‘Los Gauchos de Roldán’ Share Down-Home Dance Music Tradition From Rural Uruguay
Smithsonian Folkways records has a new album by Los Gauchos de Roldán, from Uruguay. Lovely view of musicians preserving and speaking for a folk tradition from the rural areas of a country that mixes the culture of Argentina and Brasil (and is, of course, its own thing).
Diatonic accordion and bandoneón together, interesting. Seems like the bandoneón is playing mostly chordal accompaniment, the diatonic accordion is melody on top, with guitar rhythm. Rich lively stuff. Very different from the arch-tangos Piazzolla fans will associate with the bandoneón.
The leader, Walter Roldán has a website, “Ocho Bajos,” which is an awesome name coming from an eight-bass accordion-player. Very cool.
I’m not sure how this relates with the Chamamé music of Chango Spasiuk and Luiz Carlos Borges from Argentina, or the gaucho accordion of Renato Borghetti from Brasil. I’d like to learn more about how all those traditions fit together.
We have an earlier Gauchos de Roldán record which we’ve played on the show. I hope we get to hear more.
PURCHASE ALBUM HERE:
From their fine press-release: (honest journalism, I won’t claim I wrote it myself, eh?)
Button accordionist and bandleader Walter Roldán hails from Tacuarembó, Uruguay, a melting pot of Spanish creoles, indigenous descendants, Afro-Uruguayans, Brazilians, and European immigrants. It’s also a center of rural northern Uruguayan traditional music, notable for the two-row button accordion and the bandoneón, a complex accordion-like instrument with a lush sound that is also a symbol of the urban Tango tradition.
In the mid-19th century, the popular European dance forms of the time—polka, mazurka, waltz and schottische—arrived in Uruguay and joined the Afro-Creole rhythms of habanera, maxixa and milonga to eventually take root in the countryside. The rhythms were then “reshaped in the style and way of thinking of the paisanos (rural people),” says Roldán. The rhythmically infectious result can be favorably compared to south Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole traditions played with a Tango sensibility.
“We were just a few that kept up the struggle for people not to forget that the two-row button accordion is part of our roots. The majority of our grandparents and their relatives met at dances where the two-row button accordion was played. Then they fell in love, and got married. That’s the way it was, and we keep up the fight,” states Roldán.
On the new album, Roldán pumps out time-honored polcas and chotis, Brazilian-tinged maxixas, and more on his button accordion. With songs inherited from Roldán’s father and grandmother, ‘Los Gauchos de Roldán’ also features bandoneón master Chichí Vidiella, guitarist Bernardo Sanguinetti and Ricardo Cunha on guitarrón (a classical guitar with a large, deep body and lower tuning). Renowned and formerly-exiled Uruguayan guitarist and singer Numa Moraes makes a guest appearance on multiple tracks.
Moraes says, “We were known for the soccer World Cup, and for the first time people are starting to talk about Uruguay in another way, and from a musical point of view I think that it will be very important…. It is a very small country, but it has a great variety of rhythms and colors in its music.”
In addition to countless performances in Uruguay, Los Gauchos de Roldán have been featured at the Chicago World Music Festival, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, and the International Accordion Festival in San Antonio, TX.
A co-production with the Smithsonian Latino Center, showcases the diverse musical heritage of the 50 million Latinos living in the USA.