The Andean folk quartet, Sukay, has undergone many personnel changes since it was founded in 1978, but the current lineup features two of the most respected instrumentalists in the field: Eddy Navia, a Bolivian charango virtuoso who has recorded 15 albums with the band Savia Andina plus seven solo albums, and Enrique Coria, an Argentine classical guitarist who has recorded with Mercedes Sosa and Horacio Guarani. At the Museum of Natural History last night, Navia and Coria mixed exciting rhythmic flourishes with intricate finger-picking as the San Francisco-based band brought a chamber-folk elegance to the old Indian tradition.
Also on hand was Carlos Hilario, a young Peruvian who excelled at the kena (a notched flute) and panpipes. Brooklynite Quentin Howard, the band's founder and only remaining original member, is not the musical peer of her band mates, but she provides an invaluable link with a North American audience by introducing songs with stories, jokes and musical background in English. Joining the band last night was multi-instrumentalist Carlos Veizaga, a Bolivian now based in Arlington where he plays with the Andean group Ollantay.
Navia and Coria played a sparkling duet version of Mozart's "Turkish March," but far more interesting were their arrangements of traditional Andean tunes, where delicate melodies were complemented by strong dance rhythms. Sukay gave the Andes' most popular standard, "El Condor Pasa," a new arrangement with melodic variations and reinforced rhythms. For the encore, Veizaga and a Bolivian woman from the audience demonstrated their country's traditional ceuca dance as Howard sang the trilling melody and Hilario pounded the bombo drum.