Chamamé is described as migration worker's music from those northeastern provinces of Argentina called tierra colorada -- the red earth -- that's wedged like an arm between Paraguay and Brazil. This music is a hybrid that grew out of the clash between the Spanish and indigenous Mbya Guarani Amerindian styles. Arriving by Eastern European emigrant boats and their expatriates' fondness for polkas, waltzes and Scottish jigs and reels, the accordion eventually became the unofficial instrument of chamamé just like the bandoneon became the hero of Oscar Piazzolla's nouveau tango.
The "tarefero" of the title pays homage to the yerba mate harvesters who toil in the Argentinean fields and celebrate breaks and weekends with a Latin-inspired dance music in 6/8s. For this record, Chango Spasiuk abandons prior reliance on drums and electric bass to go purely acoustics with guitar, violin, upright bass, Peruvian and Brazilian hand percussion, bandoneon, vocals and his demonically agile accordion.
Those who know and love MA Recordings' La Segunda in both its installments will instantly relate to Tarefero de mis Pagos as a soul mate from across the border. In spirit if not musical style, those who love old-timey instrumental Cuban music that's made for shuffle dancing on sun-dried dirt patios with palm leafs for shade will feel right at home, too. Ditto for devotees of Afro-Peruvian music of which there are clear strains running through Chango's chamamé. Though updated and modernized for an international audience, this album captures that peculiar mixture of the bitter-sweet and joyfully defiant that's at the heart of all music rooted in the song and dance of poor people who work the fields with their bare hands or machetes.
Sounds from the Red Land beautifully portrays the many different strands that make up the weave of this music, including melodic European echoes and lively Scottish dances from the days of the Jesuit priests. The alternating slower pieces are often based on milongas or Peruvian valses but carry their very own and unmistakably unique flavor. The tone and suave execution of the salon violin rather than rougher Celtic fiddle gives Chango's music a refined, slightly concertized feel that's no longer pure back-porch folk music though the minor polish never disconnects from the rootsy feel.
Chango Spasiuk's accordion seems destined to do for the music of his country what Kepa Junkera's accordion has done for the more Polka-dominated Basque dances. Spasiuk's also phenomenally virtuous on his keys, able to seemingly barely brush them for high-speed twinkly passages and superbly accentuated counterpoints. Having never before heard of chamamé, the combination of accordion and Latin/Peruvian/Scottish influences seemed unlikely and ill-matched. However, just one listen to this album and it seems as natural as canoli and Polish kielbasa to a New Yorker - foreign yet familiar at the same time. The interplay between Latin guitar, tango-esque violin and knee organ in particular is a fetching key element of Mis Pagos and also a surprise setting in which most listeners will never have heard an accordion before. What a surprise - very highly recommended for the inveterate musical armchair traveler.