Imagine an intimate, candlelit Christmas celebration, a mass in San Francisco. A beautiful woman walks to the front. Her powerful, emotional voice begins to sing the traditional melodies of her Mexican heritage. A famous músico from Argentina recognizes her song. Without a word, he starts to strum a guitar and support la soloista. Their dynamic is incredible. He starts teaching her the Latin American musical styles absent from her Californian upbringing. Soon they fall in love, they marry, and their music takes on an intense sensuality. His rhythms and her vocals intertwine.
After traveling through South America and extensively studying the techniques of accomplished folk musicians, Yolanda Aranda and Enrique Coria will release Intimo (purchase here), a hauntingly passionate CD from Acoustic Disc, on August 13, 2002. Produced by Enrique’s bandmate, David Grisman, Intimo’s aesthetic evokes a sense of beauty. It is meant to move, to feed the audience a soulful meal, and to feel like a small campfire gathering.
Growing up first-generation Mexican American, Latin American musical styles come easy to Aranda. When she was a child, her grandfather would visit from Guanajuato and play traditional songs with her father while she sat with her sister, listening and learning. Maintaining strong ties with her family, she recalls sitting with relatives and drinking hot chocolate while “the beautiful baritone voices of my father and my uncle Roberto filled the night sky.” Soon she started neighborhood choirs that sang to, and were influenced by, the Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Cajun, and Mexican families living in the small Oakland neighborhood.
While growing up in Dique Los Molinos, a small village in the center of Argentina, Enrique Coria would practice for hours a day. He says, “My father gave me a Spanish guitar when I was 12 years old and I went crazy. I was always thinking about the guitar.” When dedication wore the strings, he would replace them with fishing wire. This drive soon led Coria to Cordova, where he studied with classical guitar guru Jorge Martinez Zarate and played alongside the well-known Argentinian singer Hernan Figueroa Reyes.
With much of Coria’s professional career centering on his luminary role in the David Grisman Quintet, his name automatically lures the interest of jam-band enthusiasts and roots fans (Grisman’s “Dawg” music combines bluegrass, swing, jazz, Latin, and gypsy melodies). His seamless technique has accompanied him on over 400 albums with popular groups from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Uruguay—most of which include noted compositions from the early 20th century, which mix European classical styles with Latin American folk rhythms.
A wide variety of Latin American musical styles comprise Intimo’s repertoire. Included are modern boleros, a Spanish dance style resembling a very slow rumba; rancheras, Mexican ranch songs sung between the acts of nation-centered plays that commercialized after 1910; and Nueva Canciónes, songs often used to begin and support a revolution, challenge inequalities, and destroy imperialism. Aranda explains that these songs are “very soulful and poetic. Many of us have nostalgic feelings for them. They recognize the passion and struggles of authentic, everyday life.”