In one of the tracks on Polcas de mi Tierra, a key Chango Spasiuk album, a Ukrainian migrant tells the story of a German who imported weapons during World War II. He bet on Nazi expansion back then, and brought these weapons locked in wooden boxes, made with European pinewood.
But the migrant’s father converted one of these boxes into a cradle, and then a handmade violin. Twenty years after the release of that album, the story still resonates in the mind of its creator. “Time passes on, and everything gets a new meaning, like that pinewood,” says Spasiuk, born in the Argentinean province of Misiones, populated by the sons of migrants who came from Eastern Europe.
He is seated on a comfortable armchair in his home of Villa Urquiza, a residential Buenos Aires neighborhood. Beside him sits Pedro Canale, the brain behind Chancha Vía Circuito. Spasiuk decided to call on Canale to introduce the use of new technologies.
“I’ve always fantasized with doing something like this,” he says. “Especially with this album, which is all about outcasts, migrants and anti heroes, living at the heart of Misiones. I saw something which normally people don’t see, and saw it fit to bring it in an electronic project. Facing this possibility, all my prejudices went down the toilet.”
Maybe the resolution to send Polcas de mi Tierra to the lab illustrates more than ever his thirst for new horizons inside the Argentinean folklore, a search which began on albums like Chamamé Crudo (2004) and Pynandí (2009).
“We got in touch instantly,” Canale says. “As soon as Chango told me his intentions of revisiting the record, which is all about field recordings, I got excited by the challenge. Rapidly I felt the wish to get on the boat — the migrants boat.”
Although Spasiuk’s idea was to make an homage to Polcas de mi Tierra, the Pino Europeo project is an experimental one, far from any stereotype. There’s no release date for the album, because the musicians prioritize the project’s consolidation. In fact, despite all the months of hard work, they have only released one single so far: “Distancia.”
Billboard Argentina: Is polka, above all, a festive dance?
Chango Spasiuk: There are sad or melancholic songs. There’s lot of longing, also. But the celebration is there, because it is peasant’s music, made by people which escaped from war and famine, and found a place where to live peacefully. Behind all this pain, there’s celebration.
Pedro Canale: Latitudes may change, but traditional music has a unique power. They are people from the country. Perhaps, music reveals itself through different melodies, but the essence is the same: loneliness, lack of affection, love, work, human pain. Of all this is made music all over the world.
Spasiuk: And of hope…
Canale: (Chango’s music) was an entirely unknown world to me. Maybe I’ve heard some waltz, that kind of rhythm, but they went unnoticed. Chango showed me the difference between polka and chotis, and the importance of paying attention to the accents as well.
Spasiuk: For me, playing over loops and machines was something new, and learning that the songs can’t be played in the same manner.
There’s some connection between you both that sparks an immediate interest, even without hearing something beforehand.
Canale: And it generates even more interest because Chango is associated to chamamé while I’m associated to music of the Andes. What’s gonna happen here?
Spasiuk: And with Pedro we haven’t opened the door to chamamé yet.
Canale: Because you don’t want it…
What are you going to do after Polcas de mi Tierra?
Canale: I proposed cumbia, but Chango doesn’t want to go there.
Spasiuk: I told him, “Pedro, this is so intense for me. Let’s go slowly.”