Back in my university days in San Francisco I met a dear Chilean friend who introduced me to the vast, wonderous world of Latin American music and poetry. The towering giant of Latin American poets is Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda, whose work I came to love and admire, to the point where I set one of his pieces to music, attempting to compose after the manner of the Nueva Canción movement of Latin American song. It became obvious I needed to find an authentic singer in that style to properly render the Spanish vocals and express the true spirit of the poetry and music.
It was about that time I happened to hear the great Chilean musician Rafael Manriquez, performing in his natural habitat, the venerable Latin American venue La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley. I was absolutely blown away by his performance and it was clear this was the guy to sing on my recording, which Rafael graciously agreed to do (this became track 11 of the CD). It turned out he also had quite a number of other Neruda pieces he had set to music; from there it seemed only natural for us to put some of these pieces together and make a record. In the course of our collaboration I ended up making one more composition which became track 1 of the CD. The rest are Rafael's compositions.
"Canto al Poeta" contains some of Neruda's best loved poems as well as some lesser-known ones, and has a stellar cast of great musicians from the Americas. (It was on this project that I also first met and worked with Quique Cruz, with whom I would go on to have a long a fruitful musical relationship, particularly in the band Quijeremá).
Recorded and mixed at Hounds of Renown, CrowMagnon and Bryan Knave Studios • Produced by Rafael Manriquez and David Barrows • Graphic design by Guillermo Prado and 8.2 Design, Berkeley, CA • Photography by Luis Poirot and Guillermo Prado