Exploring the Stories of the Islands and the Freedoms of Third Age


Friday Feast for Eyes and Ears

Another busy weekend – this time, so busy I didn’t even have time to post! It’s strange how accustomed one gets to “scribbling” away on a blog, it becomes as much a part of one’s life as brushing the teeth or walking the dog, but, clearly it was the only thing which could give this weekend…….and, whatsmore, I didn’t do lots and lots of things which were on offer…….what I didn’t do this weekend was go to two of the three nights of folk concerts in El Médano, nor to the “side” events during the daytimes; I also didn’t go to the Festival of Divine Light in La Caleta, nor associated the Yoga Festival in Adeje; I missed the free music concerts in Los Cristianos (which, apparently, were terrific – Saturday night I got text messages urging me to go, but I was elsewhere!); and all of that was not to mention a fiesta in Las Galletas and private invitations to party or go salsa dancing……just in case you had any lingering doubts about life here being a touch on the dull side – you know, small island, a bit claustrophobic maybe??  Hah!

So, what did I do?  Since I suspect that I am too tired to write it all up tonight, I’ll begin at the beginning, and might leave the rest until the morrow.

Friday night was the real kick off for the International Folklore Festival in El Médano, which I mentioned before.  I have a feeling that this festival is going to grow and grow, and possibly become quite famous within the islands.  There is one over on the island of Gran Canaria in Ingenio, which is famous throughout Spain, and which I have always wanted to visit, but seeing the program for El Médano’s own version it seemed just as good this year.

It began with a street parade of some (but by no means all) of the groups taking part, the missing ones being all local groups from different parts of the island, so I suppose they had other commitments, this time of year being so busy with festivals, and the Uruguayan one I saw on Wednesday night.

There were groups from Argentina, Indonesia and Mali as well as from Tenerife.  Now, I’m as “meh” as most people about “folk” dancing in a way.  I find it interesting, but not soul-stirring, until I realized that the amazing dances of Indonesia and Africa are also “folk”;  and, as you can see in the picture above of the group from Instituto el Cimarrón, the tango is the dance of Argentina,  (although there was a traditional dance from Argentina as well, see below)……now the tango is just about the sexiest dance ever, and puts a whole different light on this subject!  Instituto el Cimarrón was formed in 1976 for the specific purpose of teaching the traditional dances, and sends a group abroad each year to spread the word.

Indonesian music and dance I know only from the wonderful videos my friend, Maria, posts of her travels there.  They, like these wonderful costumes, leave me with a thousand questions.  One thing which seems to set apart Asian folk dances is that they tell a story. Possibly I’m being presumptuous in thinking that European ones don’t.  I realize that there are, both in Spain and in England, dances which were danced at certain celebrations or for certain purposes, but, so far as I know, not which actually tell a story.

Klub Peminatan, apparently, have won many prizes since being formed in 2007, with a view to making sure that traditional dances are preserved, and this is their first visit to Spain.

My love of things African is already noted here, and the music of Senegal and Mali I find absolutely entrancing.  There is such an energy to it I can’t describe, and it really fulfills the purpose of bringing people together with its rhythms and almost forcing you to have a good time…….witness the way people are encouraged to leap onto the stage and dance during performances of even world-famous artists like Youssou N’Dour.   My biggest regret over the weekend is not being able to see more of this fabulous group Africa Guedie.  I’d love to be able to post a link here, but there is no information about them online as yet.  The group formed only in 2008, so maybe it’s early days, although the program says they have already performed in France and mainland Spain, as well as the Canary Islands, and although they are billed as being from Mali, they seem to represent different West African countries so far as I can make out.  I’m just keeping my eye open now for another of their performances!

When it comes to traditional, Canarian folk groups I’ve realized that there is a vast variety in quality, and the songs sometimes are just heart-rending, especially if you hear one of the exceptionally good singers there is around, the songs require a kind of purity of voice which is quite breathtaking.  The whole genre is becoming more and more popular, with hours and hours of local television coverage of events.   In this sense, it seems to me, tourism does native cultures a favor.  I read somewhere recently, for instance, that the art of carving what we call totem poles had almost died out in the western US, having been kept alive only by demand from tourists.  Someone has now realized this and is organizing things so that it doesn’t just become a memory.  So it is with folk music here.  20-odd years ago it was seen/heard only at serious, local fiestas.  Now there are groups performing at all sorts of different events, and town halls and other institutions are offering classes.  Agrupación Folklórica Amazig, the group who appeared Friday night, pictured here, dates back only 3 years, but has already gained an enviable reputation, and it didn’t surprise me one bit to learn that fact after having heard them.  Let’s be honest, European folk music can get a bit boring, but these guys really brought it to life.  The other thing noted, as I remembered from the “living museum” in Chirche, was that there is a high percentage of young people in these groups, hopefully, ensuring the traditions are kept up in the future.

OK – I was totally right.  I am beginning to nod off here, as I type away, so I will just end by saying that, YES, I DID have another brownie ice cream on the way home Friday night ( I know – shameless!), and as soon as I’ve shaken off the Sandman and taken care of other things tomorrow I will tell you about the beach clean, the turtle release, the dinner in the 5 Star hotel, the cooking demo in a little village and a wander around a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  All this on a wee island of something a bit more than 2,000 square kilometers and under a million inhabitants :=)



Just An Average Saturday night in South Tenerife

It’s an odd thing.  I go to an Indian festival last weekend an end up with photos of a Canarian folk group, and this week I go to a local village for their folklore festival and end up with snaps of a troupe from Costa Rica.  That is, most definitely, typical of life here in the south of the island.  It’s a cultural melting pot.

And what a melting pot!  Saturday night offered three cultual experiences any one of which would have been worth writing up here.

I’m going to kind of work backwards for mysterious reasons of my own, and the pictures here won’t be great because we were sitting quite a long way back for this one, and it wasn’t really prudent to spoil people’s enjoyment of the performance by moving around.

Event Three, then,  was the annual folklore festival in Las Galletas, a small village, a cultural melting pots in its own way, but still at heart the fishing village it was until very recently.  In the last few years it’s had a makeover and now sports a very attractive, new harbor, and many more leisure boats than of yore as a consequence.  Still, on my own, personal rating it scores much higher than most.  It’s attractive and doesn’t detract from its former incarnation.

We arrived a little late, having been delayed a bit by the previous event, and as we passed the fairground melodic Canarian folk music wafted down the street on the back of an excellent sound system (if that’s the right expression).  A male group of singers and musicians occupied the stage, dressed in traditional Canarian costume, above, Los Amigos de Punta Rasca.  The nearest comparison I could make from personal experience is a Welsh male choir, which British friends will “get” but I don’t know if anyone else will.  Although local music often features female soloists, the musical group is generally made up of men, all of whom seem to be in possession of fine tenor voices.  They didn’t stick just to Canarian music, though, they presented us with music from South American countries too.  It was typical of what I had expected to hear.  There has been a great revival of interest in traditional music in recent years, and like the young men in Chirche last weekend, it was great to see that the traditions are in safe hands.

Next up was a small band and dance troupe from Costa Rica, Turichiqui,  who were wonderfully colorful and flamboyant.  I could have watched them all night as the girls swirled their enormously full skirts, like peacocks strutting the stage and showing off for the men (yep I do know that peacocks are male, but nature doesn’t provide many, if any, similies which spring readily to mind, where the females are the more glamorous!)  Not, mind you, that the men were any slouches in the glam department either, with their bright, silky shirts and white stetsons, but my goodness those swirly skirts were what little girls’ dreams are made of, and they looked like so much fun!

By the time they had finished,  it was close to midnight, and a group of local folk dancers took to the stage.  We were plum tuckered out by then though.  We had a small child in our party who had been bopping away with the dancing to an amazing beat of his own, but by then had fallen asleep, and so we wound our ways home.  It would have been nice to see the night out, but I still had 20 minutes or so to drive, and didn’t trust myself not to fall asleep!

It’s not an easy thing to get used to this nightlife, and I’m not talking about wild nightlife and discos, just the simple sitting in street cafés, especially at this time of year, including children of all ages, at that time of night.  OK the fair was in town, but still, at this time on an average summer Saturday there would have been lots of people on the street.  To live this way, to eat at 9 or 10, and then go out for a stroll and a drink, to meet up with neighbors and friends makes a siesta a necessity, and although I do it at times I’ve never been able to make it a habit.  It’s the most wonderfully friendly and relaxed way to live, though.  It’s part of what makes summer what it is here.  It’s all lived outdoors.

Second treat of the night was entirely different (and, yes,  I admit that contrast and diversity turn me on).  Every summer for (if I remember correctly) the last 18 years, the University of La Laguna has held a Summer School which takes place in Adeje.  Adeje is the municipality probably most-visited in Tenerife – the majority of Playa de las Americas lies within it boundaries, and the newer, posher resort areas of Costa Adeje and Playa de Fañabe, but its heart is in the village of Adeje about 10 minutes into the hills, and one of the original Guanche menceys, or kingdoms.

So, Friday lunchtime I got a text message from Cristina to say that the keynote speaker at the inauguration of the summer school was to be Baltasar Garzón (ón).  To anyone who doesn’t recognize the name, the English press often refers to him as “Spain’s crusading judge” (although the word crusade might be inadvisable these days!).  He it was who almost succeeded in getting Pinochet extradicted to Spain to answer for his crimes.  He has also had no fear in issuing warrants for drug barons, terrorists (famously Bin Laden), and politicians of both right and left, all of which has made him a very controvesial figure, with both friends and enemies on both sides of the political fence.  Currently he is suspended pending investigations into his attempts to discover the truth about  burial sites from Spain’s bitter civil war.  It wasn’t that long ago, of course, certainly within my parents’ lifetimes, and feelings still run high, partly because there are so many unanswered questions, but I don’t mean to get embroiled in that very complex subject here.  Garzón is a fighter for justice, regardless of politics.  He had a brief foray into the profession, but it didn’t last long.  Everything he said, and the way he said it, Saturday night confirmed to me my own impression which was that he was disappointed that politics didn’t give him a platform to fight injustice, which is clearly his passion.

He spoke for over an hour without notes or teleprompter, partly because no-one had informed him what the theme of the summer school was!  So he used his experiences and beliefs to link to the theme of biodiversity (an irony given the recataloguing of species the autonomous government has set in place in order to be able to build a huge, industrial port in an area where there were protected species).  That in itself was a feat to be admired.

I don’t know about you, but every now and then I am awed to be in the presence of some great person, be it a musician, a politican (rarely but has happened), an author, or a crusader, like Garzón.  I felt like this when a watched a debate which involved Federico Mayor Zaragoza ( and Sami Nair ( a couple of years back, I felt the same when I saw Eric Clapton and when I saw Youssou N’Dour, and there have been a couple of authors I was positively shaking when I met.  It kind of reaffirms your faith in the world when you have been wallowing in a sea of mediocrity for a while!  It might be their talent or their ethics, as in this case, which knocks you sideways, but it’s a reminder that there is hope and decency, and something above the average if only we seek it out.  For m,e the added delight was that he came across as thoroughly nice too.   I hadn’t been expecting that.  On tv he always seems quite austere, but he was friendly and afterwards signed books for people and happily posed for photos.  That would have made me happy for the night even without the rest of it!

The first of the treats was entirely unexpected, and every bit as awe-inspiring in its own way.  We arrived a little early at the cultural center in Adeje to find out just where it was and whether we could go, and we intended to then go and have a drink in one of the atmospheric street cafés which line the village’s main street.  However, we were just bowled over by what we saw when we arrived, which was an exhibition of “street art” by local sculptor Julio Nieto (  These pieces, most of which are shown below, are made entirely from metal, and I understand that each one took a year to complete.  There are seven in the series so seven years’ work adorning the streets of Adeje. Previously they have appeared in Santa Cruz and Los Realejos.

This was my favorite – Icarus, as we  know from Greek legend, flew too close to the sun, causing his wings to melt and his fall to earth.  As you can see, depicted with almost all of the feathers gone from his wings, and about to tumble to his fate.

It was hard to choose a favorite between Icarus and this one, though, which is entitled La Llamada, which translates, really as The Call, which doesn’t impart nearly so much longing into the title as it does in Spanish.  No wonder sailors fell for the charms of sirens if they looked like this.  And, can anyone tell me, just how it is possible to make pieces of metal resemble the charms and the muscles of an elegant human body this way?!

This island is dotted with several striking and beautiful sculptures of various styles, and at first glance the one above seemed to represent a typical villager, on closer inspection, however, we could see that the figure depicted was comprised entirely of “fish”, even up to the squid “hat”.  Very, very clever, and lots of fun…….. look at the sculptor’s website if you want to see the detail.

The remaining two are entitled The Voyager and And Alice?  Despite being very modern works of art, they are not at all obscure, and I didn’t need to think over much to work out the meanings.  One of the negatives about street art is that the background doesn’t always lend itself to a decent photo, so I deleted the rest.  If you like them, really, take a look on the website, because photographed in good light and background they look even more impressive.

I think I ran out of words now.  Three really different events on one, ordinary July night…………it isn’t always true, but there have been times when I wouldn’t be anywhere else on earth!  What I didn’t mention was the balmy air on my skin, the sharp smell of good coffee as we passed the street cafés in Adeje, or the hum of excitment around the travelling fair in Las Galletas, even without the events taking place, any of those things would have stirred the imagination and the heart.