Melbourne musical melange, Argentinian-born songwriter Abe Dunovits has spent thirty years crafting his unique blend of rock and roll meets pop rock, with an underlying Latin, Spanish and African fusion and a dash of experimental to garnish.
Just like its creator, Abe Dunovits’ new album Charango Unchained contains multitudes, released independently on November 10, marking his fourth solo album.
Approaching music with feeling and spontaneity, Dunovits blends deep substance with deeper sound as he creates an immersive, multi-dimensional experience. The follow-up to April’s Saved by the Taco Belle, Charango Unchained features 14 songs (most in Spanish). It’s a play on Django Unchained, making reference to the nature of the music presented: a mix of different musical textures and styles, featuring charango, a ten-string ukulele-like instrument from Latin America, tan-tan drum from Brazil, shakers, small nylon acoustic guitars, some songs mini- electric guitar for the most part and vocals.
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“I have always had an eclectic taste in music, as I research and learn new styles instrumentally they tend to filter through in my compositional process,” says Dunovits.
“I have been getting into Brazilian and Mexican folk styles in the last few years, so those mixed with Afro-Caribbean music styles make a great fusion, but ultimately it’s my own imagination, improvising and adventurous musicianship that leads me to create new grooves.”
“I have been performing and recording experimental improvised music for as long as I have been playing music, so it comes very naturally, like writing lyrics and poems,” he adds.
“I have mastered my own way of creating pieces with a beginning, a middle and an end, in a similar way that someone would bake a cake or build a house, only that I am using different building materials. It’s a space and time divine construct that works perfectly when certain energies and vibrations come to you as a composer and then come together physically as a song or a poem. Still, art is ethereal and transient in our conscious minds: it happens when you listen to a song, play an instrument, read a book or look at a piece of art.”
Positively percussive, melodically relevant and decidedly inspired, the album opens with ‘Regreso’ and instantly the listener is transported to a Spanish paradise with the recording capturing the ecstasy of the music that runs through the entire record. ‘Teorema’ takes a more subdued approach but is no less energizing, while ‘Resiste’ features a beautiful blend of sounds and a very catchy chorus with an overarching theme of social empowerment and modern resistance.
While flexing is powerhouse vocals throughout the album, tracks like ‘Espejo’, ‘When’ and closing track ‘Unchained’ are driven almost entirely by the instrumentals, with the focus on the sonically expansive and culturally rich experience from the music alone.
Threading his essence through the needle of every track, lyrically the songs are fuelled with messages of social justice or just plain tenderness, and while in Spanish, Dunovits uses the power of language and its intention behind it.
“In ‘Desigualdad’ [translating to inequality], the chorus says “let’s fight it, let’s denounce it, everyone together against inequality”, I donated an instrumental track of this song (with different lyrics) to promote this years’ 3Cr radio’s Radiothon,” Dunovits explains.
“My good mate Anai “Chili” Wiche improvised a funny spoken rap about what’s happening in the world, billionaires spending in space travel when we have so much to do here on earth, and a bit about how one can came to this country and find themselves confronted with a frightening political situation (Morrison and Dutton). As a member of the LGBTQI community, Chili knows all about inequality and more. I love her.”
While you might not understand what Dunovits is singing, the album as a whole however can still be understood by the emotion that it evokes: Charango Unchained draws us in by the entrancing pronunciations of deep Spanish words, but more than trying to understand or translate the songs from this album, Dunovits allows the listener to just be in the moment and feel.
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“I hope it provides joy and inspiration,” he says of the album. “I hope people can use it to relax, to reflect, to love and to share with others, that they can use it when they’re feeling down and when they want to be uplifted.”
With vocal prowess extraordinary in any language, tracks ‘Him They’, ‘Shine’ sees Dunovits return to English lyrics, with ‘Shine’ providing a motivational hit with the gentle music providing a body-moving foundation while Dunovits sings, ‘it’s your time to shine’.
“‘Shine’, that’s how I feel at the moment, bouncy! I have much hope and lust for life, in a beautiful loving relationship, doing really well in my professional life and have much creative freedom to go wherever,” Dunovits says of one of his favourites tracks from the album.
“Problems can be resolved. I love the fact that is bilingual, like me. I guess I am singing that to myself ‘it’s your time to shine’, it’s self motivational.”
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Dunovits himself, the uplifting album earns its place as a dynamic deliverance of artistry that sees the songwriter stripping it back compared to previous releases and entirely embracing his first language, while turning to his own back catalogue for inspiration.
“I think as a musician I try to hone into the adventurous aspect of music, always working towards having no fear of creating. [With the new album], I have tried to have fewer instruments in each track. Sometimes it’s hard because something tells you that a particular tracks needs, for example, another lead solo or minor percussion, but that’s all up to the producer and arranger (me!) to decide for each song, it’s a craft that i’ve been learning over the years working with different producers in different bands and settings.
“In many ways, I wanted the music to become simpler, more concise, rawer and essential. Initially, the album was going to be just charango and voice.”
Listening to Dunovits’ new album is to be taken on a journey. With the artist refusing to be anything but himself, Charango Unchained provides an enlightening look at instrumentation, genres past and present, cultures and language and the way they can all unite for the primary purpose of enjoyment.
With such clear ambition and spontaneity, Abe Dunovits continues to be one to keep a close eye on.
Charango Unchained is out now. Find out more at abrahamdunovits.com