FolkWorld Issue 41 03/2010; Article by Pio Fernández

Plaza Mayor, Madrid

Folk & The City: Madrid (1)

Folk & The City: Madrid (2)

Folk Bands in the 80s & 90s & … - Spanish Traditions
Folk & The City: Madrid, Spain (Part 3)

The previous article on Madrid introduced the bands that started folk music in the 60s and 70s. This one covers the following generations of musicians that since the 80s keep the local flame of folk and traditional music alive, in a market flooded with rock&roll, pop, heavy metal, techno, dance, latin, rap, and any kind of popular music fashionable at a particular time.

Folk in Spain : Times for Changes

After General Franco’s death in 1976, Spain’s political regime progressively turned from a dictatorship into a democracy . Traditional & folk musicians became open in their messages demanding changes and freedom, including that for the identity of the Communities of Catalonia, Basque country, Galicia, Asturias, Aragón, etc… and singing in their regional languages, since many of them were officially recognized as such by the new Spanish Constitution . Before, they were often considered just as dialects, or archaic rural tongues with secondary value for Spanish literature & culture in general (if not a threat for the creed on a unified and centralized Spanish nation).

But during those years of strong political changes, Spain’s youth was looking for more radical, modernizing & exciting ruptures with the music and styles from the past . Rock&roll, blues, soul, funk, disco, reggae, ska, mod, rockabilly, punk, heavy metal, new wave, techno,… became more relevant in the radio stations & the music market year after year (late 70’s until mid 80’s), and the early folk musicians and their traditional sound seemed to become a thing of the past . Those were the days of ‘La Movida Madrileña’ : The underground pop culture movement in Madrid’s downtown .

Cover from a record from SINIESTRO TOTAL (1983)

An example of the winds of change in the pop music of Spain in the early 80s was the provoking humor of the punk-rock band from Vigo (Galicia), SINIESTRO TOTAL. One of their vinyl records showed a cover with a traditional Galician bagpiper smashing his instrument ( his gaita, I mean ) on the ground. It was a parody of the LP cover from the English band THE CLASH : ‘London Calling’. The back side was the same scene, but the sacrificed instrument was an accordion . Should this be understood as an ironic : “Enough with the rancid folkloric stereotypes of the Galician people!!” ?

However, what is left in Madrid-2010 from those modern trends? Pedro Almodovar’s films, a few rock or pop musicians, some bars, songs & memories of a young urban society that sought fast changes ( sometimes in an exaggerated ‘sex-&-drugs-&-rock&roll’ attitude ) for a country still wedged in many small-town mentalities...

On the other hand , old fashions tend to come back in renewed ways and since the mid 70s and until the 90s, traditional & folk bands from the northern coasts of the Iberian peninsula, were getting keenly influenced by ‘Celtic’ folk & rock musicians from North Atlantic lands : Ireland, Scotland, Brittany,… That trend crowned several peaks when in the mid & late 90’s : a folk-rock band such as CELTAS CORTOS, a LUAR NA LUBRE’s song played by Mike OLDFIELD, or a Galician gaita bagpiper playing with THE CHIEFTAINS, Liam O’FLYNN & Dan AR BRAZ such as Carlos NÚÑEZ, became fashionable nationally & internationally . That popularity was followed by Cristina PATO, HEVIA, Kepa JUNQUERA,… At some point it seemed that fiddles, bagpipes & accordions could compete with electric guitars & electronic keyboards in the Spanish radio stations, TV shows, summer concerts,…. The dream did not last much beyond 2000, but at least it helped to remind people that the Spanish popular music could be something more than just rock, pop, flamenco, salsa,… The echoes of that popularity somehow continue today (mostly in the north of Spain), but nothing comparable to what it reached in those late 90’s.

In the southern (Extremadura, Andalusia, Murcia,…) and central parts of Spain (Madrid, the Castilian communities,…), a sense of nationalistic identity has never been as significant as in the north , but that did not stop new generations of Castilian folk musicians to seek their own local traditional sounds . In this case ‘Celtic’ music was not the only accepted influence, also those from Northern Africa, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Sepharadic (old Spanish Jewish) tradition,… were frequently welcomed.

Folk in Madrid : The ‘New’ Musicians

Let’s talk then about the folk artists that started in Madrid in the 1980s, 90s & part of the new millennium .

The styles of music performed by these bands could be categorized as follows :

  • 1. Those who do it on traditional Spanish folklore , sometimes similar to the Castilian musicians from the previous generations .

  • 2. Those playing more ‘international’ folk styles : ‘Celtic’, Irish, Scottish,… and from several other places.

    This article will talk about the main folk bands, but probably more the individuals, that have emerged in the last three decades in Madrid, dedicated to the first kind of music: the one based on Spanish traditions . This probably comprehends the majority of today’s most professional & creative folk musicians in Madrid . They also keep the closest link with the generations of artists mentioned in the previous article.

    It’s important to remember that for such folk musicians, there has been a crucial place that still remains in Madrid’s oldtown : La Taberna de Elisa. As described in the first article on Madrid, since the early 90s, ‘La Elisa’ has been ‘the’ meeting place for many of the folk musicians in this city, and others coming from all over Spain, and also Ireland, Scotland, England, France, Germany, Bulgaria, Poland, the USA,…

    Folk Bands following Spanish Traditions

    There are not too many bands, considering the size of the city of Madrid , but the ones that manage to endure are innovative & interesting folk music projects .


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    Bernardo FUSTER, Luis MENDO, Elena ROBLES, Javier PALANCAR, Lorenzo SOLANO & Pino SAMBATARO . SUBURBANO started in 1979 in Vallecas, a village in the SE part of the city of Madrid . Their project was to perform folk music with modern influences, including rock, jazz & flamenco. They also played with author-singers such as Luis PASTOR, Luis Eduardo AUTE, Joaquín SABINA, Javier KRAHE, or the Portuguese Fausto . Their 14 CDs include many songs written for several Spanish movies and TV series. The last one from 2009, and is on the subject of traditional songs about the Pirates of the Caribbean.


    Aljibe @ FolkWorld: #29


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    ALJIBE started in 1985 in the city of Aranjuez, Madrid. Their music is based on the traditions from Madrid & Castilla –La Mancha, where they have done most of their research work . Their style is loyal to the folk done in Castile, but along the years, their talent has incorporated new instruments & sounds, reaching a high level of musicianship, demonstrated both in the traditional tunes as well as in the songs composed by the band . Today’s musicians are :

  • Juan RODRÍGUEZ – TEMBLECO : voice, accordion, bagpipe, pipe & tabor, sax, bandurria, lute
  • Luis Ramón – MARTÍN : bandurria, lute, Spanish guitar, percussion
  • José Manuel RODRÍGUEZ – TEMBLECO : voice, bandurria, lute, electric bass guitar, percussion
  • Domingo MARTÍNEZ : guitarro Manchego, guitars : Spanish, acoustic & electric
  • Luis Miguel NOVAS : flutes, clarinet, dulzaina, bagpipe, percussion
  • Manuel MARCOS : voice, piano, keyboards, guitar, electric bass, percussion
  • Teresa GARCIA : voice, violin percussion
  • Rubén PÉREZ : electric bass, lute, percussion ALJIBE has published 8 CDs . Their latest one is ‘Al Lado del Mediodia’ (Galileo-MC, 2006 ), including a DVD recorded in concert in the town of Chinchón (Madrid) . Other Spanish colleagues playing with ALJIBE in this CD are : José Luis BUENO , Paco DÍEZ , Norman HERNÁNDEZ , Jaime MEDINA , Juan Carlos NUÑO & Eliseo PARRA .


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    RADIO TARIFA is one of Spain’s top folk bands from Madrid since the beginning of the democracy. It was created in the late 80s by Fain S.-DUEÑAS (percussion, strings), Benjamin ESCORIZA (flamenco singer & writer) and Vincent MOLINO (winds) . Tarifa, is the southern cape of the Iberian peninsula and thus the closest to the north of Africa. A clear hint that the band’s goal was to make Spanish music with and Arabian connection . RADIO TARIFA’s first album ‘Rumba Argelina’ was produced & recorded in 1993 by Juan Alberto ARTECHE, as a set of songs of diverse origin : Arab, medieval German, Sepharadic, Castilian, Flamenco, Andalusian folk,… Relevant Spanish musicians playing in the CD were : Javier RUIBAL (author-singer & guitarist from Cadiz), Gerardo NÚÑEZ (flamenco guitar), Javier PAXARIÑO (wind instruments), Wafir Sheik-El-Din GIBRIL (oud), Ramiro AMUSATEGUI (oud) & Eduardo LAGUILLO (piano, keyboard instruments) . Their second CD was ‘Temporal’ in 1996, and by then they were 8 musicians + a ‘bailaor’ (male flamenco dancer). That CD featured two songs with the Asturian gypsy ‘cantaor’ (male flamenco singer) Rafael JIMÉNEZ ‘FALO’, whose southern style and his interest in the music from N-Spain matched well the style RADIO TARIFA was seeking . In 2002 they released the CD ‘Cruzando el Rio’, where the band proposed a new trip into Iberian music, as well as renaissance & traditional Japanese, with the collaboration of the flamenco dancer Joaquín RUÍZ and the singer & piper Merche TRUJILLO . This CD was one of the top 10 best CDs of 2001 in the "World Music Charts Europe" . RADIO TARIFA was nominated for the "BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music - 2001". In 2003, they released the CD ‘Fiebre’ (Fever), their first ever live album . With very favorable reviews in fROOTS & MOJO . ‘Fiebre’ received a nomination for the BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music – 2003 , and was also in the Best Folk Album category in the 2004 Latin Grammy Awards .


    La Musgaña @ FolkWorld: #27,#30,#35,#40


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    Together with RADIO TARIFA & LA BRUJA GATA , LA MUSGAÑA is one of the most motivating projects on the new Castilian folk music from Madrid . They started in the late 80s, when a new generation of musicians was re-exploring the traditions from different provinces of central Spain, and looking for new ways to perform . Differently from the bands of the 60s & 70s, their focus was more on traditional rhythms & instruments, than on the singing & the lyrics. Several musicians were linked to the early days of LA MUSGAÑA : José María CLIMENT, Rafa MARTÍN, Luis DELGADO, Cuco PÉREZ, … but the ones that by the late 90s became the core of the band were : ‘Quique’ ALMENDROS, Jaime MUÑOZ & Carlos BECEIRO . LA MUSGAÑA and their cooperation in many folk & medieval music projects (even courses teaching how to play string & wind instruments), have written some of the happiest pages in the recent history of folk music in Madrid. Bitter news arrived in the summer of 2004 : Quique suffered a brain stroke that put him in a deep coma. Until today, this has sadly impacted the folk community in Madrid, but Jaime & Carlos have carried on the project with two young members : Diego GALAZ (fiddles) & Jorge ARRIBAS (accordions) . Their last CD is ‘Idas y Venidas’ ( Lubican Records, 2009 ) .


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    LA BRUJA GATA ( The Witch-Cat ) started in 1999 with musicians coming from two of Madrid’s big folk bands: Javier PALANCAR ( accordions, from SUBURBANO ), Rafa MARTÍN ( zanfona, hurdy gurdy, from LA MUSGAÑA ), joined also by José Ramón JIMÉNEZ ( clarinet, flutes ), Roberto RUÍZ ( bass, cello ), Javier BARRIO (guitar, dulzaina ), Antonio MELERO ( percussion ).


    Although their influences come from Spanish, ‘Celtic’, Klezmer or Jazz sounds, their folk music compositions are very innovative, detached from any strict traditional patterns, and played with the highest level of musicianship . They have 2 CDs : ‘Manual de Pociones’ (Ventura Music, 2001) & ‘Baile de Libelulas’ (Resistencia, 2004) .


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    The singer & pianist Helena DE ALFONSO, together with the guitarist José Luis LARA - GRUÑEIRO are the founders of this project, based on the Sepharadic & Castilian trad music . BARAHUNDA’s first CD was ‘Al Sol de la Hierba’ (Galileo MC. 2002) . Produced by Javier BERGIA, with collaborations from : Javier PAXARIÑO, Quique ALMENDROS, Jaime MUÑOZ, Rafa MARTÍN, Javier PALANCAR, Pedro & Pablo PASCUAL, Marta DE LA ALDEA, Clara SERRANO & Paco BENÍTEZ . Their 2nd & latest CD is ‘Una Hora en la Ventana’, and this time the band members are Daniel ROMO (guitars), Jaime VILLAR (oboe), Gorka MENCHAKA (bass) & Txema FERNÁNDES (percusión), Jaime MEDINA (percusión) & Pedro ANDREA (guitar) .


    Balbarda @ FolkWorld: FW#39


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    BALBARDA started in 1999 playing trad Castilian music, admittedly inspired by one of the most charismatic bands from Madrid : LA MUSGAÑA . The members of BALBARDA are :

  • Xurxo ORDOÑEZ : Traditional woodwinds : bagpipes (Galician, Castilian, German, sackpipa,…), three holed flute, traverse flute. Guitar . He has been a pupil on wind instruments from two of the members of LA MUSGAÑA : Quique ALMENDROS & Jaime MUÑOZ .
  • Milena FUENTES : With a broad education on violin ( 4 and 5 strings ), she has played in many classical music orchestras , but also with several folk bands such as : ÁVALON, LA MUSGAÑA, TRÉCULA, OJOS NEGROS,…
  • Javier MONTEAGUDO : With an extensive education on guitar, lute & classical music, he also plays the hurdy gurdy
  • José Luis ESCRIBANO : Specialized on all kinds of Spanish & Oriental percussion . He has been part of the band ALIF ( CD ‘Algarabía’, 1994), ALKABIR BEMBÉ and BARAHUNDA . He is also the owner of the best shop for traditional musical instruments in Madrid : TUNUNTUNUMBA.
  • Darío PALOMO . The band has released two CDs : ‘La Ruta de los Foramontanos’ (2003) & ‘La Vía de la Plata’ (Several Records, 2007) .


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    HEXACORDE started in 2000 with musicians quite influenced by the traditional ‘dulzaina’ music from the Castilla y León region ( The dulzaina is a double reed traditional Castilian oboe, similar to a bombarde ) . The members of HEXACORDE are :

  • Angel GOYANES : Guitars, cistro & 10 strings bouzuki . He created the band YORANDAV Folk (1990 – 1996), followed by CONTRABANDA (1997 – 1998) . Since 1998 he is the director of the folk music magazine INTERFOLK.
  • Fernando LLORENTE : He learned to play the Castilian dulzaina with Félix SÁNCHEZ from the centenary trad band LOS TALAOS, becoming one of its members . He also plays the clarinet and ‘gaita & bombo charro’ (three holed pipe & tabor from the province of Salamanca) . He is the director of the Escuela de Folklore Plaza de Castilla ( ) in Madrid .
  • Rafa ALONSO : Playing the flute, clarinet and Galician bagpipes, he also learned to play the dulzaina with Félix SÁNCHEZ and Javier BARRIO ( LA BRUJA GATA )
  • Álvaro AGUILAR : Also a dulzaina pupil from Félix SÁNCHEZ & Javier BARRIO, he also plays : flutes, xaphoon & percussion .
  • Héctor LÓPEZ : From a family of traditional ‘dulzaineros’, he also plays the clarinet & percussion
  • Víctor RIONEGRO – QUEIJO : Electric bass guitar .
  • Vanesa MUELA ( ) : She is not really a formal member of the band, but has participated in most of their concerts and recordings during the last years . Born in Valladolid, she is one of the top traditional musicians in the folklore from Castilla y León . She is also a teacher at Escuela de Folklore Plaza de Castilla ( ) in Madrid . So far HEXACORDE has released 2 CDs with the label Galileo MC : ‘Perpetuum Mobile’ (2004) and ‘Desbarates’ (2008) .


    This new band is founded by experienced musicans from Madrid’s folk scene : Pepe ESCUDERO (flutes & bagpipes ) , Juan Antonio NEGRETE ( accordions, fiddles), Manuel NEGRETE ( guitars, lutes) : All of them were before in the bands LIBREDON & GAIDA . Their style is based on traditional Spanish & Celtic folk, as well as medieval & Mediterranean musics .

    Folk Musicians following Spanish Traditions

    This section lists the most relevant musicians that, besides their participation in several bands, keep developing personal projects in different aspects of the Spanish trad & folk music made in Madrid .

    José Manuel FRAILE - GIL José Manuel FRAILE - GIL

    Born in Madrid, he started his work as a researcher in traditional culture in 1980 mostly in the Castilla y León region. He did not start specifically in popular music, but on the oral traditions for tales & songs . He has also studied the folklore of the Sepharadic (Jewish-Spanish) communities, and published two fundamental CDs on this topic : ARBOLERAS Vol. I & Vol. II (Tecnosga, 1996), together with Eliseo PARRA, Susana WEICH-SHAHAK, Werner GLASER and Carmen TERRÓN – RODAS .

    Eduardo LAGUILLO Eduardo LAGUILLO

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    He was born in Madrid, although in 1972 he moved to Barcelona to study at the conservatory, learning piano, classical & flamenco guitar, jazz,… In 1985 he gets a scholarship to extend his classical music education in Vienna. In 1989 he travelled to India to learn its classical music & how to perform the ‘sarod’ ( Indian 25 strings instrument ). In the late 70s he started in some pop & rock bands in Barcelona , & in the early 80s he composed classical music of Mediterranean inspiration & for poems of the German writer Joseph Von Eichendorff . He has created bands such as Eduardo LAGUILLO ENSEMBLE and THE MELTING POT CHAMBER ORCHESTRA . He has played & recorded music with : Luis Eduardo AUTE, Pablo GUERRO, Suso SAIZ, Javier PAXARIÑO, Silvia NAKKACH, RADIO TARIFA, LA MUSGAÑA, COMPAÑIA IBERICA DE DANZA, ARTENARA, … Since 1998 up to today, Eduardo LAGUILLO plays with Eliseo PARRA’s band . CDs from Eduardo Laguillo are : ‘Hay Algo en el Aire’ (Taxi Records, 1990), ‘Manoa’ (Resistencia, 1997), ‘Ya Wadud’ (Nonprofitmusic, 2007).


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    Although born in Granada and musically educated in Malaga, Javier PAXARIÑO has developed his latest musical career in jazz, ‘new age’ and & folk music in Madrid . He is specialized in all kinds of wind instruments & since the 80s he has played with artists such as : LA MUSGAÑA, RADIO TARIFA, Eliseo PARRA, Gerardo NÚÑEZ, Pablo GUERRERO, Luis PASTOR, Luis Eduardo AUTE, Eduardo LAGUILLO, BERROGÜETTO,…CDs from Javier PAXARIÑO are : Espacio Interior (1988), Pangea (1992), Temura (1994), Perihelión (1996), Ouroboros (2002).

    Javier BERGIA Javier BERGIA

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    Born in downtown Madrid in 1958, he studied music as a guitarist & percussionist inspired by The BEATLES or Pablo GUERRERO . In the late 70s he was a pupil of Gregorio PANIAGUA, who introduced him into the music of impressionist composers such as Debussy or Satie. In 1980, he became part of the band of his master: ATRIUM MUSICAE, an ensemble specialized in early music. In 1985,Javier BERGIA starts his career as an author-singer and today is probably the clearest song-writer about Madrid’s old town . Many of his lyrics recreate childhood memories in a blend of melancholy, irony & emotive harmonies , with instrumental & melodic elements from North-American folk, medieval music, European traditional instruments & African beats. In his records, he has usually counted with the participation of folk musicians, for example from LA MUSGAÑA or the singer Clara SERRANO . He frequently plays in the band of another prominent singer from Madrid, Ismael SERRANO, including his tours in Latin America .

    Andreas PRITTWITZ  &  José Antonio RAMOS Andreas PRITTWITZ

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    Born in Munich in 1960, and with an education in classical music & baroque flute in Freiburg , Andreas arrived to Madrid in the late 70s as a traditional jazz and classical musician, specialized in wind instruments ( recorder, saxophone, trumpet, clarinet ) . He has become a versatile musician in Spain’s scene, playing in jazz and classical music ensembles such as JAZZ EL DESTRIPADOR (Jazz the Ripper ), LOOKING BACK, TRÍO BARROCO or ATRIUM MUSICAE, but also with flamenco artists such as Felipe CAMPUZANO, rock & folk artists such as SUBURBANO, Javier PAXARIÑO, CELTAS CORTOS, Joaquin SABINA, Javier KRAHE, Luis Eduardo AUTE, Miguel RIOS, or even the late ’timplista’ José Antonio RAMOS (FW#36). He has also been a producer for Spanish rock & folk artists, including some peculiar ones such as a traditional Chinese psaltery player quite frequently performing in Madrid’s Retiro Park: Zhi Qiang Wang .

    José María CLIMENT

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    He is a significant figure in the traditional & folk music history in Madrid . He started playing & even making instruments such as hurdy gurdies, and became highly skilled playing violins & bagpipes ( Spanish, French,…) . He was part of the early times of LA MUSGAÑA and has frequently played with Javier BERGIA . He has been one of the leaders of the trad music sessions in La Taberna de Elisa , and in that environment, he became part of an early band of the Galician bagpiper Xosé Manuel BUDIÑO, together with Pedro & Pablo PASCUAL . He was part of the bands CLOROFOLK and CONTRABANDA . He is also a teacher for traditional bagpipes from Zamora .


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    Born in Madrid in 1961, he learned to play the zanfona (hurdy gurdy) and in 1988 together with José María CLIMENT and Enrique ALMEDROS founded La MUSGAÑA . He has performed in several theater plays and medieval music ensembles : Eduardo PANIAGUA’s and ALIA MUSICA . Rafa has also played his zanfona in CDs from Luis DELGADO and Kepa JUNQUERA . Since 1999, he is a member of LA BRUJA GATA . In 2001 he published his CD : ‘En la Espalda del Gigante’ (SAGA Records) where he fused different music styles : Castilian trad, jazz, blues, classical,…


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    Ana has played the violin since childhood . She became a biologist in Madrid’s university, & thanks to a scholarship to study in Sweden, she got in contact with the national traditional keyed fiddle: the ‘nyckelharpa’ . Back in Spain, Ana learned & started playing the instrument in public . She keeps traveling back to Sweden to continue her studies in the Malmö Academy of Music, University of Lund . Today she lives in the city of Toledo dedicated to her musical career . Ana ALCAIDE has released two CDs : ‘Viola de Teclas’ (2006) and ‘Como la Luna y el Sol’ (Lubican Records, 2008) . Her music is based on the characteristic sound of the Swedish instrument, but she also plays fiddles, Hardanger’s violin, rabel (Spanish rebeck), santur, harp and harmonium . Nevertheless, most of her tunes are based on medieval & traditional Spanish songs, also from the Sepharadic repertoire . Musicians playing with her are : Carlos BECEIRO (also producer of her CD) & Jaime MUÑOZ from LA MUSGAÑA, Wafir S. GIBRIL, Diego GARCIA, Carl FLINT, Pepe MARTÍNEZ, José Manuel CASTRO .

    The next article on Madrid will talk about the artists on ‘international’ folk styles : ‘Celtic’, Irish, Scottish,… and from several other places . My gratitude to the Spanish music magazine INTERFOLK ( -> FW#32), and in particular Fernando MARTÍNEZ – GARCIA, for the expert support of these articles.

    Photo Credits: (1) Plaza Mayor, Madrid; (2) SINIESTRO TOTAL; (3) SUBURBANO; (4) ALJIBE; (5) RADIO TARIFA; (6) LA MUSGAÑA; (7) LA BRUJA GATA; (8) BARAHUNDA; (9) BALBARDA; (10) HEXACORDE; (11) BONAVAL; (12) José Manuel FRAILE - GIL; (13) Eduardo LAGUILLO; (14) Javier PAXARIÑO; (15) Javier BERGIA; (16) Andreas PRITTWITZ; (17) Rafa MARTÍN; (18) Ana ALCAIDE.

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