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CD Review - Francesc Sans i Bonet - L’Inifinit

In the December edition of Chanter Eric Montbel mentioned that he had L’Infinit at the top of his current playlist. By coincidence I was listening to that self-same CD as I read the article. Not really a surprising co-incidence, because I had L’Infinit on loop play since it dropped through my letterbox.

The Catalan traditional music revival started in the mid-late 1970s during the transition from Franco’s regime. It became safe to celebrate Catalan national culture again. By the year 2000 the revival had matured and I became aware of a new wave, a new generation of teenagers and twenty-somethings getting involved with music and dance. One of these was Francesc Sans i Bonet, or Cesc Sans as most know him. Today those youngsters have matured themselves and taken over the responsibility of continuing the tradition. With L’Infinit, Cesc has gone much further. He presents a programme for the Sac de Gemecs that sits comfortably alongside the top rank C21st bagpipe music on the world stage. I note that on the sleeve notes the bagpipes are given their formal name ‘cornamusa’. He feels that the colloquial name ‘Sac de Gemecs’ (literally - Bag of Groans) is a somewhat pejorative term. The music on this CD is largely traditional Catalan.

Traditional music and dance are not really thought of as a ‘folklore’ genre. The equivalent Catalan phrase for folk dance is Balls Populares – popular dances. They are performed not at folk festivals for folk enthusiasts, but in the Festa Major – the main town festival, where the whole population comes out to watch.

He features tunes for the ball de bastons (similar to morris) and other elements of the festival. Cesc Sans is steeped in this living tradition.

Many of the tracks are presented in a contemporary studio performance manner, with a lively band including diatonic accordion, piano, guitar, bass, percussion. There are songs as well as dances. Tres Ninetes (three teenage girls) has a distinctly jazz vibe with echoes of Jonathan Harle, vocals backed by piano and fluid solos on bagpipe where Harle would have played a saxophone. Other songs are given treatments relating to their contexts, creating an atmospheric feel.

Dolors Gegantes combines a religious song with the giant’s dance from his hometown fiesta. This is a studio album, but it is far from sterile. One of my favourite pieces features his long-time collaborator Iris Gayete on Flabiol i Bombo (Catalan pipe and tabor) – in a traditional bagpipe/flabiol duo called Mitja Cobla.

It is delightfully varied album taking us from the sadness of war and the joy of a wedding to the fun of the fiesta. Changes of tempo keep your interest, whilst the Catalan dance rhythms make listening a physical experience. Throughout, the distinctive sound of his pipes provides the thread of continuity. Sometimes they lead us in a furious dance, and at other times, a distant counterpoint in support of a lead vocal.

Sans takes us on a tour from the medieval city of Valls in the heart of Catalunya to the wider reaches of the Catalan culture. We visit Valencia and Mallorca (both in the Catalan language group), and on the last track, the Occitan with a beautifully delivered homage to Eric Montbel.

A remarkable, listenable landmark album of C21st bagpipe music.

I bought my copy online from: You can follow him on: