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


In Celebration of El Día de Canarias

Today I should have been out celebrating and enjoying myself, quaffing some local wine and no doubt stuffing myself with traditional foods, whilst listening to Canarian musicians and learning more about “my” island. However, I wasn’t, instead I am lying on my couch, amusing myself by writing this to distract myself from the constant urge to empty the contents my stomach. All is not perfect, you see, in paradise. I seem to have food poisoning.

In lieu of joining the celebrations I thought I might do one of those boring posts which really belongs in a tour operator’s webpage,  but which will relieve both my  boredom and my self pity by reminding me how much I enjoy being here.

Traditional Tenerife: You would be surprised at just how many folk possess and wear with pride their traditional dress. There is said to be a different variation for every municipality on the island.

El Día de Canarias

The first parliament of the autonomous region, Canary Islands, sat on May 30th 1983, after a long wait. The creation of autonomous regions had first been undertaken by the government of the Second Republic in 1931, but by the time the Civil War broke out in 1936 nothing had been implemented in the political bickerings which preceded the Civil War  – and of course everything then went on hold during the war and the consequent iron grip which Franco had on the country.

With his death in 1976 many of the reforms and projects which had been abandoned or iced began to resurface, and the new (and current) Constitution, drawn up in 1978, provided for the establishment of autonomous regions and some decentralization of government, and so the Autonomous Parliament of the Canary Islands was born.

May 30th was declared a fiesta (bank holiday) in celebration of its birth, and the day is marked throughout the islands with displays of traditional crafts, sports, costumes, foods and music.

Historical Tenerife:  The original capital of the island, La Laguna. An UNESCO World Heritage Site and seat of the province’s university, it is both charming restoration and vibrant hub of the island’s creativity.


Tenerife, for anyone who is new to my blog, is just one of the seven main islands which make up the Canarian archipelago. It’s been my home base now for over 20 years. It has an image in some European circles of being merely a mass-tourist destination, but it is so much more, and if you need proof then just check some previous posts.

Since I can’t give you a first-hand report on the festivities to which I didn’t go, I offer you, in honor of this day, a photo essay of this island of Tenerife, showing its different faces, its variety and perhaps an understanding of why it fascinates me so much.

Musical Tenerife: Two things come to mind when you combine the words Tenerife and music – folk music and the salsa of Carnaval, but there is so much more for lovers of all kinds of music. This photo was taken at the annual Santa Blues Blues Fest in June. July sees a prestigious jazz festival, autumn an opera season and year round classical music lovers can listen to the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra.

Coastal Tenerife: tanning addicts swarm to the resorts, but there are also plenty of quieter, more natural beaches to be found.

Gourmet Tenerife: In recent years the standards and aspirations of restaurants and hotels have simply soared. You can now find cuisine from almost anywhere in the world, and quality equal to big city eateries. This sushi at Restaurant 88 in La Caleta, Costa Adeje.

Mountainous Tenerife: The island’s mountains actually come in all shapes and sizes from lushly forested ones on the north east tip to the surreal volcanic landscapes of the Teide National Park, home to Spain’s highest mountain, El Teide.

Wine Lovers’ Tenerife: Canarian wines were famous as far back as the 17th century, and were famously (for we English-speakers) mentioned by Shakespeare on more than one occasion. Tenerife boasts no less than 5 regions. Oh, and I throw in here cheese too, because the goats’ cheeses are the perfect accompaniment!

Hiking Tenerife: Volcanic badlands, lush forest, coastal trails a walker’s heaven, in other words.

Tourist Tenerife: This is, believe it or not, the only Tenerife which some people know. I am a beach addict, but this is my least favorite face of the island, which is not to rubbish it. It’s just that sharing a beach on this scale is not my thing, but clearly it is for thousands, and the municipalities of the south, mainly Arona and Adeje cater for mass tourism, leveling rocky stony beaches, building hotels (the more recent ones of very high standard) and generally attempting to cater for every whim of the sunseekers. Tenerife does not have the prettiest beaches in the world, but they are some of the sunniest.

Agricultural Tenerife: OK the photo is just a bit of a stretch, and may have been more appropriate under the “traditional” heading, but it’s just that I love oxen. These days they are, so far as I can make out, brought out only for fiestas and other traditional events, but were an important part of the island’s history at one time. There are none of the huge farms of the US prairies or even the big farms I’ve seen in Scotland here, but thanks to co-operatives bananas, tomatoes and the famous Canarian potatoes are still exported, though not to the extent they were in history. Did you know that London’s Canary Wharf was named for the islands? So great was the volume of exports to England alone at that time.

Shop-till-you-drop Tenerife: Neither the Via Veneto nor the Champs Élysées, nevertheless shop shopaholics can have a ball in the swisher parts of the southern resorts and in the island’s capital, Santa Cruz, these days.

Sporty Tenerife: Surfing, windsurfing, hiking, cycling, paragliding, sport fishing, running, golf, kite surfing, climbing, trail running, triathlons, tennis…….that’s just off the top of my head, the sports which immediately come to mind.

Delicious Tenerife: Fine dining apart, Tenerife has a wealth of simple and traditional dining too, with fresh ingredients sourced locally from mineral-rich farmland, the variety of the ocean and locally raised goat and pork. Go inland to find small bars and restaurants, or to the kiosks at the fiestas.

Cultural Tenerife: Santiago Calatrava’s magnificent auditorium in Santa Cruz is symbolic of the wealth of island’s Cultural (with a capital C you note) events. An icon of modern architecture it is home to the symphony orchestra and scene of ballet, opera, jazz, world music, modern dance and many other events. In addition the capital has the historic Teatro Guimerá and La Laguna is home to Teatro Leal. Then there are museums, art exhibitions, photo exhibits and other events galore. Granted, you may need to speak some Spanish for some of these, but a little can take you a long way.

Romantic Tenerife: They tell me we have the best sunsets (and I would add sunrises) in the world. Since I haven’t been everywhere yet I can’t confirm that, but, well, they are pretty amazing.

Quirky Tenerife: I suppose everywhere has its quirky side, but I would put money on it I could snap a photo every day of something out-of-the-ordinary here!

Floral Tenerife: This was the hardest photo to decide, so in the end I chose two. Bouganvillea, hibiscus, geraniums, marigolds and heaps of other domesticated flora decorate the towns, villages and cities of the island, but only in the mountains will you find the tajinaste, indigenous to the island and found in the wild no where else on earth.

The almond trees, on the other hand, were brought by the Conquisadors, their flowering marks the beginning of a new season in January, and the nuts are the base of many artisan sweets.

Travelers’ Tenerife: Finally Tenerife as gateway to the archipelago, the launching point by ferry or by local airline to the other islands in the chain.


The Music of the Island

My friend, Jack, from 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.

Sunday afternoon jazz in Finca del Arte in Chayofa

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!

Another phone photo, sorry about the quality.  More than an air of a young Joan Baez about El Mar Origenes.

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.


Santa Blues 2011

Don’t you wonder why it is that life is always feast or famine?  There’s nothing going on for a month, and then you have 3 events from which to choose the following weekend?

The summer solstice here really does herald the beginning of summertime and all sorts of al fresco events and concerts, and, before you ask, yes, there are outdoor events all year round, but I suppose the planners want to be totally sure of good enough weather, and, of course, lots of the events and festivals are down to traditions too.

The Santa Blues Festival is a new tradition.  I think it’s in its 7th year now, and I look forward to it all year, although getting to listen to live Blues gets a bit easier as time goes by. As I mentioned last year, when we first came to live in the Canary Islands I didn’t hear a Blues riff, other than my own tapes, for years and years. And the feast or famine thing? In addition to Santa Blues, last night there was a Blues night in a bar about twenty minutes drive from here too.  Had I been able to go up to Santa Cruz either Thursday or Friday I might have been tempted to find out what that was all about, but a migraine plus a reaction to some antibiotics I taken for the final part of my dental treatment had me in bed most of the day Thursday, and not feeling too bright on Friday either.  Plus I had to be up extra early yesterday morning, but that’s a whole other story.

I’d already missed Thursday night’s bonfires for fiesta de San Juan, one of my favorite celebrations here, so despite the super early start to the day I didn’t think twice about zooming up to Santa Cruz after a bit of a siesta yesterday.  I love crisp and bright early mornings, and I love balmy summer nights and yesterday I was able to enjoy both – obviously I was born in the wrong country, this afternoon siesta lark is me down to a T! Jumping ahead to Santa Blues (I’ll come back to the reason for that early morning tomorrow.  It’s a longer post, and I’m still a bit tired from the late night!) – I’m always surprised when I arrive that there aren’t more people, though a part of me is secretly happy because I can be grumpy in crowd situations.

Local band Three Bones were halfway into their act when we got there a bit late.  I say local band, because they were billed as being from Tenerife, but if I’m not mistaken the singer said that it was their first time playing here, though when I checked, I see they played in Fuerteventura recently, so perhaps they are Canarian rather than from this, particular island.  Whatever, they were very good, and  popular with the audience, singing in French and English as well as Spanish, and with huge enthusiasm in all three.

By the time Zac Harmon and his band appeared, dusk had given way to  dark, but the crowd had swelled, so that the breeze which occasionally wafted the banners behind the band had no effect on us, but if it was warm in the audience, it was HOT on stage.

They launched full tilt into consecutive instrumental numbers which had the crowd with them from the first beat. The set was all about upbeat, raunchy numbers, with lyrics very much in second place, and packed with classic numbers like Mannish Boy and I Got My Mojo Workin’.   I realized that, of course, this was the way to play this kind of gathering.  It dawned on me when I heard people trying to sing back the words “I got my mojo workin’,” it came out nothing like that at all.  People were there for the music, not the words. It also worked when they introduced a reggae number Bob Marley’s “No woman, no cry”, everyone knew the chorus.

Zac Harmon is not only a terrific bluesman, but he knows how to work an audience too, remembering to play to the folk at the side of the stage as well as those of us out front.  We shuffled our way from a couple of places back to right in front of the stage.  It’s always an exciting place to be if your ears can take it, but Harmon made it especially so, as Maria said afterwards, there were plenty of times when you felt as if he was singing just for you.  Definitely a far cry from last year, when I was standing towards the back where, on Saturday night, all the young bucks out to get drunk gathered.  Last night they were not so obvious until the last couple of numbers.

Con-summate professionals that the band were, they covered for Harmon when he broke a guitar string and disappeared backstage for quite a while to try to fix it, and at the end they pretended to leave the stage, but turned  for an encore without stirring up the audience too much.  The second time they pretended to leave a bit harder, but returned for a second encore, and promised two songs.  The second one turned out to be a Spanish popular song I didn’t know, though everyone else clearly did.  It was clever.  It left the crowd happy that they’d done a Spanish number, but it lacked the intensity of Blues, and it took the atmosphere down a notch.  It was a signal it was over, and most people realized that.

The only thing which slightly puts a damper on going to anything in Santa Cruz is the drive back.  I know in the States and in Australia people are used to driving hundreds of miles and back on the night for a concert, and I don’t complain about the driving itself.  It’s just that standing in the warm summer air listening to a throbbing blues beat is so much nicer with a cold beer in your hand, but after so many years without Blues, how could I possibly complain about that!

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Addendum to Last Post :=))

I was feeling a bit bad about not snapping on Saturday night, so taken was I with Kenny Neal’s performance, but Pablo sent me loads of super pix  yesterday.  He was much more focused about taking photos, and also remembered to take a zoom lens!  So here is the unforgettable Kenny Neal.  I chose this pic of all the ones which Pablo sent, because the man is just enjoying himself so much.  He has one of the most infectious smiles I’ve ever seen in real life.  His entire performance was so full of good energy as well as incredible talent!

His entire band is family, and he shared the spotlight with his nephew for two marvellous, foot-stomping numbers, which harked right back to pre-electric blues even.  And do you see that smile too?  Must run in the family!

And this was Colleen and I yelling for more!


Santa Blues too good for Santa Cruz?

I remember the first time I walked into a Blues club, and the butterflies which began to rise and flutter in my stomach, as one of those rich, spine-chilling riffs bounced off the walls of the room as I entered. I was 16 or 17, had come to Blues via the beatnik atmosphere of a folk club which used to meet over a local pub in Blackpool. This Blues club was, I think, short-lived, even though I am talking about the mid 60s, when Eric Burdon and the Animals, Eric Clapton in his many incarnations, the Stones, Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames and other bands were beginning to acquaint us, of the North West wasteland, with the music born of the anguish of Africa, of the misery and hope of slavery, and the failed promises of Reconstruction in the US.

It was apt. It was the time of the freedom marches and the eloquence and inspiration of Martin Luther King, and the music spoke of the pain and the injustice, as well as of broken hearts and sexual innuendo. Maybe it’s because, to the majority of the audience at Santa Blues, that’s all just a part of history now, that there lacks the atmosphere and intensity of audience reaction one finds in other places. I noted that it takes the consumption of a certain amount of alcohol on the part of the crowd before it starts to move or dance with the rhythms. It also has to be noted that these concerts are totally free, so a certain amount of people are there for that reason only, and aren’t familiar with the music, let alone its history.

Blues, clearly, has a small but very loyal following in Tenerife. After my arrival in 1987 the only Blues I heard was recorded, until a friend and I stumbled, almost accidentally, on a concert sponsored by the local authority in 2003 in El Fraile, Arona. El Fraile is an immigrant neighorhood, which, I presume, is why that setting was chosen by some weird logic, but the majority of the immigrants, at that time were South American, and the music was as strange to them as to locals. My friend and I sat, spellbound by the music of a local band called Cotton Blues, who were seriously good, and who allowed other musicians to jam with them, which added to the richness of the music, and the atmosphere, despite the lack of enthusiasm on the part of the small crowd. I remember a duelling-banjos-style number in which it took two guitarists to produce a sound which gave more than a nod to the memory of Stevie Ray Vaughan, but produce it they did! After that the venue moved to the next village, only a ten minute walk away, but with a more appreciative audience. To be best of my knowledge it didn’t happen this year, presumably a victim of La Crisis. If it did my bad luck that I missed it.

The setting in the church square of the parish church of Santa Cruz

The Santa Blues festival in the capital is in its 6th year now. It began as a month-long celebration, with concerts on various nights throughout the month, but has changed format for at least the last 3 years, and now occupies 3 nights at the end of June in the plaza de la iglesia de la Concepcción, the parish church of Santa Cruz, which sits at the beginning of the wonderful Calle Noria. The stage used to face down to the street, but now faces outwards to the main road.

On Thursday, Colleen, Mari and I arrived a little early, being unsure about parking, I knew that there were road works close by, but in the end we parked on the harbour front with ease, and had a short stroll around the district, before heading back to the plaza.

Colleen and Maria resting on the bank of the barranco

The audience was sparse as a local group, Rojas Blues Band and Esther Ovejero, opened the night, and the festival, with a curious lack of fanfare or introduction. What they lacked in polish and style this group more than made up for in enthusiasm, and they kept us well entertained until the festival’s first treat, Larry McCray and his band. McCray was a new name to me, although he is clearly very well known in his sphere. His Blues is of the Hendrix legacy, and whilst I do enjoy it, it’s the older stuff which really gets me going. Still, it was a great night, the audience eventually warming up, and the moon arising from the ocean into a clear sky adding to the ambience, as we bopped. Colleen and I had no doubts about wanting to return the next night, Maria, sadly, was off to Barcelona the next day. It’s around an hour’s drive for Colleen, a bit less for me, so it’s a consideration.

Friday night we realized that we could leave a bit later, which gave me time for a necessry siesta before leaving. Since I’d been up early to take Austin to the airport, there hadn’t been an awful lot of sleep, but as driver Thursday night I hadn’t had a drink, so a siesta neatly compensated, and I was raring to go by 8pm. Despite the fact that Spain were playing Chile for a place in the next round of the World Cup we found the roads surprisingly not that quiet, but the plaza almost deserted when we arrived in Santa Cruz, and we parked even closer to the venue. Despite the marketing for this event hugely lacking on many fronts, someone had had the wit to channel the match to the screen which usually displays advertising during the performances, so we were able to watch the final moments.

Ann and Colleen watching the end of the game

Seemed, however, that there few soccer fans around, as this guy was the only one who seemed to be celebrating the win!

Events beginning late is more or less expected here, so add the soccer to that and we began at 9.30 eventually with the Johnny Pérez Band from Cataluña, who were absolutely excellent, and deserved so much more than the scattered applause they received.

I do wonder about audiences here. A Canarian friend once explained to me that there is no history of showing appreciation or enthusiasm, and it isn’t unusual for nothing more than polite applause at the end of a performance. That friend is very well travelled, and we were at a classical concert at the time, and it was some years ago, but it disappoints me that things haven’t changed much. Friday night there were lots of people who simply stood and watched, never moved, never applauded. They might as well have been watching a politician pontificating, or a demonstration of the latest implement to chop carrots.

Happily for Sandra Hall, who headlined Friday, by the time she concluded her stunning performance, drink had raised the enthusiasm bar a bit, and there was a fair amount of whistling, and ululating as well as clapping and shouting, which is not to detract from her rapport with her audience, despite not speaking Spanish. She draws her performance from the rich reservoir of blues and soul, and warmed the crowd up considerably when she dragged a random guy up onto the stage to dance a very suggestive dance with her, in the real tradition of juke joints and music and sex as escapes from a hard life. She did one encore, and I am guessing that because of the late start the hours of a noise abatement type law were already exceeded. Always leave an audience panting for more I guess. I certainly was!

Sandra Hall and random guy

The Empress of the Blues

Saturday we left even later, and yet still had a wait before the music began. This time The Tina Rioro Quartet warmed up the audience, and indeed the welcome was warm. Tina informed us that it was her first professional performance, and she clearly had friends and fans in the crowd, which called her back for an encore, the first time over the weekend this happened for the opening band. She clearly has potential, and struggled valiantly with both a tight dress which kept riding up a bit too far (someone get the girl a stylist!), and a spectacular excess of dry ice, which, actually, hide the group from view at times. Her girlish enthusiasm spilled over with each number, but the band lacked both warmth and energy. As, presumably, amateurs they will, hopefully, learn as they get more gigs, and perhaps relax into their music.

It doesn’t always happen that the best is saved until last, but this year Santa Blues did just that. It’s a measure of my huge enjoyment of Kenny Neal and his band that I don’t have a single photo to show from the event. I was as rooted to the spot as it was possible to be in that sort of crowd. His spellbinding style was matched only by his own clear enjoyment of playing. One look at his wide smile and you couldn’t help but smile yourself …. if you weren’t already of course! His music is modern Blues at its best, with huge respect to the traditional and just a hint of bluegrass. His band, in the best griot tradition, comprises only family members, and his nephew also treated us to a couple of pieces, which were pure Blues of the very best pedigree. Their fast-paced numbers had almost all of us tapping and bobbing, and when they slowed down the tempo you could feel your soul leap. I could have listened all night and then some.

The only spoiler on this last night was the audience, or some of it at least. Although it was, overall, more receptive and appreciative than on earlier nights, there was a large element of Saturday-night-out-on-the-towners there who chatted, argued and generally displayed a total lack of respect both for the music and other people who were trying to listen. During the upbeat, loud sessions they were drowned out, but when the pace slowed they really were an embarrassment, when Kenny Neal announced that the band would be signing autographs after the show I felt like going to apologise. In the event I didn’t, we had a long drive for the third night running, though happily for us, Colleen’s husband, Pablo, was doing the honors this night, and so we wound our weary way home listening to Blues on the car stereo, and wishing we could hear more of it live.


The Best Things in Life Can Be Free

No 7 of 10 Things to Do in Tenerife Which Won’t Cost a Fortune

As I’ve mentioned before, I was kind of stung into doing this little series by a comment I read on some travel blog page about there being nothing to do in Tenerife.  I grant you that some of the attractions here are expensive – whale watching, Siam Park, Loro Parque, shows, events at the Auditorium, the occasional concert like the Simply Red one coming up (though all of those things are well worth it if you have the inclination and the money), so I wondered if “Sharon and Dave from Hartlepool”, or whoever it was, had simply found it too expensive to do things.  Because this is my blog, not a website on “what to do in Tenerife” it reflects my personal tastes, but a bit of research will undoubtedly turn up something which is more to your own taste.

Throughout the year, but especially in summer, there are all sorts of free concerts going on in every municipality including jazz, classical music, choirs, folk dancing/music, puppet shows, and art and photographic exhibitions, or sometimes plays and films for just a €5 entry fee.  Remember, if you are staying in the Playa de las Americas area – PDLA is not a municipality.  It’s a purpose-built resort town, with no history.  Half of it lies in the Arona municipality, and half in Adeje, so that’s where you should be looking for local color and events.  My thing, is Blues and after that “World Music” but these are really the least well catered for in a way.  There are loads of classical and jazz concerts.  Just a couple of weekends ago Arona staged two nights of jazz in the main square.  The wonderful weather here makes it easy to give free concerts I suppose, no worries about squeezing people in or seating.

My very favorite because it features my very favorite music is Santa Blues in Santa Cruz.  This event entered my radar about five years ago, but I’m not sure how long it’s been happening, and happening would be the word of choice here.  Back then, there were concerts every Friday and Saturday over the month, from memory, but by two years ago it had settled to a weekend in June.  This year it’s 24th thru 26th.  Word class artists like Robert Cray and Buddy Guy have performed, so it’s the “real” thing.  The only problem in coming from the South is the driving, not so much the distance, it’s only about ¾ hr to an hour, but doesn’t it seem to you that you should have a bottle of Budweiser in hand when you’re listening to Blues?  Still, silly to gripe about that,  I’ve found that one beer and a lot of ambience can get me high anyway!  If you like, you can combine it with a meal in one of the marvellous restaurants in Calle Noria!/calledelanoria?ref=ts     I tried this one year with some girlfriends, but it just didn’t work.  I could hear the opening act peforming as they ooohed and ahhed over the dessert and coffee, and I was itching to go.  For me that’s a totally different night.

Robert Cray : Lousy photo, but happy memory

Arona has been known to stage a decent Blues concert too.  The best one ever I went to was in El Fraile, it may have been the first, because it was woefully underattended for the quality of the music, which was sheer magic.  It was the first time I’d heard “my” music here on the island, so I was particularly stoked.  In later years it moved to Las Galletas, but if it happened this year I totally missed any publicity.

Speaking of publicity, the necessity to promote events is something which doesn’t seem to have registered too much here, and I speak of topline concerts in the Auditorio to these local, free concerts.  Maybe they couldn’t cope with more enquiries, or maybe it’s because we are in something of a backwater here (though, is anywhere in the world really a backwater these days?), but you need to seek out this information at the moment.  Changes are coming I hear, but for the moment, if you don’t speak Spanish there are English language newspapers, the best for me being Island Connections, but I can recommend the following web sites and blogs:

The best sources are the web pages of the local town halls if you speak Spanish.  Many of them, as mentioned before, have excellent information. Just google, for instance, ayunatmiento guia de isora Tenerife, and you will find listings of upcoming events.  If you’re here on vacation, check the maps for nearby towns, and join in a real traveller’s experience.

Check out the Cabildo website too.  If you’re staying in the south it will mean getting up to Santa Cruz, but there are free and low cost events which make it well worth it.  After Santa Blues for me, maybe even on a par, is the Mumes Festival in July, celebrating world music.    One of the best nights of my life was a balmy July night three years back, a few days before we had the indescribable  experience of watching the incomparable Youssou N’Dour in the Auditorium, but this night was about sampling foods and drinks from around the world in the company of a veritable United Nations of folk, both friends and strangers, and watching musicians from around the world, which climaxed with the performance of the incredible Ismael Lo from Senegal, but to tell you about Senegalese music is a whole other topic.  The tickets cost just €12.00 not a fortune compared with Glastonbury or Reading!

Speaking of Guia de Isora, this well-kept little town has been the venue in October/November of the last four years for an International Documentary Film Festival, showing films from all over the world, and entry to see the movies has been absolutely free.  OK perhaps you need to speak Spanish to fully enjoy it, because although the films are often shown in their original lanauge the dubbing is in Spanish, of course. Events take place throughout the day, not just at night.   Last year I saw African and Chinese films, and I could only manage one day, but in previous years I’ve been speeding up there every night, straight from work. You can also attend round table discussions and about the subjects raised in the movies, and  talk with the directors about their movies.  Awesome.

Addendum  for Residents

If you live here and you want to participate more in local life you should check out your local town hall web site too, or just pop in.  I just ran a quick check of every one I could think of both south and north, and they all offered a variety of courses and classes, in some of which you could participate with a fairly basic knowledge of Spanish.  In fact, some offer Spanish classes for foreigners, which sometimes include visits to various places of local interest too, so you learn the language and get to know the island at the same time.  Other than that, I found photography (and I can testify to the excellence of the course offered by Arona), yoga, pilates, tai chi, natural medicines, jewellery making, mime, bellydancing, life coaching, flower arranging, self defence, ceramics, storytelling, folk dancing and theater workshops.  Most of them are not free, but are very low in price and offer you a great opportunity to mix with local people (and so improve your Spanish at the same time :=).  Almost all the municipalities  also offer a variety of hikes during the Autumn and Spring months, which I can also tell you from experience is a marvellous way to see the island safely and meet like-minded people.

My first attempt at timelapse photography.  Not that good, like I said, my first attempt, and something I probably could have taught myself using various internet sites, but much better with expert help and advice, and the 6 week course cost me just €80.

Life here is not perfect, but then, nowhere is, so far as I can see.  The numerous attractions, like golf, climbing, surfing, sailing, windsurfing, paragliding, yes they cost money, but there is still plenty to do at low cost, and the weather makes it all so much easier.  If you want to plan a barbeque for tomorrow, you are going to be very unlucky if you can’t stick to your plans.

This post was part of a series, here are the others:

Be a beach bum!

Take a drive through the Teide National Park

Barbeque in the “Great Outdoors”

Mooch the Markets

Party like a local!

Follow local sports

Free Summer concerts

Try Shanks’s Pony!