A drop like a sea

Silvia Calado. Amsterdam, November 2nd, 2008

It’s complicated for a cultural program to stand out in Amsterdam. The entertainment guides are crammed with concerts and the fences around the city’s public works are plastered with posters. On the same weekend, Living Colour and Al Green performed at the Paradiso, Michael Bolton at the Amsterdam Marcanti, there were seven classical music concerts at the Het Concertgebouw, the Museumnacht (‘Museum Night’) was held all night long... and a ‘Bollywood’ van even rolled around the city announcing the imminent India Festival over its loudspeakers. And those are just a few examples.

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Highslide JS
Highslide JS
Luis el Zambo, Joaquín Grilo and Moraíto (Photo Daniel Muñoz)
Miguel Poveda and Luis el Zambo
(Photo Daniel Muñoz)

The Flamenco Biennale 2008 is therefore a drop in the bucket of the city’s extremely intense musical life. It’s therefore admirable to sell out at the Muziekgebouw aan’t IJ – about eight hundred tickets – for a flamenco concert. That’s what happened on the closing night with ‘Sin Frontera’ by Miguel Poveda... and by his entire company. And the thing is that no matter how much he appears as the star of the concert, his name equaled that of his guests on the bill. He was even outdone. Something logical when Luis el Zambo leaves his old-time soul on stage in the beaten-out bulería, when Moraíto makes his guitar speak with its essential phrases por seguiriyas or when Joaquín Grilo’s incontinent genius overflows. The top ovations of the night (feet-stomping included) went to the Jerez-born bailaor, following up a dance which dazzled due to its unprecedented tragicomic side.

Thank God the excitement experienced at the large venue had its exact counterpoint at the Bimhuis. The music group Ultra High Flamenco had a soothing effect on the ears of the nearly two hundred people gathered there. Pablo Martín’s contrabass, José Quevedo’s guitar, Alexis Lefèvre’s violin and Paquito González’s percussion provided the soundtrack for the beautiful night scene transparent throughout the entire backdrop. Trains leaving, streetcars returning, lights blinking. And as if they didn’t want to break the scene’s balance, they gradually revealed their repertoire. Music which is the more and more specific meeting point of four instrumentalists with different backgrounds and close heartbeats. It isn’t a matter of feeling, but of caressing.

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Highslide JS
UHF (Photo Daniel Muñoz)
Pablo Martín (Photo Daniel Muñoz)

By then, the feeling was already comfortably set up at the venue’s bar, where El Zambo kept on singing lyrics upon lyrics into the ears of the guests at the festival’s intimate closing party. Who were none other than the night’s artists, as well as those who had performed in the afternoon at the RASA in Utrecht (guitarist Tino van der Sman, cantaora Sonia Miranda and bailaor El Choro), the technicians, the devoted production staff, the diligent volunteers, the closest enthusiasts, the directors of the event Ernestina van de Noort and Maarten Rovers, some journalist or another... and the exquisite photographs by Daniel Muñoz exhibited there. Artists portrayed in the exhibit – which has been seen at the festival’s three venues – such as Manolo Sanlúcar, Sara Baras, El Pele, Israel Galván and above all, Tía Yoya seemed to want to leave their role in order to take part in the party which lasted until dawn, according to rumors. Amsterdam awoke covered by a mist which made all the flamenco felt over... how much time (?) seem like a dream.

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