As the temperature drops, Yukoners have to fight off the urge to either hibernate or escape to warmer climes.
That’s why it’s good that Willie and Lobo, violinist Willie Royal and guitarist Wolfgang “Lobo” Fink, are bringing their high-energy world beat music to the Yukon Arts Centre.
The two master musicians play Gypsy-inspired dance music, mixed with influences from southern rock, salsa and other assorted genres, which promises to get their audience on their feet.
The Gypsy influence comes from Fink, Royal explains over the phone on a hot Florida morning.
“Lobo learned to play when he was in the German navy. He ended up hanging out with Gypsies, playing with them and learning their style of guitar.”
Royal, on the other hand, came to violin in a more formal way, taking lessons in school.
“At that point, I hadn’t improvised much, just plucked around a little. I could only follow sheet music,” he says.
“Then as a teenager and a young man, I started experimenting with the Rolling Stones’ ‘It’s a Beautiful Day’ and I got hooked on improvising. I just wanted to write my own music.”
In the 1980s, their paths crossed at a restaurant in Mexico.
“It was at a place called Mama Mia’s in San Miguel de Allende, up in the mountains. I had a job playing with a salsa band in the bar, and Lobo was playing solo flamenco guitar in the restaurant. I sat in with Lobo one day,” Royal says.
“The first time we played together was special. We were spontaneously playing every note together. We gelled from the first moment we sat in together.”
After a few gigs, they officially became a duo in 1991.
“We played together as Lobo and Willie. When we did our first album, Gypsy Boogaloo, we switched our names around,” Royal says with a little laugh. “Willie and Lobo just sounded better, like ‘Willie and the Wolf.’
“The day of our first gig together was the same day as the first day of bombing of Baghdad, during the first Gulf War. So the birth of Willie and Lobo was an explosive event.”
That explosive energy carries into their show. While they each play a single instrument, the music sounds as if it’s coming from a much larger band. As Fink fingerpicks and strums the guitar, he simultaneously provides percussion, drumming around the sound hole.
“It’s part of the Gypsy style he learned,” Royal says. “Someone once suggested that we were using a Linn drum machine. But we’re not.”
For his part, Royal uses a five-string violin, allowing him to provide bass notes as he’s playing.
“It’s very difficult to make chords on a violin, but I do it,” he explains. “Since the neck of the violin is curved, you generally can’t play all the strings at once, so I use a rocking technique to hit all the strings.
“I had to develop this, because Lobo commanded.” He does a respectful imitation of Fink’s Bavarian accent, “You can do it, you will do it. Then you can back me up.”
This little band with a huge sound is as entertaining to watch as it is to hear. Willie and Lobo’s wild world beat and Gypsy music promises to warm an autumn audience better than an exotic vacation.
The Whitehorse performance takes place Thursday, October 6 at 8 pm.