On Feet and Hands – Guitar, Timple and Dance

Benito Cabrera timple,  Tomas Farinaguitar,  Jep Melendez dance
at Jameos Del Auga, Friday 19th August 2022

On Feet And Hands was previewed as a performance featuring timple and guitar playing, body percussion and tap danceFrom this basic scheme would be built a scenic proposal that navigates the Canarian tradition, in search of a contemporary aesthetic , resulting in a show that combines elements not usually employed.

Timplista Benito Cabrera, guitarist Tomás Fariña, and dancer and choreographer Jep Meléndez  artistically explore throughout a sensory journey through emotions. The show is a surprising mix that marries diverse aesthetics. It starts from the local to reach the universal, with its own compositions and re-readings of tradition, both in terms of corporal and musical expression.

Benito Cabrera Hernández is a Canarian timple composer and virtuoso. He was born in Venezuela. Although he moved to Lanzarote at a young age, he has spent most of his life in Tenerife. He moved to Tenerife to study psychology in University of La Laguna.

He is the author of the official hymn of the Autonomous Community of the Canary Islands, and the author of the song Nube de Hielo, “Ice Cloud”, one of the most deeply rooted songs in the canaries.

He is recognized by the Canarian people for having directed the Los Sabandeños group, being the author of the Canary Islands anthem and innumerable musical works that he composed with the timple in his hands.

He lived on the island of Lanzarote until his transfer to Tenerife to begin his studies in psychology at the University of La Laguna.

Since he was young he has studied and participated in various musical formations, he founded the University Folkloric Group (AFU).

A great push towards his musical career came from winning the Regional Contest for Doubles Soloists in 1999, where he would begin to be recognized nationally and later on, taking the step towards the international scene.

He began to collaborate and make recordings with different symphony orchestras, such as those of Tenerife, Galicia and Córdoba, and chamber groups in the United States, Slovakia or Germany

Among the countries to which he has gone to interpret his works are Germany, the United States, Belgium, Japan, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Venezuela.

A writer called Sara Guerrero Aguado, at Digital Melamano, reports in glowing terms of guitarist Tomas Farina, when she says Water, earth and salt have long contributed to contribute to the magical music of the Canary Islands through the most natural instrument: the classical guitar. Now we find ourselves before a different hearing it anew. The realization of the ‘musical dream’ of Canarian guitarist Tomás Fariña of brings the music of the Canary Islands to the classical guitar repertoire. Through the music composed for the project by Francisco Javier Yanes, Tomás Fariña’s guitar gives us a great variety of colours from the framework of a very good execution and musical taste.

The first part of the album makes the most of the idiomatic resources of the guitar and, at the same time, expose the characteristics of the traditional or historical music whether  dances, seguidillas, Baroque folías, and specific genres of the specific area in which they are inspired. Halfway through the album, the Sonata Gomera , a work for guitar and violin, explicitly gives us part of the cultural heritage of humanity: the Gomeran whistle.

From this half of the album, the quality that was suggested  from the first note, grows through the later works that, without ever losing their traditional Canarian essence, compositionally provide a sound sensitivity that overcomes the limitations of the instrument itself. In addition, I recommend reading the descriptions included in the booklet, as they reveal many curiosities about the music of the Canary Islands. As a grand finale, we find the Magmatic Concert, one of the few concertos for guitar and symphonic band in classical guitar literature. Narrating a story of love and heartbreak, this work stirs up another great need: that of renewal of the guitar repertoire and that this repertoire be built on the solid material that traditional music of a culture and its roots suppose. For this reason, as Valle-Inclán’s words say in the album’s booklet: all projects loaded with tradition are loaded with the future. And this is what I predict for this project.

Jep Meléndez (dancer and choreographer) has been trained as a tap dancer in many art schools from Barcelona and New York, he’s also a classic dance, jazz and afrocuban percussion enthusiast. The dancer and improvisator who’s been part of numerous famous shows: “Benny Goodman Memorial”, “Jazzin and Dancin”, “Escolta’m” (Barcelona), “Navigazzioni” (Italy) “Tap City”, “Swing 46 Tap Jam” (New York), etc.

His own dance style is based on body percussion. He’s been developing his own performance for 20 years influenced by diverse styles and genres.

He’s been leading the show “Pampidam” ideated by the well-known dance troupe MAYUMANA. He’s also been the leading dancer of CAMUT BAND on its shows “Keatoniana”, “Tambores”, “La vida es ritmo” and “Kiting-Kita”. In his last performances, we could highlight his participation as a co-author and choreographer in “Faros del Silencio”, his stellar participation on “Tapage Nocturne”, his academic role on the III International Body Music Festival in Sao Paulo (Brasil) and his new project “A mano limpia!” displayed at the V International Body Music Festival of Istanbul (Turkey). He’s been directing and managing also the festival Encuentro Internacional de Música Corporal de Tenerife in 2011 and 2012.

During 2011, he worked in the creation and investigation for his new show “Cambuyon”, became its artistic director and performer. This show was introduced in the IV International Body Music Festival in San Francisco and it was released in Tenerife, Barcelona and subsequently in “The New Victory Theater”, off-Broadway, New York. He’s also a tap, body percussion and dance instructor, and he counts with a diverse national and international academical experience.

Travelling from Playa Blanca to Jameos Del Agua for tonight´s concerts we stopped in Arrieta, about 5 or 6 km from the caves, in time for a meal at El Charcos, , on the harbour. We took a table just indoors but with an open view of children diving of the wall into the sea while mums and dads strolled around ground, many of them in their finery. These were locals, it seemed, who knew the time and tide and strength of the sun, and the scene reminded me of the Degas painting called, I think, The Beach. The light was similar and this live reincarnation had the same air of elegant relaxation as the painting. 

We watched everything and nothing happen as one whilst eating. Dee´s fried baby squids were mounted on her plate to about the size of Montana Roca, and crackled and sizzled and popped as she ate them, whilst I had Canarian potatoes with the mojo sauce and fried cheese, beautiful and plentiful, with a bowl of apricot marmalade in which to dip them. I my speared cheese bite to a great height before plunging it, making no splash, (emulating the kids  diving into the sea).  into my own swimming pool of marmalade below- Wine and beer, respectively, to wash down the meals. There was still time for a cheesecake dessert before we set off to the caves and parking in the large (massive) car park by the entrance to the auditorium. 

I had guessed from the Cact web site previewing the gig that what I would hear tonight would be body-orchestra accompanying music so as we took our seats halfway down the auditorium, I was really looking forward to the concert. The musicians, I already knew, could be relied upon for a top class performance.

Tonight´s was a considerably younger audience than we are used to seeing at this venue. Although the Lanzarote arts scene does attract cross-generational audiences, the events we have previously attended here and been among fellow late sixties and seventies as an average age. Although the audience tonight were all bright, young things, t whether or not they were any more aware than us of this new fusion of music and dance we couldn´t be sure.

We were made absolutely certain that the audience had come to see favourite musicians when the artists took to the stage of this unique auditorium, deep down in the caves, to play in front of an audience that gave them a prolonged welcome of warm applause.

Timple maestro Benito sat centre stage with guitarist Tomas Marina to his right and Jep Melandez, the dancer, to his left, Both instrumentalists were seated and the only other props on stage were what looked to be a pretty small but slightly raised dance platform and a white wooden table  placed to the side of the stage, closer to the wings.

The opening number, even without the dancer joining them at this juncture, saw the players set the tone for the evening from the very first. With the utmost mutual respect and empathy the guitar and timple exchanged lead lines throughout the number as they would throughout the evening. The music from the very start was, as it would remain all evening, melodic and magnificent.

To be honest, though, that opening had me slightly worried, if only in the sense that I had so enjoyed it I could have sat and listened to them play all night. Did the two musicians really need anybody else?

However, if that had been music sin dance what we had next was dance, sin instruments, making its own sounds. There is a period in every young child´s life when they experiment with the kind of xx they can make with their mouth. That simple exercise of clapping your hands in front of your lips can make some intriguing sounds, but here xxx created them whilst also making certainly rhythmic, and possibly even tuneful,  sounds whilst shuffling his feet and tapping his body.

OK. That was terrific.

Now, though, he accompanied the musicians. There was no Chuckle Borthers ´to me, to you, to me´ handovers it was all both synchronised and syncopated  and was mesmerising. This was not a dancer with two instrumentalists, this was a trio. This was a band !

xxx gave the trio an energy, a percussive sound and somehow a sense of timelessness. Of course his dance was evocative of stars of the past who have danced similar ground. Like the aforementioned Roy Castle he was all whirling arms, whilst always light on his feet He created the impression, even, of being as weighed-down-upon but as dignified as Sammy Davis Junior in his Bill Robinson ¨Mr. Bojangles´ persona. There was the showmanship of old hoofers like Lionel Blair and Bruce Forsyth, but I know how ridiculous it is to employ British and American references here when there will surely have been many Spanish Canarian dancers who have brought the art form to this stage,

Although we can rarely interpret five successive words of the Spanish introductions to numbers we did, however, perfectly translate the phrase ´Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers´ uttered by Benito, obviously inviting our comparison as he warmly applauded the dancer.

Other highlights included Jep spreading what we first assumed to be salt, but on reflection might have been rice, onto his dance platform and then creating incredible sounds that only enhanced the music made by Benito on timple and Tomas on guitar. The ´swishing´ movements of his feet could not help but remind us of Gene Kelly Singing (and dancing) In The Rain.

There was an incredible performance that saw the partnership of dance, body and instrument deliver a perfect example of the roots and routes, this ensemble might be able to explore in the future. 

Sitting behind his (aforementioned) white desk or table Jep looked as fed up as a disappointed desk-clerk or perhaps as a teenage student trying to find something more interesting to listen to than the teacher. So instead, he starts tapping his hands on the desk. Yeh, that´s fun, now if I bang the desk top with my elbow,….oh wow, sonic, and what if then run my fingers along the desk,…oh, man. we´ve got rhythm, we´ve got music.

It was at that precise moment that a recognisable rhythm was established that the guitar and timple came in together, right on cue, and the three delivered a number that must have been painstakingly rehearsed, and yet sounded as fresh as a spontaneous riff.

Far too soon, the concert was coming to a close and suddenly we were in BBC Last Night Of The Proms mode. There was a scary ride through a dementedly accelerating Hornpipe (Horatio´s) that had the audience tapping seat cushions, arm rests, their thighs or somebody else´s thighs,… it didn´t matter, just make the sounds and keep up for goodness sake. We did, and it all came to a glorious crashing crescendo.

The trio returned to the stage to take three massively deserved standing ovations.

They had played us our long established musical styles and had danced us down to signposts pointing down the sidetracks and detours this new sound still has to follow. And we can be pretty sure they will find new movement, new music and new mythology to explore. 

Should I ever P into them as I follow my own sidetracks and detours I might refer them to that old Jerry Jeff Walker song, Mr. Bojangles, and to the tv clip on You Tube of Sammy Davis Junior doiung the old soft-shoe to the song.  

These musicians seem to me to be capable of anything, and if ever they performed that number what a glorious, multi-disciplinary. cross-generic achievement that would be. I would die a happy man.

On the other hand, however, these players, this dancer, are already breaking boundaries in delivering music they love to fans who love it just as much. We cannot ask for more,….surely,…..well, we can try..

Cabrera, Farina and Melandez,….more, please.

I´ve been racking my brains to think of a body popping jazz man but haven´t thought of one yet. It will, nevertheless, be worth listening to Steve Bewick´s Hot Biscuits jazz broadcast over the next few weeks week, in case he knows of one. Meanwhile this week´s programme features a live set from Manchester’s Counterpointmusic with Helen Pillinger, Carole Williams, Peter Hartley, Paul Hartley & Miles Pillinger at the Creative Space. There will also be adventurous sounds from Solstice, Wolverton Town Band, Paul Stephen Taylor, Georgina Jackson & Nottingham Jazz Orchestra. If this sounds interesting share with your friends and follow Steve on 

www.mixcloud.com/stevebewick

Meanwhile Aileen Hendry, aka , AJ the FDJ at Monster Radio, has alerted  Sidetracks And Detours to a new arts exhibition opening on Friday 26th August here on Lanzarote.

AJ tells us that Adriyana Hodge is a Croatian born nude photographer who is exhibiting her work in Costa Teguise on Saturday the 27th August. It opens at 5 pm and runs until 10 pm with ticket holders being in with a chance to win a photoshoot with Adriyana. 

Adriyana is a fascinating character who speaks perfect English, and Aj the DJ is sure the photographic artist will make an interesting subject for an interview .

She moved from Croatia to South Africa where she witnessed hold ups and car-jackings, so she  came to Lanzarote, returning to South Africa only  to bring her mum and sister and her nieces back to live here. However, she became caught in the lockdown in South Africa which, she says. was brutal.

Aj the Dj also tells us that Adriyana is an awesome photographer and. now settled here. wants to devote herself to making a full time career of her work.

 The exhibition is in a new Spanish bar, Julie´s Tap Room in the Pueblo Marinero in Costa Teguise. 

We look forward to bringing you a review of the inaugural showing.

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