My friend, Jack, from BuzzTrips.co.uk remarked not so long ago that in Tenerife anything other than salsa was considered to be alternative music. It definitely was that the only music I heard in Tenerife’s south 20+ years ago other than the cover bands/groups/performers of the bars in the tourist areas, but happily the times they are a-changing, and the other day I was thinking about the mixed-bag of music I’ve heard so far this summer, and also what’s to come in the near future. As with so much here, the first word which springs to mind is, again, diversity. I’m partial to many types of music, but know more about some than others. That said, I’m not sure it’s necessary to understand the technicalities of music to feel it in your soul. Some touches my soul. Some doesn’t.The full moon shimmered over the Auditorio as we left in June – the eclipse was the following day I think. Not an especially good photo, taken with my Blackberry, but maybe gives you an idea of the atmosphere.
The day before the lunar eclipse my soul was most definitely touched. My musical summer began in Tenerife’s stunning Auditorio Adán Martin. I’m privileged to know a young man called Patricio Gutiérrez Pérez, who is also a volunteer with Cruz Roja. He’s professor of violin at the Conservatory of Salamanca, but he was born in Tenerife, and returned to perform in the Auditorio in June for their celebration of Spanish classics….a wonderful, emotional performance which included work by Joaquín Rodrigo. I’m woefully ignorant about classical music, not because I don’t enjoy it, but because the whole genre has always seemed so huge and complicated to me, but I am a little familiar with Rodrigo, and this night was very special.
Just a few days later, a complete contrast - Santa Blues, the capital’s annual bluesfest. Last year I managed to get there all three nights of the festival, but this year only once. It was, as it always is, a thrill to know that artists of this calibre come to Tenerife. End of the day, compared to other stuff, it really isn’t that well attended, other than on the Saturday night, when the drunks turn out for free stuff, so it really is a credit to the Town Hall that they continue. If I were a cynic (who? me?) I would guess it profits the nearby bars and restaurants, and maybe brings people into the area (i.e. blues fans from other parts of the island) who might not otherwise know about it. The Calle Noria district of Santa Cruz is a popular nightlife venue, with great eating and late night entertainment, and it’s a bit magical to stand there, under the branches of a flamboyant tree, swaying to music touching your soul, fanned by a cool breeze from the sea.The Auditorio swathed in green light in honor of the Festival’s sponsors.
July brought the annual Heineken Jazz Festival to Santa Cruz, and whilst most of the events were out of my price range the one I most wanted to see, in any event, was free – Yay! A memorable and utterly spellbinding night of Afro-Jazz which utterly surpassed all my expectations. In truth I wasn’t sure about such a fusion, probably that’s because I don’t understand the technicalities, again.
I’ll risk wrath here, and say that jazz doesn’t always move me, when it gets too complicated I kind of tune out, but, like the fictitious art aficionada, “I know what I like”, and the energy which Naya Band brought to stage to open the concert was, simply, infectious. They fused more than just jazz and music from their native Senegal, they touched on blues and reggae too, but, then afterall, didn’t it all begin in Africa? At the end of the day, isn’t all – just – music?
Fatoumata Diawara strolled casually onto the open-air stage alongside the Auditorio. Slight but colorfully dressed, her entrance was almost shy. For me she had a lot to live up to because I’d been watching her on YouTube, and it wouldn’t have been the first time a live performance disappointed me, but what she did was totally, totally blow my mind. I go back to “feeling” the music because she sang in languages I couldn’t follow, most movingly in Bambara – specifically a song about female circumcision – not a topic for a song you may think, but then our western music has been dominated for so long by songs about unrequited love that we forget music as a message, as communication, as a release from pain or a celebration of happiness. I couldn’t, of course, understand a word, but the music, and the voice as instrument, were laden with anguish and pleading. They didn’t really need a translation. Not that it was all anguish by any means, you can see the joy of music in the photos below. In West African countries it’s a tradition that dancers from the audience join in, making events into a party. This audience was mostly jazz lovers, sadly, there weren’t as many Africans in the audience as I expected from previous events, but a couple,including a friend, jumped onto the stage to groove with the tradition, and both would have brought down the house – had it not been outdoors!
Problem for me is that so many of these great events are in Santa Cruz. It isn’t that far, just under an hour, but it restricts the possibilities of a night’s enjoyment – only one beer for instance, when watching outdoor concerts, and having to leave early in the case of this concert.
However, there have been occasions closer to home. Lavabar has had some great nights, most of which I couldn’t get to, but memorably a night of haunting folk and laid-back jazz numbers by El Mar Origenes. The only description I can think of is Eva Cassidy – and no exaggeration, this girl has the same purity of voice and the same gentle intensity.
Summer is also when the new Carmen Mota show opens in Las Americas. Like last year, the show was much more concentrated on dance than on spectacle. I much prefer it this way. If it isn’t pure flamenco enough for some, then they are missing out on the sheer enjoyment. It’s aimed at the general public, including foreigners, for one thing. It’s beautifully presented and the dancing is breathtaking. Think Spanish/flamenco “Riverdance”, and you’d be close. The in the early years the shows were more of a combination of dance and carnival, but carnival is not something we are short on here!
One warm Sunday afternoon I went to Finca del Arte to listen to the jazz. I have mixed feelings about this venue, but certainly not about the music. It’s just a shame that most people go to chatter and not listen, but I suppose that performers in eateries get used to that? The other problem is that the tables closer to the band are in full sun, and obviously it’s much nicer to sit under the shade of trees. Maybe the place depends on the day. I’ve had some very pleasant afternoons there in the past, but I’m not in a hurry to go again after this day, but not the fault of the music!
Folk music takes many forms, of course, having grown up with English/US folk music I sometimes forget that the incredible music/dance I saw a couple of weeks ago is folk music in its own country. The longer I live in Tenerife, the more I come to love the traditional music here. Many of the old traditions have been revived in recent years. In the groups parading at romerias there is, for instance, almost always someone playing bones, like this guy.
Last, but no way least, one of the most memorable days of this summer for me ended with this impromptu performance by a local parranda (musical group/minstrels) which I’d lost when I first posted about them. We were on the tram, returning to Santa Cruz, after they’d already sung all the way on the outward journey, and then sashayed the streets of La Laguna. An unforgettable bunch of ladies!
Autumn is poking its way into our lives, not so far as weather goes here, but certainly life is changing. Autumn means less outdoor events, more formal ones, the brief opera season in Santa Cruz, and the music of Christmas. Lots to look forward to in Winter too, though for me a big plus in these summer events has been that the majority have been free, the price of a drink or very affordable. These are just my personal experiences this summer, there has been an awful lot more going on for those who could afford it. The island certainly has come a long way in the last 20 years.