Joseph ‘Pepe’ Danza

Audio Samples & Notes: Joseph ‘Pepe’ Danza

 1. Excerpt from The Hermit and the Princess (1986, 2001) (12′)
Shakuhachi, Koto, Erhu, Yangqin, Ruan, World Percussion

 2. Excerpt (Andean) from  I Saw a Mountain (2002) (18′)
Bandoneon, Quena, Quenacho, Charango, Latin American and Andean Percussion

 3. Excerpt (Tango) from I Saw a Mountain (2002) (18′)

Composer’s Notes:
I Saw a Mountain is the literal translation of Montevideo, the name of the city where I was born. Uruguay is a very small and flat country. When the Portuguese ships arrived someone spotted the only (and very humble) mountain/hill on the coast and exclaimed: “Monte vidi eu!”. From that expression came the name of our capital city.
Later on in my life I’ve had the opportunity of connecting with more “serious” mountains in places like India, Japan and Europe. Lastly, when getting off the plane in Vancouver, the magnificent sight of the mountains gave me an instant and unexpected feeling of “arriving home” (which obviously proved itself right!). I haven’t spent much time in the Andes but absolutely plan to do so before I die!.
Besides it’s connection with the mountains in my life, which gave the work it’s structure as a series of peaks and valleys, the piece draws it’s inspiration from the sacred rhythmical traditions of Uruguay, Peru, Brazil, Argentina and Cuba. The roots of these rhythms are twofold: a) the rhythms of Africa that we inherited from the people that were originally brought as slaves, and b) the musical traditions native to the Andean cultures. The European influence gave birth to styles such as the Tango.
For all of us who grew up in the Rio de la Plata area, the Tango is a deeply ingrained part of our musical experience. Argentina and Uruguay will forever be fighting about where this passionate music was born!
The main rhythms from Uruguay used in this work are the Murga and the Candombe. The Murga is a percussive style that accompanies a small choir. These choirs sing songs that are usually very humorous but contain a lot of political and social commentary. The Candombe is strictly a drumming tradition but is now the most important national rhythm and it has blended with Pop music, Jazz, and just about every music style, to create truly Uruguayan hybrids.
The rhythmical aspect of the work is fundamental and probably the most challenging for the performers. All the melodic instruments are at one point or another playing parts based directly on traditional drum figures. The actual percussion instruments are orchestrated merely as a far echo of the original music and a guide for the rest of the orchestra.
As a musician/composer I have been profoundly influenced both by the psychedelic era esthetics and my experience with Buddhism, Taoism and other Eastern philosophies. I Saw a Mountain has that “journey” feeling to it, but, echoing as it does my Latin American experience, it contains a lot of passion, dissonance and, hopefully, joy and beauty. In the Latin countries the sun shines brighter, but as a teacher of mine once said; “The brighter the light, the darker the shadow”. I hope you enjoy the dance.

4. King of Wands – (2007) ( 8′)
Santur, Ud

Composer’s Notes:
The King of Wands, in the Tarot tradition, is a figure of energy, positive thinking and optimism, sensuality and intuition. This is a groove piece with middle eastern colors. It was specially written for this event. My compositional technique generally is to let the piece arise almost by itself while I get out of the way. There is very little or no editing and lots of room for different choices and improvisation.
“If the King loves music there is little wrong in the land.”

Joseph ‘Pepe’ Danza (b. 1955) is an electrifying percussionist and multi- instrumentalist. A native of Montevideo, Uruguay, Pepe has a life-long commitment to world music, having studied for years in spent in Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia Korea, the Philippines, and Brazil. Since moving to Canada in 1989 he has been active performing and composing in a large variety of genres. His performance credits include work with South Indian master drummer Trichy Sankaran, Anne Mortifee, Jou Tou, and his own band El Sur. He has composed for Theatre, Dance, Recordings, and improvisational ensembles.