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Chango Spasiuk
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This project is funded by the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, through the generous support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

+ About the Performance
This program was recorded 10/07/2007 at Symphony Space.

The music of chamame emerged in the ‘tierra colorada,' the red earth of the province of Misiones in the far northeast corner of Argentina sandwiched between Paraguay and Brazil. Chango Spasiuk was born in its heartland, in Apostoles. Chamame is for the most part a swingy dance music full of emotion, often sentiment, its 6/8 crisscrossing rhythms imbued with infectious movements for feet and hips. It's a feisty fusion of the music from the very different groups which originally lived or came to settle in the Misiones region: the original Mbya-Amerindian people; Spanish immigrants, notably Spanish Jesuits who came and established a special line of Catholic Missions; runaway and freed African slaves who came to start new lives; and immigrants from other parts of Europe (besides Spain), such as Spasiuk's Ukranian grandparents who came in 1897 as part of a group of six Ukranian and six Polish families. As Spasiuk tells it, "My father Lucas and my uncle Marcos were born there and grew up with the music of those immigrant families, with polkas, waltzes and schottisches. My father played this music on the violin and my uncle sang. Chamame songs blend melancholy and happiness together. It is a wild energetic music with many sad histories in it of people who have passed through many situations. It is music with many levels: like an onion you peel off the layers and find real lives inside it. My own pieces tell the stories of the latest generation who are no longer immigrants."

Some say the name chamame is a version of a Guarani Indian phrase meaning ‘doy sombra a menudo' - ‘I give shade from time to time' - which creates the image of the music and dancing which always took place in outdoor patios - packed red earth floors hardened in the extreme heat complete with plaited roofs to shade people from the intense tropical sun of a part of the world renowned for its rainforests, powerful rivers, waterfalls and exquisite flora and fauna including colorful toucan parrots. The region's sub-tropical climate makes it the agricultural home to the yerba mate plantations, the quintessential Argentina drink. Indeed yerba mate is more than just a local tea: it is an integral part of the identity and psyche of so many who live in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, southern Brazil. Some of Chango's songs pay tribute to the tarefero men who harvest yerba mate with machete or by hand.

Spasiuk's chamame is firmly rooted in the community culture. "I started t play when I was eleven and learned everything by ear. I learned from my Dad and my uncle. You learn chamame by playing it live in the places where people come to hear it and dance it. And I heard it on the radio and at dances." Spasiuk is an innovator; while staying true to the root acoustic sounds of this lively rural dance music in homage to the great masters, such as Transito Cocomarola, Abitbol, Montiel and Blas Martinez Riera, he also adds more modern, experimental elements drawn from contemporary musical traditions, from his own work in folk, jazz, rock, classical and the avant-garde.

+ About the Artists

Chango Spasiuk was born in Apostoles, a small village in Misiones, a rural province with a distinctive culture and rich traditions. Of Ukranian ancestry, Chango spent his early years in a highly stimulating milieu: his childhood was centered around the carpenter's shop managed by Lucas, his violinist father, and Marcos, an uncle who sang. Vibrant village celebrations, idle musical evenings in red earth patios, the unrelenting subtropical climate, and a landscape dominated by lush jungles, big rivers, and yerba mate plantations inspired the powerful texture and even the mysticism of his music. In his homeland ‘El Chango' has come to be seen as the guardian angel of chamame, the most influential champion and innovator of the "music with the deepest swing in Argentina." His music is a rich mix of contemporary sound and tradition, where one can find the regional styles and rhythms of schottisches, rural polkas, ranchares, and rasguidos dobles. In many ways his contribution to the revitalization of this rural folk tradition can be compared to the influence Astor Piazzolla has had in the contemporary development of tango.

An accordion master, Spasiuk has released six solo albums in Argentina, including the award-winning Polcas de mi Tierra (1999), and received a Latin Grammy nomination for his first international release. Tarafero de mis Pagos (Piranha 2004). Sincehis participation in WOMEX 2003 and in Mercado de Bahia in 2001, he has traveled throughout Europe. In 2005, he received a BBC award for World Music.


Chango Spasiuk, accordion
Victor Renaudeau, violin
Sebastian Villalba, guitar, vocals
Juan Pablo Navarro, double bass
Marcos Villalba, percussion, guitar
Sara Gordon, guest dancer
Ivan Terrazas, guest dancer

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