Left to right: Richard Troon, Stephen Gagne, Nils Olaf Soderback, Kevin Carr, Miguel Tejada-Flores and Mark Nelson are Charanga. - Photo courtesy of Stephen Gagne

Charanga at Tease

When fiddle and bagpipe player Kevin Carr was in his early 20s, he stepped off a train in Santiago de Compostela — the capital city of Galicia, a Spanish province north of Portugal.

"I was looking for a museum, but it turned out that I was in the wrong place," Carr says. "Coincidentally, I met a group of musicians and ended up playing fiddle with them at a dance. That's when I discovered Galician music."

Carr, who now lives in Applegate, says that the culture of Galicia is a mix of Celtic, Roman, Goth, Muslim, South American and Cuban people.

"The music of the country reflects this rich culture," Carr says. "The festivals, music and dance are fantastic."

Traditional Galician music consists of bagpipes and percussion, with a lot of singing, Carr says. A large part of Galicia's population plays bagpipes, according to Carr.

"Galicia likely had bagpipes before the Scots or the Irish," Carr says. "Every country in Europe has its indigenous bagpipes. Pipes came into Ireland and Scotland around 1200 A.D., but there are representations of bagpipes, such as in the form of reliefs, in Galician churches that date to the year 1000 A.D.

"There are hundreds of different bagpipes. They're quite different from each other in size, shape, volume and the kind of music that's played on them."

With the advent of radio during the 1930s, modern instruments and trends found their way into Galicia's traditional music.

"With newer styles such as rumba from Cuba, larger dance bands evolved, called charanga," Carr says.

He and five other like-minded Rogue Valley musicians, Mark Nelson, Stephen Gagné, Richard Troon, Miguel Tejada-Flores and Nils Olof Soderback, have teamed up to play the music of Galicia.

They call their group, simply, Charanga. They'll perform Saturday night at Tease.

"We've added a few things, such as electric bass, to jazz it up," Carr says. "We have two percussionists. One plays traditional Galician rhythms, and the other plays a style that is more of a fusion."

Carr, who plays many string and wind instruments as well as fiddle and bagpipes, started playing pipes when he was 25. He's worked with Wake the Dead, the Celtic all-star Grateful Dead jam band; Hillbillies from Mars, a Celtic and American folk-roots band from San Francisco; and Tetes du Violon, whose members are based in Quebec, Canada, and California.

Nelson is a former national champion on Appalachian dulcimer, and also plays guitar, bass, mandolin and bodhran. He's been performing since the early '70s, and his credits include many recordings, books and instructional videos.

Gagné plays various saxophones and clarinets; Troon plays bass drum, bodhran and bones; Tejada Flores plays cajon, doumbek, tupan, tambourine and other percussion; and Soderback plays accordion and violin.

Soderback spent several years studying ragas and tabla in India, and he was part of Ashland Klezmer group the Bar Misfits.

Charanga was featured during the "West Coast Live!" radio show taped this year at the Bowmer Theatre at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The national radio variety show hosted by Sedge Thomson will be broadcast Jan. 23 on National Public Radio. Charanga also is regular at the Seattle International Folklife Festival.

"Not many people know much about Galicia," Carr says. "It's misty and green, much like the weather in Ireland. Irish legend has that one of the main tribes of the Celts came to Ireland from Galicia. Before the Romans conquered it, the country was known as Gaelica. You can still see ancient, Celtic forts in the hills."

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