Ensembles Vientos Flamencos

Teatro El Salineros, Arrecife, 20th January 2022.

Last week I wrote in my daily blog how Flamenco, often perceived as emblematic of Spain, has actually endured a somewhat chequered history with its people and its country being unsure of it, and sometimes even unsure of each other. This music, born of gypsies in the country’s southern regions, was embraced by foreigners long before it became a national symbol. Come follow your art down sidetracks & detours across a country ravaged by a civil war that was only a part of what the Smithsonian magazine calls ´The complicated history of Flamenco in Spain´ and read our review of Ensembles Vientos Flamencos.

Nowadays there is a move to restore some of flamenco´s best traditions and we need look no further than Laguna International Flamenco Festival as evidence of that. The festival first   arose in 2014 at the hands of its artistic director, José Heredia Santiago, and the courage of the women of the Romí Kamela Nakear Association, to pay homage to the gypsy woman and to several of the greatest and most prestigious masters who have toured the world with their singing, dancing and playing.

We recently saw a preview of a forthcoming Flamenco festival, when we travelled to El Salinero Teatro in Arrecife to hear Ensemble Vientos Flamencos. 

The Festival continues to fan the flame of the best flamenco in the Canary Islands in what will be its eighth edition.

The main objective is to promote gypsy youth and promote and favour the professionalization of young flamenco musicians, which facilitates their socio-cultural incorporation to be able to participate in the “Promotion of young talents” program, which has been carried out since 2014.

What we were shown recently on Lanzarote was a preview sample of  a festival that opens on Saturday, April 24, at 7:00 p.m., Remedios Amaya, one of the artists most acclaimed by knowledgeable fans, first stepped on stage at a very young age sharing that very gypsy voice that even amazed himself. She has regained her strength again, after illness, and is now performing with renewed enthusiasm, showing that nothing  can beat her.

The newest part of the festival is offered by the Turkish duo formed by Öykü Gürman and Berk Gürman. Twin brothers, they triumphed in their country in 2008 with a style that perfectly symbolizes the fusion of flamenco with traditional Turkish folklore. Öykü is also an actress, and her presentation in Spain is thanks to the Fugitive series, a true audience phenomenon. Berk is a guitarist and arranger who manages to take us with his music on a suggestive round trip from Al Andalus to the East, from Istanbul to Cádiz. His surprisingly original approach is full of magic.

In addition, the festival will feature a cast of prestigious artists such as the essential, Jorge Pardo, jazz and flamenco musician, tenor and soprano saxophonist and flutist, as well as internationally rated Samara Amaya (cantaora), Marina Valiente (dancer), El Perla(guitar, Ana María González(singer), Marina Reyes(singer), Isidro Suárez(percussion), Joaquina Amaya(singer), Juan Reyes “El Pollo”(guitar), who participate, to show  a brushstroke of his art, ashe delivers and act full  full of magic and talent.

The Lanzarote element of the Roma Ciadud de La Laguna Flamenco Festival 2022 was delivered on 20th January, in the midst of half a dozen wonderful concerts that were part of the 38th Festival Internacional de Music de Canarias. It felt at first as if the festival of flamenco might be overwhelmed by an international event in its 38th year. We should have known better. We should have known that nobody puts Baby Flamenco in a corner. She will wail and stamp her feet and strut her stuff, bringing us melodies and strutting her staff.

Flamenco proved all that and more in the performance we saw at El Salinero Teatro in Arrecife, last night, under the banner of Ensembles Vientos Flamencos-

Perhaps due to being English and not steeped in folk lore and flamenco history we were eagerly chatting with our friends, Iain and Margaret who are accompanying us at all the events offered as part of the 38th annual Festival Internacial  de Music de Canarias. We spent a leisurely couple of hours at La Garimba restaurant, looking out from its elevated vantage point down on to Charcos de Sin Gines at an incoming tide bobbing the hundreds of boats moored in the ´harbour´ that seemed somehow protected from the high winds racing round the island all week. This simple bar, serving mostly locals, we think, has a few tables dotted on an outside patio and two friendly young waiters brought us a salad and tapas of bread, canarian potatoes and mojo sauces, tortilla, which Iain and I agreed was the best on the island, garlic prawns, calamari, fried chicken, several bottles of beer sin alcohol, copious red wine and a creamy, chocolate dessert, as well as coffees Americano, Espresso and Cappucino. 

We passed the time by wondering what the imminent concert would bring and by the time we arrived outside the theatre, after a very short drive through the city, we had pretty much decided it would be swirling dresses, stamping feet, finger clicking and pointing, haughty looking females and somewhat downtrodden and lustful and frustrated males. That, after all, is how flamenco has been presented in the past to tourists who see the art form as a slightly quirky cultural .spectacle

However, this constellation of flamenco stars, seen over Lanzarote led us to a different place.  The Romí International Flamenco Festival instead brought together, a constellation of flamenco stars, introducing to an authentic cast of legends in Ensamble Vientos Flamencos, a top-level show in which some of the most revolutionary figures in the history of flamenco take part. There was hardly a raised hem in sight.

Instead, Jorge Pardo (sax and flute), Carles Benavent (electric bass) and Tino di Giraldo on drums, demonstrated the flamenco jazz style in which they have been pioneers. We also heard the guitars of Juan Carmona El Camborio and Josemi Carmona, key figures of the band Ketama 

On percussion, we had the bandolero cajon master. Saray Muñoz, daughter of Tina (Las Grecas), currently the titular cantaora of the Spanish National Ballet, showing the enormous quality of her voice together with Montse Cortés, known as ‘La perla de La Mina’, the most requested and identifiable voice for flamenco dance and heard a key piece of her Antonio Canales shows. His latest work, ‘La rosa blanca’, has been produced by Javier Limón.

We also were able to hear the singer Antonio Carbonell, known for having represented Spain in the 1996 Eurovision Song Contest.

In what little dancing there was we had Gema and the cantaora Almaría and the voice of Juan Carrasco Soto “Juañares” were also present. and there was Gema Moneo from Jerez, a genuine representative of the purest gypsy dance.

The ensemble that is The Festival Internacional Flamenco Romí emerged in 2014 from the hand of its artistic director, José Heredia Santiago, and the courage of the women of the Romí Kamela Nakerar Association, to pay homage to gypsy women.

Flamenco is often an instrument of social comment, seeking to reduce inequalities and iniquities, and in that sense everyone below involved in this show deserves a namecheck.

Ensemble Cast – Flamenco Winds

Jorge Pardo – Saxophone & Flute
Josemi Carmona – Guitar
Juan Carmona «Camborio «- Guitar
Tino de Geraldo – Drums & Indian Tablas
Jose Manuel Ruiz Motos «Bandolero» – Percussionist
Carles Benavent – ​​Bass
Saray Muñoz – Singer
Almaría – Singer
Juañares – Singer
Antonio Carbonell Singer
Gema Moneo – Dancer
Montse Cortés – Singer

That social element remains vitally important of course, for flamenco as music and dance not only safeguards the culture and traditions of this part of the world, even whilst spreading awareness and tolerance of gypsy status. 

However the format also has to develop and flourish as do the islands, and it should not be forgotten that it is from tradition that modernity arrives. Flamenco is, at heart, also part of the entertainment industry that embraces music and dance.

It was obvious to we four friends from the moments the lights dimmed in the theatre that we were going to hear an authentic flamenco we had perhaps never hear before, There were occasional whoops and hollers from around the auditorium as flute flirted with percussion  on a barely lit stage in the darkened arena. This somehow reminded me, perhaps as much because of the movements and mannerisms of the flautist, rather that the sound, of Ian Scott Anderson MBE (born 10 August 1947), a Scottish musician, singer and songwriter best known for his work as lead vocalist, flautist, acoustic guitarist and leader of British rock band Jethro Tull. 

He is a multi-instrumentalist who, in addition to flute and acoustic guitar, plays keyboards, electric guitar, bass guitar, bouzouki, balalaika, saxophone, harmonica, and a variety of whistles. This Spanish flamenco music sounded not unlike the heavy rock drive music with which the Jethro Tull band described agricultural work on their album Heavy Horses.

There were staccato flamenco fixture fitted to a more sinewy beat and rhythm that sounded to Iain as if they carried Caribean calypso lines and throughout the next hour and a half the stage was busy with a cross traffic of around a dozen performers. Guitars, percussion, trumpet, flute, vocals, convoluted handclaps, apparently random cries of ole and bravo between the players and shouts of appreciation and encouragement from the audience create an atmosphere I associated with that which saw Ry Cooder draw wonderful music from purveyors of traditional music in Cuba, the title bearing their performing name of Buena Vista Social Club. The sound and film recordings the legendary guitarist captured of them made them internationally famous beyong their island.

Buena Vista Social Club is an ensemble of Cuban musicians established in 1996. The project was organized by World Circuit executive Nick Gold, produced by American guitarist Ry Cooder and directed by Juan de Marcos González.

The stage at El Salinero had taken on the smell of alcohol, a slight edginess adding to the thrill of performing and a patently evident love of this flamenco music.

The string playing was gorgeous and challenging, with each player pushing on the other and intermittent sax from a strolling player who wandered the stage like the ghost of Billie ´Buddy´ Boden, the hotshot cornetist, who died in 1931 and was , considered one of the fathers and founders of jazz.  

There were girls in this ´backstreet club´created here, mostly encouraging the men by adding vocals and only occasionally strutting across the floor to ´cosy up´ to any musician creating something particularly impressive. This seemed to be one of those clubs in which to be a non-participatary audience was not allowed, so we call clapped, clicked our fingersm tapped our feet and yelled for more.

The levels of musicianship tonight were of international class and very exciting and accessible. The flamenco vocals delivered here had not been sanitised for easy listening, however, and those of us from beyond flamenco fields find it difficult de to past and present social and gender issues. 

It somehow felt as if we were staring through cigar-smoke to catch glimpses of these shadowy musicians in a darkened room. This was the real thing: flamenco stripped of any finery, a music at once of its own making but sharing so much in common from other music streams around the world.

As dropped off Iain and Margaret on the way home we made plans to meet up again for the following evening, as we all had tickets to see The Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra at the same theatre as part of the 38th Festival  Internacional des Musica des Canarias.

as we said goodbye, Iain expressed again at how amazing it is that we four can all go together to watch such wonderful concerts  and come away with four different, and hopefully plausible, interpretations of what we have heard and seen.

So, what of the music of The Lithuanean Chamber Orchestra.? We´ll let you know shortly.

Watch this space.

Meanwhile, you may wish to consider a visit to Costa Teguise, to visit perhaps the most prestigious of all the art galleries on the island, The Lanzarote Art Gallery has wisely developed its web site into an informed and informative library with a 3d virtual tour available at the site. Whilst that is fantastic, it remains true that nothing is ever quite as good as viewing art physically, to capture the nuances that allow our own thoughts to create a meaning.

So, I was interested to see an announcement in my e mails from The Lnazarote Art Gallery owner, Eduardo Ferin, of a new exhibition called Poetic Instant.

This is an exhibition that has to be seen as a whole, for it is the story of each of the moments (circles in the water) through which we pass when we fall in love. The telling of the story reminds us how vital is the emotion of the need to love and the consequences that both emotions, the need and the love,  in the chronicles of our lives. The river (or road) t excites us. The journey  in search of love has inspired art works and poetry and this exhibition contains art works  and the poetry that inspired them. A few of the exhibits are unaccompanied by text, allowing the viewer to remember his own poetry. 

´Yet everything is nothing more than a point,´ says  Roberto Juarroz , the late Argentine writer, famous for his ´verical poetry´ of the twentieth century. 

´Poetry is an instant metaphysics, it refuses preambles, principles, methods and tests. Then, after the hollow sonorities, it produces an instant. And to construct a complex instant, to gather a large number of simultaneities, the poet destroys the simple continuity of chained time´. Arcadio Rodriguez Felix Pinedo

Although the inaugural night of the exhibition was on Thursday 10th February, it will run through until 30th March. If you are here on holiday and have hired a car, it will be well worth a trip into Costa Teguise, where the Gallery sits surrounded by a circle of excellent restaurants over-looking the shore line.