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…

Music is not free

Digital age has dawned upon us much earlier than I would have ever imagined. I still remember asking for a Walkman for Christmas, changing carefully the CDs in my CD player, or buying an iPod on a trip to the States. Listening to music anywhere and anytime, is nothing new though. The magic of radio has long been invented, even though on the radio we can only listen to the programs and music offered by the radio channels. Our choices are limited in a way. One can argue though that listening to our choice of music was also possible before Internet was around. We had the walkmans, CD players, but it was always music you either paid for, bought the vinyl, cassette or CD (or copied from a friend…). It needed some physical action to get the music you wanted.

Times have changed. With the evolution of technology and with the invention of internet, we are now able to listen to the music we want, anywhere, anytime, with the click of a button. Perhaps even without paying or having done anything extraordinary. Providers like YouTube offer infinite amount of music and videos available for anyone with internet connection. Quality and origin can be disputed, but it’s there. ITunes offer a big variety of music from all over the world for a relatively cheap price. And with Spotify, music in good quality has been brought to our doorsteps. Yes, it is still limited in a way, but now with Beatles on Spotify, I would say the limit is closer to the sky. And all that, practically for free. With advertising in between songs, it is literally free. Without advertising, and for making music available on your phone, there is a small charge. About 10-15 pounds a month. Is that a realistic price to have a music library of tens of thousands of artists and their numerous albums, radio channels by genre, music lists by theme and occasion?! By subscribing and paying this rather symbolic monthly subscription fee, music is available on any device, without advertising to anyone who has access to internet. Excellent! Music we like, music we want, when we want it, basically for free.

But what about the artists? Do they get paid? Do they get anything for allowing millions to access their creation? Do they get paid for all their hard work? Or publicity and accessibility compensates them?

I am not intending to answer these questions in their entirety. There may not even be one correct answer, responses may differ for each and every artist. Artists at the start of their career, may be happy for getting their name out there via Spotify or getting just a small pay from iTunes; being well paid may not be their number one priority. Once they are better known, their CDs will sell better and more people will go to their concerts. Artists with an established career, will not need such publicity anymore, their priority may simply shift to get paid. It all depends.

What I know for sure is that when you buy a CDs or go to a concert, bigger portion of your money goes to the artists. So I keep buying CDs and go to concerts. Recently, we have bought a HiFi, so we could listen to our CDs at home, because with the evolution of technology, listening to a CD is also becoming a challenge! We still have a big collection of CDs, including lots of flamenco and loads of jazz… A’s jazz.

Last year on a trip to Madrid, we went to a giant book-music-video store called Fnac, and we bought a number of CDs for our home collection. Photo above. Not strictly all my choice, but a good variety of flamenco artists, all rather traditional, and mostly from earlier days, only a couple contemporary artists and albums.

Just to put the names out there too (from left to right, up and down):

Isabelita de Jerez

Enrique Morente & Sabicas

Lole y Manuel

Paco de Lucía

David Carpio

Ray Heredia

Antonio Flores

Recent news in the UK is the music and film retailer HMV going into administration. For the second time in 6 years (!), but this time around, it seems to be final. This is the result of multiple changes over the past 10 years in our consumer behaviour: buying less music in general, buying less in stores and more online, buying more digital music, and so on. But the trend is there: we spend less on music and this results in businesses going bust, people losing their jobs, artists earning less.

So I encourage everybody to always pay for the music they listen to and keep going to concerts! Let’s support the artists in every possible way, so they can continue creating, and we can enjoy their music!