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Ciro Hurtado - Ayahuasca Dreams
Deep in the Peruvian rainforest there grows a hallucinogenic vine (“ayahuasca”) that has been used for thousands of years by the indigenous natives to make a medicinal potion for rituals to rid the user of “mal de ojo” or melancholia, or to bring spiritual wisdom and insights. Latin guitarist Ciro Hurtado took this magical journey 30 years ago resulting in a professional music career and, eventually, his new album, Ayahuasca Dreams.
Hurtado, who was born in Peru but immigrated to the United States when he was 20, remembers his ayahuasca ceremony as a turning point in his life. “My ayahuasca adventure confirmed that my dream of a musical career was the right life journey for me, but it also opened a creative path without boundaries so that I felt I could experiment and do whatever I wanted as a musician.”
The album Ayahuasca Dreams reflects that creativity and experimentation. Hurtado plays guitar with a unique Latin style that subtly blends his Peruvian folk roots with other Latin musical styles plus new age, blues, jazz, rock’n’roll and a variety of world-music influences. The ayahuasca (pronounced ah-yuh-WHAH-skuh) inspiration continues to be evident on this recording with the inclusion of a wide-array of musicians and singers fluent with many different musical genres and instruments.
With Ayahuasca Dreams, Ciro Hurtado has released eight albums under his own name (In My Mind, Tales From Home, The Magic Hour, Guitarra, Echoes of the Andes, Guitarrista and Los Angeles Blues). The first five recordings mostly featured ensemble music with a few solo guitar tracks, but the next two primarily featured solo pieces. Both Guitarrista and Los Angeles Blues received international marketing campaigns, found a passionate audience in the world-fusion and new age music genres, went Top 5 on the international Zone Music Reporter Top 100 album airplay chart and made the lists of the Top 5 best world music albums of the year named by the radio programmers reporting to ZMR.
Hurtado also is a founding member and currently the musical director of the band Huayucaltia (pronounced why-you-call-TEE-ah) that has group members from Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Mexico and the United States. “In this group I have gotten the chance to explore virtually every kind of Latin rhythm,” he says. He has appeared on and co-produced their seven albums -- Despertar, Caminos, Horizontes, Amazonas, Origenes, Destinos and El Tiempo. During the past decade the group performed “Misa Criolla” by Argentine composer Ariel Ramirez at the Hollywood Bowl to critical acclaim, and performed four times with the Los Angeles Master Chorale at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. The last two performances featured a modern-classical piece specifically written for the band and chorale by renowned composer Gabriela Lena Frank.
Many of Hurtado’s recordings are available online for purchase as CDs and/or digital downloads at CDbaby, Amazon, iTunes and a variety of other sales sites. More information about the artist and his music is available at cirohurtado.com.
The album Ayahuasca Dreams uses the minute-and-a-half tune “Peru” as an intro leading into “Andean Blues.” According to Hurtado, “The intro has both acoustic and electric guitars, a strong backbeat, and a quena Peruvian flute and zamponas which are pan-pipes. The idea was to portray Peru as it is today, a mix of big city sophistication standing alongside the majestic Andes ancient jungles. The music goes right into ‘Andean Blues’ which musically brings forth the indigenous sounds of sadness I learned as a child and mixes it with American blues.”
Part of the music mix of the album includes some musicians and instruments from India (on “Dulce” and “Flor de Aleli”) arranged, produced and recorded in Bangalore by Hurtado’s friend, world musician Ricky Kej. The album is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Toni Yancey, a physician, poet, athlete and model whom Hurtado collaborated with in putting his music to her poetry. On this CD he used the music from three of those projects (“Feliz,” “Too Young, Too Soon” and “Physician Poet”), and introduced jazzy arrangements on the latter two tunes by bringing in top jazz keyboardist Rique Pantoja. In addition, violinist Charlie Bisharat makes an appearance on one tune on the CD. Another element of the album is the singing (both Spanish lyrics and wordless vocalizing) that is heard on a half-dozen songs featuring seven different guest vocalists including Hurtado’s wife, Cindy Harding. Hurtado also incorporated some new sounds to his repertoire by adding electric guitar to his acoustic playing on several tunes, and performing on a steel-string acoustic on “Feliz.” “I have not played very much electric guitar since moving to the United States, but I have always greatly admired how Carlos Santana is able to marry Latin sensibilities with rock music.”
Hurtado’s childhood was split between living in a small town on the family’s plantation in the Amazonia rain-forest and going to school in the large city of Lima. The plantation was so remote it was primarily accessible by small planes, and initially had no electricity or running water. When electricity was finally available for two hours a day, Ciro listened to the shortwave radio that picked up music from Brazil and Cuba as well as Russian broadcasts which expanded his awareness of many musical styles. “I had heard Andean folk music all my life, and members of my family played it on guitar, but as a child, the first time I heard The Beatles on the radio, I also became mesmerized by rock’n’roll.”
Ciro began playing guitar at age nine, and started studying it seriously when he was 13. He played acoustic guitar in traditional folk ensembles and electric guitar in rock groups. After moving to the United States, he studied at the prestigious Guitar Institute of Technology. Hurtado appeared on the Strunz and Farah Misterio album and toured for four years with this popular group including concerts at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, the Havana Classical Guitar Festival in Cuba, and the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, plus a return to his native country for a tour throughout Peru.
Hurtado was awarded the prestigious Durfee Master Musician Fellowship. “The highlight of that experience was playing with and collaborating with musicians from Africa, Japan, Iran, Ireland and Vietnam. I felt like we were creating universal music.” In addition, Hurtado has produced and recorded albums for Michele Greene, Conjunto Jardin, Rosalia Leon and numerous others. As a composer, Hurtado has scored and participated musically in various feature films and documentaries such as Ron Fricke’s classic film “Baraka,” “Dead Women in Lingerie,” “Max is Missing,” “Hope Street,” “Monsters,” “Peru: The Royal Tour” and “From Wharf Rats to Lord of the Docks.” After the release of Guitarrista, Hurtado toured extensively by himself with a show called “One Guitar, Many Stories” that paired his compositions with stories to illustrate the cultural and social contexts behind the music.
Hurtado has studied a wide range of Latin music plus rock, blues, folk, jazz, classical, flamenco, Celtic, African and Middle-Eastern music and numerous other styles. In the ‘70s and ‘80s he listened to rock (The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac), jazz (John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra and Pat Metheny) and blues (B.B. King, Albert King and Freddie King). Paco de Lucia inspired Hurtado to study Spanish music and flamenco. He also enjoys Afro-Peruvian music “because I heard that music played in the streets in Peru when I was young.” Additionally Hurtado has enjoyed listening to acoustic guitarists such as Pierre Bensusan, Tommy Emmanuel, Laurence Juber, Michael Hedges and Andrew York.
“With my music I am always exploring my roots, both the early influences from Peru and also the cultural diversity I encountered when I moved to Los Angeles,” Hurtado says. “I have worked hard for many years to combine all my influences and make my own style so that I don’t sound exactly like anyone else. Ayahuasca Dreams is a reflection of the many people, cultures and musical styles that have touched my life. I truly believe music knows no borders.”