By Jim Parisi
Inspiration comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, in a plethora of locations, at any given time of the day; Jerry Garcia once said it happens “in the strangest of places, if you look at it right”. For Bolivian musician Cristobal Colon, it came as he gazed upon a waterfall deep in the Bolivian jungle. A longtime fan of Jimi Hendrix, he felt a vision, the apparition, the voice of Hendrix telling him that it was time to stop thinking and start creating the opera he had been mentally formulating for some time. In the liner notes, Colon also explains that the Andean Opera “was inspired by the beautiful nature in those too few areas that have not endured the ‘Progress’ of mankind”.
The eight-part opera was composed by Colon and Miguel Angel Lima, who contributes percussion as well as the quema flute playing. Colon supplies vocals, guitar, charango, bass and percussion. The female vocals by Cristina Baden add a dimension that I think helps round out the entire sound. The music has an obvious influence from indigenous Andean music, but certainly a sound and flow all its own. And I know I heard a direct influence from the Jimi Hendrix song “Red House”.
The opera opens, appropriately, with “El Naciamento” (Birth), a song about the unique physical and emotional connection between mother and child. The opus moves through the phases of “Growth”, based on the Bolivian rhythm called “tinku”, a song basically about youthful rebellion in the face of all he has learned and been born into. “Separation” is a passage devoted on the time in a man’s life when he considers himself completely independent. The music is a fusion of modern Andean Rock and Afro-Blues music, at a tempo that invites dancing. The fourth entry, “Loneliness”, also based in the Bolivian “tinku” rhythm, pulls away the analogy of child and mother to proclaim the opera one about mankind and his Mother Earth. “Destruction” is a mix of spoken and sung lyrics that deal with the negative footprint humans have stamped into their home, their planet. Inspiration was the first entry written for this opera. Appropriately titled, it reflects a ray of hope on a new shining sun. “Solution” offers a positive slant, reminding people not to play the “blame game” but to move together to find ways to repair our global home. Finally, “Animals”, which is based on the song of the “chulupia”, a bird native to Bolivia, perhaps a reminder of the joys that still exist on this planet.
The music has wonderful rhythmic changes, recorded with pristine deftness by Yuval Zekharya in “Mezcal Ladyland Studios”, another obvious Hendrix reference. The entire CD spans seventy-seven minutes, including two bonus tracks and I found the booklet enclosed very helpful for me to follow the story wrapped inside the opera. I’m sure that somewhere, Jimi is smiling down at this accomplishment.
The entire project was financed and supported by Ginger’s Paradise, nestled in the jungle of Bolivia. They have a cool site at www.gingersparadise.com. The CD is available at the Jaime Peligro bookstores in Quepos and Playa Tamarindo, where they will gladly sample the music for their customers.