BY RODNEY MARGISON
Hurdy-gurdy players are rare in the United States, but considering Bloomington’s musical milieu, it’s not too surprising that one of them, Tomás Lozano, resides here.
A native of Spain, Lozano’s love for the hurdy-gurdy began in his youth. “When I was a teenager, I went to a festival in Barcelona and there was a group that played folk music,” he says. “One of those guys, he had a hurdy-gurdy … and I was so fascinated by it. I loved the sound.”
That sound, and the manner in which it is achieved, is what makes the hurdy-gurdy unique. With one hand the performer turns a crank, spinning a wheel against several strings. At the same time, different tones are achieved by the other hand pressing keyboard tangents (small wooden posts attached to keys) against the strings to change their pitch. Simultaneously, a number of drone strings hum along at constant pitches, much like a bagpipe.
Lozano, 49, came to the United States in 1993, part of a band that was touring on a grant from the Spanish government. The group’s final performance was in New Mexico, and he decided to stay. He and his wife, Rima Montoya, moved to Bloomington to help a friend whose husband had died. “Things just worked out by serendipity for us to move here and help her with the transition for a while,” he says. That was six years ago.
Lozano currently performs with four groups — Daily Bread and Butter, a trio that includes an accordionist and bagpiper performing traditional European music; Celtica, a Brown County–based Celtic band; Salaam, performing Middle-Eastern music; and Shakespeare’s Ear, with music from Elizabethan England.
Lozano also composes music for the hurdy-gurdy, plays guitar, lectures, helps lead the nation’s only ongoing hurdy-gurdy workshop — held each summer in Brown County — and has a one-man educational program called “A Journey Through Time with a Hurdy-Gurdy.” “It’s an informal performance,” he explains. “A little bit interactive and fun, and it’s a great way for people to know what the heck is a hurdy-gurdy.”
In 2017, two of the bands in which Lozano plays are releasing CDs: Celtica around St. Patrick’s Day, and Daily Bread and Butter around June 1, with several local performances planned to promote their launches.
For more information, visit tomaslozano.com.