Nilko Andreas Guarin’s Soulful Strumming Mesmerises Jakarta

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Nile Andreas Guarin on guitar (Photo courtesy of Tunggul Wirajuda)

The strumming of the classical Spanish guitar by Colombian guitarist Nilko Andreas Guarin sounded intricate yet soulful. The relatively sparse guitar, which belied its depth, introduced the “Capricho Arabe,” a showpiece tune by 19th-century Spanish classic guitar master Francisco Tarrega. Combining the emotions of his era’s Romanticist music and the stately style of Spain’s Andalusia region, the piece served to introduce Guarin to his Indonesian audience at Jakarta’s Usmar Ismail Hall during a recital sponsored by the Colombian Embassy last Wednesday.

The veteran musician, whose deft touch with the guitar hit a chord with music buffs in 15 countries, reached out to his audience during the show.

“The “Capricho Arabe” is the epitome of Spanish classical guitar. As such, I’m certain that it will go far to establish common ground [between us],” said Guarin, who has performed at venues like Carnegie Hall in New York City and Wildthurn Castle in Germany.

The taciturn Guarin, whose mastery of classic guitar made him a regular at the annual gala performances held by Spain’s Queen Sofia, preferred to let his hands do the talking as he did his take on Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos’s “Five Preludes.” Guarin managed to capture the mood of the compositions, starting with the first prelude in E minor. Composed as vignettes of Brazilian life, the pieces started off with restrained passion, before picking up pace and breaking into a graceful flourish.

The deft strings of the second prelude in E minor stayed true to form, designed to ask a lady to dance.

As a homage to Johann Sebastian Bach, the third movement in A minor is more structured. However, the fourth movement in E minor and fifth movement in D major featured a more flowing sound. Made as a tribute to Latin America’s native peoples, the former was highlighted by traditional music and rhythms, giving it a natural, organic feel. The fifth prelude rounded out the series due to its inclusive, welcoming tone.

Guarin also hit notes closer to home with compatriot Adolfo Mejia’s piece “Bambuco” in E minor. Named after a dance in Colombia’s Andes Mountains region, the composition again features subdued passions, which were brought to the forefront by the striking flourish at its end. Other compositions celebrating his homeland include Gentil Montana’s “Suite Colombiana No. 2.” Made in four sections, the Suite ranged in sound from the intricate “Pasillo,” which derived its inspiration from traditional Colombian songs as well as the country’s mountains, to the brief, passionate and minuet-like “Guabina Viajera.”

The piece descended into another “Bambuco.” Inspired by the chant of vendors in traditional markets, the piece was designed to interact with the audience by having them imitate the chants. The piece uniquely has guitars take over the percussion usually reserved by drums, before breaking into the porro . The song, from Cartagena and other coastal towns, featured a vibrant, well paced tune to reflect the port town’s vibrant life.

Guarin then slowed the tempo by playing Spanish early 20th-century guitar master Isaac Albeniz’s iconic tune “Asturias” from “Suite Espanola,” as well as the equally contemplative but less well known “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” by Francisco Tarrega. He then brought the show to a close with the tango strains of Roland Dyens’s “Tango In Ski.”

In a nod to the Indonesian public, students from the Colombian Embassy school in Jakarta enlivened the intermission with their take on Aceh’s traditional Saman dance. They stacked up well to the original capturing the dance’s vigorous, rapid movements and deft handling of plates that made the dance the most iconic of its kind.

Guarin piqued the interest of his audience in his premiere show in Jakarta.

“I was initially unfamiliar with classical guitar in both its Spanish or Latin American strains, as I’m more familiar with the symphonic or operatic aspects of classical music,” said Rennie, a music lover in the audience.

“It did take a while to follow along with the music, particularly the first half. However, the high quality of his guitar technique more than made up for it, especially in the more upbeat second half. All in all, [Guarin’s] performance was an eye-opener when it comes to both classical music as well as guitar performances in general.”

Originally published in The Jakarta Globe on December 9, 2013

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