Chilean singer-songwriter, accordionist, and pianist Pascuala Ilabaca offers endlessly unpredictable sonic pleasures. On six albums and one EP, she builds upon a foundation of Andean folkloric music while incorporating sounds inspired by her time and studies in Spain, India, Guatemala, and Mexico. At this Martyrs’ show, she’ll be accompanied by her longtime band, the saxophone- and clarinet-driven four-piece Fauna, which also features her drummer husband, Jaime Frez. Fauna flawlessly follow Ilabaca’s lead as the tunes move among hand-drum pulses, raga-tinted melodies, and accordion riffs in the lilting rhythms of cueca, Chile’s national dance. In “Te Traigo Flores,” clarinet replaces Andean flutes in a structure reminiscent of a traditional tune, which gives it a jazz manouche swing. The recent single “Pa Mi” adds the percussiveness of Barcelona’s rumba nueva into the mix, then segues into light rap paired with cumbia. Ilabaca ties these disparate elements together and smoothly propels them with her bright, crystalline vocals. True to the nueva canción of her homeland, many of her lyrics also have an activist bent: “El Baile del Kkoyaruna” tells the story of a First Nations worker who has to leave his land to work as a miner (“kkoyaruna”in Quechua, the indigenous language of the chorus). “Por Qué Se Fue la Paloma” lays out a huayno, a traditional festive Andean rhythm, while Ilabaca sings of a dove’s choice to fly away from confinement to freedom. The strength of Ilabaca’s musicianship and the inventiveness of her compositions enable her to pull off her unusual melange of musical elements—but in concert, what will ultimately stick with you is her hopeful, uplifting tone and vibrant spirit.
Pascuala Ilabaca y Fauna Sat 6/25, 9:30 PM, Martyrs’, 3855 N. Lincoln, $25, 21+