Volcanto Folk

Guardabarranco teams up for a rare free-to-the-public gig

Among the most critically acclaimed and beloved Latin-American folk-music artists of our time, the Nicaraguan brother-sister duo known as Guardabarranco performs together less frequently than in the past.

Salvador Cardenal Barquero lives the life of a free-spirited artist (he's also a painter) with his wife and two kids in Nicaragua. Sister Katia Cardenal Barquero has four kids, is a popular singing star in Europe and shuttles between her home country and Norway. Each has recorded a few solo albums, in addition to several wonderful duo recordings.

But fans the world over are passionate for the pair's delicate yet fiery volcanto music--Salvador coined the term, combining the words "volcano" and "canto," to give a name to their version of the socially conscious Central American folk-music trend called nuevo canción.

So their new album together, Verdadero Pan (True Bread), is an auspicious event in itself, as is the fact that they will return to Tucson to play here for the first time in almost three years.

When Guardabarranco was invited to appear at the Encuentro del Canto Popular festival this December in San Francisco, they called friend, folk musician and promoter Ted Warmbrand, whose Tucson-based Itzaboutime Productions has often booked the duo's tours.

Warmbrand scored them a couple of other gigs along the way, including a performance on Thursday, Dec. 2, at the Unitarian Universalist Church. Best of all, the local concert is free.

Verdadero Pan was honored as a finalist for Best New World-Music Album by the Indie Acoustic Project; Katia Cardenal's seventh solo album, Hojarasca, also was released this past year.

The Guardabarranco story is known to many, but not to all. The Cardenals began singing together as teenagers in Managua after the Sandinistas ended the dictatorship of Gen. Anastasio Somoza. They joined the new government's Literacy Campaign, teaching adults in rural Nicaragua to read. Involvement in humanitarian and revolutionary efforts inspired them to spread their musical message.

Naming their musical partnership after a long-tailed Nicaraguan bird that cannot survive in captivity, Guardabarranco toured tirelessly throughout the Americas in the 1980s, releasing two albums--Un Trago de Horizonte and Si Buscabas.

Solo recording careers beckoned in the '90s, but they still returned to work together regularly, resulting in such albums as Dias de Amar and Casa Abierta. A best-of anthology, aptly titled Antologia, was released in 1998.

Guardabarranco fans looking to complete their collections should make note of the Cardenals' first English-language performance, their version of Pete Seeger's previously unrecorded "You'll Sing to Me, Too" on the tribute album If I Had a Song: The Songs of Pete Seeger, Vol. 2.

They were the only Latin American artists on that compilation album, which also included Jackson Browne, Joan Baez, Steve Earle, Billy Bragg, Arlo Guthrie, Dar Williams and Kate and Anna McGarrigle.

Additionally, Guardabarranco recently celebrated their old friend, mentor and sometimes-patron Browne by singing a Spanish translation of his tune "Late for the Sky" on an album tribute to him produced in Spain.

And, speaking of Spain, they also appeared on last year's moving compilation CD Spain in My Heart: Songs of the Spanish Civil War, which also features Seeger, Guthrie, Lila Downs and Laurie Lewis.

Warmbrand says he hopes some old-guard folk fans will come out of the woodwork for the Tucson performance of Guardabarranco. "We gotta get the old crowd out there, and there should be some new souls, as well.

"We've gotten enough money in the form of grants and sponsorships that we pretty much have it paid for before it even begins," Warmbrand says.