A Meeting Of Timples, Teatro Tias, 2020 review

The annual La Candelaria and San Blas religious festival in Tias always presents a plethora of arts that showcase the town and its artists and their guests during a week of events for all the family.

The festival also seems to carry the unusual feature of offering spots in which aspiring student musicians make debut public performances in a theatre setting, in front of family, friends, strangers and tourists. To make that slightly less, or perhaps even more, daunting they play set pieces alongside a music tutor and player who has been mentoring them all year. To ensure that the nerves really do jingle like Mr. Bojangles, this performance is then a contributory factor to the young person’s musical grade for the year. No pressure there, then.

The evening opened with their mentor, Jose Perez, well known on the island as a superb timple player, came to the stage and explained what was going on to those who could understand him, However, what we have described to you above was gleaned from the atmosphere, audience response, and pale faces of the nervous examinees, because we cannot understand Spanish at this speed.

We have actually spoken to Jose before and mooted the idea of an interview with him (as his English is better than mine!) but it has proved difficult to arrange. Nevertheless, we remain keen to do so, as he delivers invigorating performances as a solo artist, and occasionally puts together his own bands when the occasion justifies it, and is a much in-demand guest in all sorts of other musical line ups on Lanzarote.

Here tonight we saw him in a new light, and not only because his recently bearded face seems to lend his smiling personality a little bit of gravitas but also because he embodied everything a mentor should be.

He was sympathetic and empathic to his students, showing patience and cleverly disguising his own playing to fall in to support them if they stumbled, though that happened only rarely. On this occasion he was playing guitar to enable the distinctive timple styles of each student to be more clearly heard.

The four students seemed to range from perhaps as young as ten or eleven years old to fifteen, maybe sixteen. All performed more than admirably and it seemed that all could have careers ahead of them in the music industry.

The picking from all was excellent, often with dextrous fingers flying across the strings with one of the two excellent male performances evoking somehow The Streets Of Laredo of the old wild west. The two girls, also, each gave a quite charismatic performance, as if transcending exam requirements in the sheer love of playing.

From the grin on his face, Jose seemed pleased with his charges, and they all exited the stage clearly even more delighted by the words of encouragement from their mentor than by the wild whoops and hollers of supporters in the audience and, even, more than any sense of relief that their ordeal was over.

Those few of us in the audience who had no familial or emotional investment in any of the players felt like judges in a talent show. Who had the X Factor? They all did.

The prospects of career and fun that beckons these young musicians were then clearly shown by a guest band for the evening. What their name was, where they were from, why they were there I can’t tell you. (What do you think I am? A reporter ?). There was no printed programme, the introductions were in Spanish or Lanzaroteño or Canarian or some dialect thereof. (You have no idea how hard our life is.)

Still, we do our best and I am pleased to report that this was a wonderful ensemble, with a finger-picking good timple player at its centre, an unobtrusive acoustic guitarist, a really cool player of a long-necked bass and a female drummer who seemed to somehow keep everyone rock-steady whilst constantly smiling, almost laughing, at how much fun this was, being at one with other musicians. These instrumentalists supported, played alongside with and were in turn supported by two female vocalists, who themselves complemented each other perfectly. One had a soul, jazz vibe about her voice, whilst her colleague had an incredibly strong voice that rang round the theatre.

´How would you describe that music?´ asked my mate Iain as we made our way out of the theatre at the end of the night.

The answer would depend on my required word count. One word, brilliant, would do, but I would expand and say that I was particularly reminded of The Rankin Family, a group I twice saw perform in the nineteen nineties.

Quite why the ´traditional jigs, reels and Celtic folk songs´ were brought to mind by this anonymous but massively talented band in Tias tonight I’m not too sure, because I was, throughout the show, also fleetingly reminded of snatches of Steeleye Span, the shuffles of the Buena Vista Social Club and strange little riffs that took me to Willie Nelson and yet to answer Iain’s question The Rankin Family was the first name to spring to mind.

My memories of those gigs I saw in the nineties are of The Rankin Family making music that sauntered on a walk as lonely as a cloud but at other times became part of the madding crowd, all dance and joy and call and chatter and love of life.

This group on stage in Teatro, Tias delivered much of the same mood. It was their encore that brought the Cuban reminders, but there had also been a folk lore song, instantly memorable to any tourist to Lanzarote who has ever spent a Sunday morning at Teguise market where the folk lore dancers dance and the timple players play.

The band also gave us a folk tune, so damned catchy, that I know I know and can’t get out of my head even though I can’t remember what the tune is. It reminded me very much of my Lancashire folk club days but that is what this group did all night. They reminded me on occasions of all the music I have ever loved, and yet somehow promised me new music I have yet to hear. (I always felt that way about The Rankin Family, too)

So was this ´unknown´ band simply a collection of musicians put together for the night? Surely that could not be so. Although their individual playing was always superb it was as an ensemble that they shone the brightest. They had about them, as well, a ´band´ attitude, and a modest sense of how good they are and they all clearly appreciated the talents of the others.

I am an old fogey these days on the music scene, and I know too little about the potential for touring and recording profitably on The Canary Islands, but if the young examinee student musicians from earlier in the evening stayed in the wings to see and hear this they must surely have been inspired to continue their studies and reach this level of proficiency, and be able to enjoy this much fun for the rest of their lives.

In fact, Tias has, in the opening months of 2020 proved itself as something of a hotbed of the arts. We recently brought you a review of a violin and piano recital called Souvenirs Romantico, and indeed we featured an interview with the violinist, Iya Zmaeva and will shortly conduct an interview with Natalia Nikolyeva who was the pianist on the evening.

There is quite a programme forthcoming in Tias, too, as the events below illustrate.
6th March at 8.00 pm at Teatro Tias admission free until full.

César Manrique, Rojo, Negro, Blanco, features Cristina Temprano and Ayoze Rodriguez in a biographical performance adaptation of the artist´s life.

7th March at 8.00 pm in Salon Indieras, Tias, Admission 15 euro
Máximum Ensemble, ´Maestros del Minimlisto´ in a classical concert.

13th March at 7.00 pm in Salon Indieras Tias, free until full
A talk and reading by the author from her work, Soy Lo Que Ves

19th March at 7.00 pm in Sala de Arte Ermita San Antonio, free.
A talk and reading about his book, Soles Denudos Des Luz, by Ricardo Flores Sancho Pastor.

20th March at 5.00 pm at Salon Indieras, Tias. free until full
Two violins and a piano in concert, featuring Diego Bermúdez Zhmaev and Iya Zhmaev on violin and Javier Diaz González at the piano.

26th March at 7.30 pm at Sala de Arte Ermita San Antonio, Tias. Free
Miguel Aguearralde talks about his eighteenth novel, los Expectros de Neuvo Amsterdam
Look out, too, for the Exposicion Rumbo by Fatima Lemes Suarez in Sala de Arte San Antonio
A phone call to 928 524 260 should be able to lead you to details of all these events.
What we have seen at previous events suggest these are likely to interesting, informative and enjoyable, so you might like to read the interview below and then attend the talk and reading by the author Miguel Aguerralde on March 26th in Sala de Arte Ermita de San Antonio at 7.30 pm. Admission is free until full.

Words from the writer:
Miguel Aguerralde Interview 2020

My wife Dee and I are great believers in the power of serendipity, so were not too surprised recently when we went to listen to a classical string quartet in a venue in Arrecife but ended up on the other side of town listening to a Spanish author speak about his latest novel, being followed by a ladies´ choir !

We were intrigued by the writer because, although we didn’t understand a word of the Spanish he spoke, he seemed to be talking in fairly serious tones about a book with a somewhat foreboding cover seemingly reflecting the cosmos, or the universe or some such. However, we also a detected a constant mischievous twinkle in his eyes throughout his talk.

I was hoping to catch a few words with him on his conclusion to try to glean more about him in Spanglish but, just as he finished, in walked fifteen or sixteen formally attired ladies, two of them carrying instruments and the others carrying songbooks.

As he shuffled off stage they jumped on stage and I barely had time to exchange business cards with the author before he had left the building. Still, at least I now had his name and contact details and so sent him an introduction to my mates, the five bums at the bar, (open questions,) in English, and hoped he might reply.

In the meantime, I looked up https://miguelaguerralde.blogspot.com/ on a search engine, and if you follow suit you will see he has quite a prolific on line profile. I learned that the event we gate-crashed had been only one in a tour of similar presentations of his latest work. He had officially launched the novel in Madrid on 14th December 2019 and apart from on the occasion we had seen him Miguel had presented the book elsewhere on Lanzarote in the following few days, in places like the Library in Arrecife and in the South of the island in Playa Blanca as well as over on Gran Canaria.

The introduction, to his own blog, though, made me even more eager to hear his replies to my questions. A rough translation of his opening blog paragraph says,…

´My name is Miguel Aguerralde, I am a teacher and writer and I live in Lanzarote. Come in and we’ll talk about all the nonsense I can think of, and I will tell you about the mess I’m in.´

That sounded like good fun to me, and I thought I might eventually receive from Miguel some answers that you, too, might like to hear.

So, I am now delighted to be able to reproduce here, in full, my questions and his responses, that arrived recently in the all across the arts office accompanied by a reminder that Miguel Aguerralde will be introducing his latest book with a talk and a reading in Tias on march 26th (see details above).
I give you that date again as we are bound, now, for light years of travel.

Miguel answered our questions comprehensively and yet there is surely even more for our readers to discover by browsing through the long list of his already published novels, detailed on his web site.

WHO is Miguel Aguerralde and how long has he been a writer?

´First of all I am a teacher. I work in the school of Playa Blanca. I’ve been here for the last ten years, but also in my free time I love to create stories and adventures that sometimes get published. I’ve been writing for about ´twenty years, but my first novel to be published was Claro de Luna, back in 2009. From then on I have published eighteen novels and two collections of short stories.´

WHAT is this latest book telling us?

´Los Espectros De Nueva Ámsterdam talks about a distant future, being set in the 24th century. It is a time when Human Kind need to leave the planet Earth and begin a new life in a city built under a huge dome on Mars. Somehow, not all the people are able to pay for the quite expensive ticket to leave Earth, so there is a large amount of people left behind, surviving with great difficulties, with barely any water, food or fuel. In this way the novel describes a ‘distopia’, talks about a divided humanity, one half hyper-technologic but corrupted (Mars), the other starving and fighting for life in corrupted and overcrowded cities like Nueva Amsterdam. Anyway, in the end it is a mystery novel, a crime story about good and evil, but taking place in a dystopian distant future.´

WHEN do you think and WHEN do you write?

´I always try to have fun with the story I am writing. If I love the story, if I feel thrilled for the adventure and the mystery and I cannot wait to keep on writing, then that is a success. I write as if I was watching a movie in my head, I just want to have fun and feel all those emotions. I bet that if a can feel it and share it with some taste in a book, then readers could feel it too.´

WHERE has your writing taken you, geographically and spiritually?

´The writer is an actor. When I write I play all the roles and live a lot of different lives. I got into the story, into the characters and try to empathise with them. So writing takes me to places that I could never know in real life. I use to place my novels in real places, places that I know well, but somehow I let imagination take the wheel and that is like living a dream. Writing seduces me, thrills me and takes me out of my teacher’s life to make me live my dreams.´

WHY do you write?

´I write because I need to tell something. There’s an idea that takes birth, that grows and shouts to be told. I feel the strong feeling of sharing it, telling it. That is the only reason: I love to create something from nothing, watch it grow and make others enjoy and get trapped for it.´

For our readers who can speak or read Spanish, Miguel’s works would surely make interesting reading and certainly his response to these questions will have me campaigning for English translations that I know I would enjoy.

So, why not treat yourself to a night out in Tias?