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  • Writer's pictureJim Bessman

French group San Salvador wows APAP crowds with unique language and vocal style

San Salvador

San Salvador performs at New York Hilton Midtown during APAP

San Francisco’s Riot Artists agency has a tradition of bringing some of the most intriguing and exciting artists to the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) conferences at the New York Hilton Midtown (among them, Dakh Daughters and Dakha Brakha, both from Ukraine), and this year it was San Salvador.

Hailing from the town of Saint-Salvadour in southwestern France, the young, high-energy a cappella/percussion sextet compose and sing in the endangered Occitan language, spoken by only 100,000 people in France (as of 2012).

As evidenced by two brief Hilton showcases (they also performed longer ones at Joe’s Pub, and Globalfest at the Copacabana), the result is intensely rhythmic and harmonic singing, ferociously powered by handclaps, two bass tom toms, tambourine and miniature parade cymbal. The sound is folkloric, and rocks remarkably heavy.

Balancing male and female vocal parts, San Salvador (Thibault Chaumeil, Eva Durif, Gabriel Durif, Marion Lherbeil, Laure Nonique-Desvergnes and Sylvestre Nonique-Desvergnes) commands attention nonstop with explosive permutations of singing, chanting and droning of syllables, words and phrases, “delivered with handclaps, drumbeats and full-throated vehemence,” according to New York Times reviewer Jon Pareles, who is right on the mark.

For those in attendance at the group’s APAP shows, the experience was riveting—and unforgettable.

San Salvador in concert



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