Their name might well give clue to the fact that Bohemia Lanzarote are right when they speak to the press and say ´Musically, we´re a mixed bag´. The group only came together around four years ago but when we first saw them play in May of 2019 we certainly saw clues that this was set of musicians that was here to stay. The pandemic that was to follow shortly and that still pervades even today might have slowed their pace a little but they have spoken in a recent press interview of plans for recording their second album, and hopefully getting out on the road to promote it. So come follow your art down the sidetracks and detours Bohemia Lanzarote as we look back a couple of years and forward to a brighter future.
I wrote in my review in Lanzarote Information some two years ago now, that:
´It was yet only the middle of a long week of events on the arts and culture calendar and we still had the Friday and Saturday nights to look forward to. Sadly, though, we are not sixteen anymore and we were, in a favourite word of Fivepenny Piece or The Houghton Weavers (two local folk groups from our previous life in the UK), ´powfagged,´ which is a polite way of saying we were cream-crackered, which is itself a cockney rhyming slang euphemism.
By six o´clock on the Friday evening it looked, though, as if we might not be able, anyway, to attend the event in San Bartolome for which we had already purchased our tickets. A new sofa from a well-known furniture store had failed to show up at our house by its promised delivery time of 5.00 pm. A common occurrence for us in the UK but despite all the myths about disorganisation, unpunctuality and a manana attitude over here, promptness of such deliveries has been something we have become increasingly impressed by in our four years here.
Nevertheless to cut a long story short, or in my case to cut a bible into a gospel, after several unintelligible phone calls between us and the store and the store and their driver, the latter finally turned up at seven thirty. We were due at Teatro San Bartolome for 8.30 and it was only at seven fifty that we were able to set off, after ensuring our house and its new sofa was all safely locked up. The driver / delivery man ran around like heck to load up our old sofa to take away, unpack and assemble and place in the lounge our new one, and sort out the paperwork for us to sign.
I hurried Dee up, telling her it was time for us to get the heck out of Dodge, and we were almost to the borders of Playa Blanca when her mobile rang, just managing to make itself heard from the very bottom of her cavernous handbag, where it was buried beneath piles of rubble.
After much fumbling and profanity she finally answered, to discover it was the furniture man saying he was trying to catch us up as he had given her the wrong paperwork to sign and that she had in fact seemed to have taken receipt of a double bed he was on his way to deliver, very late, to a family in Arrecife. We pulled in to the side of the road and he joined us a couple of minutes later and the necessary document exchange was enacted.
At last, we were on our way to see a concert we knew very little about. We had seen a poster for Bohemia Lanzarote, that seemed to show the group of that name to number almost a dozen young things. Whether they were thespians, musicians or dancers we hadn´t a clue, but we like the theatre and trust the events it puts on, so we had purchased tickets. Although we were now running late I wasn´t too worried, as I figured there would be only a few people for a group of artists I had never heard of, and anyway, we had tickets. Of course we ended up following a ´black velvet steering wheel car with driver´ and the journey over Le Geria took us twice as long as usual. We finally managed to find a parking place in a very busy looking town and ran (perhaps an exaggeration) into the theatre, flashing our tickets at a man on the door.
He directed us upstairs to the circle, as we were late-comers and the show was just starting. Now physically powfagged as well as mentally, we crawled up the stairs to take the last two empty seats in the circle and, in fact, in the entire theatre. As we sank into our front row, comfortable chairs with a great view, the lights dimmed, and voices were heard singing from behind the still closed curtain. So it was to be a musical event it seemed.
It turned out to be something a lot more than that. We know you hear this from me pretty often, but this would become a fantastic, engaging and inspiring concert.
From the wings, in front of the curtains, stepped seven young males (from teens to late twenties, we would guess) and four females of a similar age range. Between them, they comprised many musicians and several solo singers, and the instrumentation consisted of timple, guitar, bass and percussion with trembling bells as well as hand held instruments like shakers and castanets. The instrumentalists played old music in modern ways, injecting jazz and Latin American rhythms and folk and blues riffs, and the soloists sang strongly and surely with real passion, and the choral singing was simply uplifting in its harmony and syncopation. Lyrics were delivered with some of the verbal clicks and ticks that we have come to associate with the Graceland sounds of the African music Paul Simon introduced to a global audience in the nineteen nineties.
The sound system suffered from booms and pops occasionally, but Bohemia Lanzarote sang on, regardless, and overcame all such difficulties. They encouraged the audience in a capella and all this was performed in front of a power-point backdrop of evocative Lanzarote scenes of past and present. The power point also gave details of each song title and its composers, which would have been very useful if your reporter had been able to find his pen or recorder in the pervading darkness of this upper circle, from beneath the mobile phone underneath the rubbish in his wife´s handbag !
There were references in the lyrics of some of these contemporary songs to Cesar Manrique, the late revered artist of Lanzarote, which drew warm and somehow reverential applause from the packed theatre. References were made as well to the Canarian diaspora, particularly that part of it still to be found in Venezuela, and one particular song, which Dee thinks was called Lolita Pluma, seemed to celebrate a well-known character from that part of the world, with a cinematic projection showing ´her´ and the life she lived.
Sadly, this song is not on the cd we purchased on the way out, so we cannot confirm its title, and neither is a song called Aorrorra, which was a complex delivery of voices and instruments that sounded, like something from the depths of history, sacred and profound and was beautifully performed.
We picked the cd up after standing in ovation, twice, with the rest of the house. After our demands for an encore had been rewarded we drove home talking about the somehow fluidly staccato stomping of one of the girl soloists as she sang, of an electric guitar that gently wept in almost George Harrison fashion, and of the choreography that enhanced some of the songs. Of course, on arriving home, we wanted to relax on our new sofa, and so put the cd on the player to hear studio performances of songs we now recognised as part of Bohemia Lanzarote´s live offerings. Isa and Todo Cambia are there, and so too are Siete Rosa and Rosas Con La Graciosa. There are fifteen superb tracks on the album Canarias, Sudamerica, – un viaje de iday y veulta, and it is available on the Atlantida label.
The Canary Islands and Lanzarote are rightly proud of their traditional folk lore music and it has been well protected and nurtured by the likes of Acatif and Los Sabadeños for the last few decades.
Dee and I were part of the so called folk boom of the nineteen sixties in the UK when the likes of Bob Dylan and Tom Paxton challenged the established libraries of folk music and division was savage, with folk clubs being classified as traditional or modern (and the same has happened in the jazz and blues scenes, of course) and those on one side of the divide would decry the music on the other.
There comes a time, though, when all our traditions are handed on (down sounds too pejorative) to new generations to care for. Invariably the young inheritors will show their love for the tradition by playing with it, and experimenting with it, because they know the tradition, inevitably, is sufficiently robust to accept such treatment, and to grow from it.´
I concluded my review with the following observation that íf Bohemia Lanzarote are examples of new musicians re-shaping the old songs and listening to new songs in the old styles, then rest assured, folk lore music over here is in good hands´.
Very nearly two years after filing that post I read this week an interview with the group in the excellent Lanzarote Viva, a glossy occasional magazine that carries news and features in Spanish alongside English translations. Referring to the fact that Lanzarote Bohemia have, in their short career, already performed in some of the island´s most prestigious arenas, the interviewer wondered if giving shows at places like the Jameos auditorium (in the caves) and The El Salinero Theatre in Arrecife was an ambition of the group when they formed.
Their reply was unequivocal that of course it had been an ambition and they realise how lucky they are, in the midst of the pandemic, to be able to look back on performances in such memorable places. They have not only performed at the two aforementioned places but also at the San Bartolome Theatre where we saw that gig some years ago and even at the Parapanda Folk Festival in Illora, Granada, the Sata Clamores in Madrid, and on The Noche De Las Tradiciones that is part of the Fiesta del Cristo celebrations in La Laguna.
´That was a really special show, ´ group member Juan Manuel Padrón told Lanzarote Viva, ´as we played in front of 12,000 people, paying tribute to the great Dacio Ferrera and had the honour of singing with him.´
I alluded in my review that the sound of Lanzarote Bohemia is a fusion of Canarian Folk Lore and Latin soul and it seems this has helped the quickly grow a fan base on Lanzarote.
Juan Manuel said in this recent interview that ´musically we´re a mixed bag of influences drawn from everything that has come our way from South America, Africa and all over Spain. We grew up listening to Argentinian, Cuban and Venezuelan folk music, just as much as our own and this has been enormously encircling´.
In fact Juan Manuel used the interview as an opportunity to thank Lanzarote Bohemia audiences for the love they show the group whenever6the musicians perform.
´We try to work on a repertoire that we feel comfortable with´, he told the reporter, and that the audience can enjoy. Our first song, released on social network, was a video created for the song Todo Cambia (and was also included on our first cd). It was so well received that its one of many songs we always include in our set. However, having to choose from more than a hundred songs can be quite a complicated task´.
We mentioned in pour Lanzarote Information review of 2018 that the band seemed adept at all kinds of musical strands, playing Afro Cuban, Brazilian Samba and Canarian folla with consummate ease.
Juan Manuel said as much in this latest interview with Lanzarote Viva-
´We´re pretty eclectic´, he laughed. ´Of course, we play our own personal style of Canarian folk-lore at every concert and we aim to have a common thread that runs through our sound, so our set could include pop songs, ballads, boleros and Brazilian sambas. We experiment with a little bit of everything, but always with our criteria in mind.
At the moment we´re focussing on putting pour own arrangements to some traditional folk songs which we´d like to include on a new recording we are hoping to start work on soon´.
As we become confident that vaccinations make their point and covid will crawl back into its cave, Lanzarote Bohemia should be able to all get together in a studio to make this promised recording. On completion of that let´s hope then can take to the Lanzarote roads and the seas and the skies to deliver as many concerts as possible in all sorts of venues, so that we can not only marvel again at their live performances, but also take the opportunity to purchase a copy of the new album they will be promoting.