Cantautores Que Acompanon
Convento de Santo Domingo, Teguise, Friday 21st December 2018
The Lovin’ Spoonful once asked, in song, Do You Believe In The Magic, (of rock and roll) and my generation responded with a massive roar of YES ! The group also reminded us of Summer In The City, and I still remember another of their songs, What A Day For A Daydream. In fact, now, some forty years later, there is hardly a day goes by here that I don’t think of that title when I wake up to the red volcanic contours silhouetted against the blue sky and sea of Lanzarote.
Also written by their lead singer, John Sebastian, though, was the Spoonful’s last hit of the sixties, Nashville Cats, a title that seems, somehow, a very appropriate way of describing a concert my wife Dee and I have just seen here on the island.
That title was a reference to the studio session musicians in Nashville who laid down guitar sounds with such precision across the country music recordings of the era, One line in the song claimed that ´there’s thirteen hundred and fifty two guitar cases in Nashville´, with Sebastian then modestly insisting that anyone that unpacks his guitar ´can play twice as better than I will.´
At a wonderful charity fund raising concert in Teguise just before Christmas, I came to realise there might be a similar number of brilliant musicians playing today across the eight Canary Islands. The admission fee was only ten euros to hear almost a dozen singer-writers and guitarists (and percussionists and shaker shakers too) playing for free to raise money for a charity called Accompanon, a well-respected organisation that provides palliative care when needed. The event was held in the Convento de Santo Domingo and had been organised by Cabildo de Lanzarote and the local El Patio Bar, and I was pretty sure I recognised a young man we saw play at that pretty outdoor venue there many years ago when we were here on holiday.
That night Dee and I were so impressed by the instrumental skills of the three artists and their obvious ear for musicality that we purchased their CD, called Mas Que Son, which is now one of the albums most frequently included on my i-pod playlists. Now, at the end of 2018, one of the young men featured on that CD cover seemed to be the host of this live musical gathering and it was his enthusiasm and constant support for his fellow artists that helped sustain the remarkable quality of the programme. He seemed at one with whatever instrument he played throughout the evening and seemed to be transported to another place by the music. There is something magnetic about his unrestrained manner on stage and he soon removed his grey jacket to jig around joyously in all white outfit. He also patently took great delight in what was being played, too, by his fellow performers.
El Patio still presents live music several times a week, all by very highly proficient artists, but this event had obviously been moved from its small, intimate stage to this much larger theatre of Convento de Santo Domingo because of the expected size of the audience and, perhaps, also because of the sheer number of artists participating.
It seemed throughout the evening that there must have been a set of revolving doors just out of sight, in the wings, because the musicians were in constant rotation. At the end of each number there would be a swapping of seats and the formation of new partnerships. There were solo spots for everyone, too, as the performers took the opportunity to showcase songs that, I’m guessing, were mostly self-penned.
The percussionist, almost a fixture throughout the set, played on a beat box or bongos most of the time, adding depth to the always dextrous guitar work of others. There were, it seemed, guitars of all shapes and sizes, one particularly identifiable as it didn’t have an acoustic ´hole´ in the belly of the guitar, but rather a set of small perforations set into its shoulder, that added a different dynamic to the sound produced. The vocals were excellent but it was the musicianship and occasional improvisation that really took the breath away.
Female performers delivered their songs with as much energy and sense of adventure as the guys and one of them even sang a song in English. That was such a rare treat for your reporter, who usually has so much difficulty with the spoken introductions and Spanish lyrics that he really hasn’t got a clue what’s going on. Now, suddenly, here came a song, in English, that took him so much by surprise that he forgot to take notes ! I did note, though, that this lady, instead of standing with her instrument strapped around her shoulder, played instead whilst sitting gown. She held her guitar almost flat on her lap as she sang and played, so that it looked as if she were playing a zither.
A lengthy raffle draw took place at the end of the show, with some excellent prizes there to be earned by any 1-euro ticket. It seemed that many of the restaurants in the area had offered free meals, and there must have been twenty or so prizes claimed. The generosity of those who had donated prizes was as deservedly praised as the spirit of all these artists who had performed for free.
As you might imagine this was a fairly lengthy add on to the show, but it was very different from the days I remember in the UK when I played in the folk clubs of the sixties and seventies and eighties. Back then, club organisers were in the habit of holding their raffle during an interval that always over-ran, because the draw was always so disorganised. Then it seemed usually to be my band performing as people tore at wrapping paper and shared their box of chocolates all around the audience. This happened so often we even thought of changing our name from Lendanear to After The Raffle.
However, here in this cavernous and atmospheric old building, with an estimated three hundred and fifty people in the audience and a suitcase full of raffle tickets sold, this concert must have raised a lot of money for its very worthy cause.
There were, too, so many CDs sold by the artists that by the time we arrived at the table after the show had finished there were only three left to choose from.
We purchased La Vida Es Hoy, an album by Sergio and Yosan, and on reading the CD sleeve and looking at a photograph of the artists, we realised we had earlier seen the two them perform in partnership on stage. Like those from most of the other artists, theirs are contemporary sounding songs and the album has high production values, reflective of the attitudes brought to the stage by the wealth of talent on show.
However, although I see it is my role to reassure new residents and anyone else still concerned about stepping into a native arts arena about which they might have no clear guidelines, I am aware that in so often singing the praises of the arts and culture scene on Lanzarote I am in danger of blurring my message. Nevertheless, 2018 has given us wild-west shows, promenade street theatres, inspirational visual arts exhibitions, puppetry, choral singing, musical drama, talks by authors and journalists and countless concerts of this kind of quality. We have always been well received by audience and artists alike as well by organisers and front of house staff. The quality of performance has invariably been of a high quality, the cost invariably reasonable, or even free, and we have not once left feeling disappointed. Because of my deficiencies in the Spanish tongue, however, I can tell you neither the titles of songs played in the above concert nor the names of the artists who performed them. A total of eleven musicians took part as solo artists and/or as part of duos, trios or quartets and even as an ensemble choir for the rock and roll finale. So that can find them on search engines and decide whether or not you would like to know more, or in case you later see their names advertised in future concerts and remembering their mention in this review might encourage you to take a closer look, their names are German Lopez, Maru Cabrera, Elisa Felipe, Laura Cox, Estefana Carbelo, Ari Jiminez, Yoriel Carmona, Jesus Carriga, Sergio Padron, Yosan Peredo and Yarel Hernandez. I am confident your interest will be rewarded.
We also took a stroll around the beautiful Belen constructed just outside the theatre as we left. So from us, a Happy New Year to everyone.