Writings and essays about flamenco

Category — Flamenco Tablaos in Madrid

Casa Patas, Field of Dreams – El Mundo Report on Madrid’s Key Flamenco Tablao by Pablo Sanz – translated by Brook Zern

Subhead:  Flamenco Foundation:  The Madrid establishment, next-to-last of the city’s great tablaos [flamenco night clubs] , will also be open to reflection.  Because not everything is “sinsentío” [beyond reason, senseless].

“To be someone in flamenco, you have to spend time in Madrid.”  The words are those of the still sorely missed singer Enrique Morente, but the thought is shared by everyone who is devoted to this great cultural expression, declared a Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO, through the song, dance or guitar.  Morente’s affirmation remains true, but it’s also  true that there are fewer and fewer places to listen to serious flamenco in Madrid as time takes its toll.

Beyond the regular events sponsored by Bankia or the Suma Flamenca [Flamenco Summit], and isolated performances like the Autumn Festival or those in locales like the Sala Clamores, the Spanish capital is becoming less flamenco with every passing day.  Casa Patas has always been a tablao that stresses flamenco culture, and it has remained the only Madrid site where the walls evoke the art’s depths even before one enters.  But now it wishes to become cultured – a space that welcomes reflection and analysis about the great art that is flamenco, where there is song and dance and guitar but also lively discussions and debates about it, seeking new horizons and new approaches to achieving the diffusion that the art deserves through a combination of sentiment and intellectual rigor.

And so this Saturday, Jorge Pardo illuminates a cycle of events called “Flamenco…on the frontier!!”, serving in his role as “Europe’s best jazz musician” according the the Jazz de France Academy, and as the best flamenco musician according to the guitarist Paco de Lucía and the singers Carmen Linares, José Mercé and other admirers of the saxophonist and flutist.  The program has just added the Cádiz pianist Chano Domínguez, and in future Saturday dates at the Sala García Lorca at the Casa Patas Foundation (calle Cañizares, 10; prices from 10 to 15 euros) the spotlight will be on the trumpeter Jerry González and the group called “Olé Swing”.  It’s evident that the schedule of events is carefully thought through to reaffirm that there are many different ways to live flamenco.

The Sala resembles a flamenco café more than a typical tablao, with an audience limited to 90 spectators and where the sound is natural rather than amplified.  Heading this initiative is Antonio Benamargo, a man who was born crying to the rhythmic pulse of the bulerías, and Martín Guerrero, the business manager who sets the ideological agenda of the Casa Patas Foundation.

“The aim is to present the artists in an intimate setting where aficionados can enjoy the essence of flamenco,” says Benamargo, “with the respect that you’d find in a theater but the close atmosphere of the Cafés Cantantes [the venues that defined the public art a century ago.]”  These performances benefit from the optimum acoustic conditions, allowing the audience to experience the art in the best possible way: music that is natural and forceful [“valiente’], without microphones.”

This new effort by Casa Patas puts a finger over the wound [pone el dedo en la llaga], namely the disappearance of tablaos in Madrid  where flamenco can grow and evolve, because those are the natural spaces for the art, the indispensable lungs with which it breathes.  But the new venture also confirms that there are flamenco oases where hopes run high, as was the case with El Candela before it lost its way following the death of Miguel, its former director.

The theater and film need alternative spaces, jazz needs its clubs, pop-rock needs its noisy sites, literature needs its cafés rife with discussions – and flamenco needs its tablaos.

End of article.  The original is found at:  http://www.elmundo.es/cultura/2014/01/17/52d8fb09268e3eb85b8b4571.html?cid=MNOT23801&s_kw=casa_patas_campo_de_suenos

Translator’s note:  About a decade ago in Washington I attended a flamenco performance put on by Casa Patas.  The key player was Pablo Maldonado, a very talented flamenco pianist.  (That’s not a musical language I truly understand, but the singer was terrific in a siguiriyas and later identified himself as the scion of the very traditional Familia Ferández, all of whom I’ve always admired.)

Not long afterwards, in Madrid, I met with the head of the Casa Patas Foundation, Martín Guerrero, a major real estate developer, to learn about its activities and ambitions.

In those heady economic times, we discussed the pros and cons of a serious project to open a version of Casa Patas in New York City.   It didn’t quite happen, but it did show the ambition and seriousness of Señor Guerrero, and it’s nice to see that he is still looking for new ways to further his expansive vision of flamenco.

(Meanwhile, why not open a little closet-sized room in lower Manhattan and just let Fernández sing those terrific siguiriyas all night.  I mean, how much can we lose?)

(Yikes.  That much, eh?)

Brook Zern

January 18, 2014   No Comments