London Flamenco Summers

7.04am The alarm goes off. Snooze. Snooze. Snooze. I slowly get out of bed, get them out of bed, brush my teeth, brush their teeth, dress up, dress them up, kisses to all and go!

8.02am I’m out the door. Helmet, keys, phone, ready to hit the road. July, London, nice breeze on the bike.

8.30am Coffee and nuts at the office, a nice chat by the coffee machine.

9.00am Numbers, charts, meetings till lunchtime.

12.40pm Lunch from the canteen, healthy and free, what else can you ask for?! A little walk with my colleague Tom outside the office (happens to be Little Venice, lucky me!).

1.20pm More meetings, numbers and charts till 4.29pm.

4.30pm Home time: helmet, keys, phone, ready to hit the road. July, London, nice breeze on the bike.

5.02pm Arrive at home, start the laundry, peel the potatoes, boil the water, put the sausages in the oven. While I get ready in the shower, the sausages and potatoes are ready too.

5.43pm Dash to nursery, but instead of starting the second shift in the playground, home again, baby sitter is coming.

6.15pm Helmet, keys, phone, ready to hit the road. July, London, nice breeze on the bike.

6.32pm Arrive at Shakespeare’s Head for a quick beer with friends before the concert.

7.15pm Head over to Sadler’s Wells, and watch the theatre fill up.

7.30pm Flamenco!

9.18pm The show is over, the night is young. After a chat with friends about the concert: helmet, keys, phone, ready to hit the road. July, London, nice breeze on the bike.

10.25pm Home, dinner, blog, bed. Dreams only arrive after midnight.

7.04am The alarm goes off again, and a new day of the London Flamenco Festival starts…

After more than a decade of Flamenco Festival in London, in 2019 Sadler’s Wells moved the festival from its February-March program to July. Scary? Brave? Miguel Marín, the director of the festival expressed his initial concerns about the new date: summer, holidays, will people come to see flamenco, when it’s nice and warm outside and they could be sitting on a terrace sipping Pimm’s?!

Well, I don’t know the sales figures, but I saw the theatre packed every night. Plus it felt more like shows in Spain:, because it was hot. And after all, it’s easier to relate flamenco to the hot summers I lived in Spain, than the cold Februaries I live in London… so I say, it was a good decision.

It was two weeks of madness due to the number of concerts I went to, but now that it’s over, I miss every moment of it…

 

Paco Peña and friends

As gentrification continues across London, new spaces are created all around the centre. King’s Cross is no exception, the area has undergone major transformation in the past few years. About 10 years ago we went to a friend’s gig behind King’s Cross, and I remember the area as dark and dodgy. Now it is like a different universe. I am not aware of each and every change, because there must have been hundreds or thousands, but I saw how they created Canopy market, Granary square and it’s fun fountains, the renovated building on the square is now home of the famous art’s college Central St. Martins, a lovely walking/cycling space was created by the canal, with a projector showing Moana across the canal and the huge steps last year, providing entertainment for the younger ones (and their parents). In the back of King’s Cross, there is a space called Skip Garden, an amazing local project not only aiming at creating a green area among the new built towers for anyone looking for a calm moment in big city life, but it is literally a portable garden with apple trees, pumpkins and tomatoes, using the debris/material from the construction site next door, and all this with getting local schools and children involved to teach them about nature and its creatures (not to mention the delicious vegetarian/vegan food they offer and the room for small events). I guess you can tell I like the idea…

The area between Granary square and Skip garden is called Coal Drops Yard, it was opened in October 2018. What used to be once two coal drops sheds, it is today a retail space, home of designer shops, rooftops bars and restaurants (Flat white in one of the cafés £6……..), and for two weeks this summer, for the very first time it also gives home to a new (and free!) event series called Cubitt Sessions. The name comes from Lewis Cubitt, architect of King’s Cross, who also designed the building of Central St. Martins, which once used to store wheat for London’s bakers. Interesting facts that may help understand the transformation this area has undergone not only recently, but in 150 year scale too!

The long introduction leads to my one and only topic, of course:

FLAMENCO.

On 27 July, as part of the Cubitt Sessions, we could enjoy the music of Paco Peña and his friends. Stage, sun loungers, Vermuteria nearby, free flamenco… it sounded like the perfect Saturday afternoon program, so I convinced my friends and family to go.

Paco Peña is a Spanish guitarist and composer from Córdoba, living in London since the late 1960’s. Today, at the age of 77, he is regarded as one of the world’s foremost traditional flamenco players.

I was happy to listen to him playing, even though I could only stay for the first half of the concert. I loved the fandango, and happily concluded that it’s not only “happy” flamenco they played with alegrías and bulerías. Unfortunately, the names of the accompanying artists were not shared, so I can only say I liked the singer. The dances were nice, but the Flamenco Festival is still too vivid in my memory, so better not compare anyone with those artists.

I love the idea of bringing flamenco to a wider public, especially for free (hence I am writing a blog, hello!), so it was great to hear the sound of the flamenco guitar and the flamenco heels in this brand new space of London!

Big applause to the organisers for thinking of flamenco!

Rosalía…again!

The joke says that in Spain these days all conversations lead to Rosalía…….

Irony of life it may seem that all my flamenco concerts during the London Flamenco Festival have led to the concert of Rosalía in Somerset House, which ended up being the final concert in my two-week-madness of concert day after day. First, Flamenco Festival, then Love Supreme Jazz Festival, then Flamenco Festival again, and at last, but not least, Rosalía!

Now I’m back to the playground after work, (should) have time to write, and will probably need time to digest everything I’ve seen and heard on those concerts. It was intense and fantastic.

As I said, the marathon of concerts finished with Rosalía, on a Monday evening in Somerset House. The home of the Courtauld Gallery, many exhibitions and concerts, talks and workshops, and film screenings in the summer.

There has been and probably still is a lot of controversy about Rosalía in the flamenco world. Traditional flamencos protesting about her music, youngsters loving it, some call it flamenco, others vehemently refuse calling it anything that has to do with flamenco.

I am still on the opinion that her first album, Los Angeles (Angels) was a beautiful interpretation of old flamenco songs. Her second album El Mal Querer (Bad love) used flamenco elements, rhythm, beats, movements, claps, and created something new, something fresh in the world of fusion. She used flamenco, but clearly not made a flamenco album. Has anyone ever had any doubts about it?! Shouldn’t have. The new songs like Con Altura (“with swagger”, but also hint at “being high”) or Dios nos libre del dinero (God save us from money) are even further away from flamenco. The new direction is definitely not mine. Not only musically – this mix of trap/reggaeton/flamenco is not my cup of tea – but also the new dance style, the way she dresses, the nails she wears are far from what I like. But all in all, I loved her album Los Angeles, especially her song Catalina, and enjoy listening to El Mal Querer, so we decided to go to her concert.

As it was a night out without kids, first we went for dinner and decided not to go to the concert before Rosalía. I love the concerts in the UK, because they are so well organised there is no need to queue up for hours to get into a concert. Arrived at Somerset House half an hour before start time (9pm), and with the excellent queuing system in place at the bar, we even got the G&Ts in record time (didn’t take me longer than 5 minutes!). We stayed in the back, but in the middle, so had a great view on the stage. The place was packed, but not uncomfortably, there was enough space to dance. And what’s even better, it started on time. The concert was announced at 9pm, and Rosalía was on stage at 9.02pm Greenwich Mean Time.

Managing expectations well: not thinking you are going to a flamenco concert, the concert could be greatly be enjoyed! She sang most of the songs from El Mal Querer, like Malamente, Pienso en tu mira, Di mi nombre etc.; a few of the new songs, like Con altura and Dios nos libre del dinero; and of course, Catalina.

The order of songs was well planned, with Rosalía speaking to the audience in between songs about the songs themselves and also a bit about herself, having walked the streets of London, when she still had plenty of time, and was dreaming about becoming a singer, singing here one day. Mission completed. Her English was really good, but I guess that’s no surprise from an international superstar she has become, having performed in Coachella, having sung with J Balvin…

The music you either like or not, but we also have to talk about the visual experience. I have not been to neither Lady Gaga nor Kylie Minogue or Madonna concerts, so I cannot judge, how new this is, but it is top quality. Not only has she a great team of dancers and cool choreography, but the design of the background images with the different shapes and colours create another experience on top of the musical experience. The production company Canada from Barcelona have already worked with Rosalía on the video clips of Malamente and Pienso tu Mira, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they had designed the background lights for the concert too. It certainly looks like their style. Fun, simple, entertaining, and definitely adding to the experience.

All in all it was a great “night out”. Finished by 10.30pm, so not literally a night, but still, thanks Rosalía, it was fun!

Gala Flamenca – Mercedes Ruiz, Eduardo Guerrero, María Moreno

Spectacular.

The best word to describe the 2019 Gala Flamenca of the London Flamenco Festival.

Spectacular!

Funny I’ve never liked Galas, yet, I always go see them. Why? I’ll explain.

I have never liked the Gala, because it felt it was aimed at a public less familiar with flamenco, so it had to be rather entertaining flamenco, easy to enjoy, with the focus on dance, to introduce flamenco, not to immerse in it, more like a show than a concert. Accordingly, the public tends to be different: phones ring, messages beep, people come and go during the performance, the level of respect is different. Not to mention, the challenge of having so many artists together in one concert. Never easy, ending with all sorts of results… At the same time, being able to see various artists at once, is very attractive. So I have always gone and hoped for a song, a dance, an individual performance to make it worthwhile, because the acts of all participants together, have never really convinced me. Maybe because I have never seen a good Gala. Until now!

The Gala Flamenca with Mercedes Ruiz, Edu Guerrero, María Moreno and María Terremoto, with the artistic direction of Manuel Liñán was a blast!

My connection to Andalusia is through El Puerto de Santa María, which means that the flamenco close to my heart is from this area: Cádiz, Jerez, El Puerto… and this year, most artists were from these places!

Mercedes Ruiz has been around for a while, and has always been among the dancers I liked. Representing Jerez, dancing a seguriya with impressive skills on the castanets. Great choice of the flamenco palo, and nice dancing.

I was happy to see Eduardo Guerrero live for the first time. Edu is from Cádiz and has danced a caña with unbelievable footwork, which is still not my favourite part of flamenco dance, but it was a joy to watch his long arms, long legs, long hair.

My surprise was María Moreno (also from Cádiz) who I have not seen before either. She won the Revelation Artist Giraldillo Award on the Sevilla Bienal last year, so I already knew about her, but didn’t expect this at all. Epic alegrías! My conclusion: sometimes less movement is so much more. There is no need to overcomplicate the steps or footwork, silence and small movements can transmit so much emotion! I loved seeing her dance so beautifully with bata de cola (the long tail of the flamenco skirt) and the mantón (the big flamenco shawl). I don’t remember when was the last time I saw anyone dance with either bata de cola or mantón. It was refreshing and beautiful!

The dance of Edu and María, both dressed in red was one of the prettiest parts of the show!

I have already written a post about her, so I was thrilled to listen to the live singing of María Terremoto from Jerez. So young, and still, such power in her voice, such mature singing and so much emotion. I have listened so much flamenco singing, but she seems so different, truly exceptional I personally think. I am a big fan!

The singing of Ismael El Bola was also a great surprise, really enjoyed his voice and participation. Just like the guitar of Santiago Lara, always a pleasure to have his guitar!

I have only realised after this show that I didn’t really know what artistic direction was. Having seen this Gala with the artistic direction of Manuel Liñán, I can say that artistic direction is so powerful! Also happy to confirm that I am still and even more of a devoted fan of Manuel. He is not only an excellent dancer (and his “Irreversible” may be the greatest flamenco shows I have ever seen), but his contribution to this show has created a fascinating visual experience of these marvellous artists.

Congratulations all. I think I have just had the luck to see the best Flamenco Gala ever!

Dorantes, Ries, Ezra, Ruibal, Carmona – Flamenco meets Jazz

There is always an odd one out.  In your class, at work, in yoga, at the playground, or at the festival. Flamenco Festival London. It should all be about flamenco, but then there is the odd one out.

Flamenco? Not quite. Musically it’s rather jazz, with some flamenco bits here and there. Structurally? It’s similar to jazz with the solos of each musician. The musicians? Some jazz, some flamenco. The instruments? Piano, percussion, double bass, saxophone, dance.

What is this then?

This is when Flamenco meets jazz, the concert of David Peña Dorantes, Tim Ries, Adam Ben Ezra, Javi Ruibal and Jesús Carmona on the 2019 Flamenco Festival London on the 10th of July.

Utterly brilliant – my favourite English expression.

The concert was special to start with because these 4 musicians have not performed much together in the past, this may have been their 3rd or 4th concert together. They don’t practise together every other day at their homes, they reunited again for this concert. An American, an Israeli, and three Spanish. I always repeat the cliche “music has no borders”. Music has a language that reaches beyond borders, and instruments communicate to each other in a way, that I sometimes find difficult to understand, as someone who doesn’t play any instruments. I found instrumental music difficult to enjoy some years ago, but having lived with a lover of jazz for over 12 years, I very much enjoy it now.

The themes were mostly jazz, but also including some of Dorantes’ themes like Orobroy and the Caravana de los Zingali from his album Sur (South), which I happen to have and have listened to it so so many times. When I heard the first beats of the song, my tears started running.

The piano of Dorantes is always a pleasure to listen to, whatever he plays jazz or flamenco. There are some geniuses around in the world, and Dorantes may be one of the music ones.

Tim Ries has played the saxophone with the Rolling Stones for years, and is currently working on a series for HBO about gypsy music from the East of Hungary, being released in September. Do I need to add anything else?

Adam Ben Ezra has solo shows with his double bass, because as we could experience it on the concert, he is able to entertain an entire theatre by himself. His double bass, hands, feet and attitude is more than simple entertaining.

Javi Ruibal has been playing percussion, drum, cajón with Dorantes for many years, besides his concerts with his band Glazz and his father Javier Ruibal, and he has released his first solo album this year, Solo un mundo (Only one world). You notice right away how well Javi and Dorantes understand each other and how their instruments speak to each other. It’s just amazing.

And then there was the dancer, who has recently risen to super star category in flamenco, Jesús Carmona. He is not strictly a flamenco dancer, he has danced in the Spanish National Ballet Company for years, and also in dance companies of famous flamenco dancers, like Carmen Cortes or Antonio Canales. He danced 3 songs, but the choreographies seemed to suit so perfectly the rhythm and the mood, it totally captured me.

I also liked that Tim and Adam both involved the audience in their solos: Tim by making us sing and Adam by making us clap. Were we any good? I am not sure, but it felt like a great way to connect with the performing artists, and actually form part of their performance.

Jazz and flamenco met that night in Sadler’s Wells. Title well chosen. And even if you don’t know much of either, it was a good concert to go to, because there was good music. played. What else we want?

 

 

Change…

… is good.

I truly and honestly believe it is. Sometimes it is difficult to live through the changes though.

You move house, and although the new place is bigger and brighter, you still cannot find your place in it.

Your best ever colleague/friend accepts another job, being an excellent opportunity and the best decision professionally, but it suddenly becomes clear that you won’t be working together again for a while.

Tomorrow is the last day of a colleague of mine in the office. At work we are surrounded by numbers, but in reality, he is a jazz musician. Even though we have never been close friends, we have talked so much about music, it created a connection between us beyond numbers and charts.

Change, change, change.

None of them necessarily bad changes, some of them even good ones! But the mood is affected, and it takes time to digest and accept.

I heard this song this morning again and it just described my present mood perfectly.

Please do click on the link, most people never click on the links, when this blog is supposed to be about music. Music that needs to be listened to.

Listen to this song.

Before going to bed, waiting in a bus stop, or just closing your eyes for a few minutes.

To stop and think of change. Change is good. Let’s embrace it.

Paco Del Pozo: Oblivion

(Paco del Pozo is a flamenco singer from Madrid singing here “the quick years, memories starting to hurt like a blow, i don’t want to see time.”

“los años veloces, los recuerdos empiezan a doler como golpes, no quiero ver el tiempo…”)

 

Jerez. He- what?

During intensive periods of life, there is no time (or simply willingness) to spend on extras, like for example writing your blog. So first, you start publishing the posts that you have written earlier, trying to prepare for these periods. When the pre-written posts are all published, you try to change tone and instead of the informative posts, you publish short posts aimed at the emotions. Then it’s publishing time again, and there is nothing written, nothing planned, no new ideas, intensity of life is still at all time highs, but you are too busy even to stress about the blog, and when friends start to mention the lack of posts, you start thinking again how to reinvent yourself. The continuous thinking makes you realise that the blog has celebrated its one-year-birthday in the meantime, but you were too busy to remember, or as a matter of fact, to celebrate….For God’s sake, it’s been one year I started writing a blog! And it’s about flamenco!

Round of applause, please.

Although I’m neither famous nor reached a million followers, and didn’t even get free tickets to a flamenco festival, my love for flamenco is unchanged, I still love writing the blog, my friends like it, I got people listen to more flamenco and I have had readers from countries like Madagascar and Australia! Total success.

So I decided to go back to my roots in blog writing. The roots I had (a year ago! ha!) when I started writing the blog. Simply writing about the flamenco I know about, without wanting to inform and educate beyond my knowledge. Informal and interesting, fresh and exciting.

A marketing expert would probably not agree with my choice of adjectives – I still need courses on “the use of words in blog writing to increase number of readers”, but at least it’s authentic, and at the moment, that’s all I can offer. Authenticity. (A tope)

So I wrote about this town in the province of Cádiz: Jerez (pronounces in Spanish as He-res). Jerez de la Frontera to be precise. When you start listening to flamenco, and hear artists introduce themselves, besides their name, they always say where they come from. For many, this is is their proof of authenticity. So I started hearing Jerez more and more.

La Paquera, José Mercé, Moraíto, the Terremotos, Capullo de Jerez, Mercedes Ruíz, Santiago Lara, David & Alfredo Lagos, David Carpio, just to mention a few; they all come from Jerez.

Jerez is a town where flamenco overflows in every corner of the town, and probably every second person could go and perform on stage, they have it so deep inside of them, their heart beats to the rhythm of bulerías. I am lucky to know a “jerezano” (a person from Jerez). The uncle of A, Cuqui. Engineer by profession, flamenco at heart. He has never made a living of flamenco, but it’s very much part of his day-to-day life. On every family gathering or fiesta, he would be clapping the rhythm, “jaleando”, encouraging people to dance and enjoy themselves, sometimes he would even sing! Jerez is full of people like Cuqui. Flamenco lovers, artists at heart, but not on a professional level.

Jerez is also known as one of the towns of the triangle of flamenco, together with Seville and Cádiz. It means that these towns are considered as the cradle of flamenco, as flamenco has been present here for 2-3 centuries, and much of today’s flamenco is originated from here.

Jerez has two famous flamenco neighbourhoods: San Miguel and Santiago. Artists from Jerez specify where they are from, adding additional information about themselves and their styles to the experts knowing the difference!

Jerez has not one, but two flamenco festivals of its own. The festival of Jerez is organised annually around February-March time, with shows and courses known internationally. My article about the festival can be read here. The Fiesta de la Bulería is organised in August, with the direction of the dancer María del Mar Moreno this year. It will be hot in Jerez in August, but those hot summer nights tend to be the most magical ones!

But Jerez is not only famous in the flamenco world! When you talk about Jerez, you must talk about sherry and horses! The town is home to the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art, who are dedicated to the preservation of the equestrian arts, if you ever want to see some dancing horses! Once you are there, don’t miss visiting one of the famous sherry maker bodegas. In the UK, sherry is known as granny’s drink, but there are actually many different types of sherry, many of them not sweet at all, not granny’s drink at all! My favourite is the fino, which is the driest and has the lightest colour of all. Nothing like a very cold fino on a hot summer evening in my father in law, Antonio’s garden in El Puerto… There is a nice blog from Karen on WordPress about “The home of sherry” as some call Jerez.

So just remember, for horses, sherry, and flamenco: Jerez, the place to be.