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Kepa Junkera: Bilbao oo:oohoh

Kepa Junkera is a thirty-something natural musical talent who pays tribute to the city of his birth and breeding on the sweet and substantial two-CD set, Bilbao 00:00h0h (Alula 1017; 48:15, 61:45). He plays up a friendly storm on the Basque accordion called the trikitixa, the spotlighted instrumental color here. But there’s much more to the conceptual portrait of this high profile city-home of the new Guggenheim, while also being a bedrock of venerable culture. All told, it is a deceptively casual, blithe-sounding project, with a secretly ambitious game plan. The special guest list makes for a cross-cultural palette, including Bela Fleck, the Chieftains’ Paddy Malone, members of the progressive Spanish group Radio Tarifa, Carlos Nunez, and Liam O’Flynn, in a cast of many. Junkera’s music bristles with references to Basque folk traditions, weaves in elements of contemporary sophistication, tilts an ear toward Celtic sounds and phrases and, somehow, it all coheres seamlessly, and with unblinking eclectic flair.

The pleasantly shocking world music phenomenon surrounding the Buena Vista Social Club continues to produce new activity from old heroes, like new rippling waves in an old, recently rediscovered pond whose charms have seized an expanding world of fans. Recently, the understated suavity of Ibrahim Ferrer, star of the Wim Wenders movie on the group, captured hearts and ears on film, and in his first U.S. tour last fall.

Originally Published