MEL LEHAN HALL AT ST. JAMES i
3214 West 10th Ave, Kitsilano
Accessible All ages
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From northern Spain’s Celtic coast, Núñez connects the musical tradition of his native Galicia with that of Ireland, Scotland, Brittany, and beyond.
Carlos Núñez is one of Galicia’s most revered artists, undisputed as the tradition’s greatest piper. He was born in 1971 in Vigo, the port that connects Galicia to the world — Vigo is where Hemingway first set foot in Spain; it remains today much as found it. Núñez started playing the gaita at the age of eight. He studied recorder and Baroque music at Madrid’s Royal Conservatory. At the age of 12, he performed at Brittany’s Festival InterCeltique (it was there he first heard The Chieftains).
“Galicia,” Nuñez explains, “is the magical part of Spain.” A region both beautiful and mystical, it has a culture and music all its own. Galicia was shaped by an ancient history (tied to the Celts who inhabited that corner of the country over 2500 years ago). At the western-most part of Spain, perched on the Atlantic coast, Galicia is a land connected to cultures from across the globe, not only from their own seafaring history but from a constant influx of Christian pilgrims to Santiago de Campostela. Then, during the dictatorial Franco regime, flamenco was promoted as the “national music,” while other regional arts, languages and cultures faced severe repression. Now, Galicia is undergoing a modern day renaissance.
Núñez’s music draws on influences that range from ancient and contemporary Celtic (with a unique Spanish swing) to Medieval and Baroque, and also borrows from the sounds and styles of the places where Galicians have settled, including Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, even the United States.
He’s the undisputed master of Galicia’s signature musical instrument, the gaita, or Galician bagpipes. “What the flamenco guitar is to the south, thegaita is to the north,” he explains. “The pipes have been here for over a thousand years. Everyone knows Scottish bagpipes and Irish uillean pipes, but now they are supposed to be the descendants of the Galician pipes.” The gaita is musically more flexible than its Irish and Scottish relations, and in the hands of Núñez — who also plays pennywhistle, ocarina, Jew’s harp, tin whistle and flute — an exciting and funky 21st century instrument. “People say I play the pipes like the electric guitar!” he says.