"When I was 13, I met the Chieftains, first time that they came to Spain, they came to Vigo. And when I met Paddy Moloney, I told Paddy Moloney: Well, Paddy, you should make an album with Galician music, Galician and Irish music is very, very similar - listen, listen this is a Galician tune - Oh, that is really, it is true, it could be Irish, perfectly. So after this connection, I started to work with the Chieftains." And that was the beginning of a shooting star folk music carreer of one of the most exciting musicians I have ever met.
Carlos Núñez started to play when he was eight. Born, bred and still living in Vigo, Galicia - part of the Green Spain, he remembers the first Celtic festival in Galicia, in his home town: "I remember all these pipers in my city, from Scotland, from Ireland, I saw that they are talking other languages, but the music is the same, and they also play pipes, so that was very interesting for a child like me." The pipes have always been Carlos' love; and the gaita - the Spanish pipes - are more than an instrument, they are also a representative 'banner'.
When Carlos was 13, he had his first concert outside of Spain, at the Lorient Celtic Festival. "In Lorient I met many, many musicians from other countries, and all this international character of Celtic music impressed me. When I was 13, I promised to myself: Carlos, your life will be the celtic music, the traditional music. So after that my life was a correct line, all the time." Indeed it was. In the same year he has had this talk with Paddy Moloney, and from then on his carreer went from one height to the next.
At the age of 18 Carlos recorded with the Chieftains his first film, 'Treasure Island'. He remembers that it was very important for Spain, "all the people in Spain, when they saw the captain John Silver with the 'lorro' (parrot) - and Galician pipes, that was - 'What's that, what's that' in Spain. And 'Treasure Island' was also a very important work for me."
"After 'Treasure Island, I started to make very long tours with the Chieftains, America, Australia, Japan - countries I never could imagine that Celtic music works there." And then he had the opportunity to record his first album - before that, he had collaborated in many projects and many albums; first time that he has recorded he was 15.
His first own album, 'Brotherhood of Stars', is, as Carlos states, "a solo album, but it is a very special album". Nearly 50 guests were invited for this album, and reading the names of those guests you can already see what status Carlos has in the intnernational music scene. There are Celtic musicians (the Chieftains), but also from the Rock'n'Roll, from the Cuban Latin music, from the flamenco. Actually it is the first time that flamenco music is played together with Celtic music, pipes with Flamenco guitar - that was never before. "I thing it is pure fire. For me the collaborations are very important, because on this way we can open the Celtic music to new ideas, to new audiences. We have on the album a song with a Spanish pop star called Luz Casal, she is a voice from the Rock'n'Roll, but this kind of voice sometimes works very well with this music - why? - because it is a very energetic kind of voice. - And with the Bluesman Ry Cooder; he couldn't imagine himself playing Spanish celtic music, you know, with his Blues guitar. I met Ry Cooder, when I recorded with the Chieftains and Sinead O'Connor in New York, two years ago. And he was very interested in this double connection, the Celtic and Latin. And he is one of the 40 or 50 guests."
Carlos says that the collaborations were not just, because they are famous musicians - it is a collaboration because of the music; "I thought that the guitar of Ry Cooder can make an atmosphere new for this music, or play with the Cubans, that would be a open door to the Latin melodies that came to Galicia because of emigration, or play with the flamenco, because I knew that there are some rhythms that we have in the Celtic music that came from the flamenco. I have met all the guests before the album, same with Sinead O'Connor, but I didn't invite Sinead yet - probably for the next."
Carlos has set a record with this recording: 'Brotherhood of Stars' was published in Spain one and a half year ago, and in Spain it is now Platinum, that means 100 000 copies sold - it is the first time, that Celtic or traditional music gets Platinum in Spain, it has happened never before. Celtic music has reached in Spain a new status: It is not just a minority's music, it is very important music nowadays.
The second album will be another album with many guests; and at the moment it is recorded. "I like for recording an album to have the energy of the live concert - directo - because live sound and live energy is the most important part of the Celtic music. How to do that? - the solution is recording everybody together on the album. In the eighties people recorded separately, first the drums and the bass, then the synth and then the vocal - and you can repeat and repeat and repeat, but as result it is a very perfect music, but it is not strong enough. For me, it is very important to have the power of live sound. So, on the first album, we recorded that together, one, two, three, six microphones, everybody playing at the same time, then we can listen to ourselves. And when I play with Ry Cooder or with the Chieftains, there is something in this moment, when we record together, it is not the same to play with a tape. And I think this is one of the secrets of the album."
In live on his tours, Carlos can be seen with his magnificent band, with some young musicians, and also some established ones. As Carlos says, "we are like a very big family. We have a señorita, Isabel plays the fiddle, she is 20, then Pancho is playing the bouzouki and the guitar, Fernando plays the accordion, and piano and keyboards, Marcos, who plays the percussion and drums and Yuri who plays the double bass. Sometimes for special concerts we invite many guests." They have a superb live show, where the power of now takes always the auf´diences away.
For the near future, the main project is Carlos new album. "I like to record not a whole month or week to record all the titles; I like to concentrate on one tune, and maybe we can have a concert in between ... OK I like to have this musician or that voice, and we can do rehearsal by telephone, and then one day in the studio in Spain or whereever. When you have that, you can start to prepare the next one. Because if you do today one tune, tomorrow the next, your concentration is down, down, down. I much prefer to do special things piece by piece."
With his fame, he can afford such a strategy - and why should he not. Carlos is without doubt one of the most exciting musicians around - make sure that you see him in live!
Carlos Núñez is a very special person, and he talks about so many interesting things. It is simply a person where it is worth to have a series of articles - FolkWorld takes tribute of that, and does a three-piece series on the Galician star piper.
Next issue Marcus Metz finds out about the instruments and tunes of Carlos; and in two issues Carlos talks about touring in the world and about the folk music scenes.
Latest published CD: Brotherhood of Stars, BMG Classics
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