Festival de Jerez – the festival of your dreams

“The festival of your dreams

is waiting for you in Jerez,

and so I tell you singing,

olé with olé and olé!”

The motto of the Festival de Jerez.

‘El festival de tus sueños, aquí te espera en Jerez, y yo te digo cantando, olé con olé y olé!’

I am Hungarian; I live in London; and still, when the Festival de Jerez starts, I feel a buzz inside, as if I lived on the main street of Jerez!

Whenever the Festival de Jerez (or as a matter of fact, the Bienal of Seville) are on, I have this feeling, and I love it. My social media is on fire: videos, photos, interviews and articles are published non-stop. Without being there, I feel the buzz, the excitement, the nervousness of the flamenco world through the world wide web. During the two weeks of the festival, the city is full of concerts and events, flamenco tourists fill up the courses, the streets, the bars, and artists come from all over Spain to perform and share their newest ideas, creations with the eager public.

The photographer Toni Blanco Soriano captured one of my moments at the festival, when I was desperately trying to follow the steps dreamed by Inma Aguilar for all of us at her dance course. Remember, those good old times, when I still had time and money… and now I also have to add, long hair…ha!

Unforgettable moments I had at the festival in 2013 and as José de la Tomasa very well said at this year’s opening ceremony: if someone likes flamenco, they must visit the festival to feel and live the true flamenco in one of its cradles!

www.festivaldejerez.es

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/FestivalDeJerez

Instagram – @festivaldejerez

Twitter – @festivaldejerez

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Job title – Clapper

(Photo by Ale)
 
Love is so wonderful, because it is not restrictive. You can love as much as you want, as many times as you want, as many creatures as you want. I probably could not count all the flamencos I am constantly in love with… but I clearly remember the first flamenco I fell in love with.
 
First name      Carlos
Surname         Grilo
Job title            Clapper/ Palmero
 
As a good feminist, I will not write about how handsome he is, rather about what he does: he claps. He claps for a living!
 
The basis of flamenco is the rhythm, or compás, as they call it in flamenco. In my previous article Compás and co. I have written about the importance of the compás: “The base, the starting point, the walls, the structure of flamenco.” This can be provided by many instruments: firstly, by percussion, drums or the cajón. Among the famous flamenco drummers you can find El Piraña, or my friend, Javi Ruibal. Secondly, rhythm can be provided by clapping, and believe it or not, there are people in flamenco whose main job is to clap only! Clapping basically plays the role of another instrument, without actually having any instrument, other than your hands! To be fair, most clappers also sing or play the guitar, but their primary job on the concerts is to clap. And how they control the rhythm, the sounds, the claps… I find it absolutely fascinating!
 
Fascinating the rhythm itself, the different base for different flamenco forms called ‘palos’, the different accents within the same base. For example the alegría and the bulería have the same 12 beat pattern, but the accents are different, therefore the accompanying clapping is different. Same goes for the tango and the farruca, which have the 4/4 pattern, but the accents are different, hence the clapping is different. 
 
Now if this isn’t beautiful (or complicated) enough, another layer is added with the so called ‘contratiempo’. The space between the beats, a.k.a. the rhythm half way between the whole beats. The use of these half beats and all the variations they allow to create, makes clapping play such an essential role in flamenco. Adding that flamencos love playing with the rhythm, and especially with contratiempo, and you see how it becomes so diverse and difficult! Just listen to Lole and Manuel’s El Río de mi Sevilla.
 
Sometimes clapping is accompanied by the feet – adding another instrument to the music- to support the rhythm and help emphasise, but also allowing the clapper to play with the rhythm and the contratiempo between his “instruments”.
Clapping is always accompanied by ‘jaleo’. Jaleo are words of encouragement, support and enjoyment, that can be added by anyone listening and enjoying flamenco. These vary greatly from olé, arsa, toma que toma, to the names of the artists, like Lucía, Manuel, or just words like agua. Flamenco is very inclusive and probably any word of encouragement is welcome by the artists, but bear in mind the importance of rhythm and that being out of the rhythm is like profanity in flamenco, and make sure you know when and what to say.
 
In 2013 (when I still had time and money…), I went to the Festival in Jerez to participate on two courses organised during the festival: one dancing, one clapping. Back in the day, if you participated in a course, you got free entry to all of the concerts during the festival, which is the greatest deal I have ever known. Even though I was knackered after the two classes, I tirelessly went to the concerts in the evenings and saw the most flamencos within the shortest period of time.
Not sure if the deal still exists, but in any case, the experience is highly recommended to any flamenco lover. Jerez is buzzing during the two weeks of the festival: filled with flamenco lovers, concerts and events, and the smell of spring in the air. 
I met people from all around the world, who came to Jerez just for the festival: Brazilians, Japanese, Italians, French, Germans, Slovakians, and also Spanish. It was a wonderful experience and excellent learning opportunity. The festival in 2019 is dedicated to women (checkout the beautiful poster) and actually starts this week, on the 22nd of February, if anyone has the time and money…
 
Going back to my clapping class, it started with each of us just clapping one or two, so we can listen to the sound of our clap. Before thinking of the rhythm, the compás, the contratiempo, the variations or anything else, we had to make sure, our clap sounded right. I would have never imagined that this would be the difficult part, but there were many people who really struggled producing the right sound. Our teacher, Jerónimo Utrilla was the most patient teacher ever.
Next, we learned about the ‘palma viva’, the vivid clap, and the ‘palma sorda’, the softer clap, and how you can combine them, play with them within the same song, depending on what the music requires and allows. The softer clap is normally used when then singer sings or the guitar has a solo, so it doesn’t interfere, only accompanies.
The variation between the claps adds another layer of beauty and complication to clapping and to flamenco.
 
Worth to mention, that flamenco should not always be imagined with strong and loud clapping; it really depends on the palo, the artists, the production.
 
Listening to another song from Lole y Manuel La plazuela y el tardon, let’s lose ourselves in the rhythm and the claps, and remember all the wonderful people who dedicate their lives to flamenco clapping, like Jerónimo Utrilla, Los Mellis, and my all time favourite, Carlos Grilo…
 
 
 
 

The circle of life

(Photo by Antonio Ojeda Guerrero a.k.a. Antonio III. of Antonio IV. and Antonio V. in June 2017 in La Jara, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain)

As children we listen to the music our parents listen to; only after a certain age we choose for ourselves. To give you an idea about my musical upbringing, meaning what my parents listened to when I was little, we listened to for instance ABBA, Queen, Elton John from the internationals music palette and to LGT, Koncz Zsuzsa and Zorán from the Hungarian. Despite being a scientist, my father has a sensitive soul and has always enjoyed playing and listening to music, not to mention his talent in singing. Even today he sings in a choir in my home town Szombathely, having concerts on local events on both sides of the Austro-Hungarian border.

He has always been a big fan of Zorán, a Hungarian singer and composer with Serbian origin. Zorán and his brother Dusán have formed an outstanding artistic couple for decades: Dusán writing the lyrics for the songs written and performed by Zorán. I must have listened to thousands of their songs as a child, among them to “Volt egy tánc”. Even though I didn’t quite understand what Zorán sang about until I was older, I have totally been mesmerised by the music.

The music. I was in my twenties, when I first listened to Leonard Cohen’s Take this waltz and god, was it a big shock! I told my friends: “I know this song, this is from Zorán, a Hungarian singer.” They laughed and lightened me up that the original is from Cohen, and “the Hungarian guy must have created his own version.”. Really??? Oh wow, that is possible, of course, but what a discovery after having thought throughout my entire lifetime it was Zorán’s song…

The other shock came when I found out that the lyrics of Cohen’s Take this waltz are from  Federico García Lorca’s “A Poet in New York”. It was part of Cohen’s tribute to Lorca (as Lorca was one of his favourite poets) and the song was released as a single, then also included in his album “I’m your man” later on.

But versions do exist, and recently, I found another one. The ONE, I should say. The flamenco version: “Pequeño vals vienés” What would be the world like without a flamenco version, right? And who else could have done it, than the one and only Enrique Morente. I have recently written about him in another post, explaining and praising his art, talent and curiosity. Always interested in new stuff, always wanting to create something different, but with the foundations of flamenco, that he knows so well and is so good at! So here is his version. This song forms part of his album “Omega” with alternative rock group Lagartija Nick, and it is considered one of the most controversial works of Enrique’s career. It counts with the participation of many flamencos, such as Tomatito, Vicente Amigo or Miguel Ángel Cortés, whereby “flamenco and punk rock are mingled with the recreation of Cohen’s song and lyrics from Federico García Lorca’s book “A Poet in New York”. Surprise, surprise. So basically the singer from Granada brought the song back to where it was originally from, where Lorca was from: Granada! What a genius, Enrique Morente.

In the Spanish documentary “Omega” (link to the full version on Youtube) Leonard Cohen shares, how he loved that Enrique made a version of his song. I wonder if he said the same about Zorán’s version. Did he know about it at all?! I can only hope he did…

This is how the circle closes: Zorán – Leonard Cohen – Enrique Morente. The circle of MY life. Starting with me in Hungary, travelling through the international music scene, getting to Spain and to flamenco, and hence back to me again. Olé!