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Flamenco in the Thames Tunnel at Brunel Museum

Thames Tunnel

The Thames Tunnel is hosting live concerts. Image: failing_angel/Flickr

Like flamenco? Like underground spaces? Want to hear flamenco music in the world’s oldest tunnel under a river?

Well, now you can: the flamenco trio Attab Haddad, Ramón Ruíz & Demi García Sabat are performing in the Thames Tunnel underground shaft as part of a series of events staged by the Brunel Museum.

The Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe is directly above the Thames Tunnel, designed and built by Sir Marc Brunel and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who joined his dad on the project when it ran into a series of problems (it was, at the time, one of the most ambitious engineering projects in the world).

The tunnel was built between 1825 and 1843 and it served pedestrians upon opening. People reached the tunnel via staircases in two circular shafts at either end of the tunnel, in Rotherhithe and Wapping – and one of these shafts is now playing host to the Brunel Museum’s concerts.

(The tunnel was not a big hit with the Victorians, by the way. After some initial excitement, people lost interest because accessing it was so difficult – and possibly also because it linked one fairly out of-the-way place with another. Plans to have horse-drawn carriages go through it proved impractical and in 1869 it began running steam trains. It’s still in use as part of the London Overground.)

2013 is the 17oth anniversary of the tunnel and the museum is holding a whole series of events.

The Attab Haddad trio specialise in oud, guitar and percussion, and the performance is on Wednesday 26 June at 7.30pm. Tickets are £10.

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Anthony Ocana plays Southbank Centre 27 July

Anthony Ocana plays the Southbank Centre

Anthony Ocana plays the Southbank Centre on Wednesday 27 July.

Dominican-born guitarist Anthony Ocana plays the Purcell Room at the Southbank Centre in London on Wednesday 27 July.

Ocana is something of a guitar maestro, performing concerts for six and 10-string guitars, as well as guitars processed through delays and loops. He has released four albums to date, the last one being Wet Fields in 2010.

Born in the Dominican Republic in 1980, Ocana became a Spanish citizen in 2007. He studied guitar and composition at Manhattanville College New York from 1998-2002, before moving to Madrid.

Tickets for the Southbank Centre show are £14; if you can corral a group of five together, you can get a 10% discount by emailing info@laccs.com.

Check out the “Book of Improvisations” audio blog/podcast on Ocana’s website for his most up-to-date work.

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Gregorio Fontén: Cuchufleta, poetry and London

Gregorio Fonten

Gregorio Fonten: Poet and Musician. Credit: Cuchufleta

Gregorio Fontén is a Chilean poet and musician based in London. His band, Cuchufleta, was formed in 2004 and has undergone several line-up changes and a switch of continent since then. His music mixes influences from rock to Latin American music and experimental sounds.

Gregorio releases new music every week via his Cuchufleta website, and plays regular gigs around London. He collaborates with Alba Londres magazine and showcases his solo work on GregorioFonten.com.

How would you describe your music?

I like pop and its format but pop doesn’t like my tuning. I like rock and its strength but rock doesn’t like my harmony. I like classical and its harmony but classical doesn’t like my rhythms. I like experimental and its freedom but experimental doesn’t like  my melodies. I like folk and its genuineness but folk doesn’t like my computer. I like jazz and its improvisation but jazz doesn’t like my way of playing.

“I am a musical duck-billed platypus.”

I am like a dog of mixed breed; a mixture of different styles but not recognised by any. I am a musical duck-billed platypus.

Which comes first for you, music or poetry?

When I am creating, I don’t pay much attention to categories. I experiment with a medium because it is a need from my curiosity with emotions, feelings and thoughts. If it turns out to fit one category or the other, that comes later.

Cuchufleta and the Wolverines

Cuchufleta and the Wolverines. Credit: Cuchufleta

Your musical influences seem to be very diverse. Who would you say is inspiring your work right now?

Always: Los Jaivas, Charly García, Chopin, Scott Joplin and Erik Satie.

Recently: Peruvian Chicha, Argentinean Milonga Porteña, Frescobaldi, Mozart, Bwana, Tsegue Maryam and many others.

Some of your songs contain unusual instruments, such as kitchenware. How do you choose your instrumentation?

In the music I am doing now on the studio and live — except when I play with my band — I work with songs in just intonation and microtonality. This means that I cannot use fretted instruments.

I mainly play the piano or keyboards with the tuning changed and do most of the  sounds in the computer. I use kitchenware and other things I find to add a variety of sounds that do not come from the electronic music world.

How many people are in your band at present?

There is Tomás on the guitar, Ben on bass, Roberto on drums, and me on keyboards and vocals. That is ‘Cuchufleta & the Wolverines’. It is mainly a jam band, and we do some sort of psychedelic Latin rock. We have a lot of fun playing.

Do you have plans for your next record?

I have a solo album waiting to be released. It is called “Tono de Lobo” and it is a collection of the first songs that I have done using microtonality. The album uses a scale of 36 steps per octave instead of the common 12.

We also have an album coming with Cuchufleta & the Wolverines.

“I am always publishing new songs and materials, and creating free download packages every month.”

Also, I now think of my website — cuchufleta.com — as a publisher or an album in constant release. I am always publishing new songs and materials, and creating free download packages every month.

What plans do you have for your poetry?

To keep doing it. And hopefully have it published somewhere. I do some home-made CD-books with songs, sound poetry and visual poetry that I sell at gigs (when I remember to take them). I would love to have the opportunity to do one of these CD-books with lots of pages and colours, in a good edition.

Cuchfleta band

Cuchfleta in performance, 2008.

Where are you from?

I am from the landscapes of Chile. I am from its never-resolved colonialism. I am from Chile’s isolation from the rest of the world.

To the north we are divided from Peru and Bolivia by the world’s driest desert. To the east we are divided from Argentina by the world’s longest continental mountain range. To the west we have the Pacific Ocean and to the south, Antarctica. We are the last stop for planes. You cannot get further away.

I studied music composition in Chile. Yet what has really formed my artistic language is the culture where I grew up, the feeling of being from a ‘new world’ unaware of itself. I have given a lot of thought to this ‘Chilean condition’ and I would say it is something that I have studied to develop my art.

Chile’s isolation is not only a geographical one. It has also to do with a neglect of our own history and cultural identity. It has to do with our incapacity to think by ourselves, of being a colony in every human level except government.

“Chile’s isolation is not only a geographical one. It has also to do with a neglect of our own history and cultural identity.”

Chileans are divided between those who are the proud defenders of our colonial status — the copycats of the ‘higher’ culture of Europe or the US. The other team is represented by the opposite faction, the haters of everything that is not from the pre-Hispanic cultures. The only middle ground to this division consists in the falsification of popular culture into a picturesque folk invention.

Instead of embracing our lack of ground for supporting cultural hierarchies, of understanding our 500-year-old post-modern condition as an advantage, instead of developing our duck-billed platypus type of identity with creativity, autonomy and self determination we deceive ourselves with national dances and other artistic expressions that have little to do with the reality of what our lives are.

The scary thing is that people are buying more and more this cultural image and now, from the distance, I can perceive a growing cultural chauvinism.

How do you find living in London?

I have been in London for about eight months now. I like the foxes in the night, I love the parks and how, despite the overpopulation, there seems to be room and a welcoming scene for more people — like me!

Cuchufleta play The Finsbury in Green Lanes on 6 June and Notting Hill Arts Club on 5 July. Check Cuchufleta’s website for details of gigs and the group’s free downloads. Thanks to Gregorio for his time!


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Fuerza London Latin Music Festival begins

Fuerza London Music Festival

Fuerza London Music Festival runs until 30 June.

The inaugural Fuerza London Latin Music Festival begins this Saturday and runs until 30 June.

The festival encompasses a whole range of Latin music and London venues, with highlight acts being Hombres G, Spanish crooner Manolo Escobar and Grammy Award-winner Fito Paez.

Acts hail from Spain, Argentina, Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Peru and Colombia and venues in the festival include the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire, Clapham Grand and Koko.

Here’s the schedule in full:

HOMBRES G
Saturday 7 May
O2 Shepherds Bush Empire
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=334009747628

BERSUIT
Sunday 8 May
KOKO
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=174466462605617

SUSANA BACA
Friday 20 May
Jazz Cafe
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=184023161634560&ref=ts

Fito Páez

Fito Páez appears at Fuerza London. Image via Wikipedia

MANOLO ESCOBAR
Saturday 21 May
Union Chapel
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=200483513316698

FITO PAEZ
Wednesday 25 May
The Clapham Grand
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=115623588513185

ANDRES CEPEDA + Domingo Candelario
Friday 27 May
Union Chapel
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=172731446101414

LOS DELINQUENTES & TOMASITO
Saturday 4 June
O2 Academy Islington
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=172731446101414

MOLOTOV + Natalia Lafourcade
Wednesday 15 June
The Clapham Grand
www.fuerzalondon.co.uk

BACALAO MEN
Thursday 23 June
The Clapham Grand
www.fuerzalondon.co.uk

LOS PERICOS
Thursday 30 June
The Clapham Grand
www.fuerzalondon.co.uk

More details can be found at Fuerza London and the very excellent Latinos In London.

La Linea Latin music festival hits London

La Linea Music Festival

La Linea Music Festival begins in London in 6 April with Yasmin Levy.

La Linea Latin music festival 2011 starts in London on Wednesday 6th April, with acts from Spain, Argentina, Mexico and Chile on the bill.

Venues such as the Barbican, Cargo, Koko (always the Camden Palace to me) and the Royal Albert Hall have lined up to take part in the festival.

One of the highlights is Ojos de Brujo, playing a 10th anniversary show and possibly their last for a couple of years.

Other acts include Israeli-born Yasmin Levy, who fuses flamenco with Ladino – Judeo-Spanish music.

The festival wraps up with a performance by the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club, featuring alumni of the famous Cuban players.

La Linea festival line-up:

Wednesday 6th April – Yasmin Levy + Melingo, Barbican Hall

Friday 8th April – Muchachito with Santos de Veracruz, Cargo

Friday 15th April – Ojos de Brujo Special 10th Anniversary Show + Depedro, Barbican Hall

Sunday 17th April – A Night of Twisted Cumbia featuring Mexican Institute of Sound, Axel Krygier, Pollito Boogaloo + special guests to be announced, Koko

Tuesday 19th April – Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club® Featuring Omara Portuondo + Papayera, Royal Albert Hall

Tickets are available via Como No! More details are available on Gerry Lyseight’s blog.

Sadler’s Wells Flamenco Festival starts 8 February

Estrella Morente London Flamenco Festival Sadler's Wells

Estrella Morente will appear at the London Flamenco Festival at Sadler's Wells.

The best of Spain’s flamenco scene is heading to Sadler’s Wells in February for the venue’s annual Flamenco Festival.

The headline performer of the 8th Flamenco Festival London is Estrella Morente, a Latin Grammy nominee who performs in concert on the opening night.

Morente’s name may not immediately strike a chord with British audiences. However, if you’ve seen Almodóvar’s Volver, and thought, bloody hell, Penelope Cruz has a good voice — well, that was Estrella Morente.

Latin Grammy-winner Tomatito (José Fernández Torres) is an acclaimed flamenco guitarist who will be presenting the UK premiere of Luz de Guía alongside dancer José Maya on Wednesday 16 February.

Another premiere at the festival is Cuando Yo Era featuring Eva Yerbabuena, accompanied by three dancers and a troupe of musicians.

Other shows include a new version of Carmen, as well as performances by vocalist Miguel Poveda and dancer Israel Galván, winner of Spain’s National Dance Prize.

Sadler's Wells London Flamenco Festival

Sadler's Wells London Flamenco Festival starts on 8 February. Image by Fin Fahey

UNESCO heritage

Last November UNESCO added flamenco to the 2010 Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, which means, basically, that’s worth celebrating and preserving.

The art form fuses gypsy, Spanish, Moorish and Byzantine influences, but the origins of flamenco are lost in the mists of time.

No one knows exactly what the origin of the word ‘flamenco’ is (I was always told it came from flamingo, which is the same word). No one knows if original flamenco performers used instruments or not, or whether it is of Jewish origin or a throwback to Greek musical styles.

But, listening to the likes of Estrella Morente (below), its origins seem less important than the feelings it conjures up:

The Flamenco Festival London runs 8 — 19 February and tickets range from £10-40.

Rather oddly — considering flamenco’s status in Andalusian culture — the Flamenco Festival is part of the Catalan Series at Sadler’s Wells, which also features performances by Tap Ole, Nats Nus Dansa and the Sol Pico Dance Company later in the spring.

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