Change…

… is good.

I truly and honestly believe it is. Sometimes it is difficult to live through the changes though.

You move house, and although the new place is bigger and brighter, you still cannot find your place in it.

Your best ever colleague/friend accepts another job, being an excellent opportunity and the best decision professionally, but it suddenly becomes clear that you won’t be working together again for a while.

Tomorrow is the last day of a colleague of mine in the office. At work we are surrounded by numbers, but in reality, he is a jazz musician. Even though we have never been close friends, we have talked so much about music, it created a connection between us beyond numbers and charts.

Change, change, change.

None of them necessarily bad changes, some of them even good ones! But the mood is affected, and it takes time to digest and accept.

I heard this song this morning again and it just described my present mood perfectly.

Please do click on the link, most people never click on the links, when this blog is supposed to be about music. Music that needs to be listened to.

Listen to this song.

Before going to bed, waiting in a bus stop, or just closing your eyes for a few minutes.

To stop and think of change. Change is good. Let’s embrace it.

Paco Del Pozo: Oblivion

(Paco del Pozo is a flamenco singer from Madrid singing here “the quick years, memories starting to hurt like a blow, i don’t want to see time.”

“los años veloces, los recuerdos empiezan a doler como golpes, no quiero ver el tiempo…”)

 

Jerez. He- what?

During intensive periods of life, there is no time (or simply willingness) to spend on extras, like for example writing your blog. So first, you start publishing the posts that you have written earlier, trying to prepare for these periods. When the pre-written posts are all published, you try to change tone and instead of the informative posts, you publish short posts aimed at the emotions. Then it’s publishing time again, and there is nothing written, nothing planned, no new ideas, intensity of life is still at all time highs, but you are too busy even to stress about the blog, and when friends start to mention the lack of posts, you start thinking again how to reinvent yourself. The continuous thinking makes you realise that the blog has celebrated its one-year-birthday in the meantime, but you were too busy to remember, or as a matter of fact, to celebrate….For God’s sake, it’s been one year I started writing a blog! And it’s about flamenco!

Round of applause, please.

Although I’m neither famous nor reached a million followers, and didn’t even get free tickets to a flamenco festival, my love for flamenco is unchanged, I still love writing the blog, my friends like it, I got people listen to more flamenco and I have had readers from countries like Madagascar and Australia! Total success.

So I decided to go back to my roots in blog writing. The roots I had (a year ago! ha!) when I started writing the blog. Simply writing about the flamenco I know about, without wanting to inform and educate beyond my knowledge. Informal and interesting, fresh and exciting.

A marketing expert would probably not agree with my choice of adjectives – I still need courses on “the use of words in blog writing to increase number of readers”, but at least it’s authentic, and at the moment, that’s all I can offer. Authenticity. (A tope)

So I wrote about this town in the province of Cádiz: Jerez (pronounces in Spanish as He-res). Jerez de la Frontera to be precise. When you start listening to flamenco, and hear artists introduce themselves, besides their name, they always say where they come from. For many, this is is their proof of authenticity. So I started hearing Jerez more and more.

La Paquera, José Mercé, Moraíto, the Terremotos, Capullo de Jerez, Mercedes Ruíz, Santiago Lara, David & Alfredo Lagos, David Carpio, just to mention a few; they all come from Jerez.

Jerez is a town where flamenco overflows in every corner of the town, and probably every second person could go and perform on stage, they have it so deep inside of them, their heart beats to the rhythm of bulerías. I am lucky to know a “jerezano” (a person from Jerez). The uncle of A, Cuqui. Engineer by profession, flamenco at heart. He has never made a living of flamenco, but it’s very much part of his day-to-day life. On every family gathering or fiesta, he would be clapping the rhythm, “jaleando”, encouraging people to dance and enjoy themselves, sometimes he would even sing! Jerez is full of people like Cuqui. Flamenco lovers, artists at heart, but not on a professional level.

Jerez is also known as one of the towns of the triangle of flamenco, together with Seville and Cádiz. It means that these towns are considered as the cradle of flamenco, as flamenco has been present here for 2-3 centuries, and much of today’s flamenco is originated from here.

Jerez has two famous flamenco neighbourhoods: San Miguel and Santiago. Artists from Jerez specify where they are from, adding additional information about themselves and their styles to the experts knowing the difference!

Jerez has not one, but two flamenco festivals of its own. The festival of Jerez is organised annually around February-March time, with shows and courses known internationally. My article about the festival can be read here. The Fiesta de la Bulería is organised in August, with the direction of the dancer María del Mar Moreno this year. It will be hot in Jerez in August, but those hot summer nights tend to be the most magical ones!

But Jerez is not only famous in the flamenco world! When you talk about Jerez, you must talk about sherry and horses! The town is home to the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art, who are dedicated to the preservation of the equestrian arts, if you ever want to see some dancing horses! Once you are there, don’t miss visiting one of the famous sherry maker bodegas. In the UK, sherry is known as granny’s drink, but there are actually many different types of sherry, many of them not sweet at all, not granny’s drink at all! My favourite is the fino, which is the driest and has the lightest colour of all. Nothing like a very cold fino on a hot summer evening in my father in law, Antonio’s garden in El Puerto… There is a nice blog from Karen on WordPress about “The home of sherry” as some call Jerez.

So just remember, for horses, sherry, and flamenco: Jerez, the place to be.

Listen

I am a person of words. I like reading, I like writing, I like conversing and exchanging opinions with words.

But words are not necessarily always the best or the only option. As I’m growing older, I agree with this more and more.

Sometimes we just have to listen.

Click here, close your eyes and let the music take you on a journey.

Emotions & Flamenco

(Photo by aNTO)

A day after my 29th birthday I quit my job in the City of London, after months of hesitating, thinking, considering: am I giving up? Have I tried hard enough? Should I be trying harder? Is it worth trying more? Is this the job I want at all? Am I throwing away a well paid job in a moment when people are struggling to find work? What should I do? What is the right decision? Hundreds of similar, personal and professional questions in my head day after day, month after month. Again and again and again.

It was a difficult time (difficult, in the first world sense, of course). During these months I found relief in music. In flamenco, mostly, but not exclusively. I listened a lot to this song. The good and the bad, sang by Duquende (‘Lo bueno y lo malo’, originally from Ray Heredia). I could feel every music note in the song as my own heart beat. My dilemma was exactly the same. What’s good and what’s bad? Personally, I knew I had to leave. Professionally, the decision was not that straight-forward. Career changing decisions are never easy to make, but they always pay off. (Orsi, you will see!) Eventually, I did quit, and looking back, it was the best decision of my life.

How much did the music help? God only knows… But I know it made me cry, and through the tears, each day I got closer to the decision I so feared, but changed my life forever.

Funnily, before our friend Paco moved back to Madrid to start his new life with his beautiful wife Maria, we had a long conversation about how he also found emotional connection to flamenco through one particular song. Despite the fact that none of us grew up surrounded by flamenco, or even had any childhood memory with flamenco, a Hungarian and a Catalan were able to identify themselves with the emotions transmitted by flamenco, and be moved by them.  This is the magic of flamenco reaching people with different backgrounds!

Flamenco is not as strange as it may seem at first. I remember when I moved to Madrid and A. first put on some flamenco in our tiny flat in Lavapiés. Odd, surprising, were my first impressions. Fair enough; I have never heard anything similar before. With time though, I hopelessly fell in love with flamenco: first with the more joyful songs, where the rhythm is catchy, easy to enjoy and follow, like tangos and bulerías, then with the more sorrow tientos, soleá and so on. At first, it’s probably easier to identify with the happy emotions in a new art form, like for example Camarón’s I am gipsy (Yo soy gitano). Just like, my friend Mac did, who started listening to flamenco after reading about it here!

But as one gets familiar with the flamenco sounds, one will discover the beauty of songs like Vicente Amigo:’s Réquiem , even though it is totally different. Different mood and clearly different aim. Without knowing it is written for Paco de Lucía, or without understanding the words, the emotions are there. A beautiful and moving farewell, and also a great example of how flamenco is capable of transmitting emotions beyond borders and cultures.

I could spend the night listing examples of beautiful and moving flamenco songs to prove how anyone can find emotional connection to music previously not known to them, but it is getting late, and my nights are still not about sleeping 8 hours straight in my bed. So let me finish with my all time favourite:  the eternal Fernanda de Utrera and her “Se nos rompió el amor“. There was a time in my life, when I had it on repeat, and listened to it a hundred times at least: when love is gone, it’s gone. Many of us know the feeling and can relate to it. Listen to the song sang by Fernanda and you will never forget it…

“The rock star of flamenco” visits London

I have seen him dance two or three times, and my first thought has always been: what is this? What is this guy doing? Madness. Art. Magic. A bit of each probably, but with flamenco present in each and every step and movement. He breathes flamenco through every tiny piece of his body, and it’s so intense, it’s inspiring.

Throughout his career, he has constantly been taking flamenco dancing to another level not only within flamenco, but also in the international dance scene. He has been working with the most traditional flamenco singers and guitarists, combining that side of the traditional flamenco with his innovations and inventions, carrying the flamenco roots deep within.

if you are in for a shock and amusement at the end of April in London, go and see the master of flamenco basics and innovation. The combination that won’t leave you indifferent.

Israel Galván

Sadler’s Wells

27/28 April 2019

Teaser videos and a short article is available on the Sadler’s Wells blog here.

 

The Terremotos – legend or tragedy?

(Photo by Diario de Cádiz on 26.02.2019)

Hearing the name Terremoto, I instantly think of two things: the legendary flamenco dynasty from Jerez de la Frontera, and the tragically short life of their first two generations…

We all know the singer María Terremoto, who represents the Terremoto family today, but she is only the third generation of the famous clan.

The first Terremoto to become famous was Fernando Fernández Monje, also known as Terremoto de Jerez. Born in 1934 in the famous Santiago district of Jerez, he first danced flamenco, only later started singing, to become one of the most important flamenco singers of his time. Some called him the successor of Antonio Mairena, and the most important singer Jerez has ever had after Manuel Torre, with his distinctive broken gypsy voice, that carried the duende and the wisdom of his ancestors. He is best known for his bulerías and seguirillas, the styles known as specifically gypsy styles. Having spent the night of the 5th of September 1981 in Ronda singing, he got home to Jerez around six in the morning, complaining about feeling unwell. By 9 am he has died. He was 47. Heart failure, his doctor said, surprisingly not connected to his long standing liver condition, which put his life at risk so many times in the past.

The art of flamenco as known today, is very different from the flamenco lifestyle that many flamencos lived throughout the twentieth century. Late nights fuelled with alcohol and other substances of the night, that shortened the life of so many…

His son, Fernando Fernández Pantoja, known as Fernando Terremoto followed his footsteps, but only some time after his father’s death. To be precise, he was 22, when he first sang in the peña Don Antonio Chacón in Jerez in 1989, accompanied by the guitar of Moraíto Chico. His flamenco debut was actually as a guitarist some time earlier, but the day he started singing, there was no going back from there… The heritage of his father could not be ignored or denied, and during his short life his career flourished: he sang in peñas, on festivals, collaborated with artists like Israel Galván, and won many awards of the flamenco world. The magnitude of his voice is described as sculptural and one of nature’s wonders. Shame that in 2010, at the age of 40, caused by a brain tumor, he passed away, leaving behind his wife and 9 year-old-daughter, María.

María Fernández Benítez, daughter of Fernando Terremoto, grand-daughter of Terremoto de Jerez. A millennial from Jerez.

Her first ever flamenco appearance was on a zambomba in Jerez, at the age of one! That night she debuted as a flamenco dancer. The night she debuted as a singer, remains unforgettable in the history of Jerez. She was only 9 years old, she went with her father to the peña that bears their family’s name, and sang for the first time in front of the wider audience. Bulerías, of course. This was the moment, when Fernando Terremoto – unknowingly – passed the artistic torch to his daughter, as it proved to be his final farewell to the stage. Today, she is still only 19, but in the decade since she lost her father, she has earned herself a place among today’s flamencos.

María started performing more regularly in Jerez at the age of 14, and gradually, she began to perform more often and outside Jerez too, representing the deep roots of flamenco (cante jondo). Her break came during the prestigious Festival de Jerez in 2016, when she left an entire theatre speechless after her performance; followed by such press acclaim, that no one of the age of 16 has ever received before. By the time she performed on the Bienal of Seville in September 2016, her name was well known. It only added to her reputation, when she received the Giraldillo for the artist of revelation from the Bienal of Seville, as the youngest ever recipient of this award. Positive reviews flooded in from everywhere, and this recognition placed her to the forefront of the flamenco scene. She has been named the future promise of flamenco singing and “the standard bearer of young singers”. Her first album, “La huella de mi sentío” debuted on the last Bienal of Seville, in September 2018. It is dedicated to Jerez and her family, and their singing style, adding her own personality.

I thought a lot about how such historic past – her father and grandfather being so famous singers – can affect her professionally, and personally! Has she felt pressured to follow their footsteps? Is it a weight on her to be good and not bring shame to the Terremoto name? Or is she simply proud of belonging to them?

It must be a bit of everything. On a recent interview in the Nuestro Flamenco radio program, María talked about how her surname helped at certain points in her career, but it also created expectations around her, which were not always easy to manage. 

All I know, that I hope she will be able to break the curse, and live a long and healthy life, singing for us for many more decades. After all, she has only just started!

 

PS. My friend, Álvaro Mayoral from Talavera de la Reina, has always been such a huge fan of the Terremotos, that he and his friends made a documentary about the starter of the dynasty, Terremoto de Jerez. The documentary is in its final postproduction stage, and we will hopefully get to see it this year! I am hoping for a London première too, Álvaro!

London? July? Flamenco Festival!

After almost 20 years of the London Flamenco Festival organised in February, this year, for the very first time, the festival will be in July! Miguel Marín, the director, organiser and inventor of the festival has recently been to the radio program Nuestro Flamenco (Our Flamenco), and talked about the past, present and future of the festival.

In 2019, the Flamenco Festival celebrates its XIX. edition, and Miguel shared with the audience how the goals of the festival have changed and evolved throughout its almost 20-year-history, constantly adjusting to the changing musical taste and music world. It started with the initial idea of supporting the “inventors” in flamenco, like Israel Galván, and continued with aims like making the Carnegie Hall a permanent space for flamenco performances. Then they wanted to bring flamenco to the more underground theatres, trying to reach a new and different public; always having in the back of their minds to provide opportunity for the flamenco musicians to meet other musicians from around the world.

In 2018, 45,000 people attended the concerts of the festival, which says a lot about the dimensions the festival has grown into during these two decades. Miguel admitted that he has never dreamed of this, when he first started… He said it’s the merit of flamenco to bring all these people to the festival: “flamenco is able to move, touch and attract the public to the theatres, because even though many say that “flamenco sells itself”,  tickets are sold one by one every single time, depending on the country, the theatre and the public”. The presenter of the radio program, José María Velázquez Gaztelu pointed out, that it’s also the merit of Miguel and everyone in his team, who make the festival happen year after year, and I absolutely agree with that.

The festival has constantly grown and evolved, and I think they have now gotten to the next level in terms of size, program and reach. This year, besides the original Flamenco Festival shows, they have expanded the program in the United States (not in London, unfortunately) and brought the Flamenco Eñe Festival to the US. In the past, the idea has always been that abroad dance sells best, and the festivals outside of Spain have been dominated by dance shows. In 2019, from the Eñe festival’s 9 productions 8 will be musicians (not dancers). The festival’s inspiration is the sounds of flamenco: what does flamenco sound like? Artists like Israel Fernández and María Terremoto give an insight into traditional flamenco sounds. I could not agree more with Miguel that Israel and María, both representing the younger generation and traditional flamenco, are the perfect proof that traditional flamenco has a bright future ahead. Among the other artists, you’ll find Miguel Ángel Cortés guitarist, Chano Dominguez pianist, Antonio Rey guitarist, Sergio de Lope with his flamenco flute, and Diego Guerrero with his project of fusion with Cuban music. 24 different shows in New York, Miami and Chicago throughout the month of March.

Us, Londoners will have to wait till July for the original Flamenco Festival to arrive. Exciting change in the timing, no change in location though, as always the dance theatre, Sadlers Wells will host the festival.

The program is spectacular, already available on the Sadlers Wells website, together with the tickets. I already have mine, of course, and highly recommend to everyone to come and see the shows.

Program below.  See you in July in Sadlers Wells!

2-7 July     Ballet Flamenco do Sara Baras: Sombras

8 July        Miguel Poveda: Recital de cante

9 July        Rocio Molina: Fallen from heaven

10 July      Dorantes, Tim Ries, Adam Ben Ezra, Javi Ruibal with guest artist Jesús Carmona: Flamenco meets jazz 

Note: our friend, Javi Ruibal  has just released his first album “Solo un mundo” and it’s available on www.losuyo.es

11 July      Olga Pericet

12-13 July Gala Flamenca: Mercedes Ruíz, Eduardo Guerrero, María Moreno

14 July       Patricia Guerrero: Catedral

Lilian Baylis studio: 6 July  Shubbak festival – Amir ELSaffar Ensemble: Luminiscencia