FolkWorld #78 07/2022
© Pío Fernández


Enchanting and Relaxing

El Mantel de Noa

Artist Video

From 1999 until 2010, FolkWorld got news about a music band from the Aragón region (NE-Spain), named O’Carolan, which developed a repertoire strongly inspired by the music from the Irish harper & composer Turlough O'Carolan (1670-1738). We knew about their four albums, the last of them more oriented towards the reinterpretation of the traditional music from their homeland of Aragón.[44] Now in 2022, we get two CDs from ‘El Mantel de Noa’, the new duo from the O’Carolan band members: Pilar Gonzalvo (Irish harp, diatonic accordion, hurdy-gurdy) and Miguel Ángel Fraile (duduk, tin & low whistle, uilleann pipe, Aragonese ‘gaita de boto’ bagpipes, diatonic accordion, clariduk, gayda, musette).

El Mantel de Noa: Islas Errantes

El Mantel de Noa "Islas Errantes", Own label, 2020

El Mantel de Noa: Hilos de Aire

El Mantel de Noa "Hilos de Aire", Own label, 2015

Following parallel tendencies of their previous repertoires with O'Carolan, Pilar and Miguel Ángel combine the pristine plucked strings of the harp with the soft sounds of the different woodwind instruments to recreate enchanting and relaxing atmospheres.

In 2015, ‘El Mantel de Noa’ (‘Noah’s Tablecloth’) published the CD ‘Hilos de Aire’ (‘Air threads’), where they compiled a set of fourteen songs traditional in a diversity of places & cultures. Like the Jewish, in the traditional tune ‘Kosher’, and the Sephardic ‘Durme’ & ‘Hixa Mía’. Given their prior ‘Celtic’ music background, they also include three trad Irish songs, like the slow air ‘La montaña de las mujeres’ (‘The women’s mountain’), that many of us recall from Liam O’Flynn’s 1998 album “The Piper’s Call” (under the Gaelic title: Silabh Na mBan). In this version, they also combine the uilleann pipes with the harp.

Also with the harp, low whistle and the pipes, they beautifully perform ‘Viento del sur’, ‘The South Wind’, and ‘Giga-reel’, also on the whistles and the harp. An ‘Alborada’ traditional from Aragón is performed with the local ‘gaita de boto’ bagpipes and the harp. The traditional Armenian ‘Nostalgia’, is played with duduk and harp.

Then, in 2020, El Mantel the Noah returned with the album 'Islas Errantes', fourteen songs that, again, can easily remind you of Irish instrumental bands like Nightnoise, although in their case they delve into the traditional repertoires of Armenia, Sweden, the Balkans, Spain, the Sephardic Jews and, of course, Ireland. They also include self-inspired songs such as the calm 'Ninón de Nerín', 'Sabor a Miel', 'Estrella Fugaz', or the lively and rhythmically uneven 'Final de Vía'.

El Mantel de Noah, a brilliant project that I hope will continue to bring us such enjoyable music on more albums to come.

Photo Credits: (1) El Mantel de Noa (by Jaime Oriz).

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