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Members include Fain Duenas (born in Madrid, Spain), guitar, percussion, arranger; Benjamin Escoriza (born in Granada, Spain), vocals; Vincent Molino (born in Montpellier, France), wind instruments. Addresses: Agent--Soldout, Alcala, 114, 6°B, 28009, Madrid, Spain. Website--Radio Tarifa Official Website: http://www.radiotarifa.com. E-mail--radiotarifa@ctv.com.

The Spanish group Radio Tarifa, known for its unique style that combines Middle Eastern, African, and medieval European influences, was formed by three musicians who never thought they would become internationally famous on the world music circuit. Fain Duenas, Vincent Molino, and Benajamin Escoriza all worked in other fields before joining forces to record their first album--an eight-track tape--in Duenas's bedroom; since then, they have gained avid listeners and fans throughout the world.

Described as "a dazzling fusion of styles with the fire of flamenco and soulfulness of African and Arabic music" by Claire Smith in the Edinburgh Scotsman, Radio Tarifa's sound defies categorization. Although the music is described as "fusion" by Smith and other reviewers, the band's founder, Fain Duenas, told Nigel Williamson in the London Times that the band's music was not fusion, but an exploration of the interrelationships among cultures: "Our music unites Arabic and Western forms.... We don't make fusion music. We mix cultures that live side by side and it's that interrelationship we are exploring."

Duenas, the group's founder, learned to play acoustic guitar when he was nine years old, switched to electric guitar at age 12, and taught himself to play several other string and percussion instruments. For a while, he even studied with a flamenco guitarist. In the early 1970s he listened to and played rock music, "like everybody else," he told Patricia Garcia-Rios in Dirty Linen. "I spent my days playing electric guitar and listening to [guitarist Jimi] Hendrix. After he died I tried to follow the new trends ... but when pop broke through, I hated it. I decided to trade my Gibson [guitar] for a flamenco guitar and that was the beginning of the rest of my life."

Duenas was trained and worked as an architect for several years, playing music on the side in small jazz clubs, where he met musicians from all over the world. He was particularly fascinated by the Middle Eastern music played by Iranian refugees to Spain. One club gig introduced him to Vincent Molino, a French hydrogeologist who was also a classically trained flute player. The two men formed Ars Antiqua Musicalis, a group that played Spanish medieval and Renaissance music from the twelfth through the fifteenth centuries, using period instruments. Duenas told Wilma Salisbury in the Cleveland Plain Dealer that because this music was influenced by Arabic and Mediterranean music, "We had to learn from the Arabs the trick to get harmony without chords, to play the melody with different ornaments, different rhythms."

To perform a full range of songs, the group needed a singer. When they heard television documentary maker Benjamin Escoriza playing guitar and singing flamenco rumbas, they knew they had found their man. Escoriza's rough voice was perfect for the sound they wanted. Duenas told Salisbury, "He was real funny. He is from Granada, so he sings with an Andalusian accent....When he sang with us, everything got a different color."

The three men named the new band Radio Tarifa, after an imaginary radio station broadcasting from Tarifa, the southernmost point in Spain, which is only a few miles from Morocco, closer to North African and Arab culture than it is to the rest of Europe. In Tarifa, on a clear day, radios can pick up North African music from Morocco and Algeria, as well as music from the rest of the Mediterranean and Middle East. "And that's us and our music," Duenas told Jan Fairley in the Edinburgh Scotsman, "a meeting point between all the cultures that have come through and continue to come through that part of Spain."

The group made its first recording, an eight-track tape, in Duenas's bedroom in 1992. "It was all homemade and totally reckless," Duenas told Garcia-Rios. "We felt we could do anything we wanted, so we would mix a shawm [an old reed wind instrument] with the voice of a man screaming in the bathroom or somebody playing the trumpet at dawn. It was very liberating." This tape eventually became the group's first recording, Rumba Argelina, which was released on CD in 1993. Though somewhat less random than their original experiments, Rumba Argelina mingled sounds and rhythms from Spanish, Arabic, Celtic, African, and medieval music. In between some tracks, the group inserted snippets of North African radio, as well as recordings of the sea and the street. As Fairley noted, this idea, originated by the band, "has been picked up and developed by many" musicians since.

"We want to show the richness of our ancient traditions," Duenas told Bob Young in the Boston Herald, referring to Spain's history as a crossroads of Moorish, Mediterranean, and northern European cultures. He also commented, "When we started making medieval music, it was easy for us to understand Arabic music. Most of the singing in our traditional music, like flamenco, is in common with those traditions from the Mediterranean."

The album attracted immediate attention from listeners. Fairley called the album "An irresistible fusion of erotic melodies that remains stunning even now, it kicks in with the pattering of percussion and drums, undulating pipes and funky guitars. And then the smoky flamenco-esque voice of Escoriza grabs you and never lets you go." In a BBC review, Jon Lusk wrote, "Their music is not so much a fusion as a mosaic of Iberian cultures past and present--a celebration of all things Mediterranean and modal."

A notable feature of the band's music is that it does not use chords, and it often uses a different scale than the one most Western ears are used to hearing. Duenas told Fairley, "We all play single melody lines but with different rhythmic phrasing. The harmony is always there but we reach it another way. The effect is like watching a shoal of fish swimming. From a distance it looks like a unit until you look closer, then you see they are all moving slightly differently."

In 1996, the band released Temporal, another mixture of old and new musical elements from a variety of cultures, and followed it in 2000 with Cruzando el rio, revisiting the themes of their first album, but with the addition of electric guitar, female voices, and even a Japanese song. Cruzando el rio also includes songs from flamenco, Arabic, French, and Castilian traditions. As Lusk noted, "Fans have come to expect the unexpected from these mercurial Spanish innovators." Although some listeners were wary of the added electric guitar, Duenas was delighted to return to the instrument.

In 2002 Duenas told Clive Davis in the London Sunday Times, "For the next CD, we want to find an atmosphere that will allow us to play like we do on stage. When we've made records before, we've been playing over a click track. That way of doing things is very cold. In our concerts, we generate much more rhythm, much more heat."

by Kelly Winters

Radio Tarifa's Career

Fain Duenas and Vincent Molino formed Ars Antiqua Musicalis; regrouped with the addition of Benjamin Escoriza to form Radio Tarifa; released eight-track tape Rumba Argelina,1993; released CD Temporal, 1996; released Cruzando del rio,2000.

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