Thursday, March 03, 2005

Tarrega to Thyagaraja - Nacho Corral & Belen Cantos

Flamenco is the common platform for Nacho Corral, a guitarist and Belen Cantos, a vocalist, who were in Chennai recently to perform at the Alliance Fran├žaise de Chennai as the band, Beuroshna.

The other common factor is that both study music at the Swati Tirunal College in Trivandrum. Nacho, is learning the Veena while researching the ‘Sopanam’ style, native to Kerala. Belen is learning Carnatic Vocal formally under a Guru. Both find the ‘Gamakas’ a challenge.

“Initially, I had trouble learning the vocal technique in Carnatic Music, as my breath control was different. But with time, it has adapted, and now, I find that even Flamenco singing has become easier.”says Belen.

Nacho recounts the beginnings of his interest in music. “I suppose music was all around me. My father loves to listen to music. My brothers had a band of their own. It was a natural transition for me to become a musician too.” Belen’s mother, a gifted vocalist, has been an inspiration for her.

Their music, far from being given the generic epithet of ‘fusion’, is a combination of Indian ragas with Spanish lyrics and Flamenco talas (Belen’s coinage!). More interestingly, the Flamenco beats are played on a Mridangam, an instrument that has enthralled the two ever since they heard it being played.

Both recall a particularly amusing incident, when they were ‘advised’ to perform in as many places as possible, to gain exposure. Belen says, “We represented University of Kerala, at an inter-collegiate festival just outside Chennai. The funniest part was that our Professor, visiting Chennai at that time, thought we were playing at the December Music Season!”

Nacho adds, “He actually tracked us down, and saw us perform ‘80s hits at this college complete with guitar string snapping on stage. We went on to win 2nd place! He then whisked us away to his hotel, to stay the night more comfortably, before we headed back to Trivandrum the next day.”

“One experience that helped acclimatise us to India rapidly, was in an unreserved compartment on a train journey from Trivandrum to Chennai. There was a sea of people in the compartment, and we could hardly move. At 2 a.m., at Madurai station, we were quite shocked to see what looked like a group of mustachioed men in sarees! We then figured out, that they were transvestites.”

Nacho and Belen have come a long way, not only in terms of the physical distance traversed from Spain to India, but also in the learning and unlearning that they have done, in their quest to raise the bar on their skills. Here’s wishing them all the best in their musical careers!

Pic courtesy Seven Shots, as published in Madras Plus

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