City Of The Sun
It's not every day we are stopped in our tracks by buskers in the streets. This particularly hot summers day, while traipsing through lower Manhattan, hot, hungry and delusional, a sweet sound floated our way from a street corner. Despite the heavy foot traffic, a selection of pedestrians had gathered in a small semi-circle of appreciation for these three musicians and their heavenly sound.
Now, perhaps I am biased because I over-romanticize anything to do with Spain, particularly flamenco, but this music tugs at my heart strings (as rusty as they are). It's beautiful, passionate, enchanting and makes me momentarily believe I've been whisked away down an alleyway in Granada, through an unmarked red door, into a dimly lit room with a secret flamenco show. Yes, I'm ridiculous (but this has really happened to me before).
What most intrigued me about City of the Sun was their flamenco influence and how they came to combine it with a more modern indie sound. Embarrassingly, I sort of presumed they were a travelling bunch of musicians from a Spanish-speaking part of the world - hence the flamenco guitar and lack of vocalist. I was quite wrong. The trio formed in New York back in 2011, and previously had a singer who decided to call it quits. Both guitarists (John Pita & Avi Snow) continued doing what they love, eventually being joined by Zach Para who plays percussion (aka a wooden box and bells). Pita grew up in Ecuador where his family's love of Spanish music lead him to learn technical Spanish guitar, while Snow served in the Israeli army with a Venezuelan who he often jammed with, thus introducing him to classical guitar.
What I am continually amazed about, as I listen to the live recording of their EP repeatedly, is how perfectly polished and seamlessly smooth it all sounds. For two guitars, a wooden box and some bells on a string, their music transcends above all other traditional acoustic performances (honorable mention - William Tyler). Apart from natural talent and technical ability, I think this also comes down to one well-coined phrase - 'practice makes perfect'. The band plays all the time, on street corners all over Manhattan, traditional venues, artist lofts & galleries and have even performed at New York's TED conference. Most New Yorkers, or anyone who regularly passes Union Square, will probably already be familiar with their mesmerizing presence in the park; although I'm sure not many of them realize that they aren't so much busking, but practicing.
For now, I will leave you with this simply beautiful video they shot in a jungle in Panama for their song "Another Time" - a slow-building soundtrack to their lush green surroundings.