LA TROBA KUNG-FÚ
Joan Garriga (La Garriga, Vallès Oriental, 1972) grew up in a time when, in Catalonia, the dance bands were helping people to regain the streets, the squares and the cities, dignifying the popular feasts and freeing the enjoyment that had been imprisoned during the dark and silent years of the dictatorship. As he has said in many interviews, the atmosphere of those popular dances, where different kinds of music and all generations mingled, was crucial for his musical and vital development.
In 1995, Garriga -already playing the diatonic accordion- and two more musicians, created the band Dusminguet, which was, from its very beggining, a different kind of band amongst the Catalonian musical scene. In those times, Barcelona was considered the capital city of the South, and many musicians, from all over the world, came to play in its streets. Globalization left its mark on the band and led it to include in its repertoire musical styles as varied as rhythms from the Balkans, tex-mex, vallenato, cumbia, reggae, hip-hop, cajun, habaneras. Dusminguet, a ground-breaking and unclassifiable band, was amongst the pioneer bands in mixing musical rhythms and styles, although later on, it got under the label of “mestizo music”. In 2004, after having played in many different countries, and at the highest point of their success, they disbanded, feeling that they had reached the end of their trip.
During that final stage, Garriga earned for himself a great reputation as accordionist, one of the few to take seriously the diatonic. He played with Amparo Sánchez (Amparanoia), and many other bands asked him for his collaboration. It was then when he started to work with Marià Roch (former Sencillos and Jarabe de Palo), with whom he shared territory and musical energies. From this meeting of minds, a new project started to get underway: La Troba Kung-Fú.
La Troba Kung-Fú vindicates its three main foundations: la troba, (the “composition”) as a means of creating songs and composing music in a way similar to that of the old minstrels and troubadours, “finding” the inspiration and the melodies in the life that surrounds the artist; the kung-fu, that is to say, the art of discipline aimed to achieve perfection, and the Catalan rumba, a genre created by the Catalan gypsies during the decade of the rock & roll, listening to mambos and sones, and dancing at parties and weddings, and that some intellectual paios conceptualized as an urban and popular music, genuine of Barcelona. La Troba Kung-Fú choose the Catalan rumba as a musical language that showed itself rooted in the origins, and reclaim it as such. And so, a new band started to play around, formed by paio and gypsy musicians, and led by Joan Garriga, composer of the songs, main singer and accordionist.
Their first album was Clavell Morenet (2006), which surprised the public with, among other brilliant pieces, “La cançó del lladre” (“The thief song”), a fresh and “rumby” version of a traditional Catalan song. This album marks and inflection point in the history of Catalan rumba, as it showed the permeability of a genre rather local but played with a global vision that highlights its complicity with some American and African rhythms. The album was a starting point toward the future in which we have already been living for some time. It clearly marked the beginning of what was in store for the Catalan rumba, while it drew the way toward a new crossbreed fusion, a new potent cocktail that was to come in the following years: the rumbia.
The second album, A la panxa del bou (2010), is more rock, more urban, and a real step forward for the band. It was brewed by La Troba during their concert trips. It was conceived as a travel diary and includes different types of music, stories and landscapes from the places where they had been playing at: Bushwick, Brooklin, NY, in the States; Guanajuato o León, in Mexico; Madrid; Barcelona, and even their hometown: La Garriga. In this album, the rumbia (a fusion of rumba and cumbia, and much more than that) started to take shape as a personal design for a time yet to come.
In 2013, they released Santalegria, La Troba’s third and, for the moment, last album. The album draws a very local landscape: industrial areas, motorways, toll zones, half build houses, urban developments left abandoned. At the same times, that landscape becomes universal, since it shows the skeletons of the building that, here and everywhere, the property speculation left behind. Santalegria, presents the rumbia as a declaration of the principles the band stands for. Rumbia, transatlantic, that comes and goes, that brings together and creates ties, that clearly shows that the world is smaller than they want us to believe, that the people can understand each other better by listening to each other. Music is already the language that defines people, their way of being, of dancing, of feeling moved and thrilled.
Rumbia, that brings down the invisible walls of bigotry and narrow-mindedness that tried to defuse the response of the people, the only ones with the right to decide when and how to dance in tomorrow´s country. The country where La Toba lives, rooted in a land that still grows the dream of a better and possible world.
Music journalist (an endangered species)
MAIN FESTIVALS AND CONCERTS:
La Troba Kung-Fú has taken its music around Europe, United States, Maghreb or Mexico. It’s been in the stage of the Global Fest and Lincoln Center (NYC); Popkomm Fest (Germany); Polé Polé, Festival Afrolatino and World Feast (Belgium); Lowlands, Zomerparkfeest and Valkhof Affaire (Holland); Babel Med, Les Méditerranénnes and Le Bout du Monde (France); Ariano Folk (Italy); Festichan (Arquiña), Viñarock (Valencia), Womad Canarias (Canary Island); Cervantino Festival (Mexico); Sziget Festival (Hungary), La Linea Festival (London), International Arts Festival Salisbury (England); Festival Alegria (Morocco); MIR Sibiri Shushenskoye (Siberia), and many more. Also of notice, is the French tour during the last summer, with Manu Chao, and, formerly, the tour in England with Ojos de Brujo.
Enderrock: Best Album 2013 (Santalegria) (critics’ award)
Enderrock: Best Album of Folk and New Music 2013 (Santalegria)
ARC: nominated for Best Tour, Sales 2013
ARC: Best Band in World Music 2009
Altaveu: Best Catalan Band 2007
Ciutat de Barcelona: Music and New Technologies Award 2007
Puig-Porret: Best Band 2007
Enderrock: Best CD Cover 2006 (Clavell Morenet)
We live in a dizzying era. An era in which events happen at such speed we can’t really predict what will happen in the future. A new challenge where you feel compelled to join the bandwagon of change to avoid being left out. Humbug.
Today more than ever a new way of life is emerging: a new way of doing, thinking and, above all, living. This new way is connected to the essence of human beings, to a collaborative will that isolates and ridicules lady vanity, the party spoiler. If there is a message behind “Santalegría”, La Troba Kung-Fú’s third album, I’m going to take the chance to defend it’s actually that.
Joan Garriga, heart and soul of La Troba, has always reminded me of that troubadour from the romantic and popular tradition who becomes our own Jimmy Cricket through the party. A musician who is aware that things are not the way they should be and that after all the destructive speculation, that rebel shrub will always come back to set its stubborn roots in the asphalt to remind us that earth has always been there, just like music.
For all that and much more, “Santalegría” is a return to the origins. A homemade disc, vomited from mastery and sustained by consistent metrics that compel us to listen to it in one go and immerse ourselves in the many stories he narrates. Stories in which caricature goes hand in hand with deeper reflections, just like heads and tails of the same coin: life.
“Santalegría” sanctifies laughter, fellowship, letting one’s hair down and most of all party and festivals. But it also reminds us that real problems are those related to humans as a whole, rather than consumer units engaged in accumulating as a measure of our happiness.
“Santalegría” is one of those rare albums where nothing is hidden and everything is suggested. Music that throbs on the beginning of time and makes us realise that poetry lies in our hearts and has the power to move (us). But, above all, it reminds us that music has always been there: dancing cheek-to-cheek to seal our love or celebrating the magic of being alive, very alive, so alive that I invite you to let yourself go into theses tunes made from the heart and meant to be shared.