I wrote in glowing terms on these pages in the spring of 2018 about two young musicians working under the name of Humberto And Pablo. I said at the time that my first impressions were of how young they looked, and how very different in character they appeared to be. Pablo was flat capped and casually attired, and his habit of pushing his glasses up and down his nose lent him an air of the late British comedian Eric Morecambe, or for any readers who might remember the Lancashire folk music scene of the seventies and eighties, also of the hugely comedic but musically gifted Stanley Accrington. Although Humberto looked rather more dapper, the respect between the pair was immediately apparent.
I went on to describe their syncopated rhythms and Joplin-esque piano and violin solos with their gypsy air. I reported, too, on Pablo playing the violin as if it were a ukulele in a piece that echoed a fanfare by Aaron Copeland.
When the musicians wandered around and engaged with the audience during the interval I took the opportunity to speak with Humberto who told me they were almost at the conclusion of a long tour that had brought them through Holland, Germany and Spain and out here to the Canary Islands. The whole tour had been well received, he said, but he seemed genuinely pleased with this quality of venue at El Grifo Bodega and the warmth with which the audience were responding.
The young musicians seemed delighted, too, that Lanzarote Information would be covering the gig and promised to keep me updated with announcements of any new projects. They also revealed that all those who had entered their names on this concert’s mailing list would receive two free preview samples of the recording the pair had scheduled to make ‘in the winter.’
I, and no doubt a hundred others, received an exclusive video sample to download this week. Mine was linked to an e mail telling me that the new album is planned to be a crowd funded project, and that Humberto and Pablo are currently in La Palma, rehearsing and exploring new ideas to incorporate into their debut album; a fusion of jazz and folklore from Cuba and the Canary Islands. They describe this period as ´a very enriching and intense time´ and they promise they will be sharing this campaign with their fans throughout the whole process!
They ask supporters who haven’t already done so to share and talk about the project on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, to which the boys will frequently upload small sound-bites and videos.
At that Spring concert here on Lanzarote I was accompanied by visitors we had staying with us, one of whom is a weekly radio broadcaster of two jazz programmes on major UK digital and internet outlets. Steve Bewick has ensured that the work of Humberto and Pablo has been mentioned on air in passing, and my own review of their gig appeared not only on the Lanzarote Information web site but was also sent, in modified form, to ´jazzwise´ magazine in the UK.
A little bit of searching on your favourite engine should help you find samples of their music, and of course you can follow these pages for further information about Humberto And Pablo. I am sure you will be impressed and might even be tempted to become the musical equivalent of a theatrical ´Angel´ and support these artists who seem destined to enjoy a successful and sustained recording career.
Meanwhile, it seems to me that the ´free until full´ concerts that are such regular events around Lanzarote, and probably on other islands too, shed a spotlight on emerging musicians. It is good therefore to see artists like Humberto and Pablo working so hard to progress their career.
Crowd-funding is not just another word for asking for a few pennies in a musician’s flat cap. Unless the amount requested is reached within a certain period of the request being posted then the pledges received cannot be accrued, so it is incumbent on the musicians (or artists in other forms) to not only ensure that the amount requested will actually cover the costs of the project they are aiming to deliver, but also that they have a contact list of sufficient supporters who might wish to support them. To attract that support from their fan base the musicians must, of course, offer something of an incentive, as in this case Humberto and Pablo are doing by delivering free ´samples´ from the studio throughout the recording process. These might never have any real financial value to the recipients but do serve as welcome mementoes showing an appreciation from the musicians. And of course, should the artists move on to great acclaim then so these souvenirs will increase in, at least, sentimental value.
It strikes me, though, that so few of the wonderful, truly amazing musicians on Lanzarote remain unable to find recording contracts. Maybe some of the funding dedicated to the delivery of free concerts could instead be directed towards the recording of a compilation album to showcase their talents in a recorded format. Perhaps then some professional recording labels might see the sense and potential profitability of recording the best of the artists concerned.
Back in the UK I was occasionally involved in successful crowd funding campaigns. For instance, we raised a required six thousand pounds to script, cast, direct and produce a film to be used in schools to examine the notion of hate crimes and how to reduce them. I can imagine, therefore, how excited Humberto and Pablo surely are, because I recall with great pride the ´premiere´ of our film And She Cried.
Even this year I have publicised a similar campaign by my friend Kimmie Rhodes, a Texan singer writer. I interviewed Kimmie several times during the nineteen nineties when she toured the UK and I met her husband, a musician of some renown called Joe Gracie. He was the composer of a song called Contrabandistas, much covered by several famous country music acts. When I met him, though, he had just lost his voice to cancer, and despite somehow remaining in good humour, his career as a singer and producer and radio dj was being prematurely ended.
Joe died a few years ago now and Kimmie has always wanted to collate his papers and create his memoirs, but it seemed the cost of publication would be prohibitive. However, she launched a crowd funding campaign, reaching out to those American and British fans who remember Kimmie Rhodes and Joe Gracie making great music.
The crowd-funding target has been reached and next year will see the book published, and what stories it will tell. Those of us who knew him fondly remember Joe as a great raconteur but can’t quite believe some of the stories he told will ever be allowed into print or that some of his escapades can be so smoothed over as to make them suitable for the mass market. Joe and Kimmie, though, were always charm personified, and I have a feeling this crowd-funded work will shed some new light on each of them.
I therefore look forward to reviewing an album of pure Spanish instrumental music by Humberto and Pablo and a book of maybe a not quite so pure life of a legendary American honky tonk cowboy, on these pages in 2019.
So, we wait for good news in the next few days about the outcome of this crowd-funding appeal by a musical duo we have featured on these pages in 2018. If we get positive vibes they will be able to go ahead with a debut recording of their original music and we will, of course, share that news with you as soon as we can.
Meanwhile I might have to set up my own crowd-funding appeal to maintain my own ´recording career´. Over the last twenty years of my working life in the UK I was constantly interviewing artists, and a handy little piece of technology, bought from a Dixons´ store, became my constant companion. Nevertheless, since coming to live on Lanzarote I have tended to focus on reviews rather than interviews, what with my ´non ablis espanol, not even a poco!´
Recently, though, I arranged my first interview over here with a new friend of ours who speaks English, and Spanish perfectly, I sought out my little micro recorder and started it up, or so I hoped. But like Tom Paxton’s Marvellous Toy it went zip when it moved, bleep when it stopped and whirr when it stood still. It wouldn’t respond to ´record´ ´delete´ advice or to ´pause,´ ´forward,´ or ´rewind´ instructions
Nevertheless, Dee and I arrived at the agreed venue of Coentro to dine with Beth Griffiths and her partner, Roy, and to ´record´ an interview with her about her recent participation in the food workshops at the Food Fair in Lanzarote. I had never met the couple before but we soon settled into easy banter as Roy and I bemoaned the low status of our respectively supported football teams in the UK. My beloved Bolton Wanderers are absolutely dreadful and Roy’s Swansea team are only two places higher!
The interview should have begun there and then but the menu at this only recently opened Tapas lounge was very distracting. The place is spotlessly clean, spacious and well lit with tables placed to offer the maximum of privacy but also to share a buzzing ambience of laughter and merriment from what seemed to be a pretty full house of indigenous and new residents alike, here in the Faro Park area of Playa Blanca.
The items on the menu were not limited to the ubiquitous meatballs and potatoes. There was battered cod, wedges of yukka, and ´bikinis´, small toasted samples with a cheese filling, skewered chicken and Iberian pork and pork cheek in a drizzled covering of cocoa, with a passion flower mousse dessert. The wine was fruity and dry and the wheat beer immediately went to the top three in my charts, alongside Boddingtons and Timothy Taylors.
When we had finished every last morsel, Dee and I swapped places so that I could interview Beth and my wife could talk to Roy.
Beth, made light of it when I explained my problems with my recording thingy. I explained that I would revert to talking with the five bums at the bar I used to know in England, I explained that the five bums referred to a technique I have employed throughout my journalistic career and that I have constantly advocated for use to those who aspire to be investigative writers or journalists. The five bums at the bar are so called because if you write in pencil on the line of a page five big, fat, curly W s in a row, they begin to look like a range of five saggy, flabby bottoms, or bums, lined up at a bar. Schoolchildren love anything slightly risqué and so this is a useful method of keeping in mind the five open questions that also draw a response from your interviewee, or even remind the author to supply his reader with information. These questions all begin with a w.
Who were the facilitators at the workshops Beth had attended I wanted to know.
As if realising how lost I was without my start, record, stop equipment Beth offered me a handout listing all the chefs who had delivered workshops at the Teguise Food Fair 2018.
Paco Perez had worked in two Michelin stars hotels in cities like Barcelona and Berlin, as had Diego Guerrero in Madrid. Jordi Butron is a chef from Mexico and Victor Bosseker represented The Princess Yaiza Hotel from here in Playa Blanca.
However, Beth had asterisked three other names, including that of Jose San Roman from a Michelin star hotel in Alicante and Pepe Solla from a Michelin star in Pontevedral. Finally, there was an asterisk beside the name Juan Carlos Padron from a Tenerfire Michelin star hotel. These, then were the chefs she had seen and heard.
What was created in these workshops was the next question, but rather than give me a list of take-aways, Beth explained that the workshops talked a lot about preparation and presentation,….and passion ! She spoke of how much each chef conveyed their passionate love of their work and its products. She said everything was discussed with positivity, which she sees as an attribute of Spanish people in general. Her level of Spanish and her desire to improve it shows a mark of respect and admiration for those people indigenous to this land on which so many new residents from elsewhere have been made welcome.
I had half expected that Roy, in the week since the workshops, would have been enjoying all sorts of fabulous concoctions learned from the hands of master chefs, but Beth´s response to my question about when she might serve her first sample of these new or improved skills was somewhat reticent!
Asked where this interest in Spanish cuisine had begun, Beth told me that she had attended a course at Cook In Lanzarote, three words that leap out from the side of a building on your right hand side as you pass Uga driving South to Playa Blanca.
She was aware that Miguel, our chief here at Lanzarote Information, had attended and reviewed a course there a while ago. As did Miguel in his article, Beth spoke of how charming, patient, charismatic and enthusiastic was Antonio, the facilitator in all his presentations.
Beth offered a positive endorsement of the Food Fair, the workshops and the friendliness of everyone with whom she came into contact.
We were by now sipping the complementary after-dinner drinks from the management of Coentro and my cinnamon flavoured liqueur was going down very nicely, but I still had one question to ask, and it was from the member of the five bums to whom it might be most difficult to give a definitive answer.
Why, I wondered, would someone like Beth enter a room of unknown strangers, speaking a language that she has only recently been learning to discuss foods she might not even recognise.
´To take part, to join in, to contribute, to learn from others and to share what I’m able to,´ Beth explained. ´We have been made so welcome here, and that was true in the workshops, too. I would guess 99% of those who attended were Spanish and maybe 80% of that audience was female, but we were all there for the same reason, to share an enjoyment of food that is beautiful, healthy and organic.´
Beth handed me a few leaflets which she had collected during and around the workshops. She loaned me them to provide background information for this article, and because I expect that Beth will put this accumulated literature to good use, I promised to return the papers as quickly as possible.
There was, of course, a flier for the Cook In Lanzarote classes available in Uga and a similar handout headed Ava Selection gastronomia integral that carried enticing colour depictions of Textures, Aromas and Colorantes etc and of sea-foods and meat and dairy products.
She had, naturally, also picked up some printed recipes, and the words she had scribbled on them in her own hand illustrated how seriously she took those workshops.
There were plenty of recipes. On one sheet of paper were four recipes by Pepe Solla from Casa Solla, and there were also recipe sheets compiled by Maria Jose San Roman.
Beth also gave me an A4 leaflet, simply stapled together, called the V factor, which seems to be a vegetarian recipe collection with a very tempting cover picture of Crujiente de Batata de jable con ´sovrasada´. There are further details on an inside page but this would seem to be a battered pancake with oodles of fruit and other goodies bursting out at the seams. A reader could also follow the instructions to make Keso parmeseno, Sovrasada on its own, and the alliteratively appetising Cebello caramelizada.
Right, that’s me finished with the papers Beth gave me. I’d better return them as quickly as I can, as I have a feeling she might start early on her Christmas cooking..!
More from Norman – Lights lit and tastebuds teased.