Thursday 23rd February 2012 marked the official launch of Mélangerie, Chico Chica’s first album. It took place at The Troubadour, Earl’s Court, London and we are greatly relieved to report it as a resounding success. Thank you all those who came along. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. At the last minute, Roberto Pla, the legendary Salsa percussionist and bandleader, offered to help us out. His performance was outstanding. I try not to gush when I write about Chico Chica, but I’m feeling a bit emotional about it all -I just can’t help, so forgive me.
The show was preceded by a fraught and busy rehearsal schedule. Hilary, Barbara and I decided to replicate the tracks on the album as faithfully as possible – the complex harmonies, arrangements and structures were kept even though we performed the show as a trio. There were times when we cursed the whole idea and yearned for a simpler way of doing things but we strove and in so doing discovered a lot about ourselves. I was impressed by Barbara and Hilary, who, despite the demands of domestic and professional life, the vagaries of health, put the pursuit of excellence above all else – artists through and through!
Vocal harmonies are an essential component of Chico Chica’s sound and these consume so much rehearsal time. As Hilary pointed out – ‘it’s why most bands don’t bother’. This was a real test in the strength of the group dynamic. This kind of rehearsing requires drilling – there really is no other method, so for me at least, it required a very subservient role. I was forever being corrected for the wrong vowel sound while singing Spanish, or the note being slightly early or late. At last, it started to come together but even during the run-through during the sound check – we were pointing out errors.
There was also the task of memorisation. The Salsa tunes such as Cat’s Go Out To Kill and Isla Soñada have complicated structures and reading music doesn’t look good in a show like this. And of course there are lyrics to memorise. I was founder/director of The Memory Trust which promoted and measured the memorisation of verse so this is an activity I though about at length. The best way to do it is not to multi-task. Just sit down and learn. Don’t do it while walking, cooking, cleaning or driving.
Among the three of us, there is much discussion about whether to perform as a trio or a larger band. Barbara, with her experience in Latin bands, favours the large ensemble, but Hilary and I, perhaps owing to our Scottish blood, saw canny economic advantage in the trio. I believe we should do both and not worry about silly notions like ‘brand dilution’.
After the show, there was a natural where-do-we-go from here feeling. We have still yet to have a band meeting but we will have plenty of time to discuss things during the car journey to Manchester next weekend, when we will be playing at The Lowry Hotel. I would like to organise a tour in Aurumn 2012. I would like it to to take in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.