Ismael Serrano: La Llamada

serrano1Call Him Ismael

Listening Post 45. Few artists juggle as many elements as the Spanish cantautor Ismael Serrano. First, there is the potent and cohesive mix of social comment and protest alongside songs of love and heartbreak. Then, his soft baritone, clear even when it’s just above a whisper, coupled with exquisite melodies and poetry crafted for his vocal gifts. La Llamada (The Call), his epic thirteenth studio album, offers a Latin American soundscape encompassing trova and bachata, ranchera and Uruguayan candombe—plus touches of British and Irish pop/rock. Serrano also repurposes fairy tales (The Pied Piper, The Three Little Pigs) to make political points. The title track is a lilting hymn to workers who unite after their factory closes; “May fear switch sides/May the forgotten become visible,” says the refrain, “Sadness, when shared/Becomes the rage that can change lives” (video 1). In Rebelion en Hamelin (Rebellion in Hamelin), Serrano exhorts the dazed youth, “Don’t be a conformist, don’t be fooled by the flautist/The world will turn toward you/If you look for answers” (video 2). He is a master of romantic as well as civic passion, and nowhere is that more evident than in Pequeña Bachata Mediterranea (Small Mediterranean Bachata), a Caribbean-toned love song for cooler waters: “We went out at night/And the street was the sea in which everything begins/We closed all the bars and skipped over the fires/Seeking a cure for fear and insomnia/And the sidewalk emptied into your bedroom” (video 3). There’s much more on this album, a 13-track tour de force built on fables of human conflict and connection. (Sony Music Entertainment España)


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