Of the growing ranks of ensembles that fall under the rubric of musical multiculturalism, consider the Los Angeles-based world music group Huayucaltia a veteran in the field. Now 9 years old, the group seems keenly aware of the diversity of cultural roots within its ranks, as heard Friday at the Ford Amphitheatre, in a concert that proved mighty generous--in spirit and length.
The group's members hail from Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Argentina and Palo Alto. Likewise, the music hails from locales and genres far from Cahuenga Pass.
Where once the group focused more on the political content of the Nueva Cancion (new song) movement, more recently the accent has been on instrumental pieces. No doubt that shift allows for the widened appeal that full houses such as Friday's are made from.
At the heart of the eclectic-yet-unified group sound is the tight, two-guitar weave of Ciro Hurtado, who pens most of the group's material, and Antonio Ezkauriatza. Primary percussionist Julio "Jimmy" Ledezma provides a bustling rhythmic grid over which Hernan Pinilla plays pan pipes, coloristic percussion and recorder, often in tandem with Cindy Harding. In this mostly acoustic setting, guest bassist Rami Yanni offered occasional electric bass foundation.
As a finale, Hurtado's song "Chicha" found a place for guest saxophonist Justo Almario--whose group opened the concert with a dose of Latin tradition-cum-contemporary jazz (a.k.a. "happy jazz"). The Peruvian dance group Matices Peruanos, who livened the stage with its folkloric flair, also appeared for the final song, at one point luring audience volunteers onstage to dance.
It was that kind of a warm, interactive show. For Huayucaltia, multiculturalism is less a lab experiment or politically correct gesture than it is fodder for a good time.