Gerardo Jerez Le Cam
Jerez Le Cam: the dialogue of Argentine tango and gipsy music
The title of a 2010 album speaks volumes about Jerez Le Cam's originality: Tango Balkanico. The Balkan adjective attached to the Argentinian musical genre highlights the poignant vivacity of the pianist with playful melodies. Arrived from Buenos Aires twenty years ago, Gerardo Jerez Le Cam now resides in Nantes, France. He explains his practice with a subtle mixture.Are your creations intended to break the boundaries between scholarly and popular music ?GJLC: I assume that there is no border. I do not ask myself the question of whether I make music rather scholarly or contemporary, classical or popular. For me, the important thing is not to think about this when I write but to simpler things, like the people I manage, the place where I am, the relationship to the melody... I let the musical influences come to me. Naturally, as I have a classical musical education and I have played a lot of popular music, we find these two elements in writing. Our quartet reaches audiences of connoisseurs as well as people from rural areas. Recently, we have been in the forest of northern Argentina where the Wichi Indians live, and the music has been very well received.The comparison with Astor Piazzolla seems striking. What is your relation to tango ?GJLC: In Argentina, we have to go through it. We are immersed in a kind of huge swimming pool and it is part of the personality of the people of the city to be good swimmers. I carry it within me, but tango has always been a tool or a bridge. I had the opportunity to listen to Piazzolla when I was fifteen, in the seventies, and it really struck me. He opened tango to other music by including jazz and rock, which was scandalous for traditional tango musicians.At the origin of your project, did you want to modernize it ?
GJLC: I didn't necessarily want to modernize it but to find an original language. I wanted to express the relationship of music with other arts, like poetry and image, but also more direct feelings like love, dreams and my daily life.What have you learned from your collaborations with Gotan Project ?
GJLC: I went on tour twice with them, they invited me as a pianist. It was special because it was necessary to play for a much larger audience, the meeting with huge venues was impressive. I discovered Gotan Project in the nineties and I was interested in the merger they carried out.
Some of your compositions reveal a more joyful atmosphere than in traditional tango. Does this come from the Balkan influence ? And is it not antithetical to what founds tango ?
GJLC: Before arriving in France, my meeting with musicians from Eastern Europe was a great shock. Not only from a musical point of view, but also in the way of being inhabitants. I met Russians, Ukrainians and especially Romanians. Their way of experiencing the moment and the celebration in joviality is strikingly light and powerful. All of this was translated into music. I was able to incorporate elements of language into what I carried within me, that is to say tango and classical music from Latin America. It seemed interesting to me to find a counterweight, a dialogue between the weight of tango and the lightness of Gypsy music. It is a contrast that works.You adapted songs by J. S. Bach: where did this desire come from ?
GJLC: I have been playing Bach since my childhood and it's always a pleasure. His language power impresses me, as well as all his emotional aspect. For a long time, I have been working on the prelude and fugue of the Well-Tempered Clavier. I wanted to make a mirror between Bach's music and mine. I was inspired by this blurring of the lines between popular and learned music. Bach was in the same situation in his day: he was a great connoisseur of popular music, while being very diverse, thanks to his visits across Europe.
Like the musical mixes you operate, your quartet is made up of members with multiple origins. What is his story ?
GJLC: The quartet was born almost eight years ago, from the meeting between the bandoneon and the cymbalum. I have been playing with Mihai Trestian, of Moldovan origin, for fifteen years. Bandoneon player Manu Comté is Belgian. Iacob Maciuca is a Romanian violinist. I met him when I arrived in Nantes more than twenty years ago. It was thanks to him that I discovered the first colors of Gypsy music.
Why did you settle in France ?
GJLC: My father was born in Nantes in the west of France, this is what made me decide to come to this region. I wanted to come to Europe, just to discover another approach to music. It brought me a lot to observe cultural crossings. I also met people from Arab countries, from Africa, from everywhere. We are not so lucky in Argentina. This was decisive for the enrichment of my music.
How is the reference to immigration reflected in your music ?
GJLC: In all the work I have done so far, except Las voces del silencio, we find this element. My parents are immigrants and my grandparents were immigrants too, so I feel this uprooting very strongly. This search for roots constitutes the strength of a certain nostalgia when one arrives in a new country. The album Ofofof was also called "Raices" during the tour. As for the Las voces del silencio project, it was the result of a trip to the Chaco province, in the north of Argentina. I saw the Wichi Indians who arrived long before the conquistadors. This work evokes the origins and does not speak of immigrants. He speaks of this people from whom their land has been taken, of their culture. We moved away from the city, and going into nature, we left aside the reference to immigration.
Interview by Lauriane Morel
Mondomix - 2013
Line-up:Jerez Le Cam Quartet & Anne Magoüet
Gerardo Jerez Le Cam: pianoIacob Maciuca: violinManu Comté: bandoneonMihai Trestian: cymbalumAnne Magoüet: vocal