Archive for October, 2010

Amor de Dios

Having returned recently from a visit to Madrid’s famous flamenco academy, Amor de Dios, I am still struck not only by the amazing energy there, but also by the enormous amount of visual traces of the trajectory of flamenco that adorn the walls. There are portraits there of all the greats, plus of numerous aficionados, not to mention of so many of the necessary accompaniments to flamenco. Amor de Dios is a relatively small place, but an enormous amount of innovatory work goes on there in terms of flamenco. Every studio is packed and the teachers are some of the pillars of twentieth century flamenco: La Tati, Cristóbal Reyes and others of that ilk. There was so much to see and take in that I could not decide whether to watch classes or else take a tour of the photographs that cover all the walls:

Either way, I felt that I was always missing out on something, because time spent wandering around meant time lost watching amazing footwork or bodywork going on in the studios. On the day that I was there, they were in ‘dialogue’ with Peruvian culture and a show was going on. Of course, the cajón, as you probably know, is a relatively new, though now standard, feature of flamenco that came from Perú. In conversation with the director, Joaquín San Juan, who is a veritable fount of flamenco history, he stressed the eclectic nature of flamenco, its ability to absorb aspects of other musical styles, to speak across national or linguistic borders and to transgress cultural boundaries. He made it seem as though flamenco were a mode of cultural revolution, or at least dynamic cultural renewal. Maybe that explains the plaque below that greets visitors to the school, mentioning its resistance and perseverance in defence of flamenco. I love it when a bit politics comes to the surface in flamenco! There is no time here for the closed minds, ears and eyes of the purists or mairenistas of old. Instead, there is an open mindedness and an absolute zeal to keep flamenco in focus, whilst also being creative and exploratory. This is something that all of us flamenco-philes should bear in mind and it is so refreshing that a school of the stature of Amor de Dios should foreground such a politics of openness:

October 3, 2010 Posted Under: General   Read More

Flamenco chairs

It was while I was in Spain this summer that I suddenly realized that shows and performances of flamenco abroad always lack one feature that is still prevalent in Andalucía: the age-old silla de enea that is so much a feature of that part of the world. Yes, we do feel that sense of anticipation every time we go to a show here and, just before it starts, we see the chairs arranged for the guitarists, the singers, etc. But these are not quite the real thing. The silla de enea, made of cane and a kind of reed, has eloquent Mediterranean associations — old folk resting in the evening breeze outside their homes after a long day’s work, the scent of thyme and other herbs in the dry, unpolluted air, the timeless feel of rustic Spain. Almost every home in southern Spain will have a silla de enea. More to the point, it seems to me that these chairs are an important, but relatively unnoticed, flamenco accessory.

So I was happy to see these chairs on display at the Corral del Carbón in Granada this summer as an unchanging prop for the performances of the Veranos del Corral, where Marina Heredia, El Farru, Adela Campallo and others performed.

October 3, 2010 Posted Under: General   Read More