“Please can you bring me another glass of wine?” Andres said to the waiter.
The waiter served a bottle of a nice Rioja.
The band hungrily eat the tapas that the owner offered them after the performance, and today he was being generous, the takings were good.
It had been a great show, in this tiny tapas bar in Hornsey, North London.
About 16 people half filled the place, and chatted excitedly while the food was making it’s way from the kitchen.
They were there to have some tapas, and to see some flamenco, but nobody knew who the performers were, and they probably didn’t have big expectations either. After all, it was another one of the dozens of tapas bar in London.
When the music started, the chatting noise slowly died out. The guitar of Andres was filling the air, and Javier started singing, signalling Lourdes to stand up, and she waved her hands elegantly in the air, face grave and tense in concentration. She was dancing in a piece of hardwood less than 1 square meter. When the song gained momentum, clapping, guitar strumming, singing, and feet stomping ferociously, even the waiters had stopped serving. Everybody was totally absorbed by the performance, and I remember seeing the chef’s head peeking through the little window of the kitchen door, oblivious to whatever was cooking in the pans.
When the show finished, the people gave a long standing ovation, drunken of excitement and sangria, happiness in their faces. They had just seen something really special. Not even paying 30 or 40 quid in a big theatre in London, to see some international flamenco performer, would they experience what just happened, as a flamenco lover would confess to me later. This was an outstanding performance, by great quality professional musicians.
“What is the name of the group?” I asked Javier.
“We don’t have a name, we just get together and play”.
I was astonished, I said they should take this project to bigger stages, they had more than enough talent that shouldn’t go wasted. They should record their music, they should believe!
After meeting them that day in 2014, I offered them my help, this was something that deserved to go around the world, this could be the beginning of something big, I just had the feeling there was something special about this guys.
After that, they found a name, Alma Gitana (Gipsy Soul). None of them come from a Gipsy family, but they certainly have the “duende”, that magic that happens on stage and is used in flamenco to describe some sort of inspiration, even a mystical or spiritual connection. According to wikipedia, Duende or tener duende (“having duende”) loosely means having soul, a heightened state of emotion, expression and authenticity.
Javier, Andres and Lourdes met in London, after migrating from Spain, and they come from Barcelona, Granada and Madrid. Although their musical background was never flamenco focused, the love for this genre put them together. They don’t play all traditional stuff, they explain, as flamenco can be a heavy and difficult art. They mix it with the Contemporanean learnings of ballet and Spanish dance of Lourdes, the jazz guitar influence of Andres, and the more popular and entertaining approach of Javier’s singing, used to equally sing Gipsy Kings and Buenavista Social Club just changing the tone and expression of the voice.
That’s why their music may be criticised by flamenco purists, yet they could reach a far wider audience, who will enjoy the passionate and intense performance of some flamenco “palos” or musical forms, and delight in their interpretations of traditional Mexican, Cuban, Spanish, and own compositions, more refreshing and crowd pleasing.
Javier and Andres have now produced their first EP, with 6 tracks of delightful music, to be released in the summer of 2017, which will surely open many doors in their artistic future.