Arts and culture

Arts And Culture On Lanzarote

When Miguel responded to my request to consider a couple of arts based articles for inclusion on the Lanzarote Information web site and in the weekly newsletter, I don’t suppose either of us thought that a year later we might kick off 2019 with a full review of the previous year’s arts calendar. It seems remarkable even to me that we have reported on more than a hundred artists after visiting almost fifty events, including around twenty different venues in 2018.

What we have seen, though, has been a diverse range of art forms invariably delivered to an extremely high standard. From promenade theatre to the more traditional stage theatre style, to visual arts, to dance, to live music including folk lore, choral singing and contemporary rock, we have seen special events and met some fascinating people. The forty live football matches I watched at US Yaiza and at UD Lanzarote also added to a colourful year.

We really hope that these reviews might have encouraged some of you to attend a few events you might have previously avoided, because if so, we are sure you will have found them as unforgettable as we have done
Plenty of these events have been seen in our local town of Playa Blanca but to bring these reports Dee and I have also travelled to Yaiza, Las Breñas, Puerto Del Carmen, Playa Honda, Tias, Teguise, Arrecife, Haria, Le Geria, Tinajo and Tahiche.

Jazz music was well represented on our 2018 cultural calendar, by Keke Perdomo Jazz Quartet in the Castille de San Jose in Arrecife, an intriguing and atmospheric setting, whilst Orquesta De Jazz Del Atlantico played on the sea front in Playa Honda on an evening that also gave us a marvellous sunset.

However, much of the music we heard throughout the year included songs of Canarian folk lore and reflected Lanzarote´s love of stringed instruments such as The Timple. Musicians in The Yul Ballesteros quintet and in the two duos of Alexis Lemes and Javier Infante and Benito Cabrero and Besay, proved to be expert players.

Further evidence of the island’s love of this acoustic sound was to be found in two events at the Bibliotec in Arrecife where we heard a Caureto Le Guitaras and a Concierto Timplefonicas which were free to the public, and also a Concierto Trumpeteres, in a showcase spot, sponsored by the Cabildo, for music degree graduates from the island’s academy. In fact, for a variety of reasons, local government funding provided us with several other free concerts, too, throughout the year.

We also heard the fuller sound of the Orchestra Classical Lanzarote, which contrasted almost symmetrically with a performance in Tinajo, where a strong line-up of Jovenas Cantadores celebrated their ´ten glorious years´ as a professional popular music outfit. Another musical diversion that proved the benefit of taking the road less travelled, led us to a version of Purcell’s King Arthur that was light and witty and utterly mesmerising.

At a time when a drama series called Black Earth Rising was showing on BBC 1, about the Rwandan genocides of twenty and more years ago, we heard a miramba and cello duo called Soco present a live version of their self-composed album, Mantra. Both in the studio recording and on Lanzarote in this live rendition, the music, for me, somehow echoed, almost certainly unwittingly, the cries of every landscape on which such atrocities have been perpetrated.

Soco was not the only duo to combine complementary musical skills to deliver innovative work, as we also saw Pablo and Humberto combine cello and piano into beautiful soothing music, and also at times stray into the Tom Waits sort of music I have loved for decades now, with the pianist at times literally reaching into the belly of his instrument to create a unique atmosphere.

Similarly, the Alondro Duo were a male and female vocal and instrumental couple with the lady’s operatic voice taking us out into a less familiar musical field, that prepared us for my first real ´night at the opera, when we heard ensemble and solo performances by a dozen or so singers delivering well known operatic arias.

Seeing Bosco Diaz in concert with his three fellow musicians, we heard another example of the unexpected cross disciplinary combinations we found so often throughout the year. Playing a selection of contemporary jazz-fusion sounds that Bosco had composed, his quartet was also joined on stage by a local choir and in the intimate setting of a small church produced heavenly music. This concert had been advertised, and was titled, as an Acoustic Dream. That’s a high claim to make, but the performance absolutely endorsed the show being so named.

Christmas Voices delivered an ambitious and complex festive programme, and although we have enjoyed their concerts in previous years, too, we were incredibly impressed by them. This reminded us, also, of some of the other excellent choirs we had seen represented earlier in the year, delivering astonishing music at the Coro Polifonica San Gines event in Arrecife.

We have friends who sing with Coro de Yaiza, and we enjoyed several performances by them throughout the year as they performed in churches and at formal occasions, led by their calm and collected female musical conductor. What a contrast we noticed between her serenity and the exuberance of the conductor of the wonderful Lanzarote Gospel Choir, which we were fortunate enough to see three or four times last year. We left each of their concerts on an emotional high, even if physically drained by being put through our musical paces, despite being merely audience members, by a man who is patently very proud of his choir, who clearly adore him.

Amazingly, after hearing so much incredible music in 2018, the year finished on its highest note. At a Cantautores Que Acompanon, Teguise, a dozen young-ish singers and musicians raised money for a palliative care charity and all of us who paid ten euros for our entrance ticket, thus donating that amount to the charity, were blown away by a string of dynamic solo and ensemble performances. The playing of acoustic stringed instruments was nimble and quick, and created great backing for songs and lyrics of a contemporary feel. Among these excellent musicians was Maru Cabrera who before leaving the Tourist Department to pursue her musical career was often a great help to Lanzarote Information. She has built up an impressive body of work on You Tube and was certainly a strong and confident vocalist and guitarist here on the night. I look forward to following what I am sure will be a very successful journey in the world of musical arts and entertainments.

Of course, we can’t look back at the Lanzarote arts scene of 2018 without mentioning Dolly Parton ! Rancho Texas has become the ´Dollywood´ of the island by hiring a Dolly Parton tribute singer who takes a solo spot during their Wild West nights and brings a lot of the sassiness and sauce and sublime singing of the real Dolly to the stage. The lady paying the tribute not only looks the part, but also acts the part, showing an empathy with, and an understanding of, the roots of Dolly’s music

However, we not only heard music delivered in concert style performances but also saw an excellent stage production of the musical Evita. It was interesting to hear the show’s famous songs being delivered in Spanish and everything else about this production was interesting too, from its new look at the Peron era and clever choreography, to contrasted colourful and drab costume, to its simple but ubiquitous set.

Evita offered a fascinating contrast with the promenade street theatre that was delivered when a production of Romeo and Juliet strolled through the dark-night streets of Teguise. Four or five hundred people, many of whom could have been enjoying their first introduction to Shakespeare, followed the actors around a town that, like the play, was celebrating hundreds of years of history. It was a powerful reminder of how modern-day community arts such as this can be both educational and unifying.

The arts are so often included over here to lend support to cultural events, and we certainly saw some special days on the calendar in 2018. We celebrated Dia Canarias this year by travelling up to Haria to visit the craft market there, and similarly enjoyed the annual Feria de Artesania at Mancha Blanca. At both these events stall holders and artisans allowed visitors to look at their goods and were invariably delighted to talk about their work even across any divisions of language, and the same was true at the Food fair in Teguise.

It was Teguise that gave us another unique event with its Noche Blanca. To see this six hundred year old town bustling with thousands of visitors, all dressed in white, as per the requested dress code, strolling beneath specially installed white street lighting and calling in at white-drenched bars and restaurants, was a magical experience.

It was also in Teguise that I gave what my wife insists was my final showing as a performance poet when I joined the ladies of the local library’s reading group in delivering favourite poems to music provided by a backing vocalist and guitarist. The poem I read was a gentle dream for dreamers that I had written decades ago, but I fear some of its gentleness was lost in my whirling dervish like gesticulations, designed to help the ladies in their translation of the work. This was all delivered at the gorgeous arena that is El Patio.

This tranquillity was distinct from the noise and excitement and all the fun of the fair that comes early in the year to Playa Blanca. We took a walk through, looking at frighteningly fast and high rides, smiling to each other as we watched teenage romantics sharing a candy floss, and remembering how we had once looked at each other with such adoration, were pleased to agree, that despite the roller coaster of life we have travelled together for more than forty years now, that we still share our candy floss and still look each other with adoration!

At the Nuestra Señora del Carmen event, we noticed similarities in some of the ceremonies with the rush-bearings we used to see in the North West of England, as a thanksgiving for bountiful harvests from the land and, here, from the sea.

The switching on of the Christmas lights at the Princess Yaiza was a formal affair delivered with just the right sense of informality and the looks of wonder on the faces of many small children was shared on the faces of parents and grandparents alike.

There have been scores of visual arts exhibition all over the island in the last twelve months and we particularly enjoyed those making use of wall space in the Cabildo building of Arrecife.

We also not only enjoyed Memories Of Water as an arts exhibition but, at The Yellow House in Arrecife, we also learned a great deal about how profoundly the island has benefitted from the installation of its de-salination plant.

I found reminders of my own favourite painter, Robert Ives Hunter in a collection called Conjuciones by Carlos Matallana. I love visual art but because I have no formal training in the understanding of it, I am aware that I take a risk in drawing comparisons between artists. However, as I do in that of Ives Hunter, I find something Dali-esque in the work of Matallana who is, although he doesn’t trade on it, a nephew of the late Cesar Manrique.

Paintings by Brigitte Riesco, on the other hand, seem at first to be very approachable and easily understandable landscapes. However, each of her fifty five exhibits curated in Yaiza recently revealed the complicated relationship between lands here on the island that rewards the hard work of its people rather than simply bestowing gifts upon them. Her work showed the labourers and the pilgrims of Lanzarote, invariably with unyielding land beneath their feet and with endless skies above, all shown in subdued hues and contrasting brightness.

In its own way an Exposicion Ceramica Uga, entitled Del Tierra y Mat, by Tino Aleman addressed similar subject matter, the relationship between sea life and land life, in models that would have made perfect pieces to complement a Lanzarote home.

The great thing for Dee and I, of course, is that visiting so many arts events brings us into contact with various people, including those indigenous to the island and, too, new (ish) residents like ourselves. In the course of reporting on matters artistic and cultural for Lanzarote Information we have witnessed the award made by local government to Esterban Ramon Rodriguez Eugenio, a writer, and Historian of Yaiza, and heard a fascinating talk by Larry Yaskiel.

Larry has lived a life as a promoter of pop music through the sixties and seventies and eighties, working with artists like Jimi Hendrix, The Searchers and Leo Sayer, and then coming here to live on Lanzarote, where he and his wife Liz, worked hard to establish the Lancelot quarterly, glossy magazine, as a great publicity vehicle for the island.

We also attended a book launch by yoga and Shakti dance instructor Daniella Scimonelli and interviewed Beth Griffiths about the cookery workshops she attended at the previously mentioned food fair in Teguise.

Not even in my weirdest dreams, though, did I ever imagine we would sit, enraptured, listening to the sheer eloquence of the British Ambassador to Spain. So mellifluous his voice, so precise his words, that it was easy to believe we had sailed serenely into the Brexit harbour. They say of life, and of art, that everything changes and everything stays the same, and that is evidenced by how much has happened in the days since the Ambassador’s visit at the end of November and yet, perhaps, how little has altered.

Dee and her friend Beth took part in a ´fun- run´on 30th December. This eighth organised fund raising event (for the charity Aspercan, working with sufferers of Asperger’s and similar conditions, and ASCY Creciendo Association, working for the development and inclusion of minors and youths with disabilities or at risk) was held in Playa Blanca and we hope that some of you reading of these arts and cultural events might follow the advice in the title of that event. Be Brave And Run seems to me a slogan we could borrow to urge each other to fully embrace the island lifestyle here.

If you have ever wondered whether you would be made welcome at what might seem to be an event ´only for locals,´ be brave and run towards those events in 2019. We can assure you we have always felt welcome and comfortable at any arts and cultural venue we have attended here.

Whether or not you agree that all the things we covered on these pages in 2018 are, in fact, art forms, I’m sure you appreciate that the greatest live arts exhibition on earth is shown here on Lanzarote on a daily basis. The subtle slide show of the changing colours on Timanfaya and the sharply etched drawing of the mountain skyline against the sky are surely an artistic masterpiece. The sound of the wind, contrasting thunderous boom to a whisper, the tantalising taste of the culinary delights, the perfume of the sea and that different texture of the land that we feel beneath our feet as we stroll from the stone and rock of the mountains to the sand of the shoreline are the triumphant works of a Master Craftsman.

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