I don’t know how, or why, but as soon as I hear the exotic strum of the guitars, the rhythmic clapping and stamping on the floor of blurred feet, I am to Sacromonte hill in Granada, the main reason I don’t know how, is that I’ve never actually been there. I’ve seen it, looking out from the Alhambra, but a big red line drawn on my map by the lady in the tourist office, “Do not go here, gypsies…very dangerous” was enough to put me off.
“oh really?”, said my friend on Thursday night “It’s a tourist area now”. Maybe I should go back. Or maybe I shouldn’t, as it may not match what I conjure in my mind every when the Flamenco Festival at Sadlers Wells swirls round every year.
I always try to go for the more traditional shows, the women with the long dresses, the guitars, that somehow conjured up moorish images in my mind, and the singing, which always makes me laugh, cringe and then mesmerises me within the first few seconds.
Manuela Carrasco and her company were the choice for the first show, not the first choice to be honest, I had a Black Keys gig on the Friday night so this was the next best. Sat way up in the Gods (thats the 2nd circle), on one side was a woman who spread her coat all over the chair in front and took up half my leg space, and on the other side was two women who barely stopped talking. Manuela was on stage at the start, surrounded by two guitarists and a percussionist/drummer on one side, and 3 singers on the other. The first song was as beautiful as I expected, the dancing as spellbinding as I hoped, her dress falling and swishing, her feet blurring while behind hands were clapped as the singers verbally jostled each other to the strummed guitars. Manuela was replaced by three guys stamping, kicking and prancing through before instrumentals and individual dancing took us to the climax. The main singer stood out on his own, and literally pulled his heart through is mouth as Manuela at once rebuffed and returned to him in a blur of stamps and turns. At least thats what it sounds like, my Spanish is so poor he could have been screaming out his shopping list so he didn’t forget, but it would have been the most emotional shopping list recital. Ever. But it was beautiful, everyone came out and suddenly an hour and a half had gone, thankfully, as I had learnt that two beers before going into a show with no break is going to test your bladder. Still I cheered and clapped for the endless rounds of bowing and appreciation, rightly deserved, for another spellbinding show.
Next up is Gerardo Núñez with guest Carmen Cortés on Monday, just the one beer before that one.
Sadlers Wells Flamenco festival site is here