16th of November – International Day of Flamenco

Today, Andalusia remembers and celebrates Flamenco.

I would like commemorate this day with my favourite photo of me ever dancing flamenco. Not in a beautiful dress or a long skirt, with a flower in my hair, or a fan in my hand on a flamenco show… but on a casual Sunday morning, after breakfast, A. and I enjoying the sunshine on the rooftop of our Notting Hill flat, with me practising my steps.

Happy Flamenco Day to everyone!

Viva el flamenco!

Andalusia Flamenco

Is it a Hungarian tradition? A Catholic tradition? Or perhaps a Hungarian Catholic tradition? I am not entirely sure about the origin, but we most certainly go to the cemetery frequently, and bring flowers to our lost beloved ones. I grew up with this tradition and I find it a nice way of remembering our people. I also find comfort and piece in the process itself: going to the cemetery, buying flowers, refilling the vase with water, taking a walk under the big trees providing shadow on a sunny summer afternoon, while thinking of the person, whose tomb I am visiting. My memories are mostly from the cemetery in my hometown Szombathely, but in the past few years, I combined this tradition with my flamenco interest, and whenever we are in Spain visiting my in-laws, we take trips visiting Andalusian towns and it’s cemeteries. We walk around the town, looking for memories of the artists, have a coffee at the main square and visit the cemetery. I like getting to know the atmosphere of these little towns and villages, imagine the flamencos sitting at the same square, walking the same streets. It’s not only sightseeing but paying a visit/tribute to the flamenco artists, either alive or already passed away.

This is how I first went to San Fernando in Cádiz, to see the resting place of José Monje Cruz, or better known around the world as Camarón de la Isla (San Fernando is also known as ‘La Isla’, The Island). Camarón’s tomb is a piece of art. There is a massive statue above the grave, remembering Camarón at its best, singing. It felt special being there, in a small cemetery of a small town, somewhere in south Spain, and stand beside the memory of a flamenco legend, known all over the world for his voice and his revolution in flamenco. Cliché but true: music knows no borders. Felipe Benítez Reyes, the poet and this year’s ‘pregón’ of the Bienal of Flamenco, put this much nicer in his opening speech of the Bienal: “music makes us universal by allowing us to fly through space and time”.

Besides the cemetery, we also visited the Venta de Vargas, which is the restaurant outside San Fernando, where Camarón started singing as a boy. The place has not only kept its original function as a restaurant, but also serves as a museum of Camarón; full of his memories, fotos, cards and flamenco in the air. I recently heard that the Venta also participates in a festival organised in San Fernando, called ‘La Isla, Ciudad Flamenca’ (“The Island, City of Flamenco”). The festival celebrated its fifth edition this year, starting at the end of July with flamenco concerts throughout the whole month of August; the Venta de Vargas being one of the locations.

Throughout the years, we have visited many places in Andalusia: Cádiz, Jerez de la Frontera, Chipiona, Utrera, Lebrija, Algeciras, Granada. Nothing compares to a coffee on the streets of Utrera, a vermut in la Plazuela in Jerez, or a ‘pescaito frito’ (fried fish) in Cádiz.

Next stop: Morón de la Frontera!

The finishing thought is a quote from the singer, David Lagos. I came across this quote on the photo blog of Rubén Camacho, whose day job is lighting technician in theatres and festivals, and he has a photo blog. The post on David starts with this thought that connects here brilliantly:

“In singing, the cemetery is a must visit, but never a place to live.”