Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Saturday, September 18, 2004


My beloved spouse, our son, and I saw 2 of the 3 members of Mexika Ensemble last night, an LA-based group that plays pre-Hispanic instruments solely, mostly researched, revived, and built by leader and composer Martin Espino. Percussion and flutes and singing, with an occasional blast on the conch shell and twang on the “tawitol,” a taut bow string upon which one bounces an arrow. A lot of the music sounded mellow-new-agey at first, but usually a lively polyrhythm is happening, where the melody instrument is playing in a very free relationship to the rhythm instrument. The sound sometimes brought to mind a quieter, smaller indigenous version of the great Art Ensemble of Chicago. Espino shares the project of recreating un-written ancestral music in a modern context with the AEC too, and his buffet of homemade instruments calls to mind the great American composer Harry Partch.

Espino and percussionist Chris Garcia could get a serious groove going. At the toddling dude’s insistence we sat in the front row, which was wisdom, because it gave him room to dance, which was cool because he is too short to block anyone’s view. He asked his mother and me to join him in booty-shaking, but alas we are too tall.

Espino’s between-song patter did that classical thing of informing *and* entertaining -- witty and smart and warm and sincere, with a moving nonpartisan encomium to American freedom and a lot of celebration of indigenous Mexican culture.

Wonderful show.

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