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Titi Robin may be a bit of a flake (he once recorded an album of music improvised while gazing upon a nude model), but he is an amazing guitar and oud player, and on a good day he can originate a brilliant concept. Case in point: on Gitans, which means "Gypsies," Robin brings together the many varieties of Gypsy music from India to Spain, but keeps them anchored in flamenco, taking advantage of its strong Arabic dimension. So we have guitar and oud, Spanish and Rajasthani voices, palmas and tablas.

Robin is not striving for some sort of ecumenical "flamenco nuevo" on this album. This is soul-searing stuff. "Martinetes y Debla" tells the story of an encounter between Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the unnamed mother of Judas after their sons' deaths. The piece offers no percussion or rhythm instruments, just Paco El lobo's raw flamenco singing and Robin's oud. This is not to say that listening to the album is an ascetic experience; the rumba-flamenco song "La Petite Mer" is percussive on both the palmas and the guitar, and it's infectiously danceable. Then there's a track like "Mehdi" which starts out vaguely Middle Eastern and slyly changes into Klezmer music!

The whole album is an embarrassment of riches on this order. If you're interested in real flamenco, the music of the Gypsies, or any of their many homelands, this album is available to nourish your soul.

Gitans, Titi Robin
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