Time to Shine: Peregrino Gris Takes Center Stage

February 25, 2005

A timeless, traditional and distinct sound emanatedfrom Jazz Café in San Pedro, an eastern suburb of San José,on a Friday night in late January. It was the kind of soundthat captures the deep history of the earth, the answers thatblow in the wind, and the souls of a diverse group of musicalinstruments. This distinct sound was that of CostaRica’s very own Celtic-music group, Peregrino Gris.The band is comprised of four talented musicians influencedby traditional Celtic music, predominantly fromIreland, Scotland and Galicia in Spain. The group wasformed in March 2001 from the inspiration of two brothers,Rodrigo and Eduardo Oviedo, who had left the band DeepBlue in 2000.San José natives, both brothers grew up not only playingthe guitar but also reading stories such as “The Lord ofthe Rings” by JRR Tolkien. They took turns reading theirone copy of the book, which eventually evolved into thewhole Tolkien series and a deep love of fantasy stories.The brothers’ combined love of music and stories is atthe very root of their inspiration for their group. In fact,they named the band after Gandalf the Gray, the great wizardknown as the “gray pilgrim” (peregrino gris, inSpanish) in their favorite childhood book. The brothershave a profound respect for the character of Gandalf, andbelieve he had great power in his knowledge of the earthwhile still remaining a “humble and charismatic man.”THERE is a sort of Gandalf-like humbleness andcharisma to this talented group of four. Each of these creativemusicians adds a distinct personality to the sound thatis Peregrino Gris, without overwhelming each other’s ownunique sounds.Everyone has a chance to shine. We have RandallNájera on violin, double bass and electric bass; CarlosQuesada on drums, bodhran (Irish drum) and ethnic percussion;Rodrigo Oviedo on piano, keyboard, accordionand guitar; and Eduardo Oviedo playing bagpipes, whistlesand flute.Yes, that’s right, bagpipes in Costa Rica. When askedwhy the bagpipes, Eduardo responded, “I have always beendrawn to folk music and stories. And I love the pipes, theyare the king of folk music.”Eduardo began to teach himself the bagpipes eightyears ago through various piping books, beginning with theScottish highland bagpipes and moving on to the Irish bagpipes,Scottish small pipes from the lowlands, and bagpipesfrom Galicia and Aragon. Learning the pipes has not beenan easy task, but he looks to his many musical influencesas guides. His favorites include Fred Morrison, GordonDuncan and Duncan MacGillivray from Scotland, and,from Ireland, Leo Rowsome, teacher of Paddy Maloney (ofThe Chieftains) and Liam O’Flynn.He and the other band members are constantly taking infrom the musical world around them, incorporating newsounds and instruments into their music. Don’t be surprisedif at their shows you are introduced to a completely newand different instrument, such as the charango (a small guitarfrom Bolivia). This band loves to incorporate and experimentwith different instruments and sounds, thus keepingtheir sound fresh and alive.THE band members share similar goals for the group’sfuture. They wish to continue to bring in different types ofmusic from all around the world, from various musiciansand cultures, as well as master their specific instruments ofchoice. Eduardo and Randall made a trip to Scotland andIreland two years ago and played with performers there,seeking to master the bagpipes and fiddle by studying techniquesall the way down to the musician’s expression whileplaying. The group also hopes to produce a second CD –the first was released in December 2003 – by December2005 or early 2006, and aspires to broaden its fan base byperforming outside of Costa Rica in the near future.The band certainly doesn’t have a problem with fansupport here. Jazz Café was packed that Friday evening,with various audience members proudly wearing their signatureblack shirts sporting a large Celtic knot on the front.The crowd was just as diverse as the instruments beingplayed; young and old alike clapped their hands, tappedtheir feet and rejoiced in Peregrino Gris’s mystical sounds.Audience members were not shy about requesting theirfavorite songs, including El Dragón que Emergió de lasTinieblas (The Dragon that Emerged from the Darkness).“I love the Irish drum; you can’t help but tap to thebeat,” María Alejandra Soto, an avid fan, remarked. Shesaw the band play at her college campus this summer andhas been a fan ever since.PEREGRINO Gris has played at several festivals overthe past few years, as well as at weddings and specialevents such as the St. Andrew’s Ball, an event put on by agroup of residents and volunteers from the British Embassyto celebrate the patron saint of Scotland. One of the band’sfavorite festivals is the Monteverde Music Festival, whereit has performed for two consecutive years. Its music wouldseem to be quite appropriate in a place that evokes such adeep reverence for the land.Peregrino Gris would do Gandalf proud with its music,which embraces the mysterious nature of the earth, soundsthat evolve and change while at the same time groundingand centering.For information on the band, visit www.peregrinogris.com or e-mail info@peregrinogris.com.

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