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Roger Scannura & Ritmo Flamenco: “Misterio”

album1-1Despite the fact that much is made of Canada’s rich and eclectic cultural mosaic, of our city’s many neighbourhoods that bear a passing resemblance to the many faces and flavours of the United Nations, too little is said about the music of these cultures. Music, in Canada, is the jazz crooning of a Diana Krall, the masterful lyric of a Gordon Downie, the pop spandex of a Shania Twain. Cultural-influenced music, when mentioned in our nation’s press, is seemingly confined by the Celtic music cry, and little, if anything, is ever said about the many other bands and artists releasing music that walks a line differing from our perceived ‘norm’. That’s right folks, let the conspiracy be revealed, let it fall flat on its face of artistic dreariness: despite the nation’s I’m-not-gonna-bother-with attitude regarding lesser-known styles of music, they’re out there…and guess what? They’re thriving.

Toronto-based flamenco master Roger Scannura is proof of the alter-Canadian musical identity. Despite an infrastructure that supports rock and pop acts, Scannura has defied the odds and found success with his music, a mix of Afro-Cuban rhythms, traditional flamenco, and modern popular influences.

Scannura grew up on the Mediterranean Island of Malta, moving to Canada in his late teens. This event perhaps inspired him to embrace the music he left behind, for it was in Toronto that Scannura ultimately discovered his love for flamenco music. The year was 1981, the influence was Spanish flamenco legend Pepe Habichuela: Scannura came upon Habichuela playing in a now defunct club, and quickly fell under the master’s tutelage. The rest, as they say, is history and Scannura followed a path that brought him both international recognition and the release of four acclaimed albums.

The guitar wizard’s most recent 8-song release, Misterio, is an amorousness recording offering all-out emotion, passion and intrigue. This is mood music: each pick and strum writes another chapter of some unfinished manuscript. At times blissfully melancholy (“No Puedo”), and other times triumphant (“Quevedo”), these songs are always intoxicating. The album-grabber, “Sharia”, is nothing short of spectacular, and is a song that even listeners completely unfamiliar with flamenco music can appreciate.

Roger Scannura is, in effect, a poster-child for Canada’s counter-culture. “Counter” not in the sense of offbeat, or deliberately alternative, but rather an artist “counter” to the daily definition of music that Canadians are accustomed to. Expand your own definition; Misterio is an album worth exploring.