Archive for November, 2011

Por el flamenco (2009) — a film by Shem Shemy


One of the distinct benefits that I gain from this blog is receiving news about flamenco and flamencophilia from readers around the globe. So I was delighted to find a stash of emails recently of which I had been oblivious and that had lain unopened for a long while — my sincere apologies to all those who had to wait to receive replies. Amongst these was a message from Shem Shemy, an Israeli filmmaker who has charted his own emotional journey through flamenco. Generously, he sent me a copy of his film Por el flamenco, a title that defies translation into English, for it could mean both ‘Through flamenco’ and ‘For flamenco’s sake’. The truth is that the film fits both titles, because although the filmmaker finds emotional catharsis through flamenco, in fact, flamenco, versatile, unique and bonding, is an equally real protagonist here and so too flamencophilia. There are many of us out there, like Shemy and his friend Yoel, hooked by flamenco, obsessed by it day in and out, night after night, desiring always to catch the palo on its crest and willing to forsake it all to pursue flamenco trails. So this is a film that not only speaks to a global flamenco community, but also represents us.

This is really a film about flamenco as a journey. It is also a conversation that the filmmaker has with his father, who was badly wounded in his youth and whose pain is transmitted over the years to his young son. However, over and beyond the personal or autobiographical elements of this story, this film is rich in glimpses of flamenco as a way of life for so many in southern Spain. Shemy successfully eschews the flamenco of tourist traps and Andalusian stereotypes and he also avoids flamenco as high art or studio rehearsal. Instead, he traces flamenco as a way of life. Set in Granada, the film charts a series of flamenco encounters there and in other parts of southern Spain that culminate in a visit to the home in Jeréz de la Frontera of none other than Dolores Agujetas. If ever deep song could expose the raw, jagged nerve of loss and sorrow, it must be through the haunting voices of the Agujetas family. Back in the day, I did some extended research on flamenco through the figure of her brother Antonio Agujetas, and his rendition of a seguiriya, sung in the chapel of a prison, still rings in my ears. His sister is also a mesmerizing singer, indeed, surely one of the most powerful female singers of deep song alive.

There is an absolutely singular moment in the film, when a waiter in a restaurant somewhere in the south of Spain sings. This is a scene of real flamenco magic. As this man sang, my heart stopped in wonder. Here was someone whose greatness could match the Morentes of this world! How many andaluces, one wonders, go about their daily business, harbouring within them a rich vein of arte?

My thanks to Shem Shemy for sending me his film. I hope that someday there will be a roving international festival of flamenco films that we all get to see. Por el flamenco deserves to be up there with the best.

November 21, 2011 Posted Under: General   Read More

Anoushka Shankar: An evening of Raga-Flamenco music

Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank Center, London

Anoushka Shankar sitar
Sandra Carrasco vocals
Pirashanna Thevarajah Indian percussion
Sanjeev Shankar shehnai
El Piraña flamenco percussion
Melon Jimenez flamenco guitar

Following previous sell out performances in Queen Elizabeth Hall, Anoushka Shankar returns with an evening of Raga-Flamenco music featuring pieces from her first CD on Deutsche Grammophon.

Traveller brings together the passionate and diverse music of Spain and the vibrant, ancient forms of the Indian classical tradition.

The project was inspired by Anoushka’s desire to trace the historic links between Indian and Spanish musical traditions brought to Spain by the Rajasthani gypsies.

Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank , London

5 December 2011, 7:30pm

November 13, 2011 Posted Under: Events, Flamenco Performance   Read More

Flamenco Fix — weekly flamenco radio programme on Reel Rebels Radio

It has been a while since I last updated this blog, but the silence has in fact been flamenco-rich. Apart from several research trips to Spain, replete with flamenco encounters, some just enthralling, about which I shall blog later, I also had the honour this summer of being invited by my friend Alicia to appear on her weekly radio programme, Flamenco Fix. This is a weekly internet radio programme that is hosted by Reel Rebels Radio, broadcast from London every Sunday between 12pm and 2pm local time. Several past programmes can also be accessed via Flamenco Fix‘s webpage by scrolling down.You can find the programme with me here.

The show advertises itself as the UK’s sole flamenco programme. This is undoubtedly so; however, I do wonder whether Flamenco Fix might not actually be THE sole flamenco radio programme in English… I certainly have never come across any other radio show in English devoted solely and entirely to flamenco. Programmes offer a mix of Alicia’s pick of music with those of invited guests. There’s no doubt that having shows accessible online is a wonderful gift to flamencophiles worldwide, as it allows us to listen as and when we can, wherever we are, rather than only at the times when the show is aired.

Doing the show with Alicia was hugely enjoyable. It gave me, of course, the perfect excuse to spend the entire weekend before trawling through my life-long flamenco collection in search of my ‘desert island discs’! There is something quite mesmerizing about two eighteen hour days spent just listening to deep song… Any nerves I felt about doing the show quickly dissipated as soon as I was in the studio under Alicia’s expert guidance. Her relaxed manner and the warm welcome that she gives people in person and on air are part of what makes her voice and the show so attractive. I also learnt a lot from her and the many flamenco stories we touched upon.  To listen to the archive of shows of Flamenco Fix is also to educate oneself in the many permutations, styles and historical moments of flamenco through the decades. Alicia and Flamenco Fix definitely have their finger on the pulse of flamenco, in terms of past, present and future.

I am working on another programme for Flamenco Fix right now. This one is going to be on Spanish poetry set to flamenco… Watch this space in the weeks to come!

November 6, 2011 Posted Under: General   Read More