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March 28, 2018

A memorable Spanish cultural performance


March 28, 2018

Islamabad: Although mass media has brought Flamenco to the world stage, according to those who know, it has always been and will always be an intimate form of music. It is said that you have not heard authentic flamenco if you have not been in a ‘juerga’ (revelry; festivity; celebration), with a group of friends, at midnight, somewhere in the south of Spain, where there is nothing around but the voice, the guitar and the body of a dancer moving in the moonlight! But not all of us can get to Spain and only a lucky few get invited to performances by the Spanish embassy, where this art form is featured once every few years.

This year an amazing performance titled ‘Giralda’ (festival) was arranged by the embassy at the Serena Hotel and attended by a large number of invitees who were thrilled to be part of the invited audience and gave the performers a standing ovation after the very enjoyable show was over.

Strict adherence to time was maintained, a lesson that can learned by others. Welcoming his guests, ambassador of Spain, Carlos Morales said he was pleased to host this performance by a group who had already performed in Karachi and Lahore. He gave a few details about flamenco – derived from the word ‘flame’ and evolving from the cultural roots of the people of the region – and is all about passion and emotion; thanked the sponsors Shelozon; Typsa; Metal; Sabiha Anees; Turkish Airlines and Serena and hoped everyone would enjoy the show and the dinner which was to follow.

It was a nonstop performance with three dance sequences interspersed by vocal and music renditions. The first dance was performed by the duo; the second was a solo by the female dancer and the third by the male one -- no names were given so I cannot give them but needless to say, their performances were quite entrancing and repeated applause was heard in appreciation. The musicians also gave a great performance -- the vocalist had a powerful voice; the guitarist was entertaining and the percussionist played on the wooden box he was sitting on as if he was playing a ‘tabla’! I believe the group had a fusion session with some of our musicians earlier, so maybe he picked up the beat from there? Who knows!

Flamenco is a genuine Southern Spanish art. It exists in three forms: el cante, (the song) el baile (the dance) and la guitarra (the guitar playing), originally a backdrop for the dancing and singing, now recognized as an art form in its own right. The evening’s performance was what is known as ‘Tablao Flamenco’ or ‘flamenco on the planks’ as the dancers had a wooden stage, which magnifies the click of the shoes as the dancers go through the steps, an essential part of flamenco apart from the gestures and facial expressions. Gypsies from the subcontinent played a part in its creation but the popular songs and dances of Andalusia also had a major influence on early Flamenco. The legendary Tartessos (a semi-mythical harbor city and the surrounding culture on the south coast of the Iberian Peninsula) and later, nine centuries of Muslim occupation left an imprint on Andalusian culture, both influencing flamenco, directly and indirectly. Later flamenco singing was marked by easier music such as fandangos and South American influences. Modern day flamenco frequently shows influences of other kinds of music, such as jazz, salsa, bossa nova and rumba which make it universally understood and popular. In 2010 Unesco declared flamenco as an intangible heritage of humanity.

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