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Ricardo Gallardo (artistic director), Claudia Oliveira, Alfredo Bringas, Raúl Tudón
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May 15, 2003
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Tambuco from Mexico

Virtuoso mix of traditional, classical and innovat

"Tambuco" is the name of the best-known Mexican percussion group, considered one of the best and most innovative in the world. The four musicians refuse to be tied down to one style, with a repertoire reaching from structuralist percussion music to a wide range of ethnic drum music and avante garde sound interpretations. All that remains constant is the will to perfection and unique, virtuoso interpretations. The musicians of "Tambuco" use all conceivable and inconceivable means to realize their musical ideas. The repertoire extends far beyond ordinary instruments to include their fingernails, tongues, and even their music stands.
The Tambuco Quartet was founded in 1993, and is named after a 1964 work by the Mexican composer Carlos Chavez for six percussionists. The band’s full name is actually “Tambuco Ensamble de Percusiones de México“, but it is simply known as Tambuco. Several years ago the veteran member Iván Manzanilla left the group and was replaced by Claudia Oliveira.
The artistic director of Tambuco is Ricardo Gallardo. He studied music in his birthplace, Mexico City, and then at the Banff Centre of Fine Arts, Canada, and the City University in London. Aside from his work with Tambuco, Gallardo is also active as a soloist. He has recorded numerous radio programs which were made into records. For the Mexican telenovela “Ramona“, an epic Western story about the land battles of the Mexican population in California after it was annexed to the USA, Gallardo composed the title music and 19 additional pieces which were then played by Tambuco.

The musicians of Tambuco move effortlessly from Eugenio Toussaint’s "Flambo Mambenco" – a work fusing Flamenco and Mambo – to a Brazilian Choriño by Pinchinguna and on to avante garde compositions. Their diversity is so great that retailers have trouble classifying them. Sometimes they can be found under “Chamber Music for Percussion,” right next to Bach interpretations, sometimes simply under “Percussion Music”. Neither category does justice to their artistic achievement. The quartet draws on a total of 100 different percussion instruments and also experiments with body parts and utilitarian objects.
Accordingly, Tambuco does not pack light when traveling, for nothing can be left to chance. For example, in the piece “Musique de Tables“ by Thierry de Mey, three musicians dressed as office workers use noises created at a writing desk and roll their eyes to create a humorous conversation.

Tambuco can be seen onstage all around the world, and has achieved international acclaim. The quartet’s musical skill has won accolades in Germany, Great Britain, Canada, Mexico, Austria and the USA, and they have performed together with musical giants such as Keiko Abe, Gien Vélez, Michael Nyman, Stewart Copeland, Valerie Naranjo, Robert Van Sice and Enrique A. Diemecke. The Mexicans accompany the philharmonic orchestras of Montpellier and Mexico City, the chamber orchestras of Santa Barbara, and the Michael Nyman Band. With Eduardo Mata they produced a disc with works by Carlos Chávez.

What is especially important for the musicians is their close contact with composers of contemporary music, who have written many pieces for them. The former Police musician Steward Copeland, for example, composed the partiture “Kaya“ especially for Tambuco. Close cooperation with composers is one of the express goals of Tambuco’s artistic activity, as well as the interpretation of the most important works of percussion music. Moreover, Tambuco constantly works to perfect and develop avante garde musical techniques, as well as learning to master a wide variety of percussion instruments from a myriad of regions and cultures throughout the world.

(Translation: Isabel Cole)

Author: Dario Azzellini


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.


The Mexico-festival in Berlin

(15 September 02 - 01 December 02)



Mario Lavista: "Danza Isorrítmica"

taken from the album "Grabaciones de Estreno"
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