Saturday 18th August – Salon Social De Tinajo
God must have been at work in His artist’s studio on the night we drove from Playa Blanca to Tinajo across the Timanfaya volcano fields. At seven o’clock in the evening he was just adding a darker shade of blue to His masterpiece, to depict dusk and he painted in a few fluffy, scudding clouds that swept across the wonderful landscape He had created in the foreground. These brush strokes, of setting sun and dancing cloud, delivered a shifting shadow over mountainous contours that one second were a benevolent dusty pink, and the next an angry vibrant red. He had etched-in sharp and jagged edges around the craters that sliced into His night sky as painstakingly and precisely as the engraver etches the names of Real Madrid or Barcelona almost annually into The European Champions Cup.
God painted no mortal beings into this landscape and no boats upon the wide expanse of sea had He ebbed and flowed around the edges of the land. There was no twenty first century aeroplane in His sky. The painting was of a landscape so still and deserted that as you looked at it you could hear the call of the wind, the soft song of the sea and sense the timelessness of it all.
The long, straight road over Timanfaya took us inexorably up to the t-junction on the edge of Tinajo, and we took a left along the tumbleweed road that runs through the town. Like many places on the island you can often drive through Tinajo without seeing a soul on the streets. Of course, when you are looking for directions to a new venue the absence of any other human beings can be disconcerting but fortunately there was a Mass just concluding in the huge church, in which we have previously enjoyed musical concerts. So we were able to approach three ladies of the congregation as they exited and we asked them to point out precisely where the Salon Social De Tinajo might be.
A whoosh of warm and friendly but unintelligible Spanish hit us like hot air, but each lady pointed to a different compass point. Having seen them point to the North, South and East we thanked them and briskly headed fifty yards to the West.
There were several (twenty or so) fans queuing outside and it later transpired that most of these were band members still in their civvies before the show, as there was still an hour to spend before the concert was due to start. The trouble with these wonderful free events, though, is that tickets are distributed on a first come first served basis, and if you head off somewhere else for a glass of wine you risk ending up being unable to get in to the show. Still, God’s painting was coming along nicely and it was a beautiful evening for standing on the Salon Social patio and looking out over the town for a few minutes.
The write up in various programmes for Jovenes Cantadores had been so effusive that I was surprised that by the time we were allowed entry not too many more people seemed to have joined the line for tickets. These previews told us that tonight was part of a celebration of ‘ten glorious years’ of the group formed, in 2008 by several students graduating from the University of La Laguna, with the intention of exploring eclectic range of traditional folklore and modern popular music. Since then they have played hundreds of concerts and recorded four albums.
The lay-out of more than thirty instruments of string, woodwind, keyboard and percussion, and microphones and stands, for eight or nine vocalists, and a backdrop of musical iconography is one of their unique selling points, as all this becomes an integral mis en scene of their performance. This was the stage setting that we saw as soon as we stepped into a hall. I had loosely translated Salon Social as ‘Social Club’, but this wasn’t at all like the Social or Working Mens’ Clubs of North West England, as the interior of the venue seemed beyond the dimensions of the walls that enclosed it. Already there were four hundred seats laid out, in anticipation, obviously, of a large crowd.
‘Some hope of that’ I thought, as we sat down about eight or nine rows from the front. However, only ten minutes later, the seats around us had been taken and we could clearly hear the sound of furniture being moved behind us. Turning round, we saw that another hundred seats were being laid out to accommodate those still queuing outside.
Suddenly, as lights dimmed, a twenty strong line up, including five or six females, and eight vocalists, one of whom was also an instrumentalist and served, too, as the Musical Conductor, took to the stage to wild applause. All looked to be maybe in their late twenties, suggesting perhaps that many of these were founding members of the band.
Somehow it all reminded me of the kind of line up that Paul Simon has been performing with since he started taking out on tour the world music he has so fully explored since the recording of Graceland about thirty years ago.
As soon as the music kicked in I realised that my comparison wasn’t far off the mark. Although the songs were all in Spanish the musical arrangements were full of the soaring strings, Spanish guitar riffs, the ‘high lonesome’ sound of the Timple, piano accordion support, flying flute notes, sinewy electric guitar runs, vibrant bass and Latin American percussive rhythms that have been such distinct features of the second half of Paul Simon’s career.
I can only apologise to you that my Spanish is so poor that I am unable to deduct enough from introductions and chat-to-audience dialogues to offer you greater details of song titles and of origin and attributions. Amongst the more folksy songs, though, were definitely ones that we recognised as being part of the repertoire of many of the traditional groups here on the island.
The musicianship and vocals were of excellent standard and with so many members, with such a diverse range of skills, it is no surprise to see that Jovenes Cantadores do indeed deliver modern popular music too. They also address niche genres, like my own favourite music of Americana. There was a song here about Pocahontas that could have come straight from one of the albums on my i-pod by the likes of Kate Wolf or Katy Moffatt. I heard echoes here, too, of early sixties sounds of groups like The Mamas And Papas, with the haunting flute reminding me a lot of their Creeque Alley.
By the time of the last couple of numbers, both gentler Spanish songs, many Lazarotenos, and maybe a few tourists as well, were up dancing in the aisles, swaying as smoothly as the music coming from the stage. We had so much enjoyed what was a real stadium rock quality concert that we bought a newly boxed set of their four recordings to date and stepped outside to head back to the car.
God had by now hung a second picture on his studio wall, this one of a dark sky, and a few billion stars dotted around a fingernail moon, all looking down from above on a few half-lit stalls, flashing lights and a two or three hundred dancers out in the streets.
I guess five hundred people is a big crowd for Tinajo and the fact that there was also a fete being held in the surrounding streets meant there was an attendance of stand-by emergency service vehicles. We were directed, by the police, out of town on a different road and as we headed towards the motorway junction at Arrecife we noticed the number of cars that still seemed to be heading into Tinajo at something like a quarter to midnight. We were aware that there were festival events on this same night that had taken place in San Bartolome and San Gines as well as in Tinajo, and although we had hoped to see some of the other competing events, we chatted excitedly about how we had definitely chosen the right one.
Trying to sum up the quality of show we had just witnessed we could only come up with the one word title of the only song we had instantly recognised.
Taken from a nineteen sixties film nearly all my generation of sixty-somethings must have seen as a child, parent or even over the last few years as a grandparent, the song had been Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Written by The Sherman Brothers for the Disney film, Mary Poppins, this song was sung on screen by Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.
I can’t mention Jovenes Cantadores’ fantastic rendition of that song without sharing with you the best pun I’ve ever heard. At a time when that Mary Poppins film was still on its first release, a then AMATEUR football team in Scotland called Inverness Caledonia Thistle, known by their fans as ‘Callie,’ sensationally beat the mighty Glasgow Celtic in a cup tie. A daily newspaper the following morning carried, above the football reports, the headline ‘Super Callie Go Ballistic, Celtic Are Atrocious.’
Anything but atrocious tonight, though, had been a group of young musicians who thoroughly entertained a full-to-brimming-over theatre audience. This well deserved, long running anniversary celebration will apparently conclude with a show in Yaiza in December.
We’ll be there, that’s for sure, and we’ll be raising a glass to another ten years of Jovenes Cantadores.