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By Megan Vaughn
Special to The PREVIEW
Next up for the Free Concert Series at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts is New Mexico-based Round Mountain on Tuesday, Aug. 6, at 7 p.m.
Doors open at 6:30 and the concert starts at 7 in the art gallery. Outside food or drink is not allowed into the center, but please feel free to bring your own lawn chair. Reservations are not needed.
Blending dusty American grit with a worldly amalgam of global influences, Santa Fe-based duo Round Mountain presents a singular take on folk music that is both foreign and familiar.
The multi-multi-instrumentalist band of brothers has travelled the globe absorbing bits and pieces of musical cultures, returning to filter them through their own sepia-toned Americana framework.
Char and Robby Rothschild have been writing songs and singing together since they were kids harmonizing in the back of the family car. They live in Santa Fe, where they grew up, now with families of their own, yet their musical horizons are as broad as the world. They weave elements of world music into their original songs, providing the comfort of the familiar with the excitement of the new. They themselves are family men, as well as travelers whose performances bridge folk and world genres. They play their original songs on a multitude of instruments from around the world, often playing several of those instruments at once. Their lyrics evoke the emotion of family, giving listeners a path to access the universal and rugged beauty conveyed by global traditional music.
From the rock music of their first band, Lizard House, in 1990, the brothers developed a passion for Irish music, then adding West African, Appalachian, Afro Beat, Zimbabwean, Turkish, Roma and Balkan to their repertoire of study and performance.
But, the authenticity they sought could only come if the music was truly theirs, and these songs began to emerge in 2000, the first of which were released in 2004 on their debut album, “Round Mountain.” Their second album, “Truth and Darkness” (released in 2007) and their third album, “Windward” (October 2009), were released to sold out audiences in Santa Fe, each receiving more national airplay and press than the last.
Round Mountain connects with listeners in many settings, from festival crowds to performing arts venues. They have opened for such folk icons as Toumani Diabate and Bela Fleck, the Mammals, Sonya Kitchell, as well as opening for and accompanying traditional Irish music’s great innovator Andy Irvine. They’ve also performed with Toubab Krewe, Boulder Acoustic Society, VOCO and Taarka. They’ve contributed music to the films Solace: Wisdom of the Dying (2008) and Ride the Divide (2010). Given their incorporation of the traditional into their unique music, Round Mountain appeals to a fan base wide in age and background. They have been developing a following in Colorado since 2005, on the West Coast since 2007, and the Northeast since 2009. They are also teachers, Robby having taught percussion and musicianship classes at the College of Santa Fe, and Char being a certified teacher of elementary school music since 2000.
Elder brother Char studied music since age 8, eventually finding his own voice as he traveled from Egypt to Ireland in 1996, and to Tokyo in 1997, playing for the Old Moscow Circus. On stage, Char sings and plays accordion, guitar or dobro, together with trumpet or Bulgarian gaida, and also highland bagpipes. He has studied trumpet with Paul Yutaka Tobe of the Japan Philharmonic, and Zahir Ramadanov of Ansambl Teodosievski.
Younger brother Robby has studied many forms of music, with teachers around the world. He has performed with Thomas Mapfumo, Guinean griot Prince Diabate, and Ottmar Liebert, and has a master’s degree in composition from the University of New Mexico. Onstage, he sings and plays percussion — the West African djembe and Peruvian cajon. He also plays the West African harp known as the kora and the Irish bouzouki.
Round Mountain is named after a mountain peak at the apex of the Pecos Valley, on whose grassy slopes the brothers played as children. The mountain is a gentle place of rest at the threshold of the high country of the Truchas peaks. Round Mountain, the group, is a lively mixture of ceremony and irreverence, of exuberance and reflection. In a time when most music has become so brightly polished that no one can see inside, Round Mountain is a rare authentic gem of music that glows from within.