Archive for August, 2010

El Ibérico: Interview on Flamenco Rhythms

The folks at El Ibérico, London’s free Spanish newspaper interviewed me recently on my Flamenco Rhythms research project and book. This is a fortnightly paper on things Spanish in the city, as well as on events, debates, news, etc. that is of interest to London’s Spanish and Latin American communities. They cover a lot, so it was quite an honour — not to mention, a real pleasure — to be interviewed by their journalist Eloy Sánchez Bernebéu. He professed at the start to knowing very little about flamenco, but soon I saw in the course of our conversation that he has a natural flair for doing palmas. Anyway, he has promised to come along to the next London peña, so there is hope that he will soon join the ranks of us flamenco-philes. The interview can be read on page 20 of El Ibérico.

And here, for your delectation, is a lovely little image:

August 26, 2010 Posted Under: General   Read More

The Amazing Talent of Ana Mochón

Ana Mochón was born into a flamenco family in Granada and says she grew up falling asleep on her mother’s lap in the famous Peña de la Platería in the Albaicín that her parents attend. The fact that she has been raised on flamenco does not account, however, for her amazing talent. For a while now, she has been well known in and around her native Granada. Last year, she stood out in the Festival del Cante de las Minas, infallible yardstick of talent that this festival always is, for her control over a range of palos. And this year, although she did not quite make it to receiving the coveted Lámpara de las minas, nevertheless, she has probably attracted even more attention than the winner Miguel Ortega. What is most striking about Ana is her composure. She is focused and steady in her singing, totally given over to cante.There is little doubt that next year she stands a very good chance of winning the Lámpara. It is, after all, no mean feat to reach the semi finals of this competition, known to be judged by the most discerning purists among flamencos and flamencologists — especially if you are, as she is, only fifteen years old!

Ana did not get the Lámpara this year, but she did win three other prizes. In a sense, winning the big prize would only have been a technicality in the incredibly rich and promising trajectory of such a strong, young singer. Hard to believe that she is, as yet, only a schoolgirl!

August 17, 2010 Posted Under: General   Read More

Poema del Cante Jondo

Most lovers of Spain and Spanish culture will know Federico García Lorca’s Poema del Cante Jondo, or Poem of Deep Song. Lorca wrote this when he was only twenty three and it was his first major work. He drew on some of the basic palos of deep song — the seguiriya, the saeta, the soleá, the petenera –to create poetry that reflected the colours, the landscape, the despair and the passions of his native Andalucía. Most importantly, his poetry revealed the many submerged cultural strains that come together in this part of the world and defy the politics of uniformity imposed so rigidly by the Catholic Church since the time of the Reconquest: the Moorish, the Jewish, the folk, the gitano… And it was this attention to heterogeneity and to the force of forbidden passion that would ultimately trigger Lorca’s untimely death in the hands of the Nationalists.

So the current show at the Teatro del Alhambra in Granada, the Poema del Cante Jondo en el Café de Chinitas, comes as the closing of a circle, as it attempts to translate Lorca’s work back into flamenco. Performed by the Ballet Flamenco de Andalucía, it is a mega-show, full of swirling colours, intense scenarios and striking contrasts. I suppose that is in keeping with the dramatic force of Lorca’s poetry, which is certainly not the easiest to translate into another language, leave alone into another medium or genre. Cristina Hoyos directs the choreography and makes several appearances on stage. Her amazing hands — famously immortalized in Saura’s trilogy — still move like doves in the air.

Does it work? Much of it does. Maybe not all. Despite the links, it is hugely ambitious to attempt to render Lorca’s work into flamenco, for what he did was to distil poetry from popular culture and performance. But certainly, there are moments of duende in this show and I would go again if I could, if only to listen once again to Vicente Gelo’s unforgettable saeta rise up against the Andalusian night sky.

For those who can read Spanish, here is Lorca’s Baladilla de los tres ríos that the show opens with:

Federico García Lorca
POEMA DEL CANTE JONDO

BALADILLA DE LOS TRES RIOS
A Salvador Quintero.

El río Guadalquivir
va entre naranjos y olivos.
Los dos ríos de Granada
bajan de la nieve al trigo.

¡Ay, amor
que se fue y no vino!

El río Guadalquivir
tiene las barbas granates.
Los dos ríos de Granada,
uno llanto y otro sangre.

¡Ay, amor
que se fue por el aire!

Para los barcos de vela
Sevilla tiene un camino;
por el agua de Granada
sólo reman los suspiros.

August 12, 2010 Posted Under: General   Read More

Vicente Gelo: A Shining Star

I’ve spent the last two weeks on a flamenco trail in southern Spain and am so thoroughly overwhelmed by what I’ve seen and heard. Why is it that flamenco is always so much more powerful in Andalucía than anywhere else on earth?

The force of cante delivered by Vicente Gelo is still in the air… This is one truly unforgettable singer, no doubt the very BEST flamenco singer that I have ever heard live in my life. Why is he not better known? Gelo is currently performing every night at the the theatre in the gardens of the Generalife (Alhambra) as part of the company of Ballet Flamenco de Andalucía’s rendition of Lorca’s Poema del Cante Jondo (more on this shortly!), directed by Cristina Hoyos. His delivery of a saeta as part this show is nothing short of haunting. We have here a HUGELY talented singer, and by this I mean that  his cante is strong, but also nuanced, modulated and sensitive, to the extent that he promises to join the ranks of the lions of cante, Camarón and Morente. I am aware as I say this that I am trespassing on hallowed ground, but I really do think that Gelo is a singer with a glorious talent and hopefully a wonderful future ahead.

Sadly for us virtual flamencophiles, I see he has yet to bring out a CD and has a limited web presence. The short video above does nothing to frame his talent — this is either a poor video or else his cante has developed tremendously since when this was made. Right now, Gelo is also working with the Orquesta Chekara from Tetuan, in northern Morocco, on Andalusi music, that harks back to Medieval Spain. My hope is that he will also begin to occupy centre stage as a singer in his own right, and not solely in accompaniment.

A wonderful singer with a wonderful manner on stage… Vicente Gelo is a shining star on my flamenco horizon.

August 2, 2010 Posted Under: General   Read More