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Pop Capsules : Sabia: Political Songs, Nuevo Slant

March 02, 1987|VICTOR VALLE

Except for the fact that Sabia is five-sixths Norteamericano , the group's Friday concert at Patriotic Hall recalled the courage of Los Lobos during their folk period. Sabia performed the folk-inspired, politically conscious Latin American music known as nueva cancion (new song) with admirable Spanish and dexterity on colorful South American folk instruments.

In the opening number "Tambor de Aluminio" ("aluminum drum"), a tribute to a Latin American housewife set to a pulsing Afro-Uruguayan candombe rhythm , Libby Harding's deceptively delicate voice underscored Sabia's commercial edge. Gary Johnson on electric piano and synthesizer and Paul Olguin on bass completed the group's overall pop effect.

There were disappointments, such as "Cancion a Ronald Reagan" (Song to Ronald Reagan), which trivialized heartfelt lyrics by setting them to a syrupy Mexican ballad. The song's lack of a melodic vehicle highlights nueva cancion's dilemma: how to create a musical idiom that springs from new Central American, rather than Andean, circumstances.

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