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Indígena - Tania León

Tania León’s heritage returns to the fore in Indígena (1991), commissioned by Town Hall for the Solisti Chamber Orchestra of New York. It opens with a series of rhapsodic, candenza-like woodwind flourishes (each answered by a burst of percussion) that lead into a motoric, interlocking, polyrhythmic groove. In this dissonant context, a sudden turn to a static G-major triad is breathtaking, and it announces what is essentially Indígena’s Carnival scene.

Now León conjures up a comparsa, the group of masked revelers that roams the streets during Carnival season. In the comparsas, there’s always a winner, and the king of the comparsas is the trumpeter. You might hear that a comparsa is approaching, because you hear the trumpet from a great distance, and then you hear the polyrhythms getting closer and closer.

In Indígena, the trumpet stands and delivers several bold and brilliant solos, each of which prompts a response from the rest of the instruments, the comparsa’s “chorus.” Only once does the trumpet quote an authentic comparsa melody, “La Jardinera,” which is echoed by the ensemble. A frenzied outburst of revelry ensues.

This film was recorded as part of the London Sinfonietta's socially distanced concert Yet Unheard at the Southbank Centre on 28 October 2020, a concert of music by established and emerging black composers, co-curated by leading composer and new music thinker George Lewis and experimental vocalist, movement artist and composer Elaine Mitchener.

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Published: 15 Feb 2023