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 Anto 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

 

 

 

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…