Casa De La Cultura Benito Perez Armas
Exposicion Ceramica Uga – De Tierra Y Mar
by Tino Aleman
Friday 9th November.
Basico. BENITO CABRERO + BESAY
Saturday 10th November 2018
As a beginner new to the study of, and creating of ceramics, my wife Dee has recently been littering, sorry, adorning, our garden with scores of pot butterflies, cats, lizards, mushrooms and aspects of the solar system such as suns, moons and stars. They are, at this early stage of a new hobby, flat and one dimensional, but placed appropriately on picon or perched on large rocks, or in the shade of the cacti they do lend a colourful and strangely charming air to the surroundings of a patio.
Tino Aleman is a ceramicist who works on a rather higher ladder as was shown by each of his hundred and twenty odd creations exhibited in this beautiful Casa De la Cultura. As we walked past what looked a very inviting buffet offering of snacks and nibbles on an courtyard table, there were crowds of local arts lovers enjoying tasty morsels whilst talking about the quality of Tino´s work, so we wanted to get in and see what all the excited chatter was about. Further early evidence of his abilities was provided on the sheets of listed pieces we picked up, with several red spots indicating already sold items.
All items, already sold or waiting to be, were beautiful, fully rounded and three dimensional models of various forms of sea life, creatures smooth and sleek if not always conventionally beautiful. Representations with title such as Anfopez and Arjon were often decorated in somewhat muted, but no doubt accurately reproduced colours and their sheer beauty was enhanced by being set on large pieces of slightly distressed timber, a comment in its way on the relationship between land and sea suggested by the title of the exhibition.
Whilst this was beautiful art for art’s sake in its way, there is no doubt that these items would also serve as intriguing pieces of art deco in house of minimalist style. The pieces were small enough to become ´lost´ in a busy lounge but were large enough to capture attention and hold interest if placed with room to do so. I have no knowledge of market prices for such pieces, but those listed on the hand-outs seemed affordable even to an impoverished freelance writer.
What I found especially interesting about the exhibition, and that carried me away on the flights of fancy I so enjoy, was that the pieces were not placed in a separate room specially dedicated to them, but were laid across all three of the small ´galleries´ here in Yaiza’s Casa De La Cultura. That meant they were placed to converse with work already being displayed in different disciplines, such as painting and Mosaic, by various artists. I am always fascinated by how work in different aspects of the arts is produced quite often by a common methodology that somehow begins a conversation between the art forms. I am at age now where I understand and recognise sufficiently well to instigate my work process and strategies when writing my own fictional poetry or prose. Having spoken to many artists I now know that the creative stageposts of painters potter and poets are often the same, and as I stood surrounded by Tino’s evocative and provocative pieces, and the paintings surrounding them, I found much to direct me to the departure gates for new flights of fancy I want to undertake over the next few years.All this stuff and nonsense does not have to be shared, though, by visitors to this exhibition, running until 28th November, to enjoy Tino’s work.
All these stand-alone items of beauty are brought together by three large photographs, I think. Each shows one of the ceramics, or the real life body that inspired their creation, alone and seemingly deserted on an unpopulated beach. We are left to gasp at their vulnerability and to wonder at the camouflage and cunning that aids their survival.
As in life as in art.
The following night, my wife Dee had a prior arrangement to go out for a meal with the international selection of ladies who are members of her yoga group, so I was allowed out on my own to attend this concert ! Having dropped her at the newish Cocina Del Puerto by the harbour in Playa Blanca, I headed up to Yaiza confident that the time being only 7.45 I would be early for a concert not due to start at until 8.30 pm. However, when I arrived on the vast car parking area between the church and the venue there were few spaces left, but as a section had been cordoned off for the imminent installation of this years Belan display, I assumed that was why the place looked so crowded.
By the time I wandered into the courtyard I found myself at the back of a queue of about eighty people waiting for the doors to open for this ´tickets free until full´ event. When those doors were opened from inside, some ten minutes later, those eighty people poured through,… and so did the two hundred or so who were now standing behind me.
This wonderful hall, resplendent tonight in its plush red stage curtains, very quickly became standing room only, and all the walls of the room were lined with people taking places along them. Whatever spare seating that could be found had already been put into place at the back and taken up by spectators and a few minutes later the doors were being fastened open so that an overspill of another twenty or so could hear the concert from outside.
All this was conducted with a minimum of fuss and great courtesy and patience by what sounded and looked like a widely international gathering. What had drawn this number of people I couldn´t really be sure. The photographs of the artists in a couple of adverts I had seen suggested a good fun duo and although I hadn’t heard of them previously, it seemed their reputation preceded them. This packed hall broke into a huge round of applause as the artists took to the stage, and then fell into hushed silence as the lads took their seats behind the microphones.
Besay, in a leather jacket, caressing what looked to me like a Timple with amplification and Benito Cabrera with a small, percussive shaker in hand immediately began to create a soft and gentle sound that would typify most of the rest of the concert, but that in this opening number gave no hint of how massive and soaring can be the voice of Benito.
To many of the English members of this audience Benito’s looks must have made him a reminder of Paddy the vet off Emerdale, but this did not detract at all from his musicality or how impressed by it we were. The second song, followed a lengthy spoken introduction. featured some beautiful picking with rhythm supplied by Benito playing a bhodran type instrument, and suddenly these two young men sounded like The Chieftains. This percussive instrument, even when beaten firmly, somehow always conveys the sound of distant drums, and here they added a gentle yearning to Benito’s voice.
Changing from Timple to acoustic guitar, Besay gave another extensive and seemingly informative introduction to the next song from a single spotlight. Although it will an eternal regret that I have never learned enough of the language to understand any such descriptions, my enjoyment of the performances I see and hear remains undiluted. The jaunty guitar picking here gave a lovely platform for Benito´s strong, expansive vocal.
The next number brought about a strange phenomenon that I never witnessed in England. Indeed, I have seen only a handful of examples over here. At various stages in the song the audience burst into spontaneous applause. I assumed this to be for particular notes that Benito achieved so effortlessly, but it might have been for the intricate playing by Besay who had returned now to the Timple. He brought the number to a close with an incredibly fast piece of picking, ending on a beautifully sustained harmonic.
He changed instruments yet again, and this time played the guitar in a distinctly Spanish style, with reminders to me of Flamenco, as the sound technicians played with the control panel and pout just a touch of reverb on Benito’s voice.
Besay stuck with the guitar for the next number that again perfectly privileged Benito´s voice, albeit in what seemed a song more of sadness than the lighter numbers that had gone before.
Benito sat, perfectly composed, throughout the show and it was amazing that he could deliver his vocals with so much power from such a position. He also expressed his emotions through his hand movements, which often seemed to be cradling his notes as they left his mouth and flew to freedom. This and the following offering was the sound of celebration in a precise balance of guitar and vocal. To my mind there were strange echoes here of Arabic sounds in the singing, but that is maybe an association I drew more from ignorance than knowledge.
For the next song, one of ´melancholy´ according to Besay, he returned to the Timple, this time playing it in the frenetic style of banjo music to be heard in the old Americana songs I so love, allowing Benito to sustain long and powerful notes throughout, often drawing cheers from the audience. Not even the sound of a firework display from nearby in the village could break us from his spell..
It was amazing how one, or at the most two, instruments could create such a variety of sounds and when Benito again picked up the bhodran he played it with a steady rhythm on the skin but also with a skittery, almost skiffle style tapping on the rims. This closing number was wildly applauded, and from my seat near the sound desk I saw an audience, that by must have numbered three hundred or so, rise to give a loud and proud standing ovation. Besay showed off his dexterity on the strings of the Timple in response to demands for an encore and Benito delivered loud, brave vocals to a rhythmic clapping accompaniment from the spectators.
We all wandered out into the night, and I set off to pick up my wife. All the way back to the harbour at Playa Blanca I pondered on how concerts of such amazing qualities are delivered so often for so little cost to so many people here on Lanzarote. These gigs seem almost ephemeral. There is little announcement, hundreds of people turn up, wonderfully dedicated artists deliver performances of technical mastery of their craft and reveal heartfelt emotions of enjoyment in what they do. The show closes, the audience wanders away until another time and the musicians move on to their next gig, usually on another island.
Whilst I waited for Dee outside the restaurant by the harbour I tried to read a leaflet I had picked up on entering the concert venue. From that, I learned that Benito Cabrera and Besay are two of the best musicians in the Canary Islands, together delivering a common project of instrument and voice, .two essentials of music. Nothing else, no ornaments or tricks, would be added. Benito Cabrera and Besay would combine their talents in ´basico´, a show based on a repertoire with popular songs, traditional Canarian folk music and some of their own compositions.
This concert had certainly seemed to demonstrate that the fewer the elements, the more a duo such as this has to offer.
However, I had been spotted and a delegate from the Yoga group (not my wife!) came out to invite me to join the party. As I took my seat at a table now full of empty wine bottles, lending evidence that a good time had been had by all, I so much wanted to tell them all about the great concert I had just seen. However each lady wanted to either tell me about the great meals each had chosen, or to invite me to go late-night dancing, (presumably the handsome waiters they also praised, had refused). There were ten ladies, and one was my wife. Pleading a headache, I said I just wanted to get home and sleep, so I made my excuses and left, dragging my wife along, waving goodbye to the girls and the night life.