© 2022 KSUT Public Radio
NPR News and Music Discovery for the Four Corners
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Rodrigo y Gabriela, C.U.B.A. Area 52, feature 7/12


Rodrigo (Sanchez) and Gabriela (Quintero) are two fast-fingered, Dublin-based, Mexicans with a unique sound created on acoustic guitars. Their music is difficult to define, straddling both world and rock, and often imbued with timeless Hispano–classical influences. The fire in it comes from their life-long passion for metal music.   

Rodrigo is a deft finger-picker who can move from raging speed to sensual soul in the space of a fret, while Gabriela employs fast, rhythmic techniques. Her percussionist’s thrashing of strings and drumming of the instrument’s body inevitably raises comparisons with flamenco — which they acknowledge as an influence but swerve as a pigeonhole. The duo’s repertoire flies beyond familiar Latin folk guitarists’ styles because of the metal connection: their re-workings of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and Metallica’s ‘Orion’ are musts, and the presence, on ‘Ixtapa,’ of the fiery Hungarian gypsy violinist, Roby Lakatos, is inspirational.Rodrigo and Gabriela describe their style as 'Fusion music': ‘It’s mainly got Latin harmonies and rhythms but the structure is rock. It’s not jazz because it’s structured, and we don’t improvise; our solos are exactly what’s on the record, as a metal fan and guitarist you always want to hear the same solo!’

Influences range from family salsa records to Gabriela’s aunt’s Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Queen, and Led Zeppelin vinyl, with Rodrigo also embracing a similar classic rock lineage. But, crucially, they grew up during Mexico’s 'metal era.' ‘People expected two acoustic guitarists would play classical music, but we dropped in extracts from Led Zep, Hendrix and Metallica, then we did the same with ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Their music is instrumental ‘with very lyrical themes.’

Mentions of flamenco influences raise sharp responses: ‘To many music fans, it sounds like flamenco, and we’re great flamenco fans, but we don’t play it’ says Gabriela. ‘The only similarity is that our music is guitar music and it’s very rhythmic.’

Tune-in Friday at noon to listen to Rodrigo y Gabriela 'C.U.B.A., Area 52' in its entirety. You can also catch them at The Ride Festival in Telluride this weekend.