Magos Herrera & Brooklyn Rider
Sounds and Colours

By Carolina Amoruso

Vocalist and composer, Magos Herrera, born in Mexico City and living now in New York, pays homage to these artists on Dreamers, in collaboration with the string quartet, Brooklyn Rider (the group’s members are Colin Jacobsen and Johnny Gandelsman, violin; Nicholas Cords, viola; and Michael Nicolas, cello). The work of intuitive, seasoned arrangers, including Brazil’s Jaques Morelenbaum, adds to Dreamers’ elegance, as do guest musicians, including Spain’s ever-reaching vocalist, Miguel Poveda.

Dreamers is a lovely and lush concept album of brilliant grey defined by Herrera’s deep and smoky voice and her seamless engagement with the quartet. At times that blending of vocals with the cello’s soft passion is so smooth that the two instruments fold into each other as one, weighty and ethereal at the same time.

Herrera reveals her intention for Dreamers: “to celebrate the beauty of music as a political act”. Indeed, most of these songs are keepsakes of some of the most activist Latin American artists of the savage years. Three of Herrera’s compositions are included as well, set to the poetry of Mexican Octavio Paz and Nicaraguan Rubén Darío, as is a poem by Federico García Lorca, set to music composed by Vicente Amigo Girol.

Herrera and friends take a free and graceful swing with the melody of “Balderrama”, written by “Cuchi” Leguizamon and José Manuel Castilla, and immortalized by Mercedes Sosa. It’s a hymn to an all-night taverna in the city of Salta where dissident artists, including Sosa, performed resuscitated folk tunes during the years of Argentina’s Dirty War, from 1976 – 1981. The lyrics to “Balderrama” are said to have been cryptically crafted, using the metaphor of the morning star, the ‘lucero del alba’, to symbolize martyred Argentine revolutionary, Che Guevara. Colin Jacobsen’s arrangement is an affective and pungent blend of baroque and modern, and Herrera’s understated indignation overlies her desolation, rendering “Balderamma” as stirring as Sosa’s icon.

Lorca’s “La Aurora en Nueva York” takes a grim look at the City’s “black doves”, “putrid water” and “abandoned children” of the Depression. Herrera shares this flamenco with Poveda, who adds urgency and his unmistakable plaint. Herrera adopts flamenco waverings now, subtle and exquisite. Poveda has a way of drawing collaborating artists, even dancers, into his aura, with results of great flourish and intimacy. Brooklyn Rider is especially sensitive too, as they punctuate the two voices with pizzicato phrases as if stealing up the City’s “immense stairways”. For this New Yorker, Lorca’s bleak lament as performed is the most affecting track on the album.

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