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Lara Bello Releases New Album “Sikame” (Inside the Gold) on March 24 via Biophilia Records;
A World of Sounds, from Islamic Spain to Modern Africa and New York City, in 11 Songs;
Guest Artists include Richard Bona, Lionel Loueke, Gil Goldstein, Carles Benavent;
CD featured on NPR Alt.Latino’s Spring Music Picks
LARA BELLO – “Sikame” tour schedule
May 7 - Marlboro, NY - Live at the Falcon
July 20 - Granada, Spain - La Corrala de Santiago
Sept 10 - Delaware Water Gap, PA - COTA Jazz Festival
Nov 7 - Washington, DC - Former Residence of the Ambassadors of Spain - Presented by Spain Culture
“…’Sikame’ draws on flamenco, Latin American folk and North African music, often landing somewhere between lament and reverie. Think Buika and Joanna Newsome at play together at a very high altitude.” – NEW YORK TIMES
Arriving at a time of often loud, high-pitched debate, Sikame, the new recording by Spanish singer/ songwriter Lara Bello, makes a subtle but powerful statement about borders and immigrants.
A collaboration between Spanish, African, American and Latin American musicians, Sikame, a term from the Fon language of Benin meaning “inside the gold,” draws elements from pop, jazz, flamenco and Arabic and African music. It features guitars, bass, flute and cello — but also a n’goni, an ancient West African string instrument, played here by Leni Stern, a German-born jazz guitarist and long-time student and performer of African music.
And while all songs have lyrics by Bello, she shares songwriting credits on various tracks with keyboardist, arranger and producer Gil Goldstein, Spanish bassist Carles Benavent, Benin-born guitarist Lionel Loueke, Cameroonian bassist Richard Bona and the late Charlie Haden. All songs are in Spanish, but on two songs Bello also sings some verses in English. She closes the recording singing a line in Arabic, a nod to her roots in Granada, in Andalusia, Spain. Granada was the last bastion of Al-Andalus, or Muslim Iberia, a territory in which, for centuries, Christian, Jewish and Muslim cultures co-existed.
Sikame(Biophilia Records) includes no explicit political pronouncements. None are necessary.
“This is what happens in the real world. It’s what happens in New York,” said Bello. “As musicians, we take on influences from everywhere through the people we play.”
Conversely, and even after living many years in New York, Bello continues to reference in her work the sounds, stories and traditions of Granada.
“That’s why the closing track, “La Semilla” (The Seed) has that Arabic influence,” she said, her Spanish still carrying traces of the lilting Andalusian accent. “I realize that I’m trying to recreate an Al-Andalus in America. That’s the mix of cultures. That’s the only way cultures evolve: blending, meeting and sharing with other cultures. That’s the way flamenco was born, that’s the way jazz and so much of the music we know today emerged.”
The last line of “La Semilla,” which closes the album, is sung in Arabic. It mirrors the opening lines of the song, which are in Spanish: “Little by little I plant my seed / which will bear fruit in this desert / showing me a new life.” The song, said Bello, is “about all displaced people, not just Arabs. It’s about those who, for whatever reason, were forced to leave the places where they made their lives. But they have also left a seed that will be forever a reminder of their presence.”
Sikame is Bello’s third release. It follows her acclaimed 2009 debut, Niña Pez; and her 2012 Primero Amarillo Después Malva(“First Yellow Then Purple”), a mature reflection on themes of life-and-death cycles, using an increasingly broad musical palette that included elements from flamenco and jazz but also Middle Eastern and Latin American music.
The new album has a “simpler, more open sound” than her previous recording, she said. It features six tracks written entirely by Bello and five collaborations, including the title track, written by Loueke. Perhaps her most intriguing turn as lyricist for other people’s music is for Charlie Haden’s “Our Spanish Love Song,” which here takes on a tango flavor because of the accordion which in Goldstein’s hands evokes the sound of the typical bandoneon.
As for the overall sound of the recording, the African thread running through Sikame was not something carefully pre-arranged, she said.
“It’s not a recording of African music — but it has those colors, those flavors, and its deep soul has that Flamenco-African root,” explained Bello. “It wasn’t something planned. It’s simply the result of the work of and the interaction with the people playing in it. These are people I know personally, friends, not just hired hands.” She paused for a moment and then continued.
“That notion of not wanting to mix with others because matters of skin color or where they come from is not real. The world doesn’t work that way.”
NOTE ON ALBUM FORMAT:
Sikame marks the launching of the new release format on Biophilia Records.The Biopholio™ is a two-sided, 20-panel origami-inspired medium, bursting with vibrant artwork and liner notes, each one made entirely out of FSC-certified robust paper, hand-folded and printed using plant-based inks. Found inside each Biopholio™ is a unique code for the listener to digitally download the music in hers/his preferred format (high CD-quality, uncompressed WAV files, etc).This innovative design caters to the environmentally conscious listener who is aware of the harmful effects of plastics in the environment yet feels that a digital download is just not enough.