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 TAIFA : "Alhambra"

In the late Seventies I discovered the exciting sound of early Triana, from that moment I started my quest for Rock Andaluz bands. During the years I bought the albums of Cai, Azahar, Alameda, Medina Azahara, Mezquita and musical projects like Rock Encounter With Joe Beck by flamenco guitar legend Sabicas and Picasso Portraits by the known flamenco guitarplayer Juan Martin. A few weeks ago I was Googling Rock Andaluz and stumbled upon the name Taifa, I got very excited when I read the description of Taifas progressive blend of several styles (including flamenco) on their second CD entitled Alhambra (2008).

The prime mover of this promising new Spanish progrock band is Luis Massot (vocals, bass and laud). In the late Eighties and early Nineties he was a member of Elikat (described as melodic metal and neo classical hardrock), this band released a demo (1987), an EP entitled Caught In Love (1989) and the album Electrikat (1991). Then he joined Mr. Cheese in London where the idea to blend rock and an ethnic Spanish sound resulted in the foundation of a new group named Ziryab. A few months later and after many concerts, the band was signed under the new name Taifa by the Spanish label Avispa Records that also hosts the popular Spanish Rock Andaluz band Medina Azahara. Their singer Manuel Martinez produced the first Taifa album Mas Alla Del Sur in 1999. The self-produced video clip Guitarra- Espejo De Mi Alma was warmly received by the media and the public. Then Taifa did numerous gigs in Mallorca, Andalusia and the rest of Spain and they joined the Al-Lama festival in Oued Laou (Tetuan-Morocco). In 2004 the demo CD Fe (3 tracks) was released, four years later followed by the second album entitled Alhambra. The trio Taifa recorded it in Mallorca, Andalusia and Morocco and invited guest musicians with different musical and cultural backgrounds who used a wide range of ethnic instruments. Taifa also released a video clip entitled Las Torres De Babel, filmed in the north of Morocco, you can watch it on the Taifa website, to me it looks very professional.

On the new album Alhambra (10 songs, 42 minutes) Taifa is scouting the borders between heavy metal, Rock Andaluz and ethnic music. Although at some moments the climates are a bit similar, in general Taifa their music sounds as an exciting musical encounter of two different worlds: metal featuring a thunderous rhythm-section, heavy guitar riffs and blistering and biting guitar solos with spectacular use of the wah-wah pedal and the art of the flamenco with sparkling guitar runs (reminding me of Vicente Amigo his splendid work on Medina Azahara their album En El-Hakim), expressive vocals with that typical wailing undertone (to me often evoking Medina Azahara and in the more mellow parts Alameda) and some palmas and cajon. An extra dimension in Taifa their progressive musical stew is the use of keyboards, samples and ethnic instruments like the Andalusian violin. This instrument turns out to be a wonderful combination with the flamenco guitar and a great contrast with the heavy metal guitar and powerful drums in many songs. And I love the captivating duel between the violin and a fiery electric guitar in Mendigos De Una Ilusion. I am also very pleased with the sultry sound of the laud (a 12-string Spanish lute) in the intro of the song Fe. My highlights are the tracks Nunca Es Tarde (from mellow with warm vocals and tender piano to compelling with heavy guitarwork), La Casa Del Olvido (sensational blend of heavy metal climates and the sound of the flamenco guitar and violin) and Por Un Trocito De Cielo (to me it sounds like Alameda meets Metallica with emotional vocal parts).

If you are up to heavy metal atmospheres and a strong touch of flamenco with emotional Spanish vocals (often in the vein of Medina Azaharas singer Manual Martinez), this adventurous progressive music will appeal to you. I am very curious to the development of this promising new Spanish formation, a big hand for Taifa!

Erik Neuteboom

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