A day of premieres at the Biennal under the banner “This is not flamenco”, and we look for Van Gogh’s lost ear.
José Manuel Gómez Gufi
There are days that are just hard to deal with…you’re bothered by the light drizzle, you go to the wrong restaurant, the bicycles seem dangerous and you’re not even interested in the smells of Amsterdam. On a day like that you’re not interested in writing a music review, it’s not a good idea if you hope to keep good karma with the universe. We all know that negative reviews are very well-received and Spanish contains an immense variety of insults and offenses.
A book about guitarist Tino Van de Sman was presented, Payo Humberto was in attendance, I missed that. The slogan of the day is “this is not flamenco”, and I arrived in time for the concert of Tony Roe on piano and José Quevedo “Bolita”, guitar. I’m told they got along well four years ago when they were in a jazz band. Together, they interpret something which is neither jazz nor flamenco, a sort of new age music in which each one draws soundscapes where they cross paths with no desire to confront one another. Nice.
“Luminescencia” is the project of Amir Elsaffar, a jazz trumpet-player of Iraqui origin who is striving to find his own path. For the moment, he has a fabulous percussionist, Pablo M. Jones, who also works with La Tremendita, who does do flamenco, and with a very current sound, also Gema Caballero who is a fine singer, and dancer Vanessa Aibar who looks terrific in the guajira, although she then goes contemporary.
What’s all the talk about fusion? Well, it’s about trying to communicate in a common language. In Amsterdam almost everyone speaks English, Bolita and I speak a kind of pidgin English that’s good enough for getting some food and ordering a beer, but our literary level is like a minimalist painting.
Beating with a stick is culture?
It’s the debut of “¡Kick-pluck-Planta-Tacón-Tap-Clap-Clack!” And you’re dying to see Eduardo Guerrero again, the dancer who fascinated me in “Onírico” at the Corral de la Morería. He does a first and prodigious dance with lamps, the percussion is in one corner pushing the buttons – that has to be taught! Then a guy with a small guitar, and they go over to a table.
¡Grrrrr! You can accept that this group from the Hague (Slagwerk Den Haag) is a spectacular percussion group…but that they should call upon Tomasito and give us the best! Which is what Lola Flores said half an eternity ago. In the evening, Eduardo gave a lesson in how to fit flamenco into one hour, and several dozen Dutch people get into position. (In actual fact, he should have given the course to the percussionists). No bitterness intended.
Eduardo Guerrero keeps the flamenconess right on the table so as not to overdo, and then the band comes on answering one blow with another, sounds like a belfry. In the final number the group brings out the so-called “donkey jaws”, a very typical percussion instrument in Columbia, adding a peculiar sound to the cumbia. In the hands of Dutch musicians it’s a spectacular number that gets people worked up. Personally, I’m stupefied, when they bring on that instrument it can only be to make me dance cumbia like crazy (as with Totó La Momposina last summer), if they start marking rhythm on a tabletop, I want them to burst my eardrums with jaleos of tangos or bulerías. If I want to see fireworks, I’ll go to China…or better yet, I’ll go looking for Van Gogh’s lost ear, I’m in the right place for it.
Photo gallery by © Foppe Schut