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World Music Features

Web Exclusive: El Guincho

By Lissette Corsa
Published November 11, 2008

El Guincho ventures where the others wouldn’t dare. For him the element of the exotic isn’t merely the latest indie fad for embellishing music, El Guincho lives it and breathes it.

Pablo Díaz-Reixa, a.k.a. El Guincho, is the first to admit he was feeling a bit homesick when he set out to record Alegranza! Both the title of his full-length debut and his artistic nom de guerre are intricately tied to his native Grand Canary Island - part of a Spanish archipelago that’s closer to Africa’s northwestern coast than to the Iberian Peninsula that claims it. And who wouldn’t be nostalgic? From Díaz-Reixa’s adoptive home of Barcelona, the Canary Islands appear to be more chimera than actual geography, a paradisiacal mirage straddling Africa and Spain. The tiny isles are a classic example of what many cultural theorists would call a postmodern space - a place where tugging dominant traditions at each end result in constructions of hybridity. Real or not, Díaz-Reixa’s environment had an indelible impact on him and naturally translated into an infinite source of sonic refractions from which to draw from in crafting Alegranza!

The original Guincho is an endangered, solitary bird found on a small, uninhabited island located on the Canary Island’s northern tip, after which the disc was named. As Díaz-Reixa tells it, he was about four-years-old, cruising aboard a boat with his father who surveyed land for environmental protection, when he came across the near-extinct loner for the first time. When he settled in Barcelona a few years ago his own initial loneliness and rare breed status, a distinction automatically reserved for those who don’t speak Catalan, immediately re-ignited memories of the childhood encounter in the wild. The 24-year-old admits that in the beginning, life in Barcelona was inhospitable.

“At first I wasn’t very happy,” recalls Díaz-Reixa, on the phone from Sheffield, England, while on a British tour with Vampire Weekend. “Until I started meeting people.” 

 

Lured to Barcelona with less than high ambitions, the island bohemian who name checks Caetano Veloso and Milton Nascimento as influences, had always dabbled in music but never bet on it being his bread and butter. He grew up listening to a cornucopia of styles - from his dad’s Latin music collection, to Krautrock, to various African genres - and learned music theory from his grandmother, an opera singer. “She taught me everything I know about music,” he says.