Sevilla spoils all those who thrive or rather discover themselves, when surrounded by art and culture. And food of course. Tapas takes new avatars here. But my sublime gastronomic moment was in Barcelona, so I will dedicate my eats & nyum nyum tales to that city. Be it the amazing weave of two cultures or the display of Spanish pride which you can see in the earlier Mudéjar post, the region and much of Spain that I visited was full of graphic surprises. So here is another unforgettable experience that will make you wish ‘passion’ was your middle name. Welcome to the Flamenco rhythms.
COLORFUL, LOUD & FOOT STOMPING FLAMENCO ~ GYPSY DANCE OF STORIES
I hope you see this post before you take off to Spain and decide to watch a flamenco performance. It’s absolutely authentic and loveliest when you see it in Sevilla, Cadiz, Jerez or Granada. A culture that found its wings in this region of Spain, you can watch it in Andalucia like it’s meant to be. I remember chatting up with a history lover in Barcelona who almost dismissed Flamenco as just a show for the tourists and not something still integral to Spain or its youth. But it is. Especially to the many gypsies who live in the South of Spain. And a huge source of livelihood too.
FLAMES OF RED
Other than sunny orange that you catch in trees bearing the fruit with the same name, the color red is what grabs you in the many flamenco images that are everywhere. True, it’s a color that always hits you between the eyes. It is also the dominant color of the flamenco performers. Be it the flowers in their hair or the gorgeous folds on the traje de flamenca (flamenco outfit), red finds its way into the singer or the dancer’s visual drama. Matched intensely by the singing & the guitar that incidentally deserves its solo show.
As the story goes, flamenco is a rich folk tradition that blends the music of the Roma/Gitano (gypsy) people, the ballads of the land with sounds brought in by the Moors from North Africa. These gypsies were said to be wanderers who perhaps traveled more than a millennia ago from the Western state of Rajasthan, India (they were called banjaras) to the Balkans/other parts of Europe. They brought in nuances of the land’s cultural markers into their daily lives and over time through many nomadic travels, created whole new styles. The flamenco was one such performance and it became the most accepted & vibrant expression of this gitano (gypsy) people in Andalucia, Spain.
CANTE Y BAILE FLAMENCO
Both the music & dance (baile) seem like a series of complex layers set to a 12 beat cycle, creating a rhythm (compás) with the foot stomping (zapateado) & hand clapping (palmas). All of this with or without castanets that are held in the hand & clicked together rapidly. What accompanies and creates the high decibel mood for the show though, is the singing (cante) with the flamenco guitar (toque) playing uninhibitedly, as if every one is watching just that. You can see that the guitarist is pulsating with energy & loves it every single time. I wish I could play like that. As if the tone isn’t already set, this is further enhanced by the finger snapping (pitos) and jaleo (vocalisations). See I told you it was complex. There are flamenco classes that you could book online before you reach Sevilla. But once you see the act, realization dawns that it would take a lifetime to dance with such ardor.
The singing is about the passion, the laments, pain and joys that the land and its people have seen. It is in fact the soul of the performance. It is full-throated depending on the style of music, so get ready to be blown away.
I chose to watch this in Sevilla at Casa de la Memoria de Al-Andalus, a tiny and intimate environment presenting tradition in its most authentic form. So true that they didn’t let us take pictures till the show was over. I took just a few minutes but immerse I did, into the intensity of the performance that lasted 60 minutes. That’s an essential for the dancer in every act. She/He attempts to express all emotions that the song carries and pass on the same to the audience. And I must admit that it’s totally dependent on the dancers & the relationship with their body at that moment. If they truly dance with abandon it makes you want to move too. You have to let it submerge you to really like it. And you do come out feeling utterly overwhelmed.
The dance styles are many as are the singing styles. By the tone and the depth of the singing I perhaps had an evening of Cante Jondo (deep & somewhat strong/passionate singing perceived harsh at times). Shows by both the female bailaora Adela Campallo and the spectacular moves by the male bailaor Juan Carlos Cardoso, gave an amazing closure to my Sevilla tales. For this time.
Where to watch:
At Peñas (small spaces with traditional performances) or Tabloas (larger spaces with spectacular extravaganzas). I was sold on the small spaces as I like private, intimate experiences.
Where I went:
Casa de la Memoria de Al-Andalus is a peña in Sevilla and a quaint place with overtones of a traditional home. Run by flamenco lovers it also has an exhibit depicting the evolution of this cultural act. Behind the room where the performance is held, is the food & bar area where you will need to pay separately if you decide to have dinner after the show. You can book online & collect your tickets once you get there.
Shows: 2 (7.30-8.30 PM AND 9.00-10.00 PM)*
Entry: 18 Euros* for 1 person
*As of May 2016