FolkWorld article by Marcus Metz

Carlos Núñez' music traditions and instruments

An interview during his Germany tour in autumn 1997

Carlos Nunez; photo by The MollisAs second part of a three-piece series on Carlos Núñez, Galicia's new star talks to Marcus Metz about his first German tour and about his music and instruments.

Did you ever play in Germany before this tour?
Not with my band. First I came with the "Chieftains" to do a couple of shows in Germany. But this is the first tour with my own band and with my own album. I said in the concert that the first concert is like the first love. You never will forget. It is something very, very special. The first concert in a country uses to be a very small concert and nobody knows you. That's something very interesting. It's a different kind of concert in a country where all people know who is Carlos Núñez and what is Celtic music, you know.
Was it like your expectation, when you came here to Germany?
When we came to Germany, many people told me in Spain, "Carlos! German people! Remember that it's very cold for a concert!". I don't think so. Probably German people are very concentrated. When the concert starts you can see all this concentration in the crowd. But at the end of the concert we always have a big "fiesta". No problem! It's very hot!
So you enjoyed it?!
Very, very, very much! And I'm sure the crowds will be bigger and bigger the next time we will come here to Germany.

You play Spanish and Galician music, what about the situation of the Celtic music scene in Galicia?
Well, it's just incredible, because when people think of the Spanish music, they think of the flamenco or of the music from the South with the "torros", "paella", "olé - olé"...(laughs), but all the music from the North of Spain - especially from Galicia - is a different music, it's a Celtic music, because we've many connections by sea with other countries like Ireland, Scotland, Brittany.
Also there is the way to Santiago, where many, many pilgrims came to Galicia from Europe. And there is a very strong Latin connection with all countries of South America. And this is our music. Galicia is living now through a boom of Celtic music.

Carlos Nunez; photo by The Mollis< I recognised that you also took tunes from other Celtic scenes, you played "Sleepy Maggie" - or "Jenny's Chickens" - in your last piece before you came back on stage and you played "Dinkie's". You got pieces from the North of Ireland, you got pieces from Scotland in. Is there a great exchange now between Galicia, Ireland and Scotland and all around?
Absolutely! Sometimes when I play with Irish musicians it's different for them whether I play Galician music or Irish music, but the same for me, you know?! Our music is very, very close. But it's surprising me that people don't know that you've also pipes in Germany, you have this "Dudelsack", all kind of folk and traditional music that isn't very well known probably. So if I try to discover connections with other countries, I can have connections with Germany or Norway or the North of Europe in general. Traditional music is a really international language.
Often you played 6/8-tunes like "jigs". Is that the main tune in Galicia or do you play something like a "reel", too? You also played a "polka"...
Yes! The most typical rhythm is the "muñeira", it's a 6/8-rhythm, just the same as the "jig". But we have also tunes similar to the Irish "reels" or typical Spanish 3/4-rhythms. But we have many, many connections with Ireland or Scotland in all the rhythms.

You play many different instruments. Could you explain the instruments that you play?
I play the "gaita", which is the Galician bagpipe, the most typical instrument in Galicia. I've two "gaitas" with me on the tour.
What's the "gaita"? Has it one drone or two drones?
Sometimes it has two, sometimes three. On the photo in the album I've a "gaita" with three drones. But there are many, many kinds of "gaitas". In fact the pipes were the same instrument in Scotland, Ireland or Galicia some centuries ago. We know, that the first time we had this instrument in Galicia it was in the 11th century. So it's really a very, very old instrument.
And you play also different flutes?
Yes, I play some baroque flutes, some Irish flutes, Galician flutes. I play also the ocarina. I use these two instruments, the flute and the pipes, to do a complete expression of the music.

You play the traditional style, but you also get new influences in. You get the percussion in and get the keyboard in. How would you describe the sort of mixture that you make? What's the background and the feeling that you have?
Well, the background is a very special and magic music. All traditional music, which is marvellous, is very strong and very authentic. And I like it very much to have new things and explore new possibilities. I collaborate with musicians from other parts of the world; in my album "Brotherhood of Stars" I invited more than fifty artists. (Read more about this album in the first part of the Carlos series, in issue 3) And we have this union with Cuban music, and of course with the flamenco.
Americans say - when we play in the U.S. - that I play Celtic music with passion.

Carlos Nunez; photo by The Mollis What is your own favourite music style?
Well, when people ask me, "Carlos, what is the music you're listening to at home?", I always say that I listen to all kinds of music, absolutely all kinds. It's important to be very, very open and to learn from all the different artists. So I like many different bands. I toured with the "Chieftains" in the U.S., in Australia, in Japan and in all these territories where you never can imagine that Celtic music works so well there. They are new territories for this music. People are very, very interested. In Japan it's something incredible, in Japan people love Celtic music.
Well, this is the century for traditional music, I'm sure, because traditional music is an international language. We'll export more and more our own characters. I think all these crowds are more and more international. Now we don't play just in Spain or in Europe. We play in many, many different countries. Some years ago it was impossible to think about, but now that's a true reality.

Carlos Núñez is a very special person, and he talks about so many interesting things. It is simply a person where it is worth to have a series of articles - FolkWorld takes tribute of that, and does a three-piece series on the Galician star piper.
Last issue, we had the article Platinum with Piping about Carlos' shooting star career and his latest Platinum album 'Brotherhood of stars. Next issue Carlos talks about the history and background of the Spanish folk revival and about touring in the world.

All photos by The Mollis

Latest published CD: Brotherhood of Stars, BMG Classics

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