When one thinks of Flamenco, the image that comes to mind is undoubtedly that of the female Flamenco dancer, stamping her heels into the floor with rapid movements as she sweeps across the floor in a bright, ruffled dress. But today, we learnt that the art of Flamenco consists of much more than just that, and there’s plenty about it to be completely bowled over by.
Based off the folkloric music traditions of Southern Spain, Flamenco covers not just a style of dance, but also encompasses cante (singing), toque (guitar playing) and even palmas (handclapping), amongst other traditions. All these and more were showcased tonight at the Gypsy Jazz Flamenco, as part of the Roots of Flamenco World Tour brought to the Esplanade Recital Studio by Admission Nation LLC. The Roots of Flamenco World Tour brought together some of Spain’s greatest Flamenco performers for a night of unbridled talent, and a real treat for audience members who were both diehard Flamenco fanatics, or complete newbies to Flamenco.
Gypsy Jazz Flamenco specifically refers to a style of Flamenco that mixes the traditional sounds of flamenco with a more modern, inspired new sound of jazz that truly mixes up the formula and provides a faster, more exciting sound. At the forefront of the genre is none other than Chano Deminguez, a multi-award winning jazz-flamenco fusion pianist who’s received international acclaim for his skill. Tonight, Deminguez played the piano, and showed us just why he’s been nominated for his fourth Grammy award.
The night started off with Deminguez taking to the piano and playing ‘Vamonos pa Cai’, a song that won him a Grammy 12 years ago, and was even used in a film. The entire team of performers came together to perform this number, which acted as a great introduction to what Flamenco was all about, with singers Ismael Fernandez and Ismael “El Bola”, Yeray Cortes on guitar, Bandolero on percussion and drums, and Sonila Olla and Pol Vaquero showing off some slick dance moves as they stamped their feet to the beat.
Deminguez then performed an 8 minute solo piece, ‘Blue and Green’, that really allowed the pianist to show off his skills. The piece showed just how experienced he was, his fingers nimbly leaping across the piano keys, gliding through all the trills with his rapid movements. In complete control of the performance, his playing emoted all the subtle nuances of the song, almost as if he were caressing the keys with his gentle, featherlight touch, and one could almost imagine the song taking you on a journey as you close your eyes and just listen, ending off not with a whimper but with a joyous bang.
The night was still young, and from there, we were treated to a couple more pieces, all of which allowed each of the performers to be in the spotlight at least once, and really show what they were made of. There was plenty of Flamenco singing during the performance, and a wide variety of it; father and son team Ismael Fernandez and Ismael “El Bola”, for example, showcased their vocal range and depth of their emotion as they sang a piece while guitarist Yeray Cortes nimbly plucked and strummed at his strings, before the elder Ismael left the stage to leave the young Ismael and Cortes to perform. Cortes impressed us with the way he easily moved from one song to another, in a completely different key, quickly making adjustments to the tuning onstage as opposed to having multiple preset guitars, and really showed off how much practice he had with performing. These performances were undoubtedly one of the highlights of the night.
Finally, one cannot speak of Flamenco without mentioning the two fantastic dancers. Sonia Olla (who is also the partner of Ismael Fernandez and mother to Ismael “El Bola”) and Pol Vaquero changed costumes for each time they appeared onstage, and though they didn’t perform for long each time, we felt the impact of their performance. Their finesse and skill was evident as they balanced perfectly while spinning and stamping their way around the stage, and one could feel the energy emanating from each of their quick, precise movements, their bodies practically feeding off the music as Sonia ruffled and sashayed with her dresses and Pol snapped and walked the space.
The Gypsy Jazz-Flamenco performance was undoubtedly one of the most invigorating things we’ve seen on stage in a while; practically pulsating with life, each of the performers were perfectly in sync with each other, and had great chemistry as they performed together, playing off each other’s energy, and you could practically see the joy in their movements and their eyes. Even when they had finished their final number and thanked the audience for coming down, they couldn’t help but break into an encore number that kept going as they crescendoed with each passing moment, as if they were drawing strength from an infinite pool of power and each other’s support.
For us, the Roots of Flamenco was about as rustic as Flamenco gets, truly getting back to the basics of the art form while adding in an exciting twist with the jazz aspects, and as we watched the performance, were practically transported to the streets of Madrid, imagining ourselves with a glass of sangria in one hand and a bowl of tapas in the other, enjoying every second of this well-paced, explosive showcase of Flamenco talent.
Tablao Sevilla Flamenco will play on 5th October, 8pm at the Esplanade Recital Studio. Tickets available from SISTIC