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The Soul of Nylon Strings

Oscar Lopez fuses a variety of styles on a traditional guitar.

October 06, 2000|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

As the concert season gets underway at Cal State Northridge, the musical calendar is fortified by appearances of the classical, nylon-string guitar.

There will be the usual complement of classical guitar concerts sponsored by the Guitar Department and the American Guitar Society.

But tonight the stylistic pendulum swings toward a hybrid of flamenco, gypsy and rock contained within the personalized sound of Oscar Lopez.

His new CD, "Armando's Fire," is his third release for the Narada label, which aims at the New Age and world beat markets.

A nimble, self-taught guitarist, the 47-year-old Canadian lives in Calgary and has at various times played other types of music ranging from rock to reggae.

Although his sound aligns itself with such popular nylon-string guitar purveyors as the Gipsy Kings and the duo Strunz and Farah, Lopez likes to think in broader terms.

"I'm not trying to make comparisons here between the electric or nylon string guitar," he said in a recent interview.

"They are both beautiful instruments. But nylon strings are just a beautiful thing. It comes more from your soul than technology."

The point is not lost on Lopez that the current popularity of world music has been helped by the intervention of white pop stars, using their clout and curiosity to open ears.

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"People like Paul Simon, who incorporated African and Latin percussion in his music and other world music, have taken a chance to do this kind of thing [and] are a big help. You have to recognize that.

"I tip my hat to people like that. I think Ry Cooder has done a great thing, getting the Cuban guys, the Buena Vista Social Club together. It's not a political thing, it's just music.

"I don't think anybody's trying to take advantage or steal anything from anybody.

"In one way or another, we all reach into our souls. We're all putting out a little bit of our musical talent for a reason, to be happy and to make people happy."

BE THERE

Oscar Lopez performs tonight at 8, Student Union Grand Salon, Cal State Northridge, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge. $12 admission, $9 for students. (818) 677-2488.

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