Carlos Núñez: «We are making our country well-known through music and wines»

Music and wines are two centuries-old Galician traditions

For the fourth consecutive year, Carlos Núñez will offer a concert at Pazo Baión, evidencing the relationship between music and wines and putting value on the tradition

Music and wines are two deeply rooted traditions and have a centenary history in the Rías Baixas. A joint legacy that is still being written today thanks to events such as the concert to be given by Carlos Núñez, a universal Galician musician, at Pazo Baión for the fourth consecutive summer.

This event, which has already become a tradition, will take place next Friday, July 28th, at 8 p.m. and is part of the Xira Lugares Máxicos of the artist from Vigo.

To warm up the engines, we had the pleasure of talking with Carlos Núñez about the importance of tradition, the constant search for excellence, the value of intergenerational collaboration, and the commitment to the internationalization of music and wines.

-Why is Pazo Baión an extraordinary place?

Pazo Baión is an extraordinary place because of its location, which gives the property a privileged climate in O Salnés and allows the winery to make beautiful wines, and because of its human team, which has a great willingness to join forces and work as a team. I would also like to highlight how Pazo Baión has been able to go hand in hand with culture, to relate music and wines and create a winning formula: place, wine, culture.

The proof is that our traditional Pazo Baión concert has been going on for four years now, and each time it is a more overwhelming success, each year, the tickets are sold out earlier and earlier. In addition, this event is becoming one of the most glamorous concerts of the Xira Lugares Máxicos, and I think it is because of the influence of wine. The combination of music and wine leads us to the field of excellence, to the desire to enjoy an excellent experience. And this is something significant.

I remember an idea that a famous Galician chef once told me: «We have to do like the Japanese; we have to go for excellence». Tradition allows us to develop excellence. The things from here also deserve to be pushed to achieve excellence. I think I share this attitude of life with the people at Pazo Baión, which is giving beautiful results.

Above all, by combining tradition with another element of the potion: international vocation. I have been trying all my life to bring Galician and Celtic music to the world. I learned this vocation from my teachers, The Chieftains, who always told me, “Don’t think only about your little country; think about the world.” Ultimately, this modus operandi, this way of working and living, is a success.

Music and wine, traditions open to the world

-In fact, one of the issues that your art has in common with the wines of the Rías Baixas D.O. is that commitment to internationalization and bringing the essence of Galicia to the whole planet, isn’t it?

Yes, it is a process that takes many years, which is not achieved only with a peak of success. And I think that is something that wine people know perfectly well. It’s a long way to go. Besides, music and wines share a long history of thousands of years. Without going any further, today, there are new theories that point out that the albariño variety already existed in Galicia before the arrival of the Romans. This tradition goes hand in hand with music.

Both oral traditions have been perfected, and these wisdoms have been passed from generation to generation. And today, with the knowledge that exists, you can play and have all kinds of experiences, but, indeed, we are always loyal to the tradition and the legacy that has come to us. That is why we work with all our affection and are aware of the responsibility we have to make sure that what we create is excellent because otherwise, we are destroying all the inherited baggage.

All these concepts that we have been evoking lead us to the idea that Galicia is like a grand opera, in which music and other types of traditions, such as winemaking, are added. If we combine the parts of this collective creation that have been transmitted orally and renew it with quality, we can be international. We are making our country well-known through music and wines.

Wines are ambassadors of Galicia in the world today. In New York, Americans wanted to entertain me by inviting me to drink an Albariño.

Music and wines go perfectly together in Carlos Núñez's concert at Pazo Baión

Marrying legacy and will

-Another parallel between music and wines, and between your art and Pazo Baión, revolves around the concept of heritage. In our property, there is a material heritage, such as the pazo itself and other historic buildings, but also an intangible heritage linked to the cultivation of the vine and the production of albariños. Do you consider fundamental in your work the enhancement of music, a great example of intangible heritage, Galician and Celtic?

Absolutely. This question allows us to observe a differential element. In Pazo Baión, there is a material dimension related to the architectural and historical, and an immaterial one, which is the cultivation of grapes. Or, to put it another way, the material is combined with the oral culture and the transmission of knowledge. Why is this different? The explanation lies in the genesis of the Xira Lugares Máxicos system, of which our traditional concert at Pazo Baión is a part.

We learned this system in California on an extended tour of the United States. One day, we gave a concert in some wineries in the Santa Barbara area, which would be the O Salnés of California and has a long tradition in winemaking. They have brought varieties from many parts of the world, and they are even trying to make Albariño in that area.

I had already seen great American artists playing in natural places and enjoying the sunset. They are back from everything; you are not going to surprise them with technical means. However, they find nature unsurpassable. What captivates them? For example, a sunset in a vineyard. When we performed in those wineries in California, you could see the owners’ will, but there wasn’t much else. There was no history because it was all very recent. They had neither a tradition of hundreds and hundreds of years nor a historical heritage like ours. After all, there are no 17th-century buildings in the United States.

That’s why I thought we had to do this format in Galicia, in a place that combined historical legacy with willingness. And we have found that place because at Pazo Baión, we have the history and the human will to do new things.

-Talking about sunsets among vineyards, during your concert at Pazo Baión, there will be, one more year, the sunset. How do you think this affects the experience of enjoying it?

It is the magic hour par excellence, and it is a luxury to be able to enjoy the sunset in a place with more or less guaranteed good weather. Pazo Baión is indeed in an area close enough to the coast to enjoy the excellent weather, but at the same time, it is not exposed to the fog that can flood the coast and spoil that magical moment. We have verified over the years that this place has a very stable climate. If Santa Bárbara is the O Salnés of California, Pazo Baión is the Santa Bárbara of O Salnés.

Putting technology at the service of excellence

-Returning to what you told us before about tradition, the Pazo Baión winery combines that centenary legacy of winemaking with cutting-edge techniques. And you do something similar in your music. Your latest single, Danza de espadas, is also the result of the combination of tradition and the new sounds of urban music.

Indeed, we always use the latest technologies to achieve that goal of excellence.

When we started, we were at the peak of analog sound; A Irmandade das Estrelas was recorded at Windmill Lane Studios, where artists of the caliber of U2 or Morrison recorded. Great studios to record acoustic music, with all the musicians playing together. They used world-leading technology for acoustic sounds to achieve the excellence we were looking for.

However, in the last few years, digital tools and social networks have appeared, which meant the (almost) death of the traditional record industry because we still sell a lot of records at concerts. Social networks, Spotify, and all the digital gear have led to a quasi-free system. Artists pay to produce their music and then give it away, expecting the cosmos to give it back to them through concerts and festivals.

In such a way, digital leads us to microeconomics and do it yourself-and, therefore, to a terrain in which music is at the service of feeding the monster, as Bad Bunny defined it. What does this mean? You constantly have to release products quickly and cheaply so that the algorithms do not punish you and to get listens on Spotify. In other words, they are making low-cost music.

Faced with this model, we try to use from the first album the best technology at our disposal, but always putting it at the service of our ideals and objectives of excellence.

In Danza de Espadas, for example, we wanted to combine bagpipes and trap in music that has been around for thousands of years, just like grapes. In such a way, we work tradition with electronic music but always want to create quality music. That is why I believe that music creators who pursue excellence and wineries that make wines are moving in the same direction. Both Pazo Baión and other wineries in the sector do not compete in the low-cost world but rather in the search for excellence and international recognition.

Precisely, internationalization is a very curious common denominator between music and wines. We are facing two powerful examples of internationalization efforts and following the path of the Irish miracle. That is to say, to value our traditions and culture.

After all, Ireland is a country where it rains and, therefore, it might not be engaging in tourism. However, they have opted to offer their culture, magic, and tradition to the rest of the world.

Galician music and wines seek to highlight the value of our tradition through excellence.

Claiming maturity and intergenerational experiences

-Another fascinating issue of Danza de Espadas is the intergenerational collaboration, which is also very present in the cultivation of Albariño. In this piece, you worked with Yung Denzo, a 19-year-old producer. Do you think this kind of collaboration is fundamental to transmitting the tradition to future generations?

Indeed, the intergenerational issue is critical. The digital era is betting on the separation between generations (those on Facebook, those on Instagram, those on TikTok, and people who don’t consume digitally). And, music, suddenly, is split, to the point that today there are young people who don’t even know who the Beatles were.

In music and wine, traditionally, the older people, the maturity, have always been in charge. When I started, my idols were The Chieftains or Paco de Lucía, people of the age of my parents or even my grandparents. Masters from whom you learned with humility.

Now, this traditional system has broken down because there is a feeling that young people are in control because they are the ones who are better in the digital world.

On the other hand, the world of wine shows us that a person over 50 still has his whole life ahead of him and has accumulated much knowledge to enjoy, create, and do things for the long haul. Products that make a country that generates a long-lasting brand.

That is why he maintains that the world of wine has a philosophy very much in line with that of the music we make and that we want it to be eternal. We are part of a tradition that has been going on for centuries and centuries. Maturity must be vindicated. Many great artists gave their best in their mature stage, like Pablo Picasso at 80.

I have always liked working with people older than me because they were masters, and I learned from them. Now that I’m 50 years old, I want to collaborate not only with 30-year-olds but also with 18-year-olds like Yung Denzo. We have joined the bagpipes with trap, and I am delighted; it has been an exciting process.

Intergenerational experiences are significant, and traditional music helps to carry them out. All ages are valid and bring you different things; there is no need to separate us by generations. I think this is common to music and wines.

-Finally, focusing on the concert on July 28th, could you tell us about any surprises that people who attend the show will find?

Yes, at this year’s concert, we will perform many songs. We have a new signing, María Sánchez, a classical violinist from Barcelona who is also a singer. With her, we will be able to explore songs we have just recorded and pieces we have been working on for the last few years.

In addition, John Polanski, violinist and dancer of The Chieftains, is coming from North America and will arrive the day before to be at Pazo Baión because he didn’t want to miss the concert. We will also have with us some of the musicians with whom we recorded a few weeks ago in the Saint-Denis Cathedral in Paris the Celtic music of Beethoven for Deutsche Grammophon.

It will be a concert to enjoy, to let yourself go.



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