Stage, Square and CIC El Almacen

FIVE GO PLAYING MUSIC* *with apologies to Enid Blyton

Cuarteto De Cuerda Wolność + clarinet

Teatro Victor Fernandez Gopar ´El Salinero,´ Arrecife


Gabriel Garcia and friends concert in  Guime


Entre Islas by Ildefonso Aguilar – CIC El Almacen

Traditionally a ´clarinet quintet´ is a chamber music ensemble made up of one clarinet, plus the standard string quartet of two violins, one viola, and one cello. ´These days, though, the term clarinet quintet can also refer to a five clarinet line up of various types of the instrument. The term is also used to refer to a piece written for one of these ensembles.

Wolność String Quartet was founded at the beginning of 2017 at the Conservatory of Maastricht (the Netherlands). Formed by young talents from different places in the world, the string quartet chose its name carefully. Acknowledging themselves as young, free spirits they included the word Wolność, as in its native Polish, the word means freedom, and since their formation they have built a fine repertoire of Chamber music.

The name works perfectly for them, too, as they offer precise but passionate performances. Free spirits they may be but their music tonight had a rigour that spoke clearly of the dedication they bring to honing their talents. A quartet line-up of Alfredo Reyes and Alicia López (violin), Ezgi Özer (viola) and Judith Díaz (cello), was accompanied by Lluís Casanova on clarinet.

The programme was delivered in two halves, the first being a piece by Mozart, a composer who, it might be argued, shared a similar attitude to music with these young musicians. Their contemporary attitudes echo those of Mozart when he said, ´I pay no attention whatever to anybody’s praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings.´

The piece chosen tonight by Cuarteto De Cuerda Wolność was Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, K. 581, originally  written in 1789 for the for the basset clarinettist Anton Stadler and a string quartet, but in contemporary performances the piece is now usually played on the clarinet in A or B-flat for convenience’s sake. It was Mozart’s only completed clarinet quintet, and is one of the earliest and best-known works written especially for the instrument.

How superbly Cuarteto De Cuerda Wolność interpreted the work here tonight.

Alfredo Reyes, first violinist, proudly introduced each piece and in so doing patently enthused about the composers and their works that would be featured tonight. He was a study in relaxed concentration all evening, playing alongside Alicia Lopez, on second violin, who seemed absorbed by what she was playing. However, her flashing eyes caught every movement of her fellow players and she was on cue, pushing and pulling and leading and supporting whenever required.

Ezgi Ozer made beautiful shapes on the viola and the sound from her instrument was clearly and cleanly identifiable, amidst any of the instrumental combinations

Sitting taller and more upright to manipulate her cello, Judit Diaz, seemed to take an overview of everything happening around her and she reflected the moods of the score, creating sombre, and even scary, sounds when required but also adding joyousness to the other celebrating instruments when called to join them.

Throughout all this Lluis Casanova played his clarinet like Gabriel blowing his horn, sometimes pointing heavenwards, and other times rolling it around in swoops and dives even as he played. A promise of (a musical) paradise.

These musicians did all this whilst always retaining their reverence for the music.

The works closed with an Allegreto interpretation that brought the instruments to call and respond to each other. It carried a slightly wilder air than the three opening movements, and there was some teasing, as if in conversation, between the stringed instruments and the cello, and the whole sound carried an element of light flirtation.

Time for a cold drink, for the musicians, perhaps, after all this fun, and so a short interval was inserted, before they returned to deliver Op 115, a Clarinet Quintet in B minor, by Johannes Brahms.

My first impression as the Cuarteto began playing this piece in the Allegro was that it sounded noticeably more forceful music than we had heard in the Mozart offering.

From our front row seats we had been impressed by the sartorial casual elegance of the players, with the ladies dressed in chic black trousers and tops, and the guys, too in casual black shirts and trousers. We noticed, as well, how carefully each player kept their eyes on the others, picking up small gestures and clues, virtually undetectable to  the audience, as to precise timings of playing.

All of them clearly loved the music and, even more, loved the playing of it, and the smiles at the end of the concert showed us they were surprised at the protracted ovations that were offered by a delighted audience, that, unfortunately, was not quite a full house. The applause was no surprise to us, however, as we had been hugely impressed by the Andandtino that had lightly skipped along, before another ensemble opening for the Con Mato gave way to a final solo offering from the cello for a few bars.

The piece became more frantic and by now the cello was playing pizzicato that swung like an empty hammock in a light breeze.

I do not always recognise what it is that constitutes good playing, but I know excellence when I hear it. The musicians here painted moods of bright sunlight and dark shadow. Their instruments never let go of our concentration and my thoughts never once wandered away to where Liverpool were playing Spurs in the European Champions League Final in Madrid.

I have to confess here that had somebody played me these two pieces and asked me to say which was by Mozart and which by Brahms I would have probably guessed wrongly. I would have held the perhaps false preconception of Mozart’s being the more serious, more sober music and yet it was the Brahms´ that tonight seemed more appropriate for such adjectives. Cuarteto De Cuerda Wolność had so brilliantly accompanied the clarinet on these pieces composed for groups just like them that, for sure, we will soon be seeking out recordings of these titles, hopefully including one by these very musicians.


Gabriel Garcia and guests in Guime

Ashesi, an African word that means “to start”, is a new musical show put together by the timple player Gabriel García.  The piece was given its first public performance recently in the square of Güime,  with the participation of two guests: revered timple player Domingo “El Colorao” and singer Fabiola Socas.

Also performing in Gabriel’s band was Yarel Hernández, a much in demand independent musician who brings joy and energy to all his performances.

Zsolt Kovács was also in the line-up and you can learn more about him by looking at the all about jazz site on your search engine, which is constantly updated. 

Iván Enríquez  I now know to enjoy a high profile in world music. A Cuban born singer/songwriter/producer he is perhaps best known for his creation of bands such as Rhodas, The Sweet Pepper Band and IvanJoy. He has recently released his latest video/ single, Perdona. Asked to describe the overall meaning of Perdona, he describes it as “´the love of living and of Ritmo Latino Pop Music.´ Perdona is warm, fun, exotic and danceable, with an emphasis on groove and passion and has a little something for every Ritmo Latino Pop music fan. Perdona also showcases Ivan Enriquez as one of the most intriguing Ritmo Latino Pop Artists of the year so far and promises that he has plenty more where that came from. 

These players were joined by the multi talented Álex Jiménez.

The timple is essentially a small guitar or ukulele like instrument and it has long been a bedrock of traditional folk music in the Canaries. These days, though, a younger generation of local musicians are now revisiting and reinterpreting the timple and Gabriel Garcia and his group are in the vanguard of this new wave of performers. He has been trained by some of the best known timple players on Lanzarote such as Toñín Corujo, Domingo el Colorao y Benito Cabrera and in 2008 picked up the coveted title of best young timple player in the Canaries. Garcia has also staged recitals across Spain in cities such as Granada and Cordoba, where he shared the stage with artists of the calibre of Carlos Nunez and Maria del Mar Bonet.

Until reading, very belatedly, of all this in Miguel’s what’s on pages from Lanzarote Information, I had never heard the word Ashesi before, nor, I am ashamed to say, had I ever heard of Gabriel, nor even of his fellow musicians and to be absolutely honest I was only very vaguely aware of the place on the map occupied by Guime. I knew only that I had perhaps seen signs for the place on the road somewhere between San Bartolome and Tias.

As I read Miguel’s piece on my computer screen I noticed the concert was due to start at 9.00 pm on,….o.m.g,… tonight, … and the time now was already 8.15.

I tried to reassure my wife Dee that anywhere on Lanzarote is accessible from anywhere else within forty five minutes, but she folded her arms in that Nora Batty way of hers and said, ´not if you don’t know where you’re going it isn’t !´ So she would stay at home and study her Spanish but I was ´free to go if I was that flipping stupid.´ That sounded like a free pass to me so I dashed out of the house and ran for the borders before she could change her mind.

I employed my preferred method of finding my destination by ignoring sat nav and map and set off to arrive there by following ever decreasing circles, and when I had the place surrounded, I pounced. This method took me via Playa Honda, towards San Bartolome and then a left at the roundabout after the British supermarket, signposted to Guime.

It was quite a big place I realised as I approached a cross roads with traffic lights on red. Glancing to either side I saw a family walking down a side street, looking to be parents and teenage children. I went after them and pulled up alongside them, lowered my window, smiled (which probably frightened them to death) and asked in my best Eurovison presenter voice, ´áblis englese?´or some such.

The father, a big tattooed man built like a rugby prop forward asked back, in an English accent, what part of the north of England I was from! He then assured me that although there was a public square in the town it hadn’t been used for a public event for twenty years, and it wouldn’t be tonight, and he should know because tha’´s his house (he pointed over his shoulder) and the square’s right behind it, (he pointed slightly farther back) and I´ve been looking at it all day from the kitchen and there’s nothing happening. You probably want to be in Arrecife, lad.

I thanked him profusely but took one more decreasing circle to take me around behind his house. I could make out the church in the darkness and a colourful light show being flashed onto its front edifice. Right in front of the church was a little raised stage and about 120 people sitting in front of it on seats provided.

Unable to see any spare seats available I parked up, took my trusty little folding chair out of the boot, and placed it in front of the stage to the side of the audience.

There were also another fifty or so people dotted about, one leaning on the lamppost at the corner of the street, others on public benches in the square and some perched on the low wall around the centrepiece fountain. The performers of this free concert took their places behind the microphones within a couple of minutes of me sitting down.

I hadn’t recognised the names of many of those artists mentioned on the advert on Miguel’s what’s on advice, but as soon as the main line up of tonight’s players took to the stage I recognised several of them.

The guitarist, electric bass and keyboard players were all musicians I had seen perform before with various line ups over the years, even as recently as at the series of concerts delivered at El Reducto in Arrecife commemorating Manrique.

When I was playing all over the North West of England at folk clubs, festivals and charity events with my own duo, Lendanear, we were often joined by a versatile stringed instrumentalist called Pete Benbow.

I can never repay Pete for introducing me to the music of so many Texan and Mexican writers and players, like Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Flaco Jiminez and Tish Honijosa, but what he was able to add our sound was even more amazing. Mine was not the only group to take advantage of Pete’s versatility. He was always the hardest working player at any festival as he guested with a, b, and c, and often with x, y and z too.

I remember that Pete used to describe himself as ´musically promiscuous´ and I guess some of these players here tonight similarly fit the same description.

If it has not already been, then this Gabriel Garcia music should certainly be taken to a studio and recorded by this line up. Not only were all the side session players quite superb but it was also interesting to see the skills Gabriel had that must have drawn them to him and this work. He is a nimble and sensitive timple player, as much at ease with picking as with strumming and he is perhaps seeking to take the instrument over new horizons.

There was such a strong African element to this sound here in the square, with a female vocalist employing her voice often as a wordless but emotive musical instrument to complement the sharply precise percussion, wild electric guitar runs, throbbing bass and keyboards that that skipped along beside them.

What was very apparent, both visually and audibly, was the great mutual respect between the players and their sheer enjoyment in playing together. Gabriel, in fact, often stood aside just to seemingly listen to how they were adapting this new music he has written and to watch where it was being taken. Before the eyes of nearly two hundred of us packed into that square, watching a jumping light show on the church walls behind the band, and lost in the beat, musical respect was visibly being offered across all lines of gender, race, class or even age.

To slow the pace to a somewhat gentler step, the band pretty much left the stage and Gabriel replaced them with an older, but obviously hugely venerated timple player and another female singer.

These two were led to the stage, in stately fashion, by the lady’s black guide dog, which then sat silently at her feet as she gave us a hugely contrasting singing technique to that we had so far been hearing.

The timple player, adorned all in black, including his hat, accompanied Gabriel whilst vocalist Fabiola Socas, gave us the massive power we often hear in Spanish folk lore, with the vibrato and raw emotion that creates a wonderful keening sound, whilst two timples lay pretty tunes beneath her songs.

Fabiola Socas is an active singer, pianist, composer and musical researcher from the Canary Islands. She was born on Tenerife in 1977 and has developed her musical studies in the island Conservatorio of Music from Santa Cruz de Tenerife where she earned a first class degree in Composition and Piano. She started singing folk music (isas, folías…) from a very young age and soon became a very recognizable voice among the other local ´cantadores,´ performing along the whole archipelago and mainland, in Spain. Eventually, she began exploring other genres including fusion, experimental avant-garde and jazz, though she never abandoned her folk music roots. She is nowadays an important character in the cultural scenery in the islands, being a defender of the ancestral legacy in the musical context.

Because she born totally blind, she performs with her guide dog, Orlee, sitting, silently, at her side. Fabiola is the daughter of Carmelo Socas, herself a singer of traditional music form Tenerife and Venezuela. She has an extensive catalogue of collaborations with other musicians from the Canary Islands such as Los Sabandeños, Mestisay, Benito Cabrera, and El Colorao.. She has become recently part of Ait Nahaya,  the combination of Canarian and North African music.

After two or three offerings the rest of the band wandered back on stage, joined by another male Spanish folk lore vocalist, and they all sang a song in praise of Lanzarote that brought the audience to its feet.

These knowledgeable fans had not only applauded at the end of songs, but also in recognition of particular vocal or musical feats. In fact the audience clapped along with some complex rhythms, too, only breaking off occasionally to give more traditional applause. The new male vocalist had an incredibly powerful voice and added one more new ingredient to this very well flavoured dish.

I mentioned the mutual respect between the artists and the evidence was there in their warm hugs and handshakes as the show came to a close. The senior figure of timple player ´El Colorao´ had risen to the challenge of playing with these young guns and he and the guitarist and bassist had struck up an immediate musical rapport.

Jessica Abu, who has performed previously in a duo with Zsolt Kovács, and had given us the atmospheric soundscapes at the start of the show, now brought the concert to a close with a rousing interpretation of I am Woman, W-O-M-A-N !!

We had heard a dozen pieces here that must surely become a recorded album by these very significant artists,….. and yet in other ways it all reminded me of the narrative of that Credence Clearwater Revival song, written by their lead singer John Fogerty,…. ´down on the corner, out in the street, Willie And The Poor Boys  are playing.  Clap your hands and stamp your feet.´

In a moment it was over. Instruments were packed away, final handshakes and hugs exchanged and then they were gone. The players left and we will have to wait until we bump into them again somewhere down the line, where they will no doubt be playing in revised line ups.


Entre Islas by Ildefonso Aguilar – CIC El Almacen

Curated by Estefania Camejo

I was privileged to work with a number of enthusiastic and excellent arts curators during my life in the UK, at galleries such as Touchstones in Rochdale, the Lowry in Salford and many others around the North West of England.

I have recently introduced to these pages, though, a freelance curator working here on Lanzarote who is both reactive and proactive with the work of the artists she represents. These artists must treasure her for the research and energy she brings to their collections and gallery proprietors must massively value the extra yards she puts into attracting new and non-traditional audiences to their exhibitions.

Entre Islas is a collection of fairly recent work by one of the most renowned contemporary artists on the Canary Islands. It has been curated for showing, until 13th July, by Jose Ramon (Pepe) for the Cic El Almacen gallery in the centre of Arrecife, and a number of guided walks, led by Estefania Camejo, offer a wonderful opportunity for residents and tourists alike to take their time in seeing this island in a new light. The artist, Ildefonso Aguilar, has projected the island through a metaphysical outlook on its landscape, albeit it transposed to an imaginary island resting somewhere between Lanzarote and Iceland.

This is another page in a long chapter about the relationship between Canarian artists and the island horizons that surround them. The works produced here have been described as ´a spotless and magnificent visual and artistic example (of the artist’s contemporaneity).´ He uses his technical skills to create what he sees in his mind, utilising the very textures of the dust of the earth, with smooth lighting so that they visually re-enact the soundscape he picks up in field recordings.

Because of this, wind, water, earth and light make up a soundtrack where the profile, silhouette, abyss and plain of a raw, primitive nature are on show.

This is more than mere pictorial of beauty, but is rather, with its earthy strength, a collection of works revealing an overwhelming geological awareness. We are captivated, almost overcome, by its vastness and its vision leaving us where time stands still, before fading beyond and out of our sight as we listen to the sounds of eternity.

If all that sounds fanciful, then visit this exhibition and experience that emotion for yourself.

We became very aware of how contagious is her passion for the arts, at our first meeting with her, when we followed Estafania around on a guided walk of an exhibition of rarely shown art works in The Cabildo, and although I don’t understand Spanish her enthusiasm  was easily translated. Such guided walks can often, in the UK anyway, be quite formal and slightly academic, and spoken in the rarefied language of arts expertise. Not so with this freelance curator, who wears her vast knowledge lightly, and beautifully contextualises all her arguments and sense of wonderment.

We all love to watch TV programmes like those presented by Professor Brian Cox (The Planets) who leaves us feeling like experts at the end of a presentation and sharing with him his amazement at it all. If ever Lanzarote TV or whatever is the national channel of Spanish TV wanted to commission such a programme on the arts they should recruit Estefania to present it. She is clever and amusing and very photogenic and television audiences would love her.

When we recently joined her again on a guided walk of the Entre Islas exhibition Pepe Betancort has curated at Cic El Almacen, she again delivered her talk in Spanish, as Dee and I were the only two English speakers in the party of a dozen or so who followed the tour.

The first impression these works release to a cursory glance around the walls, as she begins her talk, is of how dark and sombre and seemingly introspective they are. They are created on huge, frameless and imposing canvasses but Estefania’s eye for detail soon points to the uniqueness of technique and to how minutely, and accurately, the works seem to interpret the landscape they grow from.

She talks of the ´fissures´ and cracks shown on the landscapes and tells us something of the artist’s technique in creating these strange and challenging works. After then giving us all some free time to wander round this opening room, and to look at the fifteen to twenty pieces on display there, she invites us to re-join her and follow her, ´down into the cave.´

I was reminded of a lyric by the late American songwriter, John Stewart, as we descended through the darkness.

´And the world all stopped to watch it, on that July afternoon;

to watch a man named Armstrong walk upon the moon.´

As we each stepped off the bottom rung of a staircase that was not unlike a ladder running down the fuselage of a spacecraft, we stepped down into a floor covered in the picon that is all over the land here on Lanzarote. The circular walls of ´the cave´ held images of Lanzarote that perfectly illustrated why it is so often described as a lunar landscape. The texture made strange, squelchy sounds as we set foot on it, a sound Estefania would later expand on when we spoke to her after the walk was over. For now though I found myself muttering Neil Armstrong’s immortalised line of ´one small step for Man, one giant leap for Mankind´ though he later always claimed he had said ´one small step for a man,…etc.´ which most philosophers seem to think would have made more sense!

This cave somehow captured all that, and also moaned and groaned with the amplified sounds of the land, first recorded more than fifty years ago on what was then state of the art sound recording equipment.

Estafania explained all this, reminding us that not only was the artist far ahead of his time all those years ago, but that this was evidenced by how contemporary his current work remains.

She then lapsed into silence for a few minutes after introducing us to a silent film showing how the artist actually creates these masterpieces, using ´found´ elements of the land, in this instance including the white sands from Caleton Blanco, and employing liquid, mops, brushes, hands and fingernails to make corporeal his vision.

One of the many joys of Estefania’s guided walks is how quickly they become a dialogue rather than a presentation. She welcomes interjections from her ´audience´ and then engages easily in conversation, seemingly valuing our arguments as much as her own. There are always smiles and moments of laughter and those who have ever accompanied her on such walks must surely return to galleries in future with the confidence to more fully engage with any art work on display.

As she brings the walk to a close and people thank her, profusely, and start to drift away, I find that any initial doubts I had about the apparent bleakness of these works have been blown away by Estefania’s overall enthusiasm and her attention to detail. Her generosity of spirit is applied to everyone. She has extolled the virtue of the artist and in this brief conversation we had with her afterwards she told us of the arts expertise and writing skills of  Jose Ramon (Pepe) Betencort who has written an eloquent introduction to this exhibition, which Estafania has utilised in the display, and from which I have borrowed extensively from for this article.

Whilst it is very much the art of the island we have viewed so far in her collections, Estefania is in a fact very much a young woman of the world, who has recently stayed in New York (on ´holiday´) and visited that city’s three major galleries, each of which she assessed for us very succinctly. Suffice to say she loved the Guggenheim.

As we discuss this current collection here at El Almacen, I mention that the film of Ildefonso Aguilar at work on a major piece had seemed, to my inexpert eye, to be of a man going through what seemed a fairly arbitrary process, and so I wondered if he could have possibly known how the final work might look.

Estafania thinks otherwise, however, and suggested that only by creating and retaining a very clear image in his mind of what he wanted to produce could each piece in this collection have been so obviously a part of his thematic-

I remark that I think her admiration for the artist has clearly shone through her talk tonight, and suddenly she sets off talking again, with great enthusiasm about how, when Aguilar first emerged as an artist several decades ago, his work was so far ahead of its time. When I asked her to elucidate on that she reminded me that his use of sound and sediment reflected a multi-disciplinary approach.

I have heard her comment before on cross-disciplinary work like this, and I ask her if she is an advocate of that kind of artistic attitude. She replies animatedly that there are so many new approaches being made available to artists by technological advancements that not only facilitate creativity but also collaboration, and she believes that artists should take every advantage they can of these opportunities.

When Estafania turns the tables on me, and starts asking me questions about whether and why I had enjoyed the exhibition, I said that I was very impressed by how, despite being sombre in tone, these works the artist had created were of ´beauty out of darkness and music out of noise.´

That was quite pithy I hoped, and was perhaps a quote she could work with but it is part of her love of art to defend it against the merest suggestion of slight, and so she reminded me the earth does not make ‘noise,’ but makes sounds, from which music can be created. A fair point well made.

To try to save face and leave with some dignity intact I make the final point that I have heard the world ´island´ used so many times in talks about Lanzarote artists, that I was beginning to wonder whether the shores of this small island might be somewhat constrictive.

Estefania reminded me, once again rightly, that the island may be small but the seas beyond those shores are enormous. She was suggesting, I think, that great artists are not constrained by their horizons.

It was time to leave, for Eduardo, nephew of Cesar Manrique, was waiting to speak to her. As on the previous occasion I had chatted with her she had given me much to think about and I hope we meet again at forthcoming exhibitions, so that I can keep up to date with the long and successful career I am sure this young ´freelance curator´ will enjoy.

Two more guided tours of the Entres Islas exhibition (created by Ildefonso Aguilar and Pepe Betancort) will be led by Estefanía Camejo on Tuesday 9th  July at 6:00pm and on Saturday July 6th , at 10:00 a.m and the exhibition at El Almacen runs until 13th July.

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