Ensemble Crisol: Latin America songs from Panama to Peru

By Fredric Dannen

As Big Dan Teague says in the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou: “I’m gonna propose you a proposition.” Every time you pick up this newspaper, and read an article about a forthcoming concert in San Miguel, you get pelted with adjectives like “extraordinary,” “legendary,” “wonderful,” and so on and so forth. I could dish out the encomiums, too, in describing the Mexico City group Ensamble Crisol, which is going to be giving a concert of songs from all over Latin America at the Teatro Ángela Peralta on Friday, March 21. But let’s try something different. Those of you reading this, if you have internet access and a computer with speakers, go to this website, www.rosaguadalupe.net, and listen to full-length excerpts from Crisol’s last San Miguel concert, which was held at the Teatro Santa Ana in November 2012.

Ensamble Crisol
Fri, Mar 21, 7:30pm
Teatro Ángela Peralta
Tickets 100/200 pesos

Listen, for instance, to the Venezuelan song “Alma llanera. Or the Paraguayan song “Recuerdos de Ypacarai” Or the Panamanian song “Sin tu cariño.” Or the Mexican song “Enamorada.” Those numbers will be featured at the Peralta concert. So will many songs not heard at the 2012 event–songs from Peru, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Colombia, and other Latin American countries.

Ensamble Crisol is a quartet of musicians who specialize in traditional Latin American music, much of it from the 1940s and 1950s. (Crisol is Spanish for crucible.) 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.

Though based in the federal district, Crisol’s leader and cofounder, Rosa Guadalupe, lives in San Miguel, and has 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.

Cardona in turn introduced Guadalupe to his school friend Eduardo Hernández, a master of the Argentinean guitarrón, or bass guitar, and the Venezuelan quatro. The three musicians inaugurated Crisol, which began as a trio, and before long they had added a percussionist to play the Peruvian cajón. In past performances, that percussionist was Diego Gallardo, the younger of Guadalupe’s sons; but in the Peralta concert, Gallardo’s elder brother, Remy Fenoy, will take his place.

Guadalupe points out that Crisol performs music written before her three musical colleagues (all in their thirties) were born. “These young people love this music,” Guadalupe says, “and they refresh it with youthful energy.” Hernández says, “We play a pretty wide selection of pieces from different parts of Latin America, and we change our sound – different rhythms, different instruments – to be as authentic to that country’s particular musical style as possible.”

Crisol’s concert is entitled “Enamorada,” and will run about an hour and a half, including an intermission. You can supply the adjectives.


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