Chango Spasiuk: The Charm of Chamamé im Spiegel der Presse

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Durch das Akkordeonspiel von Chango Spasiuk wird ein stiefmütterlich behandeltes Genre Argentiniens fokussiert: Auf "The Charm of Chamamé" (Weltwunder /sunny moon) gibt es rural-rockige Einlagen aus dem Nordosten mit Violine und knackigem Bass, dazwischen auch wehmütig verhallende Phrasen, in jedem Fall eine Spur zu ruppig für romantische Gaucho-Klischees.

Stefan Franzen, Jazzthing September/Oktober 2003


 Chamamé ist leidenschaftlich und mysteriös zugleich, eine Musik, die zum Weinen, zum Lachen und manchmal auch zum Tanzen inspiriert. Sie stammt aus Argentiniens Nordosten, wo der Dschungel, das schwüle Klima und sintflutartige Regenfälle nicht nur die Farben der Natur, sondern auch die Stimmungen der Menschen beeinflussen. Der Chamamé hat sowohl afrikanische, indianische und europäische Elemente, die sich im Laufe von drei Jahrhunderten vermischt und Tänze wie Scottish, Polkas, Rancheras und Rasguidos Dobles hervorgebracht haben. Im 19. Jahrhundert führten Siedler das Akkordeon in die neue Welt ein, das Hauptinstrument des Chamamé. Einer, der es meisterhaft beherrscht, ist Chango Spasiuk, Enkel ukrainischer Einwanderer. Er hat den Chamamé aus seinem ländlichen Umfeld geholt, ihm eine klassische Note verliehen und ihn zur Kunstform erhoben. Daran ändert auch die Tatsache nichts, dass man hier und da eine Kuh muhen hört, oder ein Pferd gallopieren. Gerade diese Elemente bewahren dem Chamamé seine Authentizität. Musikalische Unterstützung erhält der Virtuose Chango Spasiuk von Perkussionist Chacho Ruiz Guiñazú, Bassist Hernán Prado und Geiger Pablo López. Und auf dem wunderschönen Stück "Sólo para mi" ist gar die unverkennbare Stimme Argentiniens, Mercedes Sosa, zu hören. Ein sehr empfehlenswertes Album für alle, die gern neue Horizonte entdecken.

Suzanne Cords, September/Oktober 2003


"A feast of groundbreaking accordion-led argentine music"

The sounds of country cattle followed by a wild accordion tune may not suggest that what follows is going to be as cutting edge as it is traditional, but that's a fair description of the music of Chango Spasiuk and group.
Chamamé is the powerful accordion-led style of north-east Argentina, in which the complex rhythms of African and Creole-Spanish immigrants have been slowly fused with those of indigenous Mbya-Guaraní Indians and other peoples. Middle European settlers such as Spasiuk's Ukranian grandparents added to the mix a love for dancing polkas, schottisches and other lively folkloric salon dances ­ exemplified here by 'Besela Doroha', 'Ivanco' and the glorious 'Posadas'.
Spasiuk's tangy music is suffused with percussive textures and he plays passionately, teasing out emotion from the sprightly yet seductive moves he makes between one note and another. 'San Jorge', with its flute dialogue, suggests Spasiuk may be an innovator along the lines of a contemporary great like Finland's Maria Kalaniemi. And such suspicions are confirmed by the emotional scope of pieces like 'Pynandi', the Brazilian-underpinned 'Escenas de la vida en el Borde' (Scenes of life on the Frontier) and the voices of 'Adios Beatriz'. The fact that Mercedes Sosa, one of Latin americas most potent singers, guests on 'Solo para Mi' (Just for me) ­ with music by Spasiuk and lyrics by Victor Heradia ­ is the cream on the cake. This is a groundbreaking work by a significant musician.

Songlines UK, January/February 2004 Jan Fairley


Chango Spasiuk
The Charm of Chamamé

Everyone and everything in Argentina is borne of a mixing of bloods, cultures, trends and topographies. Everyone knows the great urban fusion tango and many have heard the Andean 'criollo' (Spanish-Indian Creole) hybrid folk sound of Mercedes Sosa and Atahualpa Yupanqui.

Far less well known is the music Chango Spasiuk plays - chamamé, a warm-hearted, accordion-based rhythm that taps into native Guaraní, Spanish, Brazilian, criollo and European traditions. Its natural home is north west Argentina (Spasiuk is from the deep green province of Misiones, made famous in the Merchant Ivory film The Mission, and much visited for its awesome Iguazú waterfalls).

To this multi-stranded, complex but extremely popular regional form, Spasiuk brings a daring, virtuoso accordion style and elements of his own Ukrainian family roots. It was in fact the polka that gained him a following outside the folk circuit several years ago in Argentina, and he still includes several in his live repertoire.

This, his seventh album, pulls together traditional songs and some of Spasiuk's own compositions from his most recent - and best - three albums. Throughout, he explores the tropical, dance-oriented, usually upbeat chamamé genre much in the manner of Piazzolla testing and pushing the tango. Tapping into chamamé's less obvious melancholy strains on "Preludio a um beija-flor" and "La Ponzoña", Spasiuk still manages to tease out sweet, seductive strains. During track 11's polka, we've got one foot in Kiev and the other in subtropical Argentina - both are dancing.

Both Piazzolla and Yupanqui are definite inspirations here _- but so are Bartok, Tchaikovsky and the great writers of classic chamamé, Cocomorola, Montiel and Martínez Riera. This rich brew of classical, folk and modern musical influences makes for a sometimes clamorous collage of phrases and no end of digressions, but chamamé's gentle, seductive swing underpins the whole.

It's a complicated journey to the bottom of a musical style so unknown outside Spasiuk's home region. But it is always enjoyable, and there is a searching, quasi-mystical element in Spasiuk's whirling, wandering solos -_ he talks of a 'vacio' or 'nothingness', a place to which only music can take you (track 7, an 'improvisation', finds Spasiuk in full-on abstract, ambient mood).

Others will perhaps find a more earthy quality in the sound - sourced in chamamé's easy tempo and barn-dance spirit, which springs from a community-based celebration of everyday rural life, long train journeys, family ties and a sharing of woes and wonder. Somewhere between these two extremes - the metaphysical ponderings and the mooing of cows - Chango Spasiuk is making a powerful musical case for chamamé.

Strong support, in particular Sebastián Villalba on guitar and vocals, and Chacho Ruiz Guiñazú on percussion, keep the rhythm a constant delight. The disc is breezy and refreshing, and reveals an utterly new side to the Argentine soul. The accordion is hardly a fashionable instrument - but try this one. You'll surprise yourself.

Reviewer: Chris Moss BBC interactive, November 2003


  The radio DJ's ever-mounting pile of unheard albums demands a fast and inevitably arbitrary decision-making process. Reasons not to listen are welcome, to allow time to check out those records with more allure. On the front cover of The Charm of Chamamé sits a blond accordion player whose name, Chango Spasiuk, rings no bells in my head. Finnish, perhaps, or Latvian? On the back, a daunting nineteen tracks are listed. Later, if ever, for this one, which soon disappears under the pile of the next few days' post.

Among the names announced for this year's London Jazz Festival in November are those of several unfamiliar musicians, but one sends me back to that pile on the floor. Retrieved from its hiding place, Chango Spasiuk's The Charm of Chamamé proves to be a delightful revelation.

If the prospect of a 19-track album by an accordion player seems overwhelming, doubts are dispelled by the first sound we hear. A cow moos. Another answers. It's impossible to avoid smiling. Wherever we thought we were, we are suddenly far away from any city. Emerging out of the farmyard noises, the accordion announces its presence, and a rumbling, surging bass picks us up and whirls us around the room. If we did not have the benefit of a useful sleeve note, my best geographical guess would have been Mexico. But it turns out that this is a selection from the first three albums by the leading accordion player from the far north of Argentina, close to the border with Brazil, where at the start of the last century a substantial number of immigrants from Eastern Europe went to work in the jungle plantations. Two of Chango's grandparents were from Ukraine.

By the time the album has finished, it feels as if we have heard references to every genre that was ever based around the accordion, including Louisiana Cajun waltzes, Polish mazurkas and Mexican border rancheros. But for each tune that has a vaguely familiar form, there are two others in styles that are new to me. Among three vocal tracks, Mercedes Sosa is featured on the final 'Solo Para Mi', but most of the tunes are instrumentals at varying tempos from whirlwind fast to stand-still slow, several finishing with applause.

Justifying that billing in the London Jazz Festival, there's a strong sense of interplay between Chango and the other members of the small group (guitar, violin, stand-up bass, brushed drums). But although there's no doubt that Chango Spasiuk is a virtuoso with plenty of what the Americans call 'chops', this is not a jazz album and never becomes simply a demonstration of his technique. The aim is always to generate an atmosphere, not to impress us into awestruck reverence. The result is a record that will fill your living room with light or make you wish your car journey was long enough to hear the entire album in one sitting.

Charlie Gillett

Post-script: This review was written for the Observer Music Monthly and first published in the edition of November 16th. Since then, I have witnessed the debut concert by Chango and his band at the Purcell Rooms, and come face to face with their mastery when they played two songs live on my radio show on Saturday 22nd. Amazingly enough, considering my high expectations, they turned out to be even better than I dared hope. Be sure to catch when they return to Europe, and meanwhile look for this album. I defy you not to smile.