In Conversation with the Cantaor Javier Macías

I’ve often thought that however many flamenco classes you go to, you seldom learn about the cultural or historical aspects of the music and dance — but then, perhaps that is just the predilection of an academic and not really what most people go to class for. Nevertheless, on the odd occasion when a guitarist tries to teach you something about the more formal aspects of a palo, it is almost always confusing to me and unclear. So it was with great joy that I had a conversation just before Christmas with the singer Javier Macías. I learnt a lot from talking to him, especially as he has grown up with flamenco and clearly knows and has thought about many aspects of this art form.

One matter that really made me think was his interest in jaleo. Most of us do pick up the fact that flamenco is not just about song, guitar and dance and that there is this fourth vital element to flamenco, which is the encouragement given to performers from others both on stage and in the audience. Many of us hold back, not quite sure how to go about expressing our enthusiasm and when exactly to utter ‘olé!’ It is only when you try to enunciate it that you realize that jaleo is a whole art in itself. However, few flamenco texts tell you about jaleo and very little has been studied on it. Yet, it is an intrinsic form of linking up between all those who a participate in one way or another in the flamenco act and it breathes life and meaning into performance. So I thank Javier for bringing this to my attention.

Shortly before Christmas, Javier also performed in a stunning show at the Lost Theatre in Stockwell, London. It was a cold night, but the performances were exceptional. I particularly liked the second half, when the singer, guitarrists and dacners all sat around a table and Javier sang villancicos or the flamenco version of Christmas carols. Rarely do we get to hear those outside of the south of Spain. Here is an excerpt from that night:

January 31, 2011 Post Under General - Read More

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