Album Review of

Written by Joe Ross
August 9, 2022 - 7:25pm EDT
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Sweetly wistful remembrances characterize the warm, affable style of composer/vocalist/bassist Helena Recalde on Karishina, an insulting term referring to women unfit for chores. Recalde’s title cut is given a supple, understated delivery that also resonates with a strength meant to uplift and encourage people who resist and refuse to submit. The music and lyrics in Recalde’s evocative mood pieces are well suited for her expressive, rhythmically enticing vocals. “Campoazul” contains a melodic sampling of Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue,” and guest Curi Cachimuel layers in some Andean wind instruments (quenas, panpipes) for an ethereal effect. “No Valentin” is a traditional piece by Pedro Soto de la Colina. In “Malala,” we hear a short extract of Malala Yousazai’s speech at the United Nations calling for unity and equal rights, along with colorings of Samir Homsi (darbuka, riq),  Singa 100 Singers (directed by Denis Thuillier), and Kiala (guitar). 

Throughout this largely original musical universe, nostalgic Andean melodies meld with joyful Afro Pacific rhythms. With a worldly vision of their music, the trio incorporates jazzy tones, dizzying improvisations, and embellishments from nature.  Besides Recalde, Karishina is Fady Farah (piano) and Vanesa García (drums, percussion). García had a hand in co-writing the closing track, “Quien?” (Who?) that forces us to look in the mirror and ask a lot of simplistic, but thoughtful questions, in our own life’s journey: “Who is it now? Who is that? Who do I want to be? Who do I think I am? Who am I? Who am I?

Born in Quito, Ecuador in 1977, Helena Recalde discovered an appreciation for that country’s wonderful cultural differences.  Today, her song lyrics evoke the valleys of her origin, a mother who heals and soothes, nostalgia for childhood and simple things in life. Recalde’s teenage years were spent in Cuenca, a city known for its many poets, musicians and artists, where she studied piano and guitar. An interest in contemporary music led to the formation of Stoikas, a female pop-rock band.  Obtaining a Bachelor of Journalism degree in 2002, Recalde went to France and studied Afro-Cuban music in Paris, ultimately leading to her Diploma of Musical Studies in Jazz-Bass. In 2013, she obtained a University Diploma of Music Instructor (DUMI).  For over a decade, Recalde has collaborated with virtuoso pianist Fady Farah (from Lebanon) and, in more recent times, Argentinian drummer Vanesa García, who brings her subtle, personal drumming style to the trio’s sound. A few of Recalde’s other projects have included the prestigious all-female Salsa orchestra Yemaya La Banda, collaborations with world famous Colombian producer/percussionist Boris Caicedo, The Kora Jazz Trio, Syrian composer Fawaz Baker, and others in France and abroad. She has taught at the Evry Conservatory since 2011.

Helena Recalde’s cultural background, talent, training, experience and musical vision provide for an innovative, creative, tasteful approach to music. She understands various genres: Afro, Latin, Jazz, Manouche, Folk, Oriental or even Contemporary Pop and Rock. This album, showcasing Karishina, is inspired more by the rhythms of the Pacific coast and Andean melodies, over a foundation of tuneful energy and fashionable bass lines from her double bass or 5-string electric bass guitar (named Flona-Moscato) built especially for her by Jean-Luc Moscato, a French luthier with international reputation. Helena Recalde’s alluring world music has a Je ne sais quoi with an emotional depth that is hard to describe. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)