'Amparanoia are without doubt one of the best live acts around, and approach studio...
Chris Moss 2004
In 1997, when Amparanoia recorded their first disc in Granada, El Poder de Machín, singer-strummer Amparo Sánchez had already spent a decade exploring blues, reggae, ska, Mexican ranchera, rock, Billie Holiday and Mano Negra both as a teenage fan and as a performer in Spain's bar band circuit.
Direct contact with Manu Chao and Radio Bemba in Madrid's multi-ethnic Malasaña and Lavapiés districts gave rise to Sanchez' strident eclecticism and led her to explore the North African sources of her Andalucian tastes. This collection of songs from the last seven years - during which the band released five very different albums - pulls together the strongest material, from the brilliant opener 'En la noche' (performed with Manu Chao), from 1997, to the gypsy-spirited 2002 singles "Somos Viento" and "La Fiesta".
Irreverent, exuberant and a fusioneer to the bone, Sanchez' paranoia is not so much fear as a constant needing and seeking for influences that are about to invade her space. She is, though, open to anything.
Most of the songs play with folksy genres - flamenco, Cuban salsa and (latterly) son, and Brazilian tropicalia of the 'intellectual' Chico Buarque variety - and leave lots of room for the frontwoman's raw acoustic guitar and loud, lusty vocals. But there is an urban edge to the materials and, with the likes of Massive Attack's chief 'scratcher' Tim Young being drawn to work with them, there's ever more sampling, vox and dub treatments and rap in the mix. Since gravitating from Granada to Madrid in the early years, the band has gone fully global, playing at all the big music fests and for heroes like Comandante Marcos in Chiapas, and its sound has become cosmopolitan and its critique considered.
Looking after her musicians like a jealous young mum, Sanchez' rule over the band never lets up, either as songwriter or gutsy diva. But that's not to play down the impressive individual talents that make up Amparanoia.Frank Padilla's varied percussion is central to an outfit that constantly changes direction and tempo, and José Alberto's trumpet regularly blasts beauty over the whole riot of sounds that are crammed into their show. Sadly, José Alberto's wife, Amparanoia's piano player Caridad Borges died in a car accident in Camaguey, Cuba on 9th October 2004 but the band have already said that they are determined to continue.
Major movers in the Latino/Spanish 'mestizo' scene (from the Spanish word for 'mixture', as in mixed-race) that also includes Ojos de Brujo, Dusminguet and Manu Chao, Amparanoia are without doubt one of the best live acts around, and approach studio recordings with unfettered passion and pride. If you want to know which direction world music and rock are heading in, this 16-song sampler should definitely be in the collection.