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ROGELIO BOTANZ AT A CROSSROADS

From the shores of the Canary Islands comes the new album of the musician from Legazpia, Rogelio Botanz, his group ‘...puntos suspensivos’ and Julio Tejera, his right-hand sound man. ‘Tiempo’ is a very limited continuation, an expansion of theideas sketched out in ‘Tic, tac’, his previous work, which was brought out in the Basque Country by Gaztelupeko Hotsak. Rogelio Botanz left for Tenerife more than two decades ago now, and during the eighties took part on that island in what he terms a ‘genuine Canary Island cultural movement’. This movement included the setting up of the Canary Island Song Workshop, an experience which brought him into contact with a number of different groups and musicians from the Basque Country. After the workshop was dissolved in 1992, with a number of its members moving to the metropolis, Rogelio decided to stay in Tenerife, form his own group and continue working on the rhythmic memory of the islands while at the same time looking to the future and leaving himself open to the influences of other musical traditions which lie close to his heart.
‘Tic, tac’, his previous five songs, included a track composed by Rogelio with a master syllogism poem by Gabriel Aresti. ‘Nire poesía’ was recorded live with Hiru Truku in Madrid, although the entire audience sang the chorus in Basque.
‘Nire poesia’ appears once again in his new album, this time recorded in a studio with Joseba Tapia and Arkaitz Miner and both electrical and traditional accompaniments (whistles, chácharas and Canary Island drums). The txalapartas and the alboka, on the other hand, pave the way for another song in Basque: ‘Bihotzean da indarra’, a rock track which combines guanche or traditional Canary Island cries with the experience of old Basque sports, the sound of txistu players with an irrintzi (a kind of Basque yodel) and the triki with the plucking of an electric guitar, elements combined with much imagination. The same guanche cry ‘hai t?uhu catanaja’ (Courage, be brave!) rings out again in ‘Maña, fuerza y corazón’, accompanied by traditional bells and the sound of fighting sticks being hit together - reminders of the traditions that are the heart of the people. Contrast is provided by Larry Jean Louis’ electric guitar and Julio Tejera fills in the gaps with his arrangements.
This work by Ricardo Botanz has a surprising variety of registers and collaborators. We could continue the overview with ‘Arrorró’, for example, a tragic ballad which tells the story of Esther Gatti, an Argentinean grandmother who actually managed to find her granddaughter who had been kidnapped at birth by the army. The beautiful lyrics are set to a traditional melody with a treatment that serves to accentuate this moving tale with the help of Olga Ramos and the master timple-player ‘Colorao’. The memory of the atrocities perpetrated by Argentinean soldiers returns once again in ‘Noche de los lápices’, sung with Diego Massimini to the sound of that violin which touches your heart.
Abrahan Kodjo from the Ivory Coast has lent Rogelio (and helps him sing) a sentimental reggae track called ‘Corazón’, one of those simple, tender songs that remind us of Manu Chao. In ‘Gente que sí’, on the other hand, we move to that other country that lies so close to the Canary Island heart: Cuba, and together with the ‘Troveros de Asieta’ from the island of La Palma and the Cuban singer Gerardo Alfonso, Rogelio sings about the dilemma of solidarity. Further north, Tapia, Leturia and Arkaitz Miner accompany him once again in ‘Canarlanda’ a parallel journey made by Canary Islanders and the Irish with a Canary Island polka in the middle.
Rogelio Botanz also explores his own memories in ‘Amistades particulares’, a track which reminds us of songs by Jabier Muguruza. In another composition called ‘Hoy tú’, Rogelio sings to his new-born child along with the Mexican musician Alejandro Filio. A song which reminds us of Silvio, a writer whose influence is always benign. In ‘Nomadas’, finally, Rogelio remembers his ancestors, six generations who constantly had to adapt to their environment. In the Canary Islands, Rogelio takes his leave with two traditional ‘Sirinoques’ (songs to the sun) and a ‘jota’, which close this circle of songs that unite autobiography with the everyday occurrences, in a crossroads that started with ‘Tiempo’ a strident definition of principles based on traditional Canary Island percussion, that turns deep down into a rap created alongside the group Tinguaro. In this modern era, in which the label world music is so often bandied about, Rogelio Botanz has, with complete ease and the help of a few good collaborators, managed to distil many years’ hard work into a few songs with a dense mix of cultures, which defy any labels because they prove strangely familiar to many different people.
Pedro Elias Igartua