Ana, flamenco cantaura, led us through Seville’s narrow, dark and cobbled backstreets. We were running a little late. It was almost ten o’clock and the show was about to begin. She pushed us through a door, the entrance to the Peña Cultural Flemenca Torres Macarena. Two elderly men sat smoking in the little foyer of the hidden club. They controlled admission. Ana first had some discussion with them. We paid a donation. Only €6. She had prepared us: Non-turistíco. Solo miembros del club. Vas a ver el flamenco real, no el flamenco turístico. We were going to see real flameco that night. Not something dished up for tourists. In the bus on our way to the club we received a quick lecture on the five most well-known flamenco styles.
With this lightning course, all in one breath, one bus trip, Ana’s flair for the dramatic, whatsapps, and with Google Translate from Spanish to English and back again, we were somewhat prepared for what awaited us. At least, that is what we thought.
The first guitar sounds attuned the audience. The cantaur, male singer, sang his first notes and excited the audience further. It was raw, wild. Pained. Fiery. The sounds tended towards something Arabic. Middle Eastern, with its melancholic vibrato.
he sings flamenco
passionately with stomping feet
his voice inflames
Lalo Tejado, bailerao, approached through the audience and ascended the stage. Not that young any more. Serious and focussed. Dark blue dress with a long, frilled train. White embroidered shawl. The audience expectant.
The guitar played secure, clear rhythmic notes. Lalo began to dance.
Ana sent a whatsapp: she is dancing a Caña. A dance with solo guitar accompaniment.
The audience was ecstatic. After each phase of complicated movements they shouted: Olé! Olé! Valé! Valé! (Valé: It’s good! It’s worth while!)
The cantaur sang words which you began to understand. It had to be love. Turmoil. Passion. Loneliness. She began to click her fingers as if playing scales. Her stomping became frenetic. The train of her dress was flicked back and forth. Her concentration became your concentration. You felt yourself drawn in further by the rhythms, the singing, the guitar.
A young man joined her for the Tiento tango. He looked like the archetypical flamenco dancer. Sharp features. Dark. Smooth black hair, oiled back. The audience became frenetic. His face fell across his face. The tension between them, sustained.
After that he danced a solo seguidille, according to Ana’s whatsapp.
Then came the highlight for me. Lorca’s poem Zorongo Gitano – Song of the gipsy. I found the translation on my phone and followed it. The audience whispered the Spanish words to the music.
she whipped backwards
her feet vibrated to love
to the rhythm of Lorca
I have blue eyes, I have blue eyes
and my little heart is just like the tip of the flame.
By night I go out on the court and I cry until I´m spent
seeing that I love you so much and you don´t love me at all.
This gipsy woman is mad, she is raving mad,
for she wishes that what you dream at night would come true.
The hands of my love
are weaving a cape for you
with a gimp made of wallflowers
and a hood made of water.
When you were my boyfriend,
back then on the white spring,
the hooves of your horse
were four sobs made of silver.
The moon is a shallow well,
the flowers aren´t worth anything,
what is truly worthy are your arms
when they hug me in the night,
what is truly worthy are your arms
when they hug me in the night.
The olé’s and valé’s were whispered between words and dance movements, like mantras in deep meditation.
the audience whispers
words of Lorca’s ballad
– gipsy love
the ballads are raw
audience saddened by the words
Ana whatsapps: Carmen Ledesma is in the audience! Superstar, the grande dame of flamenco.
Another young bailero joined them. Must have been a celebrity, because there was a thrill through the audience. They danced a bulería – about a festival in Jerez. Masterful. Everyone ecstatic.
Anas whatsapp: sobresaliente! fantástico! magnífico!
Our hostess in Seville is a cantaura, a flamenco singer. Ana. But I must first point out that recently I have become intensely under the impression of synchronicity.
With our approach to Seville our nerves were shot. The spaghetti ringroads were just too much for us. We repeatedly missed our exits in that fast and very heavy traffic and repeatedly circled a part of the city. And then, again, in the wrong lane. Hands sweaty. Eyes bewildered. And you prepared yourself for the worst.
Eventually the system spat us out and the GPS recalibrated and took us to Ana’s address. But, on arriving there, we found blocks and blocks of modern flats, all identical, with no intelligible numbering. We fell about. We don’t have roaming. Rode around the block. Realised that we would have to spend our days in the streets.
An attractive redhead walked past. No, she couldn’t speak English. I showed her Ana’s name and the address. Ana! I know her very well. Come, I”ll take you to her apartment. It was more than coincidence. Much more…
Ana is way larger than life. With a love for life. She immediately poured glasses of ice cold sparkling wine and invited us to attend a real flamenco evening with her. We were very sory that we couldn’t be there on a Thursday evening when she sings. We were going to experience the real thing. Non-touristy. And she kissed her fingers. We chatted with the help of the Google Translate app which we had downloaded on our phones. We sent messages and translations back and forth. And we laughed and drank our wine. We chatted to her three Gorkies – Yorkies.
She is also a poet. Google translated her poem about the migrants from Africa – A los refugiados, as follows:
Flesh of oblivion
They walk their despair
between crying and hunger pain and abandonment.
How much life lost
They are leaving behind.
Meanwhile, the broken feet and the looks
hidden behind the rubble of death.
Walking without knowing where
because there is nothing on the horizon.
Trying to remain standing
in a land without soil.
Forgotten by the men
who grow on the slopes of abundance.
They, people from nothing,
they walk invisible without mirrors
that return them to their being.
Looking for somewhere to put their lives,
wandering with faces
that do not even remember the last name.
They await our glances,
they hope to find a place to meet,
they wait for our wills,
they wait for a life,
the right to a life.
What do mortals know about exile?
Evening came. We sat with Ana in her livingroom. She applied her make-up, like an actress…