The Roanoke Times: A good kind of culture clash

Word association time: Bluegrass. What comes to mind?

Some might think banjos or fiddles. Others might think about songs of love (“Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arm”) or love lost (“Blue Moon of Kentucky”).

Still others might think of the mountains of Appalachia, be it “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” or “Rocky Top” or . . . well, the list kind of goes on and on, doesn’t it? What you probably don’t think of is this: Bluegrass as a vehicle for a contemporary political protest song. Ah, how little we know of our own history sometimes. Bluegrass aficionados know that the history of the genre is full of political songs, many of them about coal miners, coal mine owners and the conflict between the two. Those union battles, though, were a long time ago, and the adjective we used above was “contemporary.” This is where we introduce you to a relatively new bluegrass song that is very much contemporary (it came out last year) and is definitely political. It’s also a song that’s set a long way from Appalachia. It deals with the U.S.-Mexican border — from the point of view of a Latin American immigrant.

The song “The Wall” is about, well, the title is pretty obvious. So are the key lyrics:

Come sisters, brothers gather near / We’ve come to share our worries

We fear what some folks have been saying about Latin Americans / the truth’s been misconstrued

There’s all kinds of talk ‘bout building a wall / down along the Southern border.

‘bout building a wall between me and you / Lord, and if such nonsense should come true /

then, we’ll have to knock it down.

This is clearly not your granddaddy’s bluegrass. It is, however, the bluegrass of one of the most unusual bluegrass bands around. Che Apalache is a four-man band based in Buenos Aires that includes one member from North Carolina, one from Mexico and two from Argentina.

If you’re at the 18th annual FloydFest this weekend, you have not one, not two, but three chances to hear the band — and likely the song “The Wall,” as well. The band plays today at 4:30 p.m., Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m. If you miss Che Apalache there, you have more opportunities. The band plays the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 2, the Appalachian String Band Festival in Clifftop, West Virginia, on Aug. 3, the Blue Ridge Music Center in Galax on Aug. 4 and in Bristol, Tennessee, on Aug. 9 before moving on to Texas and California.

The song “The Wall” raises a question we haven’t really heard addressed in American politics before. For all the talk about President Trump’s desire to build a border wall, there seems no discussion of what some future Democratic administration would do about that. (And ultimately, yes, someday there will be another Democratic president; the history of modern American politics is that it’s hard for one party to retain the White House for more than two terms in a row and sometimes not even that.) If Trump were to succeed in building a border wall, we can easily imagine some future Democratic president vowing to tear it down.

That’s why we’ve always been baffled by the immigration debates in Washington. If Trump says the price for giving the so-called Dreamers a path to citizenship is a border wall, why not give it to him? Yes, that would be anathema to many Democrats but consider the scale of the trade-offs. Democrats would get a permanent fix to the problem of young adults who have grown up as Americans but lack the paperwork; Trump would get only an impermanent wall that could be taken down later — its pieces sold off as scrap that could be used to build a Southwestern version of the Statue of Liberty along the Rio Grande. Yes, funding a wall you know will be torn down would be a waste of money, but, let’s face it, when have Democrats been that concerned about spending? (For that matter, given the deficit-swelling budgets the Republican-controlled Congress has recently passed, Republicans don’t even seem concerned about spending anymore.) The real fix to uncontrolled immigration along the southern border is not a wall but changing the conditions in Latin America that have inspired the mass migration of refugees fleeing violence.

Ultimately, though, this isn’t an editorial about migration of people, it’s about the migration of music and cultures. Bluegrass is native to Appalachia but now extends to the Andes. It was imported to Argentina in 2010 when the North Carolina-based musician Joe Troop moved there “with only a suitcase, fiddle and banjo,” according to his official bio. He started teaching music — guitar, mandolin, fiddle and yes, banjo. In time, he formed the band Che Apalache with three of his students. Together, they play a variation of bluegrass that is termed “Latingass” — which also happens to be the name of the band’s latest album. It sounds a lot like bluegrass, except that some of it is sung in Spanish, and there are occasionally songs such as, well, “The Wall.”

This fusion of Appalachian music with Latin American sensibilities might seem strange to some ears, but the combination is really as American as, well, everything American. We talk about things being “as American as apple pie” but the apple traces its heritage to the steppes of central Asia. Traditional bluegrass was itself an amalgamation of music from multiple cultures — some from England, some from Scotland, some from Ireland. The fiddle, one of the genre’s foundational instruments, came from Italy by way of the Byzantine Empire; the banjo came from Africa.

Some on the left fret about “cultural appropriation” — the notion of one culture “stealing” from another as if culture were a physical property such as, say, a car. Culture, though, has always been malleable. That is what makes American culture so interesting — we have never been afraid to borrow and blend and create something new. We here in the Blue Ridge live at the northern end of an incredible arc of musical creation, one that stretches all the way to the Mississippi Delta. Lots of different cultures collided along that arc, with the resulting sparks leading to virtually all the major forms of music today — bluegrass, country, jazz and the earliest rock’n’rollers. In Che Apalache — which last year took first place at the Appalachian String Band Festival — we have a rare opportunity see that process of creation continue to play out in front of our eyes, and in our ears.

There may or may not someday be a wall on the southern border, but there can never be a sound barrier. That is a good thing.

Bluegrass Today: Bluegrass Beyond Borders – Che Apalache from south of the Border

By Lee Zimmerman

At first it seems like an unlikely combination at best — a bluegrass band that sings in Spanish and adds elements of Latin music to their material. Nevertheless, Che Apalache, a four-man string band based in Buenos Aires that includes players from Argentina, Mexico, and the United States, does just that. Led by fiddler Joe Troop, a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from North Carolinia who relocated to Argentina in 2010, he met his future compatriots — Pau Barjau (banjo), Franco Martino (guitar), and Martin Bobrik (mandolin) — while teaching music for a living, and ended up forming the band.

In the process, they evolved from bluegrass and grassicana — still a sound that’s a mainstay of their music — into an approach best described as “Latingrass,” which is also the title of their debut album. It’s a synthesis of styles that span from Appalachia to the Andes, as their bio states so succinctly. Last year a grant from both the North Carolina Humanities Council and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities allowed them opportunity to tour the States, eventually garnering them a first place nod at the prestigious Appalachian String Band Music Festival in Clifftop, West Virginia.

Naturally, we were fascinated, so we spoke with Troop and asked him to share his backstory…

BLUEGRASS TODAY: For starters, is Argentinian Americana/grassicana/bluegrass a growing and potent movement? Just how popular is bluegrass in Argentina? Are there other bands doing the same thing?

JOE TROOP: Bluegrass was virtually nonexistent when I moved to Argentina in 2010. There was interest in bluegrass instruments though. I’ve taught hundreds of students banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and guitar. Few actually latched on and have taken it seriously, but I’d say there are now about 20 people I know of devoted to the style. There is another band called Angry Zeta in Buenos Aires that fuses bluegrass and punk that is getting popular. Actually, our bandmate Martin also plays banjo in that band. They kill it! There is also a growing folk music scene with weekly events and enthusiastic attendance. All in all, there is way more interest in Americana music than there was eight years ago when I moved here. Plus, Che Apalache does fusion, so we are able to rope in music lovers of all sorts. Much of our audience had never heard of bluegrass, but they related more immediately to our “latingrass” repertoire. Since then, they have slowly grown accustomed to Appalachian music and are beginning to dig it. We’re planting seeds, you could say.

What were the band members original influences?

I am from North Carolina and learned to play bluegrass from incredible regional musicians as a teenager. Two of my bandmates are Argentinians. Franco Martino’s father brought him up listening to and playing southern rock. He was already a great electric guitarist before coming to study bluegrass with me. He already understood many of the stylistic nuances. Martin Bobrik taught himself to play banjo on YouTube. He came to me for a lesson but was already ripping it. He began playing the mandolin to join Che Apalache. He’s a wiz kid and picks things up incredibly fast! The banjo player is Pau Barjau from Mexico. He’s my prized pupil. When he came to me for banjo lessons, he had never even heard of bluegrass. Actually, he was concentrating on electric bass, and got to the banjo through Victor Wooten’s collaborations with Béla Fleck. From the get go, he was interested in pushing the limits of the banjo. I’m a bit older than my bandmates. They started as my students, but when I realized they were were getting better than me, I was like, “Damn, I need to start a band with these guys!” I do most of the composing and song-writing. But we do the arrangements as a group. They happen very organically in our rehearsals. No writing things down — we just let it flow. We’re currently working on new material for a second album we’ll record in November.

What kind of response have you gotten to your music back home?

Back in Argentina we’re getting a great response in the independent music scene. What we do is considered avant-garde down there. This year we’re going to be touring throughout the country as well as doing a residency at a theater called Hasta Trilce in Buenos Aires. We’re beginning to attract attention in the country’s small and competitive independent music scene. We’ve also got some great momentum in the US. We just signed with the Herschel Freeman Agency out of Memphis and are extremely honored to be on his artist roster! Herschel understands what we’re going for. We are going to be touring all across the States from mid-July to mid-October.

What do you think makes bluegrass so popular around the globe? As an original American musical style, why do you think it translates so well in other parts of the world?

Bluegrass is not popular in Argentina and never will be. In fact, many people down there understandably reject all things USA, since American foreign policy has ravished Latin America for a long time. What I like about what we’re doing with Che Apalache is that we challenge people to get to know a very different United States, the one that produces an amazing arts culture. Many Latin Americans are deterred by the idea of North American culture, but we try to suggest to them a very different possibility. We are a tri-national fusion group, two parts Argentinian, one part Mexican, one part North Carolinian. We’re advocates for a unified, globally-minded America, from north to south.


"Latingrass" (2017) lyrics


María, María del agua, María del cielo, que linda María
María, María divina, que suerte que tuve, tenerte en mi vida

Llámalo al leñero, dile que traiga leña
Que quiero quemar la pena que hiere mi corazón

María, maldita mi suerte, que te llame la muerte, que te vayas así
María, María mi vida, de noche y de día, solo pienso en ti

Llámalo al leñero, dile que traiga leña
Que quiero quemar la pena que hiere mi corazón

Red Rocking Chair

* Esto es una traducción cultural de la canción tradicional de los Montes Apalaches al castellano andino del noroeste argentino. This is a cultural translation of the traditional Appalachian song into the Andean Spanish of northwestern Argentina.

Te llevé a descansar. Te llevé a descansar en la sombra de un nogal.
Fue todo lo que te pude dar; amor puro y un cálido hogar.

Para que lamentar, Para que lamentar un amor que se va.
Me acompaño con la soledad. Ya tu hamaca en el árbol no está.

Cornfed Bluegrass Man

Well, I make me a trip each and every single year
though quite a many tell me I’m insane
I pitch a tent before it’s dark along the fence at old Felt’s Park
knee deep in mud or in the sun or in the rain

From far and wide friends gather ‘round
pickin’ grinnin’ ‘neath the Galax moon
It’s a run-a-muck scene. No it’ ain’t pristine
But it always seems to end too soon

Hey, Lordy Lordy. I’m a cornfed bluegrass man
I’m a hobo skunk in a pickup truck with a corndog in my hand
Lord, yes I am

Well, ole Mary Edna does some might fine cookin’
choppin’ stirrin’ yes the whole day through
All us pickers wind up crusty, but she helps to fill our tummies
with a heapin’ bowl of homemade stew

We descend upon her kitchen like a flock of hungry chickens
gobble gobble for that world class soup
It helps release the midnight juices in us seasoned bluegrass moose-s
wakes us up before we fly the coup.

Hey, Lordy Lordy. I’m a cornfed bluegrass man
I’m a hobo skunk in a pickup truck with a corndog in my hand
Lord, yes I am

This ole stage is fine and dandy, yellow tent so big and sandy
But I’d rather be out in the lanes
Skippy trip-y where it’s muddy with my good ole bluegrass buddies
‘fore the ribbons make it less about the playin’

Community is so essential in a flock of feral fiddles
banjo badgers, monkey mandolins
Out amongst the bullfrog basses, grizzly guitars, dobro snakes
You gotta work to unify your friends, until the end

Hey, Lordy Lordy. I’m a cornfed bluegrass man
I’m a hobo skunk in a pickup truck with a corndog in my hand
Lord, yes I am

Bubblin’ Up

There’s an old forgotten melody
swallowed up by years gone by
dimly flickerin’ still deep in my chest
Bet I’ll catch it if I try

Feel that rhythm stir, go bubblin’ up
gently tingle in my skin
It’s a sound to soothe my weary soul
and to make me whole again

Rush of rainbow winds come whisk me up
for to soar above life’s woe
where I’ll glimpse the joy which so eludes
this tired old world below

There’s a dark cloud hangin’ over me
It’s so dense I cain’t hardly see
Would you swim dear through the darkest night
to keep me company?

I’m an old fool, childlike in your arms
when you hold me tenderly
As we waltz ‘round by the fireside light
I hear a faint melody, comes back to me

Love is such a simple melody
when the heart sets fear aside
Come along, my friends, it’s bubblin’ up
Take a leap and jump inside


La picazón ardiente de un corazón gastado
coquetea con la maldad, se niega del pasado
nos arrastra al sufrir

Igual yo le hago frente con un violín hachero
mi arma, mi aliento, querido compañero
que derrumba tiranía

Prisionero de tu frío corazón, vidaí
Ando libre por la sierra de alto monte, vaí
Naides me diga donde tengo que parar

Los dueños de este mundo, bichitos caprichosos
Acechan como lobros, se aprovechan de nosotros
por su codicia del poder

Es triste su camino con alma desquiciada
Cae sobre su propia espada, termina en la nada
enajenados de la verdad

Prisionero de tu frío corazón, vidaí
Ando libre por la sierra de alto monte, vaí
Naides me diga donde tengo que parar

The Wall

Come friends, come friends. Come gather ‘round
For to sing, oh sing we joyfully!
Let us sing about a better world
Where different paths have been unfurled
Of a land where freedom rings.

From way up high on a mountain side
one can see the wide world over
From way up there it’s plain to see
Regardless of one’s race or creed
In our hearts we’re all the same.

Come sisters, brothers gather near.
We’ve come to share our worries
We fear what some folks have been saying
about Latin Americans
the truth’s been misconstrued

There’s all kinds of talk ‘bout building a wall
down along the Southern border.
‘bout building a wall between me and you
Lord, and if such nonsense should come true
then, we’ll have to knock it down.

‘Cause that idea won’t fly so high
as a wingless bird in a rock hard sky
So, no siree, we won’t comply
we’ll going to stand our ground

To love thy neighbor as thyself
is a righteous law to live by
But leaders sing a different song
they break us up so they stay strong
and ignorantly we’re strung along
until we meet our doom

Yes, our leaders are so ripe with sin
they feed us chants to rope us in
but ‘fore to long we’ll find, my friends
we’re penned against The Wall.

Come friends, come friends. Come gather ‘round
For to sing, oh sing we joyfully!
Let us sing about a better world
Where different paths will soon unfurl
where no man’s blood shall stain the soil
Yes a land where freedom rings

Virginia's Public Radio: Band Blends the Sound of Appalachia with Traditional Latin Music

By Sandy Hausman

The presidential election of 2016 left many Americans wondering if there was any way to bridge some deep cultural divides in this country.  How could Mexican Americans, for example, find common ground with coal miners from Appalachia?

As you drive south from Roanoke, the radio dial is increasingly short on options.  There’s pop – and country music,  religious tunes  and programming for those who prefer something spicy .  That last choice is popular with a growing population of farm and forest workers from Mexico and Latin America – a group that hasn’t really integrated with long-time locals.  To promote cross-cultural ties, the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the North Carolina Humanities Council invited a unique  Argentinian band to visit and play.  It’s called Che Appalache.

“Che is ubiquitous in Argentina.  It’s a way of saying buddy or homey or friend or pal,” says Joe Troop, an American musician who lives in Buenos Aires.  "It’s the way you grab someone’s attention – like Hey, Che!, and Appalache means Appalachian.”
Troop teaches banjo.  That’s how he met Martin Bobrik.

“I’ve seen banjos and bluegrass music in cartoons when I was a little kid.  Bugs Bunny and Doug played the banjo," he recalls. "Also thanks to YouTube and the Internet I found out that the name of the style was bluegrass.”
Franco Martino and Pau Barjau also signed up for lessons.

“We’re all globalized people.  We got to the banjo because of this globalization, but there’s nothing like sitting down and seeing a bluegrass jam live,” he says.  Together they play a fusion of traditional Latin songs and blue grass, using Appalachian instruments, for example, to present a tango.

“We had to start from step one," says Troop. "It was, ‘What’s a banjo roll?  What’s a G-run?  What is this culture? How is the syncopation?  It’s not like Latin American folk at all, so it was a learning process, but they’re very fast.”

And at other times they present traditional mountain tunes without a hint of their Hispanic roots.  Troop has also instructed band members on the subtleties of bluegrass performance.

“Basic etiquette.  How to kick off a song.  How to end a song. How to deliver things with confidence.  You gotta’ put it out there, you know what I mean.  You can’t be timid.  That off the cuff nature of American music – I try my best to impart that.”
And he’s schooled them in body language on stage.

“Some people use their eyes more.  Some people gesticulate more, but some of the obvious ones are + when it’s time to end a song, people will stick their leg in the air, or you could just say, ‘Here’s the last time through,’ and it seems easy, but when you’re in the middle of a song if you don’t understand those cues you’ll keep going and then you’ll play an extra chord, and it will sound wonky, and you’re the guy that messed up the jam.”

So far, Bobrik says, the sound hasn’t caught fire in Argentina’s capital.

“The people that come to see us in Buenos Aires – we’re like something exotic, classy, which bluegrass is not that."
"Are you saying bluegrass isn’t classy?" Troop demands, with mock indignation.
"It can be," Bobrik concedes, "but many times we wish that people would get a little bit drunk and start dancing.  They are always sitting with their hands on their chins saying, ‘Oh, listen to that.  That’s really interesting.’”
But during a month-long visit to  Appalachia, Troop says their sound was a hit.

“Sons and daughters of Latin Americans that were born in the United States coming up to us in tears, saying, ‘You gave me an artistic voice.  I identified with you guys.’ And then there are some people who would love to believe in the unity of the Americas as this larger continent that’s coming out of colonization and has this very similar past.”

And at the Old Fiddler’s Convention, this song – called The Wall – won an enthusiastic response from a largely Appalachian crowd.

There’s all kinds of talk ‘bout building a wall down along the Southern border.

‘bout building a wall between me and you
Lord, and if such nonsense should come true
then we’ll have to knock it down
‘Cause that idea won’t fly so high
as a wingless bird in a rock hard sky
So, no siree, we won’t comply
we’re going to stand our ground
To love thy neighbor as thyself is a righteous law to live by
But leaders sing a different song
they break us up so they stay strong
and ignorantly we’re strung along
until we meet our doom
Yes, our leaders are so ripe with sin
they feed us chants to rope us in
but ‘fore to long we’ll find, my friends
that we’re penned against The Wall
Come friends, come friends. Come gather ‘round
For to sing, oh sing we joyfully!
Let us sing about a better world
Where different paths will soon unfurl
where no man’s blood shall stain the soil
Yes a land where freedom rings.

Across the Blue Ridge #94 - Bluegrass and Old Time Music From a Latin Perspective

By Paul Brown

This week we feature exciting bluegrass and old time music from a Latin perspective, along with our usual classics from senior and contemporary artists. Hear Che Apalache, a youthful band of four hailing from the US, Argentina and Mexico. Their fusion of styles and traditions works beautifully to showcase the core characteristics of most traditional music around the world: a good accessible melody; strong and driving rhythm, and ongoing drone notes giving the music a sense of continuity. Led by Joe Troop, originally from North Carolina, Che Apalache made a brief southeast U.S. tour and a big hit among roots music fans this past summer. Of course, this week’s show also contains a collection of songs and tunes in classic old time, bluegrass and blues styles – from The Blue Sky Boys; Tom, Brad & Alice; Brandon Lee Adams and Jason Cade.


  1. Buffalo Gal
    Curly Parker & Blue Sky Boys
    Blue Sky Boys On Radio Vol. 4
  2. Eastbound Train
    Blue Sky Boys
    Blue Sky Boys On Radio Vol. 4
  3. New River Train
    Sunny Mountain Serenaders
    Into Thin Hair
  4. Mama's Gone
    Tom, Brad & Alice
    Holly Ding
  5. Where I Can Lay My Burdens Down
    Brandon Lee Adams
    Hardest Kind Of Memories
  6. Buck Hoard
    Jason Cade
    Hog-Eyed Man Vol. 3
  7. Break 1 - Hangman's Reel
    Albert Hash
    Albert Hash
  8. I've Endured
    Che Apalache
  9. Children Go Where I Send thee
    Che Apalache
    ATBR Recording
  10. Chalame fiddle tune
    Che Apalache
    ATBR Recording
  11. Cornfed Bluegrass Man
    Che Apalache
  12. Foggy Mountain Special
    Flatt & Scruggs
  13. Break 2 - Sugar Hill
    Esker Hutchins
    Esker Hutchins
  14. Cambalache
    Che Apalache
  15. The Wall
    Che Apalache
  16. Red Rocking Chair
    Che Apalache
  17. Tilingo Lingo
    Che Apalache


Indiehoy: Che Apalache – Latingrass

Por Santiago Marini

Por lo que conoce de armonía e instrumentaciones, Joe Troop podría vivir una vida cómoda en su Carolina del Norte natal, tocando bluegrass en clubes de bluegrass y rodeado de un paisaje que uno imagina, culpa de las películas, de un verde inmaculado. Y además, por cómo toca el violín, Joe Troop podría vivir en cualquier parte del mundo; podría dar clases en, qué se yo, la costa amalfitana, y tocar en bares que no sean de bluegrass con la piel bronceada. La gente así tiene en las manos y en la cabeza un conocimiento invaluable: una vez que alcanzás un cierto nivel de maestría, tus instrumentos son las llaves de tu casa en cualquier parte. Perdón si me emociono, pero creo que es una de los argumentos más fuertes a favor de ser músico, que puedas irte a donde quieras y caer más o menos parado, si sos bueno, al abrigo pobre de ese idioma universal.

Buenos Aires, el lugar que eligió hace siete años, le gustó por el mate y el anonimato: acá, dice, a nadie le importa qué hace y qué deja de hacer, nadie le rompe las pelotas. Al principio fue profesor de banjo de los chicos que hoy integran Che Apalache, y cuando vio que sus alumnos se lo estaban tomando en serio y que estaban tan enganchados como él, armó la banda de bluegrass que quería armar. Latin Grass es una mezcla del lugar donde nació con el lugar en donde vive. En el álbum que acaban de sacar no sólo interpretan géneros locales como el tango, el vals criollo, la chacarera y el chamamé; además le echan mano a ritmos como el son y el candombe, todo tamizado por el fiddle, el banjo, la guitarra y la mandolina, y recostado sobre brillosas armonías de voces sureñas.

El bluegrass (¡pasto azul!) es el primo hermano ágil y docto del country. Como el rock, el blues, el folk, el jazz, como todo, vio la luz en el fly-over country estadounidense, es decir en las zonas campesinas, brutalmente agrícolas. El bluegrass también se consolidó como género a lo largo de la primera mitad del siglo XX con la ayuda de las grabaciones y los medios de difusión. En el resto, no tiene nada que ver a los demás: el bluegrass tiene raíces en la música tradicional europea y es más caucásica que negra, aunque obviamente fuera permeada por los brotes vecinos. Tampoco fue protagonista de una pandemia como la del rock, ni tuvo la ubicuidad del blues, ni la suerte cosmopolita del jazz; el bluegrass se esparció con distancias de cabotaje, e incluso nombrar a íconos de la historia de la música como a Jerry García o a Doc Watson es de nicho al sur de la frontera. Che Apalache es, en ese sentido, una rareza, un cuarteto delicado que vale la pena atestiguar.

Hablemos de fronteras: el grupo acaba de desembarcar de cinco semanas girando por Estados Unidos, en donde tocaron en los campos que vieron nacer al género y, entre otros, en el festival más antiguo del país. El tema que cierra el disco, “The Wall“, es una canción acapella con un tono íntimo y religioso, tanto que hizo que unos amigos no se bajaran de mi auto hasta que la terminara, hace unos días, y eso que no eran tan amigos. Cantarlo arriba de ese escenario era una provocación obligatoria, pero a veces para eso se canta, y si te corren unos neonazis, todavía mejor.

“Nos tuvimos que ir corriendo. Igual hay miles de latinoamericanos, o gente que se relaciona con latinos, que nos agradecieron por expresar artísticamente la interseccionalidad de las dos identidades. Una señora de Virginia cuyo padre era de México se nos acercó en otro festival. Habíamos tocado “Tilingo Lingo,” un son veracruzano. Estaba tan emocionada que no podía hablar. Dijo ‘Mi papá era de Veracruz,’ y empezó a llorar. El arte siembra semillas que tarde o temprano dan frutos. Para resumir, creo que vamos a hacer muchas giras en EEUU; muchos festivales nos invitaron, porque les copa no solo nuestra música sino también nuestro mensaje”.

Che Apalache – Latin Grass

2017 – Impar

01. Pa´ mi pana Banu
02. Red rocking chair
03. María
04. Cornfed bluegrass man
05. Tilingo lingo
06. Cambalache
07. Bubblin´ up
08. Prisionero
09. I’ve endured
10. The ballad of jed clampett
11. The wall

QuéPasa: Desde Argentina Che Apalache visitó a Juana y Minerva

El grupo de música Che Apalache, durante el último mes, realizó una gira por todo Carolina del Norte y Virginia, presentándose en festivales y todo tipo de lugares.

Cuando el cuarteto originario de Argentina escuchó acerca de Juana Tobar y Minerva Cisneros  que se resguardan en una iglesia para evitar la deportación, los músicos decidieron hacer algo por ellas.

El pasado jueves 17 de agosto, el grupo hizo una escala en Greensboro y visitaron a ambas mujeres para ofrecerles un concierto privado.

Además, los integrantes del grupo de “latin grass”, que mezcla el género bluegrass con elementos latinoamericanos, prometieron a Juana escribir una canción y así promover su causa donde sea que se presenten.

“La raíz del problema es la ignorancia”, dijo en entrevista Joe Troop, líder de la agrupación, sobre el racismo y problemas que muchos inmigrantes sufren en Carolina del Norte.

Una de sus canciones, “The Wall”, toca el tema del muro en la frontera de Estados Unidos con México. Según Troop, en algunas de sus presentaciones hasta fueron amenazados por el público, mientras que en otras la gente se acercó llorando para felicitarlos.

Winston-Salem Journal: Winston-Salem native fronts band playing 'Latin Grass'

Under a tent at the Old Fiddler’s Convention in Galax last week, the members of Che Apalache leaned in and began singing a capella in four-part harmony, their voices weaving together like fiber on a rope.

There’s all kinds of talk about building a wall along the Southern border/about building a wall between me and you/Lord if such nonsense would come true, we’ll have to knock it down.

The air at Galax was already saturated with the sound of the hills, with echos from fiddles, banjos and dobros swirling above the campers and tents at the granddaddy of all fiddler’s conventions.

But the singing from the four men in Che Apalache made passersby stop in their tracks and listen, such was its beauty. Closer listeners would have detected a slight Latin accent blending with the twang of Joe Troop’s lead tenor.

Troop is a Winston-Salem native who took his love of bluegrass to Buenos Aires, found two Argentines and a Mexican with an affection for the music of the Southern Appalachians and formed a band, Che Apalache, that plays what they call “Latin Grass.”

Sitting under a tent last week in Galax, Troop and his bandmates — Martin Bobrik on mandolin; Franco Martino on guitar; and Pau Andres Barjau Mateu on banjo — explained the band’s unique sound, which involves putting Argentine folk songs through a bluegrass blender.

“It’s like an elephant and a mouse made a baby,” Troop said.

Bobrik piped in: “It’s a mouse-a-phant.”

Local folks will get a chance to hear this mishmash of cultures on Sunday. The band will play at 2 p.m. at Muddy Creek Music Hall and 6 p.m. at a fundraiser at El Buen Pastor, a local nonprofit organization that works with the Latin community.

The shows mark the end of what has been a month-long immersion in the music of Southern Appalachia, with concerts at the Blue Ridge Music Center, Floyd Fest, the Appalachian String Band Festival in Clifftop, W.Va., and the convention Galax.

For Troop’s bandmates, the experience has been an education, especially in places such as Clifftop and Galax, where the music is nonstop.

Such a tradition does not exist in Argentina, Mateu said. “In Argentina, there’s a lot of folk tradition, but no tradition of getting together and camping and sort of jamming,” he said. “Living with your instrument makes you a better musician. We are getting better at bluegrass because we are listening and playing music.”

The musicians here are generous, too, Bobrik said.

“Everybody knows you’re learning and everyone makes you feel like it’s OK to be wrong,” he said. “If you mess up a solo, it’s OK. You’re learning. But you don’t feel that in Argentina. You get it wrong, it’s ‘You suck.’”

The band is Troop’s vision, who has been a global citizen since leaving Winston-Salem shortly after graduating from Reynolds in 2001.

His musical training began here, with piano lessons from Fred Pivetta at the Community Music School and banjo lessons from Jody King and Craig Smith. Terry Hicks, a longtime choral teacher at Reynolds, was also a big influence.

At Reynolds, Troop was exposed to bluegrass during a school trip to the mountains.

“Some of the counselors were playing around a campfire, and it was, ‘Wow.’ I got more hooked on banjo and discovered there was a huge scene. My teachers told me to go to Galax, Merlefest, Fiddler’s Grove and hang out. I’d go to these places and see other young musicians and they were just slaying it,” he said.

Music became his saving grace as he struggled growing up as a closeted gay teenager in 1990s Winston-Salem. The mood was hostile toward gay people at that time, Troop said, and he felt constantly afraid. He found comfort and acceptance in the music community.

“It saved me. There were older adults who could guide me on a music journey but also help me emotionally,” Troop said. “I was scared to death.”

After stints in Spain and Japan, Troop, a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill, moved to Buenos Aires about seven years ago. He had made friends with Argentines on some of his travels and liked their sense of humor. Bueno Aires, he said, also seemed like a place where he could live cheaply while making money giving lessons and playing shows.

Among his students were his current bandmates in Che Apalache. They were already musicians but wanted to learn more about the various instruments in bluegrass.

Bluegrass is seldom played in Argentina, and most folks may associate the banjo with cartoons, Bobrik said.

Troop gave his bandmates records by Ralph Stanley and others to learn the bluegrass style.

Che Apalache formed in 2016 and have toured a bit around Argentina. They laughed that when they play, people view them as a cultural curiosity, applauding politely rather than the “yee-haws,” that might be heard in the U.S., during a blistering fiddle part.

The band’s first album, “Latin Grass,” includes a blend of folk songs in Spanish, traditional bluegrass songs and Troop originals, including “The Wall,” a critical look at the proposed wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

Troop said such a wall is an affront to the cultural ties between the Americas.

“From North to South, it’s a cool culture, and there’s a lot to be explored,” Troop said. “We share similar histories. I think the underlying message is there’s a lot of possibility for peaceful organization, especially on the grassroots level.”

The show at El Buen Pastor is particularly important to Troop, who said though such organizations can’t stop the rash of recent deportations, it can help working families by organizing after-school activities for kids and offer other support.

“It’s one of our messages on this tour,” he said.

North Carolina Public Radio: ‘Che Apalache’ Strums Bluegrass From Buenos Aires

The word ‘che’ is ubiquitous on the streets of Argentina. It is a term of endearment that people use often in casual conversation – similar to a word like buddy in American slang. So when North Carolina native Joe Troop decided to form a band in Buenos Aires with a group of his students, he found it fitting to characterize themselves using the term ‘che.’ The band Che Apalache is comprised of four musicians from three countries who fuse Appalachian folk with Latin American music.

Host Frank Stasio talks with Che Apalache about their origin story and sound. Che Apalache is Joe Troop on fiddle and lead vocals, Pau Andrés Barjau Mateu on banjo and vocals, Franco Martino on guitar and vocals, Martin Bobrik on mandolin and vocals. The band will be playing shows at venues throughout North Carolina for the next few weeks.

El País: Che Apalache

Por Laia Jufresa

Un violín tiene que madurar, absorber ondas de sonido, le toma unos años abrirse, sonar lo mejor de lo que es capaz.

Conocí a Joe Troop en una azotea de Buenos Aires, en un concierto que dio para recaudar fondos porque recién había tenido que comprar, por segunda vez, su propio violín.

En Carolina del Norte Joey tuvo una infancia suburbana americana prototípica de la que lo salvaron un banjo chino, un violín prestado, unos años en Sevilla y un amigo porteño que lo apodó Shosho y le dijo que debía ir a Argentina. Shosho fue, pero antes pasó unos años en un pueblito de Japón, enseñando inglés, aprendiendo japonés, ahorrando y practicando obsesivamente el violín. Al volver a casa, Jo San necesitaba un mejor instrumento. Se lo encargó al mejor lutier que conocía, un alemán que en los setenta se instaló en los Montes Apalaches enamorado de su música: el bluegrass.

La única otra vez que vi a Joseph fue en el rancho donde Alfred Michels tiene su taller, rodeado de verde, atiborrado de maderas y violines. Tradicional, perfeccionista, Alfred prepara su propio pegamento y lija con navaja. Se le ve sin pipa sólo el tiempo que le toma rellenarla. Estaba arreglando el único desperfecto del violín robado: un quiebre en el puente. De paso, el violín estaba recuperando su olor original, el de ese tabaco en particular.

Un violín tiene que madurar, absorber ondas de sonido, le toma unos años abrirse, sonar lo mejor de lo que es capaz. El que Michels hizo para Troop estaba llegando a ese punto cuando, una noche porteña, unos chicos lo reclamaron a punta de cuchillo. En los meses que le tomó recuperarlo, Yoyo compuso un tango: Me afanaron en la parada del 4, para banjo y contrabajo.

El violín apareció en La Plata, casi intacto, con arcos y estuche. Un músico honesto lo compró sabiendo que valía mucho más de lo que pagó. Luego encontró la página web Violín Robado. Así fue como Joe Troop recuperó su instrumento. Siguen juntos, fusionando géneros. Como le oí decir en una entrevista sobre sus discos con Diego Sánchez: “El duende que tiene el flamenco, el drive que tiene el bluegrass, el swing que tiene el jazz y el no sé qué que tiene el chamamé”. Hoy toca sobre todo latingrass con un cuarteto cuyo nombre bien podría ser otro de sus apodos: Che Apalache.

En aquel concierto de azotea todos deseábamos comprobar el rumor de que un violín robado había reaparecido. Quién sabe si sea un rasgo latinoamericano o si suceda en todos los países de impunidad rampante, que un buen desenlace causa tanta fascinación como desconfianza porque, desde que tenemos memoria, la justicia es de las vueltas de tuerca la más improbable.