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

 

 

 

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…
 
 
 
 

Discovering the guitar

The other day I have realised – almost by accident – that the flamenco I have lately listened to, is fully dominated by guitar albums. This is probably an after effect of having just read a book about Paco de Lucía…

Throughout the years, as I have been discovering flamenco and it’s artists, I first found interest in getting to know the dancers (‘bailaores y bailaoras’). Without doubt the visual experience of the dance is the most catchy, especially for new audiences. Then my attention turned to the singers (‘cantaores y cantaoras’), trying to understand the words, recognising the different ‘palos’. Flamenco is the collective name of the art but there are many different forms within. It was an adventurous journey getting to know these forms: starting from the more joyful alegrías, bulerías, tangos, cantiñete, to the more sorrow soleá, malagueña, seguiriya, martinete, toná and so on. There are lots of different categorisations and names of the ‘palos’ (‘cante grande’, ‘cante chico’, ‘canciónes de ida y vuelta’, ‘quejío’ etc.) but I don’t think it is necessary to know these to be able to enjoy the music.

Only after the dancers and singers, I am now exploring the guitar players (‘guitarristas’) and I am discovering excellent artists and albums.

Just to mention a few:

  • The last album of Rafael Riqueni: ‘Parque de María Luisa‘, María Luisa Park ‘es una delicia’ as the Spanish would say. Delightful. The guitar imitating the sound of the birds is astounding.
  • The last album of Vicente Amigo ‘Memoria de los sentidos’ is amazing but the song ‘Requiem‘ dedicated to Paco de Lucía is just breathtaking.
  • ‘Palo Santo’ is the latest album of Dani Casares and the atmosphere of Easter (‘Semana Santa’) is wonderfully transmitted.
  • I really like Manuel Molina , although I wouldn’t categorise him as a guitar player only, he sings and he writes his lyrics, as well. If you listen to his songs, he is a true poet!

I haven’t listened so much to the old maestros Ramón Montoya or Niño Ricardo but more to Diego del Gastor and Sabicas accompanying singers of their time. I recently bought an album of Enrique Morente and Sabicas and it’s also wonderful. And without trying to list all of the guitarists, just a few I like: Pedro Bacán, Moraíto, Diego del Morao, Antonio Rey, Manolo Sanlúcar and Santiago Lara.

The first guitar album I was ever able to appreciate on its own was ‘Sentimientos’, Emotions from Santiago Lara. Santi is married to the dancer Mercedes Ruiz and they create and perform together. I have always been a big fan of Mercedes and her traditional dance from Jerez and through her, I got to know Santi and his music. Very pleasant on a Saturday afternoon while reading on the couch and listening to the raindrops on the window (yes, I live in London).

And even though I haven’t mentioned the other instrument players present in today’s flamenco, I haven’t forgotten about them! Artists like the pianist, Dorantes, drummers like Piraña and Javi Ruibal and the saxophonist Jorge Pardo are also important. Since the revolution initiated by Camarón and Paco de Lucía, flamenco is not restricted to the trio of singer-dancer-guitarist and other, new instruments have greatly added to the beauty of this music.