On a recent cold night, in a tiny, cellar nightclub in Manhattan's East Village, a fascinating and unusual world music band, the Chicana Gypsy Project, made its USA debut. The performance had a little extra back story drama. The group had been snowed in at the Spanish airport for two days and did not make it from the arrivals terminal in NewYork; just about showtime. Their instruments, however did not fare as well. The musicians played with borrowed instruments but the music was their own.
The group, led by singer/dancer Maria Bermudez, blends seemingly diverse roots and idioms into a sound that is very much its own.
As the ensemble’s name suggests, it draws its inspiration from Latin American and flamenco genres. Add to this, robust flavors from the American southwest, blues, and jazz. One might think that this oleo is a bit on the gimmicky side —but it works! Chicana Gypsy Project’s unique blend of herbs and spices charms, excites, inspires, thrills and soars. The pulse quickens; the blood blazes; and the feet move.
The secret is soul. The numbers typically start with the Spanish guitar, joined by the passionate wails of the two cantatores, the Flamenco singers. When I say “wail,” I am not using the word as some kind of metaphorical flourish. These magical singers reach inside of themselves and emerge with pure distilled emotion shape-shifted into music. It sounds pretty, pretty good.
The other instruments slip in. They are gypsy violin, drums, electric guitar and upright bass. And then of course, there is the presence of Maria Bermudez—founder. lead singer and dancer. Her body swoops, glides, stomps and swirls, and her vocals match the moves.
The repertoire, though no without it exotica, also contained blazing versions of some familiar classics, such as “Moondance” and “Summertime.” The latter, while perhaps not the most infectious, resonates with the group’s mission. Its composer George Gershwin, a son of Russia Jewish immigrants, created his own multi culti sounds spun from French classical composers, Tin Pan Alley and Jazz.
Add Chicana Gypsy Project to the honorable list of Musicians Without Borders. Their explosive results will reverberate for a long time.
Chicana Gypsy Project
Maria Bermudez (Lead Vocals/Dancer)
-Jesus Alvarez (Flamenco Guitarist)
-Juan 'Cantarote' (Flamenco Singer/Palmas)
-Pele De Los Reyes (Flamenco Singer/Palmas)
-Bernardo Parrilla (Gypsy Violin)
-Tato Macias (Drums)
-Lolo Bernal (Electric Guitar)
-Sandro Fornasari (Upright Bass)