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A journey through Galicia, Ireland, Scotland

The members of Aru Firinne — one of the bands that will play in the InterCeltic Festival of Buenos Aires — pose for a picture.
By Veronica Stewart
For the Herald

Four bands will play tomorrow in the first ever InterCeltic Festival of Buenos Aires

Celtic music is a kaleidoscopic genre, specifically defined by its lack of specificity. Historically, it has evolved from traditional folk music of the Western European Celtic people. Today, to those who are not cognoscenti in the subject, the term “Celtic” means bagpipes and men wearing skirts, and seems to refer merely to videogame music or medieval dance scenes in well-known movies. However, the ELAMTI (Escuela Latinoamericana de Música Tradicional Irleandesa) organizes the first ever InterCeltic Festival of Buenos Aires in an attempt to show that there’s much more to it than that.

The ELAMTI is an online school whose main goal is to teach students how to play traditionally Irish musical instruments. From the streets of Ireland to the web, and from the web to the stage in Buenos Aires, Celtic music now takes on a more complex form, by coming on the scene mixed with other genres and by telling the story of a people, the feel of a culture. The Festival, which will take the audience on a musical journey through Galicia, Ireland and Scotland, will consist of the performances of four different bands: HerbadaboA, Fola, Aru Firinne and SAPA. Just like the genre these bands play, their performances promise to be varied.

HerbadaboA, for instance, is a band that came into being thanks to the migration tidal wave that hit Argentina all the way from Galicia. Born out of the miscegenation of various genres, such as tango, zamba, chamamé, rock and roll and rumbas, they’ve managed to blossom from a deeply rooted style, even more so than that of Celta Xeito Novo, a legendary band of Celtic music from which many of the members of HerbadaboA came. In the context of the Festival, they will be presenting Linaje, their first musical work where they aim to offer “old melodies for new times.”

Fola, on the other hand, is not so much a deeply rooted movement as a nomad seed, a project without borders focused on traditional Irish music. The band is made up of musicians from Argentina, Colombia and France, who have travelled to Ireland on several occasions to take in the cultural and more specific aspects of their art form. Similarly, Aru Firinnie’s members have also travelled to Ireland with the same goal. Their concern is to respect the essence of traditional Irish music, be it in the covers they perform or in their own compositions; the point is always to maintain the sentiment that has kept this music alive, and to breathe into the bagpipes the same kind of air as that of Ireland. Formed in 2011, the band is made up of artists that have been specializing in traditional Irish music for more than 15 years.

But as regards Latin American musicians performing Celtic music, the pioneers are the South American Piping Association, better known as SAPA. Based in Buenos Aires and formed in 1967, their band of bagpipes is made up of more than 30 interpreters who are directed by Pipe Major Freddy Santana MacKinlay and Leading Side Drummer Fernando Valles. They’ve even played with artists such as Los Pericos and Carlos Nuñez among others, and recorded an album called First Time Hurts. It is considered to be the best bagpipe band in Argentina, and they came in second in the latest South American Encounter of Bands of Bagpipes that took place in 2013.

It is interesting to point out that this first InterCeltic Festival of Buenos Aires is to promote a genre that is usually considered to represent a culture, and yet at its purest core it is a mixture of many genres, a golden melting pot at the end of a wide spectrum of several musical traditions. It seems only natural that such an event should take place in Buenos Aires, a city whose unique culture is made up of so many different ones. In a way, this festival comes to show that a culture doesn’t need to be pure and homogenous, to be authentic and unique.

Where & When

Sala Siranush (Armenia 1353). Tomorrow, 7.30pm. For more information, contact the ELAMTI at escuelairlandesa@gmail.com, or find them at www.escuelairlandesa.com.ar and their Facebook page ELAMTI.

@verostewart

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