100 Years: Lanzarote And Manrique, Arrecife, week two
AFTERNOON (and evening and night) OF TIMPLES
Sunday 28TH April
On the afternoon of Sunday 28th April the 100 Years: Lanzarote and Cesar began its second week with a change from the rock attitude that had closed the first week. We were introduced, instead, to the stronghold of traditional music of the Canarian folklore, with beautiful sounds crafted by the hands of the timplistas, Toñin Corujo, Alexis Lemes, José Vicente Pérez, Benito Cabrera, Domingo “El Colorao” and Juan Carlos “The Palm”. The Skills and excellence of this exceptional cast promised an evening full of timples and compositions, accompaniments and demonstrations of how that instrument reinvents itself with every generation. This evening, we were promised, would be marked by the variety of tastes, influences and talents of these featured musicians.
The concert ran beyond its promised eighty minute duration by several hours. Nobody minded, though, as a stream of artists, many seemingly unscheduled, took to the stage in various templates to play timple based music. The Manrique Stage at Playa El Reducto in Arrecife had held some fabulous events in the previous week as part of 100 Years: Lanzarote And Cesar celebrations, but the second week of the series of events began in warm afternoon sunshine on Sunday April 28th and didn’t come to a close until, in the darkness, the chill evening winds must have been numbing the fingers of the musicians.
We were there for the duration, in the middle of the front row, with two friends sharing a picnic. Margaret, I think, was so busy jumping to her feet to applaud and shouting ´bravo´ that I’m not sure she had anything to eat at all and my wife Dee was busy taking photographs.
And there was much to take snaps of, with not only the musicians on stage but also a large screen behind them showing live and close up shots of their playing, and a fantastic light show in a professional set piece that any major festival would have been proud to carry under its banner.
The first act on the stage featured José Vicente Pérez González as a four piece line-up of percussion, electric bass guitar, timple and a woodwind instrument, producing a lovely sound of its own. This all produced a tight, funky jazz arrangement and was a perfect opener for a night that would bring us a whole array of different genres and fusion. Some of their pieces involved intricate picking on the stringed instruments, and one of the most beautiful of these was a piece by Argentinian composer Pia Zola, a work Iain said I should surely be familiar with from Classic FM Radio.
They also gave us a woodwind and timple conversation about a place Somewhere Over The Rainbow that was exquisite, but instead of being blown back to Kansas they landed in the Hotel California. It seemed incredible to hear a line up like this recreate that Eagles track in such a recognisable but unfamiliar way.
As they left the arena to a warm ovation these four players, Jose and his band, who must have a name I am not aware of, were replaced by The Benito Cabrero Quartet with a new delivery from a percussionist providing occasional vocals, the timple of course, and guitar and bass that combined to create a heavier line than we had become used to from the first act. This was a group with a Festival ´attitude,´ quickly sketching light and shade over every number, with sudden and surprising changes of pace and instrumentation from an array of different percussive instruments brought into play. All this was against appropriate back shots depicting the ´message´of the songs.
It is perhaps because of my lack of real knowledge of this kind of music that I hear faint echoes from styles I do know more about, but I certainly found here some delightful reminders of the picked instrumentation of Bombay Bicycle Club.
Furthermore, one beautiful number, featuring a lengthy timple solo, put me in mind of a wonderful song, Beautiful Dreamer, by Stephen Foster.
The instrumentalists played off each other superbly, and although I have heard harmonics played on a guitar, I have never heard them from a timple, but Benito occasionally did so as his guitarist picked the melody.
Over a backdrop of beautiful videos of Lanzarote landscape, flora and fauna the percussionist then took the lead with irresistible beats and an incredible keening vocal, until things changed again and we were suddenly overtaken by rhythms we might associate with music like La Bamba as the audience whooped and hollered and clapped along.
That saw the quartet cede the stage to a trio as Alexis Lemes brought on two partners, one with guitar and the other with an upright bass.
Alexis himself was of course playing a timple, albeit it one that seemed on screen to have a slightly wider neck than the instruments I have become familiar with. He is one of the islands´ favourite players and he picked and strummed not only with great dexterity but also with an obvious passion and ear for his music. Some of that music, especially when bass led, sounded faintly Cuban to my untrained ears, but despite the skills of Alexis and his partner on bass, the guy on Spanish guitar managed to also stand out for reasons other than his flamboyant red shirt.
He delivered, despite being in almost constant conversation with his sound engineer, some heartbreakingly beautiful solo spots. His instrument had a microphone clipped over its top string, and despite whatever fears of his sound system the player might have had, the audience could hear every note clearly and precisely. This was the quietest, gentlest group of the event so far, but was certainly no less passionate than the others.
Alexis seemed to have a sheet of what looked to be rice paper tucked into the shoulder of his instrument that might have played a part in creating the sound of an occasional jazz shuffle and this, with the bass player sometimes hitting the back of his instrument as if it were a drum, lent a slight avant garde sense to the music. I was hearing Somewhere Down The Crazy River by Robbie Robertson of The Band and even those slinky voodoo sounds of Dr. John until the bass player returned to more traditional playing and we were all lifted again by the strength of strings, before the Alexis Lemes Trio exited the stage.
In front of an audience still five or six hundred strong, the area at the foot of the stage was suddenly peopled by three or four of what American singer writer, the late John Stewart, would have called the ´loyal friends and front row dancers´ of The Quarter Band, featuring Tonin Corujo.
This amazing line up was a tight ensemble concocted from the massive individual talents of each of its members. The saxophone wailed in the sultry, sexual tones it is supposed to and there was an incredibly soulful player on a full bodied guitar. Neither, by the way, did the timple appear to have a ´sound hole´ in its body.
This was rock by any other name and superbly hard, pounding rock at that. The rhythm and energy was provided by a young man playing the beat box, although ´playing´ it is far too simplistic terminology. He stroked, he chocked and he strummed it and drummed it as he caressed it and kicked it and each action, whether gentle or violent, created a distinctive sound of its own. His hands flew at amazing pace, his fingers more rapid than those of a shorthand typist or a loom-shuttler in the old Lancashire cotton mills of the UK, and we knew he was good. He knew he was good, too, but such was the empathy between all the musicians we had seen so far, he never let his skill or his instrument get in the way of, or overshadow, his colleagues, who each had unique skills of their own,
Their female following down below obviously loved them and kept up an almost constant between song chat with them. It all added to the wonderful atmosphere created by The Quarter Band and as they left the stage, we thought surely the evening’s entertainment had come to an end.
Not only was the time approaching nine thirty, some two hours and a bit after the concert’s scheduled conclusion, but also it would surely prove foolhardy to try to follow what we had seen. No music could ever be more melodious, or more tender, and nor could anything be more powerful or any faster, than that we had already heard.
Those fears increased as I saw two men walk on stage who were, let’s politely say, of an older generation than those we had seen. One trod gently with a timple, the other slipped on quietly with a tiny Spanish guitar. The timple player, a bit of a Leonard Cohen lookalike in his fedora, and his relaxed guitarist began picking some of those fantastic tunes we hear played so regularly in Canarian folk lore, with their irresistible enticements to finger click, foot tap and dance.
It was easy to see why the fastest beat box player in the west spoke to me in hushed tones when I later asked him their names. He told me how much young musicians look up to these two guys he called ¨the fathers of it all.´ Their names, he told me after the show, were Domingo El Colorao and Juan Carlos, and he added how much he had enjoyed watching them from the wings. His emotions must have been in overdrive then as he, and just about all the musicians who had taken part in tonight’s concert, returned in the fantastic lighting on the darkened stage, to join Domingo and Juan Carlos in a jam session in which every member challenged and then resigned to a colleague. There was obviously as much appreciation between these players as there was admiration for all of them from this huge audience.
As it all finished in a huge crescendo we could just about make out Cabildo President Pedro Gines scrambling on stage through the shadows to hug and congratulate each player. He didn’t take to the microphone to make any great claims but I hope he looked around him with pride.
The show was full of marvellous players but the audience had been full, too, of some marvellous spectators, Engaged and involved, but always respectful, they put their litter in bins, packed up their rugs and their picnics and left the place as spotless as they had found it, even as workers were stacking away chairs and guiding people off the beach.
By the time we drove out of the underground car park the roads were all re-opened and we were home in Playa Blanca in time for Match of the Day. The concert had been incredible and I knew already my sporting day had been pretty successful too. Yaiza had won earlier to perhaps stave off relegation and Lanzarote had won to move towards the promotion play offs. All I needed now was to learn that Manchester United had beaten Chelsea. Ah well,…..you can’t have everything !
J.P. BIMENI AND THE BLACKBELTS
BROOKLYN FUNK ESSENTIALS
Tuesday 30th April
The diverse and widespread genres of music we have been hearing throughout the many events so far in the 100 years: Lanzarote And Cesar musical concerts, gave way tonight to soul and funk rhythms on the Manrique stage at Playa El Reducto in Arrecife.
This new sound to this concert arena was performed by international groups JP Bimeni & The Black Belts and Brooklyn Funk Essentials.
The opening performance, beginning at 8.30 pm, carried the elegance of classic soul as the free spirits that are JP Bimeni and his band traced the line previously taken by masters of the genre such as Curtis Mayfield, Sam Cooke, and Otis Redding: that latter name being most appropriate as this concert was taking place literally ´on the dock of the bay.´
Soul music has for long been thought of as the genre that most enables its singer to speak from the heart more openly, more sincerely and passionately than vocalists are able to in less grandiose pop songs. Tonight JP Bimeni and his wonderful voice demonstrated to us the secrets of Soul music.
Then, at 10.OO pm a group of musicians, singers and poets from around the world took to the Escanario Manrique to make the party funky. These were the Brooklyn Funk Essentials, a group with a proud and extensive career. Born in New York in 1993, the music of this group, with five studio albums and several Grammy nominations, has also supported scenes in movies and television series such as the Sopranos.
With their unique blend of soul, jazz, Latin rhythm and ´house,´ they had all they needed to kick up a commotion, and this was just what they did. The next hour or so was a riot of sound and colour and good timing, and our new friend Phil was grooving along with it all.
The place, as my generation used to say, was jumping.
BENI FERRER & OLGA CERPA Y MESTISAY
Wednesday 1st May
By now, Dee and I were checked into the Lancelot Hotel and would be here for the rest of the week to ensure we didn’t miss any of the superb acts lined up between now and Sunday.
The concerts for the next five nights all promised a great deal in their different ways, and we would be hearing some of the best of singer writer pop, jazz, classical, world music and Spanish folk lore songs.
Beni Ferrer’s album, ´Wind´, is made up of original songs that somehow invest artistic innovation with a sense of musical tradition. The Lanzarote singer has an unmistakable style which blends the Canarian folk music, jazz, fado, funk and even the rock into something both profound and unpredictable. Her live concerts have come to pay tribute to women as she somehow sets the unique Lanzarote winds whispering through her songs.
Beni took to the stage with a female accompanying vocalist at either side, and all three of them were dressed in flowing, colourful outfits and the straw hats that are worn by the women working the land over here. Their ac apella opening showed the close harmonies they would deliver throughout the set, and the second number, now backed by their full array of musicians including two percussionists, keyboards and acoustic and bass guitar, involved some hand play that further signified the role, or should that be roll, of the hats in working day life.
The whole set was played out to live shots of the stage show on the big screen that showed how much it was enjoyed by the five hundred or so people sitting behind our front row seats. Beni delivered the songs with a passion and senses of urgency. There is much of Stevie Nicks in her performance style of being a free spirit at one with nature, although she was occasionally as regal as another Welsh singer of note, soprano Kathryn Jenkins.
The show included jaunty instrumentals that had the audience clapping an appropriate rhythm and there was an engaging section when Beni invited on to the stage the two young children of her British pianist, John Lomax, to accompany her in a song that was obviously one of her major numbers, as all the audience seemed to know all the words.
The band had been masterfully directed by the guy on the bass who Beni described as her ‘boss and musical director.’ Those of us in the audience who had seen him also perform earlier in the festival with another band identified him simply as a great musician who had a really good time and ensured that his fellow performers on stage did too, along with their audience. Beni and her vocalists and musicians delivered a great show and this lady who lives here on Lanzarote certainly entertained her home fans.
The second act was Olga Cerpa and Mestisay, who remain one of the most unique creative adventures of popular music of the Canary Islands. They emerged in 1980 under the guidance of Manuel González, who for more than three decades has enjoyed a prolific musical career. The extraordinary voice of Olga Cerpa and the sounds and songs of Mestisay bring to life the historical breadth of folk music of these islands. Creative curiosity has led these musicians to search for a unique sound, which breathes in the soft Atlantic air.
She didn’t join her eight piece line up on stage until they had already given us a four or five minute instrumental number, that promised we were in for a treat. That treat became fully realised when Olga joined the players who included a performer on a lute like instrument, a set of wind instruments, percussion, keyboards, guitar and bass.
Following her lively opener Olga delivered a slower song, accompanied by a lonely Spanish guitar, played over on-screen images of solitary women in their working life, and that carried great resonance.
As an audience, we constantly heard new delights in the music, with a ‘salt-shaker’ here, a keyboard trill there and everywhere a thrilling bass line. This all lent great support to Olga’s eclectic mix of powerful ballads, poppy sing along numbers and songs of obvious folk lore traditions.
Although there were echoes all over the selections of the South African guitar runs we first heard on Paul Simon’s Graceland field recordings I was also strangely reminded of the jazz band style of Acker Bilk and of The Temperance Seven. So good were the musicians that Olga again handed them the stage as they delivered another inspired number, led by a superb performance on the timple.
Olga’s re-emergence came not from the back of the stage but from the back of the audience and it was strange to look ahead to the big screens to see her approaching us from behind, if you see what I mean. The song delivered as she headed back to the stage was soft, tender and emotional and she was obviously affected by it as she took a bow to rapturous applause before being hoisted, in a most un-ladylike manner, back on to the stage by an obliging security guard !
This set had been, for me, one of the highlights of the festival so far, and it closed with a song that boasted a riff akin to the chugging sounds of JJ Cale, or Clapton or Knopfler, and the call for encores were well earned, and subsequently well rewarded.
Thursday 2nd May
Cora Lanzarote Rona RNCA and The Hart Chor
presentation ceremony: 100 Years: Lanzarote And Cesar
In the time between sound checks and rehearsals and the opening of the evening’s concert a briefer, smaller but no less graceful and dignified performance was delivered on a small stage in front of the Nautilus Club of Arrecife. This featured two local choirs and seemed to be part of a presentation ceremony of some kind, but apart from a large advertising hoarding that told us very little, fuller information was hard to find. We assume the first choir up was called Cora Lanzarote Rona RNCA, but if any reader knows anything more about them please feel free to share with firstname.lastname@example.org. They beautifully gave us three Spanish folk lore songs, before making way for a presentation of some framed art work to a lady, we know not whom, for services we know not what.
Then up came a German organisation, the Hart Chor, This equivalent of what might be called a rock choir in the UK gave us Let Me Entertain You, a versión of Queen’s Crazy Little Thing, and their outstanding rendition of Coldplay’s La Vida Loca before closing with another Robbie Williams’ song, Loving Ángels Instead.
Both choirs were colourful and enjoyable and this had been a great piece of Festival Fringe, as it were. However it left us with a good hundred yard sprint (more of a shuffle really, in my case) back to the main stage and we found our seats literally as the first act of the evening were stepping out.
DIEGO BARBER QUARTET
Thursday 2nd May
Diego Barber is a guitarist of Lanzarote who, throughout his career, has managed to position itself in important lists of the best albums of the year such as those published by National Public Radio, Chicago Tribune or the Los Angeles Times. He has received praise from the most prestigious magazines in the world of jazz such as All About Jazz, Billboard, JazzTimes and Down Beat, among others.
For this concert, he came accompanied by a trio consisting of bassist Linda Oh, a regular player with The Pat Metheny Project, the pianist Fabian and percussionist Alejandro Coello.
I loved how the instruments each found their space in each piece the band delivered, and how we could see each player challenging themselves ever further to produce exactly the right context at the right time for their instrument. This set was of adversary and reconciliation and to see the concentration give way to joy on the face of Linda Oh each time she realised the contribution her instrument was making was quite incredible. Once again the giant stage-side screens gave us amazing up close and personal shots of how the players shaped their fingers to make these sounds.
Deigo’s bi-play with his guitar and Fabian’s piano was intricate and delicate and Alejandro kept everything together on percussion. The audience went wild at the end of a set that kept us fully engaged throughout.
THE SIMBEQUE PROJECT
Thursday 2nd May
And all that was just for starters, as only ten minutes later, the second act of the evening were all set up and wired for sound. The Simbeque Project, formed by eleven musicians from various islands of the archipelago with wide artistic careers, delves into the folklore of the Canary Islands, paying special attention to its purest sounds, while maintaining the contemporary design and the idea of its internationalization in preparation to stand up on the world music stage as has done other folklore music, such as Cuban, Brazilian music and, of course, flamenco. By employing their own arrangements and fusing jazz, rock, electronic, funk, and drum and bass, Simbeque Project create their own world music that plays beyond labels.
It came as something of a surprise to us, after a couple of instrumental openers, to see a female singer stride out from the back to take control of the stage and for the next hour or so have the band respond magnificently to her beck and call. There was an intensity and occasional fury in her singing and physical presence that might have owed something to fado music and that was always engrossing. I have referred here to fado music but Dee was right in saying that there were strains of the siren singing we have heard in Norse music, particularly in its use of echo effects.
Following a myriad lines by various instruments through all this was fascinating and the recorded announcements and pieces of narrative, all fuzz and fade and deliberately degraded, had to me a reminder of a brilliant album, The End, by Black Eyed Peas and, indeed, there were slight similarities in the music too.
The tempo and tone were changed when Diego Barber was invited to join them and he took the opportunity to interact with each of the other musicians in turn.
So good had been tonight’s gig that it deserved a far bigger audience than the one that remained by the end of a late night. This event could only have suffered from being in the middle of a long Festival week because the reputations these musicians carried before them and the quality they delivered on the night were of the highest standard.
So much so, in fact, that we went seeking cd sales points straight after the gig, and purchased a cd and piano duet album from Diego. When we asked him if he had enjoyed playing a guest spot with such a big band as Simbique, he smiled and said he has actually played with them many times and always has enjoyed doing so.
Dee had remarked during the sound check we had listened to earlier in the afternoon how obvious was the musicians’ enjoyment in each other’s playing, and, certainly at tonight’s gig, that enjoyment could be heard coming through the music.
GORAN BREGOVIC Y SU ORQUESTA
PARA BODAS Y FUNERALES
“Tres cartas desde Sarajevo”
Friday 3rd May
Goran Bregović is one of the most famous composers of the Balkans. He is also a guitarist, composer, arranger and producer, born in Sarajevo, who is internationally recognized for being the author of film soundtracks by directors such as Emir Kusturica. Goran´s productions mix sounds of traditional folklore with rock, Slavic, Ottoman and Byzantine rhythms, Balkan music and Gypsy metal. His Orchestra For Weddings And Funerals is a band of nine musicians who manage to create a real party on stage !!
What a party this one proved to be, whether we are at a wedding or a funeral. The music from brass, percussion, stringed and vocal was sometimes discordant, sometimes even cacophonous, but always absolutely infectious. Proof of that lay with six or seven hundred people all thronged around the stage and finding it impossible to stand still.
This was dance music that at first seemed like one of the zany Eurovision novelty acts we see each year, but in fact was arraigned with immaculate rhythms with which always were quickly changed before we became too used to them. The female singers seemed to be singing the slower, funereal laments and from these we heard sad but glorious melodies, until Gregor and his musicians closed the show with a couple of catchy echoes from their halcyon days as Gypsy Kings.
When our friend Iain said he had never heard anything like it we were sure he meant it as a compliment and certainly everyone we, literally, bumped into as we danced seemed to be smiling uncontrollably at what was playing. A friend, Jenny, went past whirling like a dervish off to the foot of the stage and we saw Daniella, my wife’s yoga teacher leaving the dance-floor (beach) looking ecstatic and worn out. Marianne, a local choir leader had also obviously enjoyed the show and Cultural Officer Oscar Sanchez had every reason to look very pleased with things when we chatted with him after the show. He had just seen for himself how much the crowds have been enjoying this series of concert presented by the Cabildo.
“CARMINA BURANA”, DE CARL ORFF
Y Coro de la Orquesta Sinfónica de Las Palmas
Saturday 4th May
I have even less learned knowledge of opera than any other musical form and so was totally unclear about what I might witness at this concert.
I had absolutely no idea about what the narrative or plot might be about until Iain helpfully provided that information just before the show.
Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana is probably the most frequently performed choral work of the 21st century, made popular by a memorable advertisement for an aftershave, featuring exciting surfing scenes.
Tonight’s programme informed us that the soloists for this performance were to be Rocío Pérez (Soprano), Carlos Daza (Baritono) and Chris Gilbo (Contratenor) and when they, amongst an incredible number of immaculately dressed instrumentalists and choral singers took to the stage the seated area was already full to standing room only.
The Musical Director, Rafael Sanchez, drew from these musicians a sudden explosion of gloriously full sonic arrangements split the night sky, and I sat there jaw-dropped as this wonderful music drowned us as if a warm sea, and then left us breathless and exhausted to lay on the sand. I heard extracts I knew from Classic FM Radio Espana or had heard on tv adverts, but I was staggered by the overall sound and the precision of the volume control of the entire ensemble. At times it was if we listening to the faintest murmuring breeze in the palm trees and at others it was the loudest of cloud-bursts rolling in from the sea. I can lend you no informed argument about the qualities of this performance, but this was ´A Night At The Opera´ that will see me making return visits to the genre.. Honestly? A life-changing experience.
ACATIFE & LOS GOFIONES & LOS SABANDEÑOS
Sunday 5th May
Acatife was founded in the town of Teguise in 1983, in order to deepen the knowledge and dissemination of the folklore of the island and to add to its development with their own contributions.
The group has since delivered more than five hundred performances and have indeed significantly enhanced the popular music of Lanzarote and the Canary Islands. In the closing event of the 100 Years: Lanzarote And Cesar musical performances, delivered on the Mannrique stage, they added their tribute to the artist with a special performance that delivered an over-view of traditional themes of Lanzarote and of how Caesar himself also explored these themes.
There were some glorious moments in their show and it was a delight for us to spot an acquaintance amongst the ensemble. Juan, aka on these pages as The Cabildo Kid, has often served us with tickets in the arts office of The Cabildo, but there he was in the midst of Acatife, singing with obvious joy. We later learned from him that he first sang with Acatife when he was only twelve years old and has been doing so for the thirty five years that have since elapsed. Perhaps the young boy given a solo spot tonight, who could not have been much older than had been the debutant Juan, might go on to enjoy such a long association. Certainly his voice carried from the stage out into the crowds and his power and passion was warmly appreciated by the audience. The trajectory of the second act, Los Gofiones is marked by the their achievement of the their purpose. They formed with a desire to research, rescue, create and increase awareness of the traditional and popular music of the Canary Islands. They have also explored how that music has shared knowledge between the islands and have charted the history of island relationship. Among many other many distinctions, Los Gofiones have been recognized with the Prize Canary 2018 and tonight’s performance showed why. They delivered an interesting variation of the folk music performed by Acatife and these two ensembles set a really interesting compare and contrast exercise.
As if two weeks of entertainment had flown by in a few seconds it was time for the wonderful Los Sabadeños to bring down the curtain. We have quite a collection of their albums and have seen several live performances. They deliver an amazingly full sound, and although the group was put together more than fifty years ago, they seem to somehow improve with each concert.
Their half a century of work is captured in almost seventy recordings that reflect the music’s traditional heritage as well as many modern adaptations and original compositions. They have not only addressed the different genres that make up the varied Canarian folk repertoire but also at the same time, have given to, and taken from, the rich Latin American Songbook.
Their medley that evokes Guantanamera was especially well received and the audience also listened intently to the sage-like between song offerings of the group’s narrator and spokesman. There were murmurings of support and a warm round of applause when he paused for thoughts of the down-trodden of Venezuela and that such observations could sit comfortably amidst the celebratory air of most of the music illustrated how well respected are Los Sabadeños.
Among our row of friends, Sirpa and Phil had listened intently to all three groups, and Margaret had smilingly enthused over everything, as much in love with the atmosphere as with the music. Iain, who had so enjoyed the Opera the previous evening had been unsure about tonight but he kept waving an encouraging thumbs up to me from the other end of our row, and my wife Dee and I remained prime to blast out our own vocal accompaniment to any familiar numbers. Even as we sang out with gusto on the song Atlantico, our favourite, we were aware that a Spanish family behind us were joining in almost every song, with lovely, musical voices. During the crowd’s prolonged ovation and demands for a final encore, (by Sabadeños, not by me and Dee!) I asked one of the girls where she had learned all these folk songs. I wondered whether they were part of a school curriculum, (as folk songs should be in the UK) or passed down from generation to generation by families, (as folk songs should be in the UK) or from radio stations, (as folk songs should be in the UK!) or by some other method.
The young lady smiled at me graciously and told me she has learned all this music and lyric by buying the band’s recordings. So, effectively this ´folk´ music is being learned and loved as ´pop´ music in a way that would never happen in the UK.
And so a series of musical events that had begun two weeks previously with a young ´Ceasar´ gazing round his island and imagining its future and a new place in the world, closed with songs from three of the island’s most celebrated musical groups celebrating with gratitude all that Ceasar had helped bring about. The islanders who witnessed these concerts must have been so proud and we, new residents from another land, felt privileged to have witnessed such pride in their work.
This evening of evocative Spanish folk lore music, provided by three of The Canary Islands´ best loved ensembles had brought the curtain down on a series of a carefully compiled concerts reflecting the musical tastes and attitudes of Cesar Manrique. Even as we filed our report on those shows to Lanzarote Information web site, ´however, reports were flying into ´all across the arts´ of new, additional events as artists queued up to pay their centenary respects to Manrique and to create even greater global awareness of the island’s hero.
MANRIQUE & LORCA & ARTISTS & POETS
For example, Gines Liébana (painter and writer), Waldo Balart (painter), Noting Escobio (painter, writer, widow of Manolo Millares) and Fernando Castro Borrego (César Manrique’s biographer and Professor Of History Of Art) have also made a collaborative contribution to the wonderful commemorative celebrations.
They participated in a talk and debate held on mainland Spain, as an addition to the many diverse events organized here on the island, and even in the UK., by the Cabildo of Lanzarote, to ensure this hundredth anniversary is recognised as widely as possible.
This promised meeting of artists and friends of Cesar Manrique who knew and worked with him at various stages of his life in Madrid, New York and the Canary Islands had created great anticipation.
The actual event certainly justified that excitement, as a genuine and heartfelt tribute was delivered to almost a hundred people, mostly artists, collectors, gallery owners, art critics and other friends of Manrique. This had all been co-ordinated by Carmensa de la Hoz, a friend and collaborator of Cesar and also of many of the artists who gathered for this ceremony, which was also attended by the President of the Cabildo de Lanzarote, Pedro San Ginés.
The event featured an emotional revelation, with the projection of an unpublished document, a short, 9-minute, footage filmed by friend Fernando Higueras, in the mid-nineteen seventies, in which César Manrique and the painter Antonio López are shown as vital and full of energy. The cine reel offered a faithful reflection of Cesar’s overwhelming personality.
Alfonso de la Torre read a letter written by Manrique to his friend Pepe Damaso, in which Cesar spoke about his exciting life in New York, and the assistance he received from, and gave to, numerous galleries and studios of artists such as Andy Warhol. Noting Escobio also read two postcards, ´full of life and love´, written by Manrique to a fellow artist and a mutual friend of Escobio´s.
Liébana, Waldo Barlat, Manolo Millares and Fernando Higueras witnessed all the key stages of Caesar´s life and career and together they shared incredible experiences in Madrid, New York, and Lanzarote, as well as other countries around the world whenever they were in the same place at the same time. Liébana was a regular visitor to César Manrique’s house from the mid-1950s and they remained in constant contact. Manrique and Waldo Balart met on the Cote d’Azur (France), and it was Balart who hosted the Canary in New York where he introduced Manrique to Andy Warhol.
The discussion, entitled César Manrique. Madrid – New York, was moderated by Alfonso de la Torre in the room guitarte of the Royal Academy Of Fine Arts Of San Fernando in Madrid (in Calle Alcalá, 13, where Manrique studied), on Wednesday, May 8th.
Back here on Lanzarote on May 10th, artist Ildeonso Aguilar spoke at a press conference about his new exhibition. Between Islands then opened the following day at the CIC El Almacén and will run until July 13th. The conference was attended not only by media representatives but also by Minister Of Culture of the Cabildo Of Lanzarote, Óscar Pérez and Pepe Betancort, area co-ordinator of the exhibition of culture.
During his introductory speech Aguilar himself recalled having attended classes of the Professor Of Arts And Crafts, Juan Reguera, in this same place before it became being a cultural centre. He also recalled the important benefits of re-creating the venue back in 1974.
´(from) Here extraordinary and pioneering things happened in the Canary Islands and in the rest of the country. There was an impressive cultural and intellectual dynamic that many young people participated in.´
The exhibition includes a collection of works, including pictorial, photographic and an audio-visual series, and has been created specifically for events like this centenary of the birth of César Manrique, who along with Ildefonso Aguilar, Yayo Fontes, Luis Ibáñez and Pepe Dámaso, inaugurated this cultural space in 1974.
The birth of Between Islands follows the fascination that Ildefonso Aguilar feels for the two seemingly diverse locations of Iceland and Lanzarote,
“There are spaces that so fascinate me they have me trapped´, he said in his opening remarks. ´Since I met the Icelandic landscape, those lava fields and black deserts have become my image, which merges with that of Lanzarote. My intention, however, is to show not the landscapes, but the emotions that they transmit to me,´ said the author.
´Most of the 35 paintings on display, have been recently created, and almost a dozen of them have been made for this special occasion´, he explained, before thanking the Cabildo de Lanzarote for developing this creative proposal.
Between Islands , will remain open to the public until next July 13, and include an extensive program of complementary activities. Thus, on Tuesday, May 21st and every Tuesday of the month of June there will be audio-visual projections in the cinema room of the El Almacén CIC. Visitors will have the opportunity to watch audio-visuals of the cultural and intellectual effervescence of the nineteen seventies and more recent times.
In addition, on June 1 and July 6 Ildefonso Aguilar will present the audio-visual Manrique´, a minimalist vision of Cesar’s spatial work in Lanzarote, with live music performed by Major Tom Project, a duo formed by Samuel Aguilar and Migue Jaubert, teachers of the Professional Conservatories of Music of Tenerife and Superiors of Music Of The Canary Islands.
The inauguration ceremony was attended by the President of the Cabildo of Lanzarote, Pedro San Ginés, as well as the Minister of Culture of this institution, Óscar Pérez, relatives, friends and numerous public that toured the different rooms in which they exhibit and project the works.
Following the opening of what will surely be a well received exhibition, on Saturday May 11th, Jameos del Agua hosted Núria Espert and Lluís Pasqual, two great names of the theatre, when, Nuria Espert related The Gypsy Ballads of Federico García Lorca.
This main text of the evening’s performance was based on words Lorca delivered at a conference in 1935. These words of the poet rang clearly again tonight with all their original beauty in this unique island auditorium, created by the universal vision of César Manrique.
Published ninety years ago, Gypsy Ballads is a poetry book that, although of Andalusian origin, entwines Roman, Christian, Arab, Jewish and Gypsy beliefs and cultures. Lorca referred to it as ‘a book with a wealth of images and symbols referring to life and death, passion and violence, earth and sky.´
Lorca in fact called this his ´most popular work´, and explained that he called it Gypsy, ´for Gypsy is the highest, the deepest, the most aristocratic way, that retains the Ember, the blood and the alphabet of the Andalusian and universal Truth”.
Núria Espert closed his performance with the reading of the poem, Lanzarote. Rafael Alberti, during his own first visit to the island in 1979, wrote this piece to Cesar Manrique, describing him in the text as á ´pastor of winds and volcanoes.´
A good sized audience listened to the night’s readings whilst no doubt marvelling at the acoustics, the lighting and this wonderful use of these natural, but previously almost inaccessible, resources. Who but Manrique could have ever envisaged such a function for caves in a volcano field and who but he could possibly then have realised that vision so magnificently? No wonder his name still rings loud around locations like this one all over Lanzarote and no wonder his echo has never faded.