It was a wind-torn A4 poster drawing-pinned on to the wooden front door of a building in the Plaza de San Marcial in Femes and, had it not been for the sound of its own soft percussive beat as it flapped in the ever present wind, we might not have even noticed it. We had only stopped in the town to sit and enjoy a leisurely and delicious meal at the Balcon de Femes Restaurant on the way to Arrecife to hear Lanzarote Ensemble on 1st October begin our busy arts calendar for the coming month on 1st October. Little did we know that within the space of five days we would have seen two more events and entered still more inot what few blank days there were on our October calendar,….. as well as on to several spaces that were not blank ! So, come follow your art over sidetracks & detours and let us take you to the Time that slips between dates.
Confident that I had already posted comprehensive geo-specific listings to Lanzarote Information and international listings on my own daily blog at Sidetracks And Detours I was confused by the fact that a little flier I had found pinned to somebody´s front door was advertising an event in two days time that I hadn´t been aware of by a folk-lore group I had never even heard of. There was to be a free live concert at 9.00 pm on Sunday evening, in only forty eight hours time. Tickets had to be pre-booked and given that the following would be Saturday, and only a day before the concert, we weren´t hopeful of securing admission. However, our 7.30 am visit to the ecoentradas ticket agency site saw us being given the seat numbers for our free tickets for the concerts and our printed tickets being delivered to us by e mail. Easy Peasy when my wife does it, somehow very complicated whenever I do it. Still, she didn´t mind getting up early seeing as how it was an emergency !
Before settling down to watch the Sunday results show for the first elimination on the current series of Strictly Come Dancing I had looked up on-line information about Grupo Teguey and had learned from good old Lancelot Digital News archives that The Teguey Popular Music Group had been fully introduced to the public at a debut event in a packed Teatro de San Bartolomé a couple of years ago. Teguey had been formed with the aid of the Yaiza Council with the aim of ´rescuíng´ the traditional and popular Canarian repertoire, and make known the themes of its own production, although in their first concert, South American popular music also had its space. Voices and instruments shook hands at the presentation ceremony to the delight of the attendees.
This important event had apparently taken place on Tuesday, April 30 2019.
The idea for the group. and its agenda, emerged in a meeting of friends at the end of 2017, who decided enthusiastically to get involved in the creation of a Popular Music Group, which they felt their municipality lacked. According to Leo García, director of Teguey, the musical line-up that identifies the group is based on the traditional and popular Canarian repertoire, popular South American and of their own creation, accompanied by timple, contra, guitars, lutes, bandurrias, acoustic bass, percussion and keyboard,
Teguey, in the past couple of years have been consolidated, to their current status of 23 components, under the presidency of Sergio García and direction of Leo García.
Teguey appreciates the great reception that the Group has had and that has seen them become ubiquitous performers on the folk-lore stage at a great diversity of events. For Instance in May, earlier this year, they played at the Agricultural and Artisan Market of San Bartolomé. That gave the opportunity to show their gratitude to the neighbourhood, family and friends present at this great folkloric event. The group told Lancelot Digital news after the event that they ´wish to grow day by day and to be able to give the best of each of its components to enhance the musical values of this land´.
I really hope that the Ayuntamieto (Council) de Yaiza, who are doing great work for the arts whilst at the same time utilising what the arts can do for a community, will take note of the fact that many of us who have settled here permanently from other countries might also have an interest in ´rescuing´ the repertoire Grupo Teguey are seeking to restore and preserve and that perhaps we ´new immigrants´ could be informed of such events where our support might be appreciated. We know we were not the only British present at the gig (now considering ourselves Lanzarotean), as we definitely heard people speaking in our English language. albeit in a different dialect. We also thought we heard German, too.
The audience was seated and expectant as Grupo Teguey, all twenty something of them, strode in single file on to stage, under a starlit sky. The couple of minutes they spent tuning and preparing gave me the chance to identify the instrumental line up, but I´m afraid I can do no better than to say there were lots of stringed instruments including, obviously, the timple, and more surprisingly, the electric guitar. The keyboard player, and the man with a full drum kit, were tucked right into the far back corners at each side of the all-male Grupo Teguey.
If the line up already looked somewhat amazing the very first note of the concert was absolutely startling. Blown on what looked like a conch shell perhaps, it sounded a hunting call or a warning blared out to Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest. This turned out to be the opening note of the group´s signature tune, that they delivered at the opening and the closing of their show. In between they delivered some tunes that it is believed might have originated in the San Bartolome area where many of the performers hail from. We were able to identify some of the titles despite our much less than a poco of Spanish. We had heard Isa Al Campesion before, and remembered its tuneful chorus and we think we may have heard of Waltz Of The Butterflies. Among songs written by members of the Grupo Teguey are Este Es Mi Pueblo, Donde Te Conoci, Teguey and Volcan Sonador, all of which were performed here, and there were interpretations by the excellent guest vocalist. Even in the open air on a windy evening the sound-system behaved itself very well and the songs were carried ón the strength of strings´ as Dylan once wrote. Nevertheless, the songs were underpinned by the flamboyant playing of ´the drums of dawn´ and the music seemed to rill off up into the sky and wheel away some two thousand feet below to the sea. Every instrumentalist contributed distinctively (even the five masked men playing at the front). Several different members delivered either lead or choral vocals, and created exactly the right sound and atmosphere for this selection of light and lilting material.
When we lived in England, even though we could speak English perfectly well, kind of, we rarely gained added knowledge of the material we heard because some artists, (I think here of Van Morrison, the last time we saw him in concert) communicate not word one of information. Here, where I can´t understand word one of what is being said, the performers invariably deliver encyclopaedic spoken explanations of what the next song is about. And I can understand not word one !
Although I perhaps have some excuse, as I am in my seventieth year, it is quite frightening that all I have picked up in Spanish, since coming to live here six years ago are two phrases;
“No estaba acelerando, la cámara debe estar defectuosa,”
“Dos helados, por favor.”
There was no danger, though, of me having to employ that first phrase, given the hairpin, almost sheer descent, on the road back down to Playa Blanca. The road was in pretty much pitch darkness that my headlights on full beam hardly pierced on this road that has no lampposts.
That perhaps was a comment to remind me that this great concert was one we about which we had had been in the dark about, right up the event itself.
So, it had been a close call but we had at least managed to squeeze Grupo Teguey into our overflowing calendar. However, the very next day there came an e mail from our friend Larry Yaskiel telling me the main cinema next to the protected inland harbour of San Gines in Arrecife was this week showing Respect: The biography of Aretha Franklin, that is still a relatively new release, having only been distributed on 10th September 2021.
In truth, Dee and I have never really been big cinema-goers as you might guess by the fact that Grease was the last film we saw. We are of a generation who are quite comfy sitting at home in front of the movie channels and pretty much accepting whatever they might be showing. So Larry´s advice was perfectly timed because not only would it send us out to our first Lanzarote cinema experience, but also give a sighting of a film I have been interested in since reading a review in The Guardain a few weeks ago. I was already quite excited, and turned back to an on-line Guardian review I had read a few weeks ago by Peter Bradshaw. I had nodded sagely to all the points Mr. Bradshaw had made in a slightly less than stellar review but was now seeking to look put them to closer examination, when seeing the film.
He began by noting that ´at one moment in this very respectful film, a worried supporting character says: “I can’t do this any more.”
Maybe none of us can. The spoofability of music biopics has been a known quantity for so long that perhaps, through some quirk of the collective creative unconscious, they have just re-absorbed the cliches, reinforced and clarified them as a proven formula for success. But what if the troubled lives of pop icons aren’t like this? What if they can’t be reduced to flashback abuse vignettes, recording studio rows, early-success montages of album and magazine covers, marital breakdown crises, booze nightmares and final redemption scenes before the final credits over which, in time-honoured biopic style, we see footage of the less conventionally attractive real person?
I was soon nodding sagely again. Certainly when recalling Bessie Smith or in search of Billie Holiday those precise formats seem to have been followed. So have investigations by other media into the life and career of Ella Fitzgerald.
However, The Guardian´s reviewer acknowledged that Jennifer Hudson tries her hardest with the role of soul legend Aretha Franklin, but there is quite frankly a lot of hammy and inert acting going on here. Scene follows scene and facial expression follows facial expression with a bass-drum clunk, transitions which might work better on Broadway. Having said this, Hudson is not supported by a script that skates over the difficult stuff and acknowledges the unhappiness and pain in her life in only the most generalised and evasive way. We see Aretha as a little girl, sleeping happily in her bedroom in the family home in Detroit, Michigan in the 1950s. Her dad, the renowned minister CL Franklin – a role to which Forest Whitaker lends his formidable presence – is in the habit of actually waking her up, and making her come out to the living room in her nightgown and sing rather adult songs for his somewhat louche party guests: Ella Fitzgerald’s My Baby Likes to Bebop. The movie suggests that one of these guests almost certainly abused the young Aretha.
Having now seen the film I have to agree with Mr. Bradshaw´s description of the acting, before providing himself with the get out clause that the leading lady and the cast had perhaps been failed by the script. However, for some of those prolonged pauses and overheld moments of drama, as if awaiting the Eastenders´style dum dum dum ending, surely the director must be in the frame, as it were.
Later, Aretha marries the highly unsuitable and violent Ted White (Marlon Wayans) and gets a recording contract with Atlantic Records’ Jerry Wexler (Marc Maron). She struggles to find a sound – but eventually, through the passion and trials of her personal life reinvents the Otis Redding song Respect as her personal anthem and musical manifesto of liberation, an inspired pop-cultural declaration of war against racism and sexism.
Abuse, misogyny and exploitation (the staple diet of jazz and blues biofilms) were certainly facts of life that Franklin would have had to transcend. But the film mentions almost in passing her two children from an early relationship and having hinted at the almost tragic, enigmatic relationship with her father, it can’t find a way of fitting that complexity into the biopic template. A more ambitious film would have tried to get to grips with this centrally important relationship, and made it the whole point of the drama. Fans of the recently rediscovered documentary filmed record of her live soul album, Amazing Grace know that the Mr Franklin Senior had a habit of bustling forward and mopping Aretha’s brow while she was actually singing – an endearing, unnerving habit that is actually shown here. They were very close. But this film is always straining to typecast Aretha’s father as the stern preacher-man and paterfamilias from whom Aretha had to break free. But it wasn’t as simple as that; the tender, shrewd, music-savvy Mr Franklin who pushed Aretha’s career and had a lively, cosmopolitan mix of friends can’t be fitted into that stereotype.
I would agree that some of the major characters seems stereotyped and one-dimensional, and if screenwriters lock in their characters as one-dimensdional stereotypes then there is no character left in their film with a story to tell. Too often we forget, that the characters of a story (whether it be factual, fictional or factive) who develop the plot.
This is a long, laborious movie whose every scene feels hackneyed at some level and which is always drifting towards its own misjudged secular gospel of simplistic salvation and life lessons learned. But an artist’s life is more complicated than that.
The redemption such films always seem to feel compelled to include was perhaps not apparent at the time it happened in real life, if indeed it ever happened in real life. We need to remember, too, that not every sin is cardinal. Those who write, who sing, who play, who promote or who merely serve the drinks are all human and surely all of them in some way deserve some credit, however small it may be, to the wonderful origins traditions and fusions of jazz and blues and soul.
They all deserve a little bit more r-e-s-p-e-c-t !
As for the cinema experience itself, the pre-booking was easy enough, and the seating spacious and comfortable. As we covered the waterfront on the way back to the car we were struck by how the Multicines Atlantida picture-house looks glorious as a lit backdrop to scores of moored fishing boats. The ´free´ car-parking, to which we finally returned after a wonderful meal at The Davinia Restaurant, was well worth the euro the volunteer held out a hand for, as he reminded us he had been ´looking after´ our car.
So, it was only the first Sunday evening of the month and we had already ticked on event off our calendar as ´seen´ and added a new event to our calendar which we had now also ticked as ´seen´. Still, at least I had been able to see that concert on the first Sunday whereas when I was living in England that specific day in the calendar was always the bear of the words ´Baum; Do not miss´,…. I´ll spare you the details of that, though, as we have places to go and reviews to write. This has just been ´Time Between´.
See you on the other side, next week.