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

 

 

 

Women in flamenco

Women, feminism, gender equality: trending topics of 2018.

What about women in flamenco? Well, it is most certainly an intriguing story!

Traditionally, flamenco was rather masculine. There are female artists who were popular and became famous in the first half of the twentieth century, like Carmen Amaya and La Niña de los Peines, but the majority of flamencos – especially singers and guitarists – were men. In the countryside, particularly in villages, the flamenco scene was almost entirely male dominated. In every village, there were one or two family-friendly establishments where women could go with their husbands, and of course in any private home they were welcome, but in the bars visited by men – where flamenco was mostly played – in hours after dark, in an environment with drinks, smoke etc. a respectable woman did not want to be seen. Not the best environment for a woman, anyway, they used to say. The women living in these villages were the first ones to call any woman visiting these bars: a whore… Female presence in these bars was just as uncomfortable for men as for women. Donn Pohren experienced this himself when he arrived to Morón de la Frontera at the beginning of the 60’s, and started going out with the flamencos as part of his flamenco research. His book “A way of life” talks about this and much more, while he lived among the flamencos in the 50-60’s Andalusia.

The story of La Chana – a Catalan gipsy dancer from Barcelona – has recently become  widely known outside of the flamenco world. This is also due to the documentary of the Croatian director, Lucija Stojevic, which won an audience award on Amsterdam’s International Documentary Festival. When Antonia was a young dancer, full of potential and a bright future ahead of her, her husband did not like her being on stage, and forced her into early retirement; only to come back to stage now, in her late sixties. She can only dance sitting down, but she has a footwork that any young dancer would envy, and so much emotion in her performance what makes people cry. I feel lucky to have seen her during the Flamenco Festival in London in February this year. She was helped on stage by two other dancers, sat down in a chair, and the rhythm of her ‘zapateado’, the footwork and the intensity of emotions, left the entire theatre speechless. It was quite moving. One can only hope that we now live in an era where men don’t take decisions about the lives of women anymore, and these stories won’t repeat.

There is still a long way for gender equality to become reality (if possible at all!), but things are changing and the flamenco world is no exception. It welcomes more and more female artists in singing, dancing and also in the guitar! I was happy to hear a few months ago that there is already one known female guitar player (from El Puerto de Santa María): Antonia Jiménez. This doesn’t mean there are no others, but up until recently, I have never heard of any!

As Holly Branson very well said on an international women’s day talk in March 2018 in London: “only sperm donors and surrogate mothers are gender restricted jobs, nothing else should be”. So let women become train drivers, IT specialists and flamenco guitarists, if they want to be. And vice-versa, let men become midwives and nurses, if they want to be. Freedom of choice. For all!

There is a radio program on the national radio in Spain, run by José María Velázquez-Gaztelu, a gentleman with incredible knowledge on flamenco (‘flamencólogo’), writer and poet from Cádiz. It’s called ‘Nuestro Flamenco’, Our Flamenco and it is on RNE Clásico every Monday and Wednesday at midnight CET). They now have a series dedicated to the women in the flamenco world, presenting artists of old times but also contemporary ones. It is called ‘La mujer cantaora’, the singer women. Highly recommended! Podcasts available online.

My women in flamenco are:

Cristobalina Suárez

Fernanda de Utrera

Inés Bacán

Pastora Galván

Mercedes Ruiz

Marina Heredia

La Lupi

María Terremoto

Lucía Ruibal