25 September 2023

Besame Mucho

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Reviewed by Ian Phillips.

By Juan Diego Florez, Sony Music 2018.

This album is not part of my usual musical lexicon however I was attracted to it because one of the first pieces I learned to play on the guitar was Besame Mucho.

I can record here that Juan Diego Florez plays it substantially better than I ever did.

Florez is a master classical guitar technician but he also has a beautiful voice and he has a passion for Latin American music.

He comes from a musical family, his grandmother played tangos on the piano and his father, Ruben, is a folk singer famous in Peru.

With this album, Florez has set out to convey a representative selection of the music of Latin America in 18 songs that are “exemplary of the people and their various countries.”

The musical journey includes selections from Venezuela, Columbia, Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, and Mexico.

To bring his project to fruition he assembled a group of 20 musicians who play instruments that are characteristic of the countries that they come from.

Included among them is the cavaquinho, described as the ‘little sister’ of the guitar, which originated in Portugal.

Also included is the bandonen, which was invented in Germany but has become closely linked to Argentine music.

The rhythm section naturally enough includes the maracas from Venezuela and pandeiro, a small hard drum, from Brazil.

As I listened to this album I kept recognising melodies, many that I tried to master all those years ago.

It was a real nostalgia trip.

Juan Diego Florez is a fantastic performer.

He sings in Portuguese and Spanish and although I couldn’t understand the words I could easily relate to the emotion.

His talents are not restricted to his native Latin American roots.

He has worked extensively in pop and rock music as well as being recognizes as a master of the folk music styles of Peru.

I recommend this album to anyone who is interested in discovering the wonderful musical textures that exist in Latin America.

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