Arts / The Latin spirit comes to Bermagui

THE town of Bermagui on the south coast of NSW normally conjures up images of peaceful seaside activities, fish and chips and seagulls, but all this is about to change as the hot winds of Latin American music blow into Barragga Bay over Easter.

Accordionist and musical director James Crabb… “I come from a folk music background and of work in all kinds of musical genres – to me, music is music.” Photo by Christoffer Askman

It’s the brainchild of accordionist and musical director of the Four Winds Festival James Crabb who, with former Canberra music entrepreneur Frank Madrid, has put together a program called “Latin Spirit” to run over the Easter weekend, with Monica Trapaga as MC.

Scottish-born Crabb, who now lives in Australia, is known as an international expert in Latin American music and is determined to make this “in between” festival as elegant and exciting as the main biennial Four Winds Festival, with a program of Latin music and dance.

“I thought this way more local people would like to come along and have a wonderful musical experience,” he says.

“I come from a folk music background and work in all kinds of musical genres – to me, music is music.”

He wants to develop what he calls “high-quality music” by creating events that, through dance, visual arts and music, tie in with the natural surroundings of the area.

Crabb is adamant he is not in competition with the National Folk Festival, saying: “We are very aware of our colleagues in Canberra and we are all trying to work in harmony.

“This is a small festival focusing on several musical styles.”

The first style is the Tango Nuevo made famous by Astor Piazzolla and and composer Tomás Gubitsch.

“There isn’t a major work, but we do present some of the really iconic works of Piazzolla’s ensemble like ‘Milonga Del Angel’,” he says of his crack team Tango Jam 2, which includes Canberra-trained guitarist Aleksandr Tsiboulski.

Then there’ll be tango songs learnt at his grandfather’s knee by Opera Australia’s leading baritone José Carbó, born in Argentina but trained in this country.

A mingling of flamenco and other musical cultures will be seen with Rasa Duende, a Hindustani-Flamenco music collaboration between Bobby Singh on tabla, Adrian McNeil on sarod and Damian Wright on flamenco guitar and Bandaluzia, led by Australian guitarist Damian Wright and featuring flamenco dancers Jessica Statham and Johnny Tedesco.

Crabb wants to incorporate dance into a festival, which has hitherto been better known for pure music. In the lead-up to Easter there are tango classes and down at the Bermagui hall they’re setting up a tango-inspired café with DJs sourced by Madrid and “an ambience where anyone who is brave enough can get up and dance…”

“I might even try myself,” Crabb says.

Four Winds “Latin Spirit,” Bermagui NSW, April 15-16, program details and bookings to

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