World Music News Wire #24
An Afrobeatnik by the Riverside: Spain’s Gecko Turner Gets Funky on the Soulful Gone Down South
In Gecko Turner’s world, Bob Dylan smokes up with Motown’s legendary Funk Brothers. Marvin Gaye and D’Angelo jam with Jorge Ben. A Cuban pulse, a lush chorus of Afrobeat horns, and Ray Charles-esque vintage flourishes roll effortlessly into one laidback, soulful smile on Gone Down South, the culmination of years on the road—literally and musically—and a masterful sense of the groove.
“Being born in Spain, it’s funny that I feel American soul music so deeply,” he chuckles. Yet Turner has found many a musical spot where the Deep South of the blues, soul, and r & b meets the sunny sud of his native Southern Spain and the rhythms of the Global South, working with Cuban, Brazilian, and African musicians.
Turner was born by the river—the Guadiana River that runs through Extremadura, the Spanish region on the Portuguese border. “I’m a river boy,” he reflects. “I’ve tried to create my own Mississippi atmosphere, with the river that runs through my songs like it runs through the blues.”
Songs like “Mbira Bira,” inspired by the river and by a bass players friend’s lick on the mbira—which Turner humorously calls “the Hammond organ” of thumb pianos—that Turner deftly transformed into an Afrofunk anthem sweetened by last-minute vocals from a Guinean singer in Madrid. He also keeps his Extramaduran roots in the mix with tracks like “Tea Time,” featuring Extramaduran rapper Isaiah Thomas, whose flow Turner admires, and a Spanish guitar riff.
Turner has carved out a special niche for himself on his home turf, playing in indie darling bands with Brazilian flair, writing songs that have won him fans and hearts, and slowly making a name for himself as a forger of the finest Afro-tinged soul around. He has produced flamenco projects with the late, great flamenco singer, Fernando Terremoto.
But at heart, Turner is a wanderer. He busked his way as a young musician through Europe. He has crisscrossed the U.S., taking cues from Kerouac and crafting songs as he goes.
“Holly Hollywood” was actually born in Austin, from a groove too good to ignore that was left over from a studio session Turner played while in Texas. It found a new life when Turner crossed paths with up-and-coming singer-songwriter and producer Sunny Levine in Los Angeles, and in a few brainstorming moments, turned into one fine song.
The Yoruba-inflected “Cuanta Suerte,” with its hooky, funky chorus, was made in Madrid, by way of Havana. “I recorded with a couple super cool Cuban musicians there,” Turner explains, “the upright bassist and piano player. It was so easy and nice and rewarding to record with such talented cats. They give a whole other quality to the song.”
Cuban piano also laid the foundation for “Gone Down South,” a thoughtful blues that reflects Turner’s own roots and propensities perfectly. “I’m in the deep south, as they call it in the States,” he muses. “I’m not talking about somewhere down in Alabama, say, but the south with all the music styles and cultural richness. That’s where I come from.”