Crisol returns to San Miguel, by popular demand

By Fredric Dannen

One evening this past September, a curious audience turned out at the Shelter Theater in colonia San Rafael to hear a group from Mexico City called Ensamble Crisol. The ensemble, whose name translates as “Crucible,” is a quartet of musicians that specializes in a wide variety of Latin American songs, from Panama and Puerto Rico to Cuba and Peru, with stops in Venezuela, Colombia and Mexico. The group’s unique sound is derived from blended vocals and Latin percussion, and most especially from a shimmering chorus of instruments in the guitar family – the Argentinean guitarrón, Venezuelan cuatro, the Cuban tres and the Mexican requinto.

w/Rosa Guadalupe & Ensamble Crisol
Sat, Nov 3, 5pm
Teatro Santa Ana
La Biblioteca
Reloj 50A
150 pesos

Despite its popularity in the Federal District, Crisol had never before performed outside Mexico City, and the San Miguel audience was not sure what to expect. By the end of the evening the crowd was on its feet. The concert was such a success, in fact, that Crisol is making its second appearance in San Miguel at La Bibloteca.

Crisol’s foray into San Miguel was a logical step for the group, because the ensemble’s leader and cofounder, Rosa Guadalupe, moved here last year, and has steadily become a fixture on the local music scene. Guadalupe, who first gained prominence as an award-winning classical guitarist, started singing in peñas (folk clubs) in the late 1970s, and continued to perform in clubs and concert halls, both as a soloist and ensemble artist, for the next three and a half decades.

In 2004, Guadalupe was in a group called Verde Luz, and when one of its members quit, she invited Ricardo Cardona, one of her former guitar students, to take his place. Cardona had also learned the Cuban tres, or three-string rhythm guitar, from Remy Fenoy, the elder of Guadalupe’s two sons, and had become proficient in cumbia, a Colombian and Panamanian music genre, as a member of La Sonora Dinamita, a brass-heavy Colombian orchestra that helped popularize cumbia throughout the world.

Ricardo Cardona in turn introduced Rosa Guadalupe to his school friend Eduardo Hernández, a master of the Argentinean guitarrón, or bass guitar and Venezuelan quatro, and an accomplished clarinetist as well. The three musicians inaugurated Crisol, which began as a trio, and before long they had added a percussionist – Diego Gallardo, the younger son of Guadalupe’s sons. Gallardo’s proficiency with the Peruvian cajón, in particular, has become an essential element of the group’s sound. Gallardo is the only non-singing member of the group; for many of its numbers, Guadalupe, Hernández and Cardona, sing in harmony.

Guadalupe points out that Crisol plays only traditional music, much of it from the 1940s and 1950s, and all of it written before her three musical colleagues were born. Cardona and Hernández are in their early 30s, and Gallardo is 19. “We play Son cubano, habaneras, Mexican boleros, and other traditional Latin music,” Guadalupe says. “These young people with me in the ensemble, they all love this music, and they refresh it with a youthful energy.”


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