Filed under: album, review | Tags: dalia wolfson, este mundo, rupa and the april fishes
Rupa & The April Fishes
Este Mundo •••••
Imagine a wagon loaded with all sorts of rustic paraphernalia: crimson odds and ends, shawls of eye-tickling paisley, dark metal spoons, perhaps a dark infant swaddled and balancing on top of the whole structure and peering around with a curious air. Now watch that wagon move, slowly, carefully, onward, hear it emit strange noises – an axle grinding deeply, gears exhaling, stray bells ringing in the forest. This type of vehicle would perhaps be the most suitable bandwagon for Rupa & The April Fishes. Rupa Marya, the lead “songstress”, had a travelling childhood and pocketed some languages on the way, moving from South Asia to France to America, and now she’s globetrotting again while promoting her band’s second album, Este Mundo. She’s joined by a diverse and equally skilled series of musicians whose instruments range from the accordion to percussive ‘contraptions’. Este Mundo sounds like Lhasa de Sela married to Cirque du Soleil under the watchful gaze of some Black Eyes (not Peas, no, but Les Yeux Noirs). The music is saboroso – intensely flavourful – like Mayan chocolate with chilli pepper bits melting in your mouth, igniting the listener’s earbuds and burning with zesty richness.
Fifteen tracks decorate and derive their inspiration from this world – the literal translation of Este Mundo – and Marya provides vocals in fluid French, clearest Spanish and nighttime English, or else she chooses to let the instruments sing in her stead. In ‘C’est Moi’ and ‘Espero La Luna’, Rupa lilts words and then falls to interjections of “lay” or “ay” on repeat, chants of strong emotion that return to that raw, wordless power of vocal nonsense sounds. Other, exclusively instrumental pieces like ‘(La Frontera)’ or ‘(El Camino Del Diablo)’ bring in quotidian noises, wheels turning and wind blowing, sad trumpets and vibrating strings – the slow, ancient sound of a seer making her way down a dirt path. ‘Soledad’ and ‘La Estrella Caída’ evoke a coastline where jolly sailors in caps with bright ribbons accompany the young lady singing about solitude, stars and the sea. Throughout the album, the instruments maintain characters of their own – the out-of-breath, drunken accordion; a trumpet with the call of an elephant (‘L’éléphant’ in particular showcases this timbre); and the resounding, ponderous bass.
Este Mundo is distinctive and powerful because of its great investment in cultural variety. Chansons, ragas, swing and mango-flavoured tangos combine and meld into its gypsy jazz, the music of long travels and many tongues. Interestingly enough, the Romani people are said to have originated in South Asia and migrated, eventually, to Europe – a reflection of Marya’s own journey. The buffet of language gives this album an exquisite freedom of speech and expression that plays the chords of human emotion in a proper way, without taking everything too seriously. There is creaking sorrow in these songs, yes, but it’s all taken with a grain of spice and a sudden, guttural laughter. Marya is a doctor by day, and this career provides her with intimate knowledge of illness, fear, death and mortality. But the music of Rupa & The April Fishes deals with these heavy themes with a rare wit. ‘Soy Payaso (I Am A Clown)’, one of the album’s most instant masterpieces, showcases the band’s talents by integrating many of the styles and two Romance languages to create a song that addresses the beautiful humour in the human comedy, and embraces it with a hop, a skip and a jump for the joy of life.
UK release date: 09/11/09; www.myspace.com/aprilfishes
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