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Music Review: Chango Spasiuk – Pynandi (Los Descalzos)

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With instruments like the violin, guitar, and accordion, chamamé became music for the people in the Argentine Northeast. In its earliest embodiment, this form of folk music was considered to be of little interest to the upper classes. It was the song of the lower-class, of the bottom rung, like the beginnings of American blues and Portuguese fado.

Just like the blues took a few captivating performers to crack the ice, chamamé was no different. With artists like Tránsito Cocomarola and Raúl Barboza, chamamé generated popularity. And with a surge of modern performers, such as Zitto Segovia and Chango Spasiuk, it’s safe to say that chamamé is in good hands.

In the case of Chango Spasiuk, he took the form of chamamé and turned it on its head with his rockstar-like approach.

Chango was born in the Misiones Province of Argentina and began playing accordion early on in life, showing his stuff at birthday parties and other events. He began to drum up a name for himself, playing various festivals and collecting critical accolades. It wasn’t long before Chango Spasiuk became a household name amongst lovers of chamamé.

With Pynandi (Los Descalzos), Chango commands his instrument with faultless charisma. Appealing to traditionalists, rock, and jazz audiences all at once is no easy task, but he walks the wire with care. Spasiuk’s showmanship is distinctive, but his intimate devotion is equally important.

The record starts off with “Tierra Colorada,” a peppery little jam that amiably welcomes us to Chango’s world. Each song serves as a sort of love letter to the land of his birth, so it stands to reason that the opening tune sets the stage with heat and joyfulness.

While many of the pieces on Pynandi (which translates to "Barefoot"), exude a cheerful air, Chango’s sincerity provides a lot more grain than one might expect. This is his land, after all, and his layered understanding of it is granted to us in each note and turn of musical phrase.

Take, for instance, how the haunting intro to “El Camino” breaks the euphoria of “Tierra Colorada.” Chango wants to take us on “The Path,” but he wants to ensure that we are aware of the potential for struggle, danger, and misfortune. As he plays brilliantly over the light percussion and gentle guitar, we are reminded of the complexities of our trip. Perhaps we are reminded of home.

Chango’s “Suite Nordeste” is divided into a few movements and provides a textured, appealing excursion of the panorama of his land. Introduced initially through simple accordion and percussion, the tour slowly but surely slips down different pathways. This “North-eastern Suite” feels dangerous, sometimes unwelcoming, but always gripping.

While many might consider accordion music to be a touch too “adult contemporary” for their tastes, Chango Spasiuk uses his instrument to proudly tell the human story of the land he loves. More than world music, Pynandi (Los Descalzos) is soul music.

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