News Column

Santa Fe brothers mix global instruments with southwestern sound

July 26, 2013

YellowBrix

July 26--IF YOU GO

What: World music and alternative folk band, Round Mountain

When: 7:30 p.m. today

Where: Crash Music at the Historic Aztec Theater, 104 N. Main Ave. in Aztec

Cost: ickets are $12. Kids 12 and under are free.

More info: Tickets are available at crashmusicaztec.com or by phone at 505-427-6748. For more information on Round Mountain, go to roundmountainmusic.com/music.

AZTEC -- For years, two musical brothers from Santa Fe have traveled around the world, picking up friends and fans, instruments and sounds.

Tonight, they will share the spoils at Crash Music at the Historic Aztec Theater.

Brothers Char and Robby Rothschild perform together as Round Mountain, named after a pine-topped peak at the southern end of the Rocky Mountains where the brothers spent a lot of time hiking and camping as kids.

Now with families of their own, the brothers infuse their unique sound with a duffel bag full of musical flavors, rich in storytelling and style.

After years of travel and training, they play a multitude of instruments together.

At 40, elder brother Char Rothschild has achieved most people's bucket list, having traveled from Egypt to Ireland in 1996 and to Tokyo in 1997, playing for the Old Moscow Circus. Live, he sings and plays guitar, dobro and Bulgarian and highland bagpipes and has made a magic act of playing the trumpet and accordion simultaneously. He has studied trumpet with Paul Yutaka Tobe of the Japan Philharmonic and Zahir Ramadanov of Ansambl Teodosievski.

Robby Rothschild, 36, earned a master's degree in music composition from the University of New Mexico and has travelled to Africa and throughout Europe, performing with Guinean griot Prince Diabate, Zimbabwean political activist and musician Thomas Mapfumo and German-born guitarist Ottmar Liebert.

He primarily plays instruments he can either tap, slap or strum, including the cajon, a six-sided, box-shaped drum from Peru, and two West African instruments, the kora and djembe.

On "Coffee," a song off the group's new album, "The Goat," you might catch the sound of Robby Rothschild "playing" an espresso machine's steam wand.

The brothers have shared the stage with or opened for the Malian kora player Toumani Diabate, banjo phenomenon Bela Fleck, folk-rockers The Mammals and traditional Irish music innovator Andy Irvine.

The Rothschild brothers blend multiple instruments and musical genres into an eclectic and mesmeric brew.

"We have done some travelling, and now we're on the road a lot touring to support the new album," said Robby Rothschild. "The stuff that we've done, the places we've been and the people we've been fortunate to meet and share music with just informs our musical ideas, keeps them growing, learning."

Difficult to pin down and impossible to neatly classify, the band defies either the folk or world music categories.

"It's funny because it was never a conscious choice to be a fusion band," said Robby Rothschild. "We just try to follow the sense of authentic -- as in the word, author -- to do what comes from the heart, including the cultural traditions that we've studied. We play what has just sort of ended up organically with how we sound."

Part of that sound is a wide swath of musical flavors, including Irish, West African, Appalachian, Afro Beat, Zimbabwean, Turkish, Roma and Balkan. The brothers' four albums and live performances are a hearty, earthy, bouncy melange of sounds.

"The Rothschilds are familiar faces here and very talented," said Dorothy Massey, co-owner of the Collected Works Bookstore and Coffeehouse in Santa Fe, where the band performed, and, for a time, where Robby worked as a barista. "Incredible players of many instruments. They're wildly popular. I would love to get them back."

Just back from a two-month, coast-to-coast tour of the country, the band made new connections with their growing fan base and fellow performers, including equally hard to classify New York-based Jean Rohe, a genre-blending Brazilian, folk and jazz singer.

"One of my favorite things about life is that you can play music and communicate and meet amazing people," said Robby Rothschild. "The human part just extends from it, it keeps you inspired, dreaming and humbled."

James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621 and jfenton@daily-times.com. Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.

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