Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Chicago’s Las Guitarras de Espana to perform at City Winery


Fresh off a trip to Asia, Las Guitarras de Espana band leader Carlo Basile  is collaborating with musician/composer Ronnie Malley for an evening of Arabo-Andalusian and flamenco music on March 7 at City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph St., Chicago.

The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets range from $18 to $26, available at www.citywinery.com. 

I had the chance to talk to Basile about the upcoming show.

Q - Great talking to you again. For people who come out to the show, what should they expect?

We have a pretty amazing group assembled for this performance in two parts: Music of Andalusia (before flamenco) and then some of our fusion material with Indian, Southeast Asian, Spanish and African elements, including some dance.

Q - How did you connect with Ronnie Malley? How did this project come together?

Ronnie appeared in the Goodman Theater production of “The Jungle Book.” Our veena player, Sara Ranganathan, was also in that production.

I was able to see that very creative musical and eventually connect with Ronnie. It turns out that we have some things in common, especially a vision for how to bring cultures together through art.

So, we began creating new pieces and experimenting with traditional works, as well. Ronnie plays many string and percussion instruments.

I basically play a nylon string guitar in various styles (Spanish classical and flamenco, blues, soul). Ronnie also brings a huge catalog of Arabic music to the ensemble.

So, we have enjoyed working with each other and we continue to discuss (with Sara) ways to create new art.

Q - I know that you will be performing "Hanoi Pho" during the show, which you performed during your recent trip to Taiwan, Vietnam and Singapore. What was your inspiration for writing the piece and what kind of reaction did you get when you performed it?

Well, I had done a few Spanish guitar workshops in Hanoi, Vietnam in 2009. It was fun, but I thought it would be cool to bring a new piece to perform and teach this time.


It worked out very well in performances and in the workshop! When I performed the piece in Taiwan and Singapore (actually in a bar near Hong Kong, too), people really responded well to it.

It was really gratifying to have people listen to and appreciate a brand new work like that! It really made the trip special for that reason.

Q - I understand you were teaching classes during your trip as well. How was that experience?

Yes, I taught at the International School in Hanoi for three different music class levels. It was great to have the students play the new piece! 

Q - It seems like you are always juggling several projects at a time. I know you recently brought your "King Of Soul" project to the Chicago Cultural Center. What has been your favorite project to work on?

“King of Soul” is so much fun and, fortunately, I can play most of those pieces without too much rehearsal. I also enjoy working with Diego Alonso as "Spanish Guitar Duo,” and of course, the “Surabhi” group with Sara Ranganathan.

So, I really have no favorite project and I would miss working in any of those situations. I try to mix things up as much as possible and create new material whenever I can.

It’s hard sometimes but all of these projects do keep me challenged and inspired.

Q - What else will you be working on this year?

The plan is to work with an old friend and excellent cellist from Syria, Kinan Abou-afach. Ronnie, Sara and I will continue to create some new work as well. Maybe I can plan another trip and compose a new piece??? I hope so!