Andean Songs
(Naxos World, 2002)

Anyone who's familiar with Andean music will recognize the sound of Takillacta from the first notes of "Pampa Lirima." Those who are very familiar with Andean music will recognize that something about this album is a bit different from most in the Andean tradition.

Takillacta blends the traditional bamboo flutes, percussive bombo and stringed charango with Spanish guitar, modern drums and a piano for their more modern sound. For the most part, it's a successful fusion. The Spanish guitar sounds as much at home in these pieces as the Siku pan flutes, and the modern percussion adds drive to the tunes without becoming obtrusive. Only the piano seems like a misstep. Despite Maurizio Najit's skillful performance, the piano never quite blends in with the other instruments. When the piano is only a contributing instrument, the effect is minor, but tunes like "Valz Del Sur Del Bronx" and "Alma Andina" have much of their edge softened by the comparatively blunt piano. It may be a bit too European or just too modern to fit in with the rather traditional performance on Andean Songs. It's made more frustrating by the sense that there is a place for it somewhere, and the group hasn't quite found it.

But the piano is not an overly dominating instrument, and the rest of the band fits together as neatly as one breath with the next. Arturo Flores provides all the flute work on the album, and his delicacy and emotive capabilities never falter among the various woodwinds. Flores calls up grief and hope with equal aplomb, and never seems to tire throughout the album. The minor keys and often mournful sound of Andean flute work carry well over the extra guitar work. Takillacta's modern compositions blend indistinguishably with the traditional pieces, a rare accomplishment for artists working with a contemporary goal in mind. The only two songs on the album, "Tierra" and "Papel de Plata," are graced by Francisco Rodriguez's wonderful bass and Zaida Aguilar's delicate feminine vocals, which could easily carry an album. Besides vocals, Rodriguez supplies the guitar that complements Leider Dorado's charango and Hideji Taninaka's acoustic bass. Lionel Sanders gives the percussion arrangements a contemporary flair that still feels integral to the traditional feel of the album.

The combination is enchanting. Starting with the sweet "Pampa Lirima," Takillacta creates a musical landscape of high winds and lush color. The humming of the bass in "Laya" gives an otherwise tentative song a deep grounding and an imposing attitude. "Huajira" uses a rain of string notes and a rumble of percussion to make a storm cloud atmosphere through which the flute notes fly like birds. The delicacy of the strings in "Balseros Del Titicaca" is also contradicted by the percussive heartbeat and sometimes insistent flute. "Preludia Andino" and "Camino De Llamas" fit together like movements in a suite. The dominance of piano in "Preludia" feels more natural than at any other point on the album and offsets the sharper flute trills in "Camino." "Gambrita Dulce" may be the catchiest tune on the album, with a sweet melody and toe-tapping rhythm. The notes of the flute dance along the path of the guitar in an alternating pattern that calls the listener to do the same. Takillacta ends the album on the flamboyant "Angel Jaco's Song," an eight-minute piece whose relatively simple composition allows each of the performers a chance to demonstrate exactly what they can do with it. It's a simplistic tune run through a series of elaborate recreations, and one of the most entertaining tracks on the album.

Takillacta may not be a traditional Andean band. But Andean music is a living tradition, and needs to keep moving to stay that way. The Andean Songs on this album offer a clear direction, not too far from the current path, for future exploration.

- Rambles
written by Sarah Meador
published 23 August 2003

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