- Label: Les Grands Fleuves - Distribution: L'Autre Distribution (F) / Broken Silence (D) / Discovery (UK) / Disque Office (CH) / Outhere Music (B+NL)
"Argentina-based, but these sisters are citizens of the world
Fusion albums often throw out intriguing hints at what the planet's future might sound like: free-form, multi-faceted, deliciously deracinated. Laura and Gianni Caronni - Las Hermanas Caronni - were born in Argentina, and have Italian and Jewish grandparents - a not uncommon combination in that country. The twin sisters are maestros of the viola, cello and clarinet, from which they tease soulful songs that skip sprite-like around the genres, from Italian canzonetta to klezmer to Astor Piazzolla-like tango, with moments of Michael Nyman and La Chicana along the way. Each song on Navega Mundos (Navigating Worlds) comes as a sort of digression from the previous one, the common threads being the sisters' harmonious, folksy vocals and their almost ambient-style arrangements. All compositions are penned by one ot both of the women, and give thanks to Rilke, The Doors and Gabriel Garcia Marquez for lyrical inspiration. Urban Argentina has never known what it is or wants to be, and in his sense this album is a deeply Argentinian one. Accordion-playing legend Raul Barboza provides the one deep, firm rural root, guesting on the final song, a chamamé penned by Laura titled 'Ya Me Voy'."
Or truly the voice of the storm
Whether it's the breath of the wind
Or the groan of the sea
Always watching you behind the melody Woven from a thousand voices"
Navega Mundos is the brilliant musical expression of the sisters' very personal act of not forgetting. They make real and solid their own identity through the music revealing it as they reach back to the qhosts of their childhood and explore their memories and the family's past in Russia, Europe and Argentina, using musical forms that blossom from their mixed cultural roots. It's a testimony to their brilliant musicianship and the impact of their varied musical experience and training that they seamlessly blend these disparate elements in a way that’s so easily engaging.
Growing up in Rosario, a large city on the banks of the River Parana, north west of Buenos Aires, the chamamé and litorelena music that sprang from the surrounding pampas and flood plains was woven into the soundtrack of their lives. Raul Barboza, whose accordeon playing sighed and danced through their local music making it popular in Argentina and beyond, had likewise become a household name. So it was a big deal when this legend of stage and screen came to town. The sixteen-year old Laura and Gianna Caronni went to the gig and afterwards were delighted to have their photo taken with him. A treasured moment. The idea that years later, through a chance encounter on a Parisian street, he would be playing with them on their own album would have seemed incredible.
The twins had grown up in a musical home. Both their parents - mum a research doctor who also taught at the university, and dad a psychologist - sang around the horse. "Mama listened to classical music and folk and flamenco. She was born in Rosario, but her mama was from Malaga and we used to listen to the music of Andalucia, to Camaron (Camaron de la lsla, the legendary Gypsy flamenco singer). Papa used to listen to Renaissance and folk music."
Granny (abuela) on their father's side, who looked after them while their parents were working, would sing the tango, the famously urban Argentine music with mongrel roots. "Abuela would sing as she did the washing up. We would be playing cards, on a table just outside on the deck and we'd say 'Abuela, sing a tangol' and she would, finding one that related to whatever she was doing." And so they would learn, singing along with her as they played.
Abuela had been a professional tango singer who'd performed on national radio. From an emigré Russian Jewish family with the un-Latin sounding name of Turchinsky, she went out as lris Blanco, becoming lris Blanco Caronni on marrying their grand-dad, who hailed from an ltalian family. They'd met when they were both in a choir in Rosario, singing la Traviata. Although she gave up her professional career when they had children, tango and opera continued to be a big part of their lives. And as soon as their granddaughters were old enough, they too would be taken regularly to see the fabulous productions at the grand Teatro de Circulo.
They lived at home in an old-style house converted into flats which shared a common patio. Their upstairs neighbour would organise guitar events which typically took place after lunch, a custom rooted in gaucho tradition, and the young girls would sing and play. By the time they reached the age of thirteen they both knew that music would be their chosen path in life.
Aged eighteen they went to Buenos Aires and worked with the symphony orchestra in the Teatro Colon and would gig with local chamber orchestras. Five years later, a French/Argentinian Philharmonic orchestral collaboration was created, which resulted in Laura going to play in Lyon. A year later, Gianna won a competition organised by the French and Argentine governments with the prize of studying in France for a year.
Although Europe was not unknown to the sisters, who had been born in Geneva while their father was working there, they were still only eighteen months old when they returned to Rosario. Gianna, who could have gone to Paris to take up her prize felt it was too big and impersonal and chose Lyon where she would be near her sister.
This was in 1998 when they were 24, yet although the twins had sung and played together from an early age, the idea of working together on their own music had not occurred to them and did not occur to them now. After her studies, Gianna started to compose music for a children’s theatre and travelled with them across France and Laura, who'd met the singer, painter, musician Juan Carlo Caceres through a mutual friend in 2004, moved to Paris where she worked with him and travelled across France and Africa (particularly La Reunion), providing the music for a contemporary dance company.
The sisters were leading very disparate lives, but Gianna would join her sister in Paris during breaks in touring and together they would play each other the music they were working on separately, inspired by their travels. Buenos Aires-born Caceres was a well known existential thinker, pianist and trombonist, who played jazz and was an expert in Argentine folk music as well as the tango, and having studied its African connections, set up various successful music projects which explored these. He had an open studio in Pigalle, a place where musicians and artists would get together and where one day Caceres heard the Caronni twins playing together. He said "You don't need piano or guitar or drums. It's more original with just the two of you." "We were playing other people's songs and arranging them in our own way » Laura says "and he said to us 'you must write your own' and that he was going to help us." Caceres became their mentor and the twins would open for him or sometimes would play a piece of their own during his set. And so from when they started to work together in 2007, they began to build up their own body of work for their own project, Las Hermanas Caronni, which they started to tour in France two years later. Caceres died in 2015 at the age of 78, by which time the Caronni sisters had a hectic touring schedule in their own right. Caceres's tour manager stepped in to help and has taken up the reins of their ever increasinq commitments.
The Caronni’s compositions often spring from their improvising together, the music inspired by images they have in their head. They say that "We explain these to each other, we’ll explain the light and the landscape."
Landscape and place is a seam of inspiration underpinning the tracks on their latest album. and the resulting music is gorgeously evocative, filmic whilst packing an emotional punch. The instrumental Cansino, credited to Gianna, is their response to "the landscapes and the people of north western Argentina" which is a clear calm place, they say "mostly inhabited by Amerindians where the light is magical and soothing."
The track opens with pizzicato cello that continues throughout and a clarinet, building slowly with the addition of bowed strings. lt's both simple and sophisticated, both lush and sparse. And this is typical of their brilliant arrangements, their use of very few instruments that seem to fully realize the depth of an inspired creativity.
Navega Mundos, they say, is a departure from their first two albums, Baguala De la siesta (2011, Snail Records) where they turned to the Argentinian folk songs of their childhood and their second, Vuela (2013, Les Grands Fleuves) which was consciously about meeting other cultures, notably through their creative collaboration with Algerian Diwan musician Farid Chouali. They met Chouali thanks to happy coincidence through à close friend, and this kind of magical synchronicity seems to shape their musical career, responsible as it is for the most joyful tracks on their new album.
By 2006 the sisters were living in Ménilmontant in Paris, which they describe as a musical quarter near the Père Lachaise cemetery. Whilst out walking one day they almost literally bumped into Raul Barboza, whose photo they'd had taken with them half their lives ago. What was he doing here? He told them he was living in Paris too. And so they told their childhood hero that they were now working on music together and asked if he'd be interested in playing accordeon with them one day. Gianna says: "He said 'l've got a few minutes now’, so we went to Laura's house and drank matés and we played and he gave us a few tips. He said it was very important how you present the music that you do. You don't have to describe it, but to give some words to the public that help them to get into the story."
"It was helpful," she said, referring particularly to their instrumental tracks (there are five on Navega Mundos) because I know I have a film in my head when l'm composing and I think the audience will too as they listen. But everyone will be different, and we want to help them, as he said, to get into it." Barboza came to a few concerts and told them he'd be happy to play with them, so when they came up with tracks that they thought would be perfect for him, they simply went to his house in Paris and they played together. "lt was easy" they say. And so his accordeon playinq sparkles fairy dust on two joyful and charming chamamé inspired songs as he rouses the ghosts of Eastern European polka in the rhythm and melodies. La Chica Del 17, which title references a popular song from 1926, is a lovely homage to their grandma Aida Turchinsky/lris Blanco, that would need very few words of explanation. They have a talent for telling a vivid story in a very few words. "The deck was a castle/the table was our home," they remember their childhood as they celebrate their grandma as young girl who « drank maté with milk » and "sang La Traviata and the tango." Navega Mundos differs from their first two albums in that, as they say, they really looked inside themselves and expressed their own experiences. "When you start writing you discover yourself. it's very different than when you are playing other people's music and are putting yourself in the thread of their experience."
As well as explorinq their identity through their family history the music relates to the geographical places that informed it. The a cappella opening track Agua De Rio kicks off the themes of time and place and identity and water as an image or a sound flows through the album. Aqua De Rio is nursery rhyme-like in its simplicity with a spare percussive accompaniment and drum like a heartbeat. lt suggests childhood (a childhood by the River Parana, I’m saying). And the carefree whistling at the end launches us into a world trip through the many musical styles of their formative years and those of their parents and grandparents. These are blended in a beautiful seamless and evocative sound - all natural forms of expression for the sisters themselves.
Their sonic world and arrangements spring from and are shaped by their classical training and the folk of many forms and cultures that have informed who they are - the tango, the chamamé, the ltalian opera, the flamenco, the Russian folk and classical music. The pop and the literature that they loved when they were growing up are also in the mix.
Their slightly extended version of The Doors' Spanish Caravan nods both to their Spanish grandmother and to the music of their Russian heritage as they mix in motifs from Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition, suggesting the storm at sea with an occasionally dissonant clarinet solo over frenetic strings. But we get to the shore in the next track, El Espanol, a sweet instrumental which they composed during a trip in Spain. And this flows into Turchinsky Canzonetta, an instrumental piece which ties in their Russian Jewish and ltalian roots.
That we pitch up in Macondo, with « A poem to save you from the flood of Macondo/A poem to save me from the flood of Macando, » is thanks to Gabriel Garcia Marquez's masterpiece One Hundred Years Of Solitude. His book, along with Rilke’s Letters To a Young Poet, was a childhood favourite. The day Marquez died the sisters sat down and improvised together and this song sprang from the resulting composition.
They're telling me all this as we talk on Skype. They are in a hotel room having just played in Paris the night before. They are both as blonde and attractive as they look on their album cover and are warm, friendly intelligent and completely un-starry. Laura’s daughter pops in to wave hello and her partner comes along to get everything ready as they are leaving this afternoon to fly to Brazil for a ten-day tour.
For while the sisters now perform mostly as a duo, they still collaborate on other projects. Their gig last night was the debut of a multicultural collaboration put together by the celebrated Brazilian composer/musician Orlando Morais. Out of the hundreds of people who auditioned for Morais, they were chosen alongside Kassé Mady Diabaté, Régis Gizavo (the award winning Malagasy accordeon player), Chinese virtuoso Guo Gan and the bass player Jean Lamoot (Noir Désir/Salif Keïta). And it’s with Morais and this line-up that they're off to Brazil.
Laura and Gianna are also part of La Tribu des Femmes, the multicultural creation of French band Lo’Jo, as well as continuing to work with the Argentinian writer Eduardo Berti. They have set his work writings from The Impossible Life and the novel The Imagined Country to music in the form of a play which, initially created for radio, "leads us through a fantasy world" typical of Argentine literature.
The sisters both now live in Bordeaux, with their respective partners and their young children: Laura has a girl and Gianna a baby boy. On the back of the sleeve notes there is a sweet picture of two blonde babies, playing happily in the grass with their mum. They tell me they were able to play their mum this album which gathers together so beautifully the memories of their childhood and in which their multicultural histories are so elegantly realized. And it is sad to see that as well as Caceres, the album is in her memory too — a tender testimony to never forgetting."
Navega Mundos and their previous albums are distributed in the UK by Discovery
"Musiker aus multinationalen Familien, die zudem in verschiedenen Ländern lebten, präsentieren sich auffallend oft als musikalisch unkonventionell. So auch die Musikerinnen der beiden folgenden Alben, die zudem noch das in der Weltmusik seltene Cello verbindet. Las Hermanas Caronni sind in Argentinien verwurzelte Zwillinge, die aber in Frankreich eine klassische Ausbildung erfuhren. Gianna Caronni spielt Klarinette, ihre Schwester Laura Cello und Violine, beide singen zudem. Ihrer Lebensgeschichte entsprechend bewegt sich ihre Musik zwischen besinnlicher Klassik, argentinischer Folklore und Anklängen an das französische Chanson. In „La Melodie Des Choses“ erweisen sie sich als Meisterinnen der Stille. Musik, die in langsamen Schritten an einem Strand entlangzuschreiten scheint, Rauschen und Möwengeschrei inbegriffen. Die schnelleren Nummern entstammen der argentinischen Musik des Chamamé. Sie singen nicht nur auf Englisch, Spanisch und Französisch, da klingt mal Klezmer an oder gar ein Stück der Doors. Insgesamt sorgt gerade die Reduktion des Instrumentariums für eine intensive, ergreifende Atmosphäre."
Interview en Espanol: http://impronta-de-jazz.blogspot.fr/