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Bagpipes resonate through rugged coastline of... Spain

Susana Roza-Vigil takes a look at the Spanish region with the Celtic flavor
Windows Media 28K 80K

November 5, 1999
Web posted at: 4:44 p.m. EST (2144 GMT)

From Susana Roza-Vigil
CNN WorldBeat Correspondent

(CNN) -- The green, rolling hills and the wild, untamed sea conjure up a vivid image of the rugged Irish coastline -- and even though there are bagpipers galore providing the background music for this idyllic scene, this is not Ireland. Rather, it's northern Spain, a region whose unique Celtic culture has risen to the forefront with a unique innovation: electric bagpipes.

Technology was not always a part of this culture, of course. The musical tradition of Galicia and the Asturias dates back more than 1,000 years, and even many of the form's modern musicians -- like northern Spain's Celtic-pop sensation, Jose Hevia -- have been involved in this music scene for the last two decades.

"The electric bagpipes," says Hevia, "is an invention that was developed only three and a half years ago with a team of professionals -- an electronic technician, a computer technician and a musician, myself. It encompasses sounds of Asturian bagpipes, Galician, Irish, Scottish, any type of bagpipe of Europe, which is to say the bagpipes of the world."

Thanks in part to this innovation, Hevia's been able to spread his music to a wider audience, topping the Spanish charts and selling half a million copies of his debut album, "Tierra De Nadie" (No Man's Land). Typical from that release is the single "Busindre Reel," which uses electric bagpipes for a unique take on the traditional Celtic composition.

Hevia acknowledges the traditional image of Spain: "Basically of southern Spain, Spain of the sun, Spain of the guitar and the flamenco.

"But," he says, "there are many other realities within Spain. In Asturias, we belong to an Atlantic mark, a climate more green, more gray. I always describe my land as green and gray. And this changes the styles of life, and some cultural styles too.

"Within those styles is music, oriented in a determined, traditional form. Sometimes the music has more to do with the Atlantic arc -- with Brittany, or Scotland, or Ireland -- than the rest of Spain."

Hevia, Carlos Juñez, teen-age singer Cristina Pato and the band Luar Na Lubre share in the Iberian bagpipe tradition that has intrigued and enticed more mainstream pop musicians like Jackson Browne and Mike Oldfield. In fact, as WorldBeat discovered, Browne and Oldfield have even incorporated the sound into their own work.

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