Generations of musical tradition

Lone Piñon takes the stage at Taos Center of the Arts' Living Room Concerts

Ariana Kramer
Posted 2/26/20

New Mexico has a rich tradition of folk music, and the members of Lone Piñon have devoted considerable time to learning it.

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Generations of musical tradition

Lone Piñon takes the stage at Taos Center of the Arts' Living Room Concerts


New Mexico has a rich tradition of folk music, and the members of Lone Piñon have devoted considerable time to learning it.

Founding member Jordan Wax believes this is a critical time for anyone interested in revitalizing the music of this region, while the tradition carriers are still around. Wax has studied with many of New Mexico's traditional folk musicians, including Antonia Apodaca, who recently passed away. He and Tanya Nuñez are the current members of Lone Piñon and they join with other musicians to perform as a trio or ensemble.

Wax, Nuñez and Juan Daniel Salazar perform as part of the Taos Center of the Arts' Living Room Concerts series this Saturday (Feb. 29), at 7 p.m. at Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. The concert will be held on the TCA's backstage with the audience and musicians onstage together, for a black box style listening room experience. Tickets are $15; $12 for TCA members.

I caught up with Lone Piñon's Wax to find out more about the string band.

What do you feel are the strengths that you and Tanya Nunez bring to Lone Piñon?

Tanya is a really versatile and dedicated musician who brings a lot of focus and dedication to each style that she's learning. I think that's probably the result of having worked professionally with a variety of styles. She's played Middle Eastern music with a group that toured internationally, and everything from hip-hop to soul and funk. She brings that to the music that we work with for Lone Piñon.

People think folk music is something simple but actually there's a lot of complexity to it. This is definitely the case for the Northern New Mexican tradition. As a musician she's really good at listening and understanding that whole picture and retaining as much of that complexity as possible. It's great to work with someone who can appreciate that and bring that to their playing and their study of it.

And, what do you see as your strengths?

Having had the opportunity to work with traditional music in a variety of cultural contexts has really helped inform my understanding and approach to it. I grew up in Missouri and the first traditional music I got involved with was Jewish music. Then, I got involved in Missouri regional fiddling traditions and was an apprentice to several elder fiddlers in Missouri in the square dance style.

I've had the chance to study in Mexico in three different cultural contexts. I think having those five different musical traditions in addition to the Northern New Mexican tradition helps me to see the parallels. I think having the different cultures in dialogue - on certain levels that's always been happening - that is an incredibly creative force. A Mayan person in Mexico once told me: my culture regenerates when it meets another culture.

For the Taos show, you'll be joined by Juan Daniel Salazar. Can you say a little bit about him?

Juan Daniel is a really experienced and diverse musician. He grew up doing baile folklorico, traditional dancing, so he has a broad perspective on different regional Mexican traditions. He plays them all at a high level.

What do you have planned for the Taos show in terms of repertoire?

It's going be a variety of styles from the region going from Northern New Mexico to Central Mexico, which follows the Camino Real. We'll be switching instruments and playing guitars, violin, jarana and different instruments that are particular to those traditions.

Tell me about your new CD, "Nuevas Acequias, Río Viejo: Traditional Music of Northern New Mexico."

The fourth album was a special project that we had always wanted to do. I had always wanted to create an album that was just dedicated to Northern New Mexican dance repertoire. This was a chance to create an album to help inspire interest and respect for the Northern New Mexican traditions that I think have been, unfortunately, left out of the national understanding of roots music in America.

One of the objectives was to present the different genres of Northern New Mexican dance music. There's something like 17 or 18 different dance genres that go with different rhythms and create different subdivisions of music. A lot of those genres were lost - you hardly ever hear them, anymore. The elders played them because people danced and wanted to hear those different rhythms, and because people stopped doing the dances, the musical forms were also gradually cast aside.

It's a beautiful tradition and there's so much good music there, and creativity, and generations and generations of attention and care and inspiration and relationship. Just like any craft or cultural tradition, that's all kneaded into it over many, many generations. It's all still there and it's beautiful.

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