La Rioja is Spain’s central north region which is best known for the high quality of its red wines. But the southern part of La Rioja shares some desolated & unpopulated landscapes with its neighbor region Castilla y León. TÜNDRA is a ‘banda folk riojana’, which develops a fusion between Castilian folk, jazz and hard rock, with some influences from medieval music. The four instrumentalists in TÜNDRA’s core are : Ignacio Benito (flutes, gaita riojana /Riojan bagpipes, sackpipa, gaita charra y tamboril / three holed flute & tabor), Rafa Martín (ex_member of ‘La Bruja Gata’: zanfona/hurdy-gurdy & nyckelharpa), Francisco González (electric guitar, mandola) and Jorge Garrido (percussions). In 2017, TÚNDRA published the CD ‘Bastardüs’.
The tundra is a typical landscape found in countries around the Arctic, where tough and short vegetation is adapted to extreme cold conditions, and human inhabitants per squared kilometer are scarce. There are also regions in southern Europe with irregular rainfalls, cold winters and hot summers, which have lowered the level of stable populations to a minimum. This is the case of the southern part of La Rioja, in the area which belongs to the Sierra Celtibérica, and where the record low densities of population are comparable to those found in north European regions such as northern Finland. That is why this Spanish region has been often nicknamed as “la Laponia del Sur”: the Lapland in Europe’s south.
The band TÜNDRA was created in La Rioja back in 2008, in the workshop of the luthier Daniel Latorre, who was the first hurdy-gurdy performer in the band. TÜNDRA started as a duo (Daniel & Jorge), and shortly after the band was joined by Ignacio (flutes) & Paco (guitars). They recorded their first CD ‘Folk Ancestro Sideral’ in 2013, and after one year playing concerts, they had a new hurdy-gurdy performer, Rafa Martín ex-member of Madrid’s folk band ‘La Bruja Gata’, who played zanfona and also nyckelharpa, which he learned from Marco Ambrosini, Ditte Andersson, Didier François, Annette Ossam and Jule Bauer in the Scuola di Musica Popolare di Forlimpopoli (Italy).
They chose the band’s name due to the connotations that ‘tündra’ has : remote, seldom explored, barely populated but beautiful lands,…, somehow in those aspects similar to the area where the band lives in La Rioja, and whose character fundamentally inspires their music style.
The kind of folk bands that mainly influenced Tündra’s music are for example Hedningarna and La Musgaña (Castile, central Spain), although inspiration also came from traditional, rock and even jazz artists such as: Slayer, Black Sabbath, Miles Davis, Groupa, or the trad songs from Castilla y León and La Rioja . Rafa Martín’s long list of beloved bands, such as: Malicorne, Blowzabella, Pentangle, Oskorri, Berrogüetto,…, soon also became part of Tündra’s background.
TÜNDRA’s last CD `Bastardüs’ is to some extent a natural follow up after their previous album, although that first one was more spontaneous, and this second one is a more calculated effort to further develop those original concepts. On top of that, it cannot be ignored the experience and style contributed by Rafa Martín and the new sound from his nyckelharpa, although Rafa also brought in the brilliant support from two former fellow musicians in the bands La Musgaña and La Bruja Gata : José Climent and José Ramón Jiménez.
The end result of this convergence of musicians and ideas is a fusion which started with Spanish traditional, folk and hard rock sounds, but in the CD ‘Bastardüs’ it also provides room to songs such as: ‘Blue Pepper’ (from Duke Hellington & Billy Strayhorn), ‘Lonely Woman (from Ornette Coleman)’, or ‘Mit Günstlichem Herzen’ (from Oswald Von Wolkenstein).
By the way, the pictures in this article showing Tündra’s latest CD ‘Bastardüs’, were taken near the city of Tromsø, in Norway’s northern district of Nord-Troms, about 400 kilometers above the Arctic polar circle. Thanks to : www.tromsoarcticreindeer.com.
Photo Credits: (1) Tündra (unknown/website).; (2) Sami herder from ‘Tromso Arctic Reindeer’ holding Tündra’s CD ‘Bastardüs’ (by Tromsø Arctic Reindeer).