New Classical Tracks: Milos and Latin American song

by Julie Amacher
November 20, 2013

Listen New Classical Tracks: 'Cancion'
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Cancion is an album of stirring transcriptions and arrangements of Latin, South American and Spanish songs. (© 2013 Deutsche Grammophon.)

"Canción is an album which celebrates all of those different ideas and corners and flavors of the music of South America which is very much in the core of the guitar as a classical instrument but also it's very much in the core of the guitar as a popular instrument. So the album really celebrates those two worlds and the collision and the union of those two worlds into one," says guitarist Milos Karadaglic.

Milos está muy apasionado about his latest recording, which celebrates the Canción — Latin America song. He invited his friend, Brazilian guitarist and composer Sergio Assad to fashion four of the arrangements on this recording, including two songs that have become global phenomena in popular Latin culture. "I think what he wrote is just so much fun and so real. Because if you take a song like 'Besame Mucho' or 'Más Que Nada', it's so easy for it to sound canned. And the arrangements that he made are very much classical guitar and very much challenging in every single way but then you recognize the tune and it just makes you happy. I had a wonderful time recording those pieces and I now play them all over the world — even in the most serious recitals and the most prestigious concert halls and people just go crazy for those."

Oscar-winning film composer Gustavo Santaolalla wrote the soundtrack for The Motorcycle Diaries. It's about the Argentine Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara. A powerful film, its main theme packed a punch for Milos, and became an essential track on Canción. "That piece was my very big personal wish," Milos explains, "because when I heard that piece in the original, I was blown away because it just had something that was so haunting and would not leave my head for days. And I just knew that there was a way to play it on the guitar and I experimented and just tried to figure out how it could be best approached. The way it's done is that the tuning is a little bit changed. So the first string is changed to F-sharp which changes the whole timbre of the guitar...what's the color. And you get this very hypnotic affect."

Maurice Ravel's famous Bolero is also heard in a surprising arrangement on this recording. The idea to include it on this recording came about last year when Milos was trying to outwit a hurricane. Stranded on the East Coast during Hurricane Sandy, his connecting flight to South Carolina was cancelled. So he hired a driver who happened to be from South Carolina. "We socialized in the most incredible way in those four or five hours in the car," Milos recalls, "and in a way it was such a clash of worlds and cultures of where I come from and so on. Her name was Leela and what Leela said to me was, 'You said you play classical music?' I said yes. She said, 'I don't care about classical music. But the one thing I love more than anything is a Bolero.' And when she said this to me, I had the little light bulb in my head and I remembered it. And when I came to London, I was speaking to my producers. There was a show called Dancing on Ice in the UK, and they wanted to have this piece and they said would you mind doing it? I said, no. I will do it for Leela. And I dedicated the track to her."

And no collection of Latin American music would be complete without an alluring Tango. Milos was first exposed to Astor Piazzolla's Tangos while studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London. "When teachers were not looking, we would want to play some Piazzolla because it was so natural, emotionally fitting to a student who is 19 or 20, because Piazzolla's music is so intense and so dramatic and direct and simple in a way. And I just loved it. So when I was making the record, I just thought that I must do something like that because the landscape of that South American music just wouldn't be complete without having something like a Libertango."

Canción is a delicious comida, a buffet of South American flavors that celebrates the guitar as a classical instrument, and as a popular instrument. "Little by little I was hypnotized into this very special world of classical guitar," Milos admits, "and it made me realize that yes there are so many rock stars in the world but not many people can play the guitar and make it sing."