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Folk Society Blends Bluegrass With Some Latin Romance

Briana Duggan

For over 30 years, the Charlotte Folk Society has given free monthly concerts to share the region’s traditional music. At this Friday's concert, North Carolina’s bluegrass meets a Latin import, bolero. And this music – was made for romance.

A bolero song  is the most direct way to win over a woman.

At least according to Jesus Morales, the guitarist in the Charlotte-based bolero trio, Grupo Los Morales. The style blends the classical guitar, with percussion and the requinto, a small high pitched guitar, to create the romantic Latin sound. Songs are often written to women: a crush, a girlfriend, or a lost love. Bolero was born in Cuba, but is popular across Latin America, especially in Mexico, where Jesus Morales and his son Alberto, are from.

“When he was a young guy, long ago, he used to sing these songs to my mom, on the balcony, and he was outside singing for her and this was the way they made their love stronger,” Alberto says. “And many, many people do the same with the same songs, so this is very strong in the Latin culture.”

Locals often hire Grupo Los Morales to perform these serenades, or serenatas, in Charlotte. They do them as they did in Mexico stand outside, and sing to a woman at her window. But it can sometimes be a bit of a culture clash.

“It was like eleven o’clock in the night and we started playing on the balcony. And this lady lives on the second floor of apartments. And we start playing there and someone calls the police.” Alberto says, laughing. “We were expecting the woman to open the window and say thank you or something, but the police was behind us like, what are you doing guys?”

This Friday Grupo Los Morales will perform, inside this time, in a cross-over concert with Glen Alexander’s bluegrass trio. They met for the first time last week to practice and swap notes. And within minutes, they’re playing – Alexander’s high fiddle improvising over bolero’s smooth sound.

Bluegrass meets Bolero will take place on Friday evening, April 12, at the Great Aunt Stella Center. The concert is free, doors open at 7 and the concert begins at 7:30.

This story is produced through the Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance, a consortium of local media dedicated to covering the arts.