual elements of the band are so artfully combined as to create something...
John Armstrong 2003-12-10
To coin a cliché: if there wasn'ta group like Radio Tarifa already, you would have to invent one. The affinities between North African and Spanish gypsy music are so overt as not to need any sophisticated World MusicPR exercise in product placement. The similarities just scream out at you when you listen to traditional airs like "Jota Bereber" or the wonderful version of Tarifa's self-composed classic from the album of the same name,"Cruzando el Rio". These tracks like all others on Fiebre are top notch recordings from their live gig in Toronto last year.
The individual elements of the band are so artfully combined as to create something simultaneously traditional and adventurously novel. Vicente Molino's array of ancient wind instruments underpin Jorge Gomez almost-rock acoustic and electric guitar like old neighbours, echoing through the dustmoted afternoon sunrays in some shady Moorish courtyard in Cadiz or Tangiers. Black-clad and wearing shades, singer Benjamin Escoriza brings existential cool to his disciplined and ultimately celebratory versions of the great flamenco artforms - Tangos, Bulerias, Rumba, and so forth, his voice brushing against Benjamin Escoriza derbuka drum and Sebastian Rubio's pandereta and bongos like well-mannered sandpaper.
The middle-eastern vibe is taken care of with Amir Haddad's oud, especially in "Elli Yeddi Hag Ennas",a song that would feel at home anywhere from Marseilles to Aden - just change the language here and there.
And as if there wasn't enough in the mix already, we're treated to a tantalising direct-to-stereo cut (I believe they call it as-live in sound-engineers jargon), "Cancion Sefardi", a reworking of a 16th centurySpanish-Jewish traditional song with French Renaissance overtones. This is Radio Tarifa at their most reflective, harnessing all the melancholy of the lost Sephardic musical traditions of the Iberian peninsula.
The release of Tarifa'sfourth longplayer also marks the anniversary of their first release, ten years ago. And although there are now many artists and groups working in this idiom around the Mediterranean, Radio Tarifa remain probably the most innovative and imaginative. An essential purchase for your festive-season juerga!