Richard Durrant’s collaboration with a Paraguayan harpist living in Paris might seem unusual, but as Richard explains it is a perfect match and opens up so many opportunities:
“In Paraguay the harp is a deeply social instrument, it often accompanies dancing and, in many ways evokes the sound of Paraguay. It is quite usual for a guitarist to join the musical party, but only to underpin the rhythm and harmony, never to play the tune. I really look forward to letting my guitar stir this up a bit and I know Ismael’s harp will respond.”
How did you meet Ismael and what is your attraction to Paraguayan music?
“A recurring theme for me has been Paraguayan music.The country’s most famous son – guitarist composer Agustín Barrios – was my initial attraction but after three solo tours in Paraguay I had become more been immersed in the music of this beautiful part of south America. Ismael attended a concert I was giving at the Bolivar Hall in London as one of the launch events for my Paraguayan CD trilogy. Ismael and I chatted afterwards and it was apparent that we had more than age in common. The opportunity to collaborate with on of the greatest Paraguayan harpists was just too exciting and fascinating an opportunity to miss.”
So where are the points of connection with you each coming from very different musical and cultural backgrounds?
“Ismael and I have dedicated our working lives to music and to our instruments. With that lifetime of concentrating on tiny finger movements and incredible sonic detail there is much that is purely intuitive between us and the outcome is both fascinating and unexpected. Paraguay is a small, landlocked, heart shaped country in the very centre of the southern cone of South America and this is our point of connection – la música del corazón!”
Are you playing music which is authentic to its Paraguayan roots – or are you creating something new?
“Ismael plays a Paraguayan harp, but it’s a harp that is European in origin and the instrument appears throughout south America. So the strongest aspects of Ismael’s playing are Paraguayan, but some are pan south American and some are purely original. I speak some of the language of Paraguayan music and I can hear the layers of the colonial as well as the Paraguayan/Guarani so beloved by Barrios himself. This means that Paraguay will be at the centre of what we play, but my guitar playing has to feel free and unconstrained and for me therein lies true authenticity.”
“Geographically you are now both fairly close, but how will Brexit affect collaborations like yours in a political climate of change?
“I’ve watched politics for many years and have seen real cause for hope as 21st century technologies benefit from that exponential curve of computing power bringing hope for our environment and for ordinary people across the globe. So why has humanity’s almost divine brilliance so far been unable to create a compassionate, professional and trustworthy political system? And just when the European project seemed to be steering towards such a thing – at least in ethos – how could so many ordinary people return to the xenophobic and the self interested to create something as negative as Brexit?
Musicians and artists are accustomed to surviving against the odds, its what we have to do and its in our nature, so cross cultural collaborations will always exist. I worry more about the future for the rest of us when we have so deliberately stacked the odds against ourselves. If they vote for Trump in the US at least he’ll be controlled to some degree by the senate until he’s kicked out, but for Europe there is no way back.
However, I celebrate the positivity of music and feel blessed to be doing what I’m doing. My optimism and energy is fuelled by the sound of my strings and the strength and generosity of my audiences.”
Hear Richard Durrant and Ismael Ledesma live in concert 11-14 October in London, Shoreham-by-Sea, Crawley, Edinburgh, Scopwick and Swindon.