From British daily The Morning Star:
Sunday 18 July 2010
by Cheryl Gallagher
The musicians were part of a casual collective that used to get together in one of the city’s plazas to jam for pleasure with no serious professional ambitions. But following some coaxing from Chao the group decided to take things to the next level and La Redonda was born.
The band’s name comes from the Plaza de los Museos (Museum Square, pictured above) where they first started jamming.
Drummer Andres Sequera says: “The Plaza de los Museos is like a cultural nucleus in the city. All kinds of creative people, artists, musicians, theatre and audiovisual collectives gather there to collaborate and exchange ideas.”
But it turns out that the plaza, a beautiful palm-lined “square” that connects the Museum of Fine Arts, the Children’s Museum and the Museum of Natural Sciences, is actually circular in shape, hence La Redonda (in the round).
In today’s Venezuela it is virtually impossible to find people who are ambivalent about politics and La Redonda are no different.
“We have a clearly defined political position. We support the revolutionary process in Venezuela,” says Alex Acosta, one of the lead singers.
Prior to the Bolivarian government, culture was seen the preserve of people who could afford it, he explains.
“Before Chavez,” says Acosta, “there was very little government support for culture and the arts in Venezuela.”
Kike Gutierrez, the other main singer, chimes in: “It wasn’t just that they didn’t support us, they harassed us. We had to face a lot of aggression from the police who tried to clear us off the streets. There was no public creative space for people to experiment.”
This cultural shift over the last decade in Venezuela has spawned a new wave of artists who are beginning to realise that they needn’t passively consume all the commercially successful “gringo” pop that floods in from the US.
Young Venezuelan groups like La Redonda are finding their own voice and putting out an entirely home-grown sound.
“We wanted to create a style that narrates the day-to-day reality of our lives in Caracas. It’s something that people of our generation respond to,” says Gutierrez in his soft, lilting accent.
La Redonda’s debut album Calle Corre Mundo is a genre-hopping collision of hip hop, salsa, funk, jazz, reggae, ska and classical music. Every track finds a new way to fuse the traditional Caribbean sound with a variety of international styles that the band has picked up along the way.
The track En Que Idioma opens with an almost Balkan feel courtesy of Russian-born violinist Danka Roschupkin, before slipping into jazz-infused drum and bass.
El Avance showcases a curious mix of melancholic guitar which progresses to ska with some hip hop samples thrown in for good measure. But other tracks, such as La Vida and Rompe las Cadenas, are pure stomping salsa.
The eight-strong band plus their guest musicians are now a fixture in the world music scene.
After building up a loyal following in Venezuela, where they played a series of gigs with their friend Chao last year, La Redonda’s music is finally finding its way to Europe and other parts of the world.
Following on from Saturday’s appearance at Lovebox in Victoria Park, east London, the band will head to France for a string of gigs in Paris and Marseille. But even as the group’s international fan base grows, La Redonda are sure about one thing. They plan to stay true to their barrio roots.