The Shadow of Guitars Flamenco is not an easy art form to engage with. On a superficial level one can fall for the stomping, the expressions of grief and the shadows of guitars and outstretched hands, but on a deeper level there must be an engagement of soul. One has to connect to the subtle rhythms of the strings and to sail on the pitch and tone of the vocalists words. Not an easy task, even for one who grasps the essentials of this Granadino tongue. But when the opportunity arises to savour something a little genuine, then it should be taken.
Down in the old Walled Fortifications of the City Last week the Peña del Flamenco Alcazaba de Loja celebrated their day deSocio (membership day) and offered a free concert in the basement of the old fortifications of the walled city of Loja. Down deep into the caves we filed, to perch on pixie seats whilst food and drink was passed around as generously as the applause as the artists came up onto the stage. We listened enthralled to the wailing voices and thrashing guitars of those invited to play. Superb vocal renditions were offered, accompanied by guitarist Carlos Zarate, who later introduced his son, a minuscule lad of about 10 or 11 years that played a remarkable duet with his dad. We were also treated to the presence and skill of 'guitarrista japonesa Aoi Tomita'.
Thoughts on Being There I make no claims to understand the subtitles of this art form, the lyrics are often lost on me and, as much as I try, the fragmented rhythms are lost on my northern soul upbringing. But, sitting in the basement of an old walled city in the madrugada of a cold and wet November, I felt privileged to be able to witness something that has yet to be diluted by the tainted hands of commercialism. It is a rare moment when what you see and hear; what you feel echoing in your heart and mind is not simply the end product of a hard sell. Perhaps flamenco is not what it was, perhaps even semi-private concerts like these are not immune to the collapse of traditional culture we are witnessing this century, but... when sound and light, when echo and sweat combine to release emotion in such tangible form, then I consider myself privileged indeed to have simply been there.
Want to read more about Flamenco in Loja? Get Inside the Tortilla for the whole story on the Volaera celebrated each year: Deep Flamenco.