With a Fire Within

This text has also been published @ Minna en el Mundo flamenco text library.


For the last few days I have been trying to find “the right words” to describe Ääniä Pohjoisesta – Voices from the North concert that was part of Etnosoi festival of 2018. Sometimes, however, there are so many thoughts and emotions that instead of finding the right thing to say, you have to write the words that are in your heart.

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Por alegrías – photo by Jari Flinck, previously published on Etnosoi Facebook page

This concert was special because it was the release concert of Fuego por Dentro, the first solo album of the dear and much admired flamenco singer Anna Murtola and in fact of the first album published by a Finnish flamenco singer. And what a release concert! The evening started with an intriguing and fascinating performance by Vildá, a duo composed of Sami yoik artist Hildá Länsman and accordionist Viivi Maria Saarenkylä. Their positive energy gave a special spice to the evening. While I am familiar with accordion music, I certainly was surprised by the versatility of yoik and how well it plays with the accordion. Having seen Stomp in New York just two weeks ago, I was also awestruck by the duo’s versatile use of different kinds of sounds. So warm thank you to Vildá for this experience!

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Vildá – photo by Jari Flinck, previously published on Etnosoi Facebook page

After a technical break, the stage was set for Anna Murtola and the musicians accompanying her. Having seen Anna Murtola on stage numerous times and having had the honor to dance to her singing, I knew great talent could be expected. With a voice that weeps and smiles and radiates, she enthralled us all. The group of musicians on stage generated their own kind of warmth and positive energy from Joonas Widenius Trio (Joonas Widenius, flamenco guitar, Karo Sampela, percussions and Hannu Rantanen, double bass) to visiting artists Hildá Länsman (vocals), Venla Ilona Blom (backing vocals), Stiliana Ravelska Tyrkkö (violin), Helmi Camus (piano) and Ali Haithem (oud). The concert grew from a kindling flame with the song la Llama, hit a colder front with the lyrics of Tápame and warmed again to the joyous sounds of a traditional alegrías and the soothing sounds of the touching lullaby Para los ojos negros. The first half ended with Earth second by Joonas Widenius Trio. In the second half the fireworks continued starting with a traditional improvised bulerías, followed by the incredibly beautiful tango Kuljen takaisin, a Finnish translation of one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite movies both named Volver. The title song of the album Fuego por dentro, brilliantly performed by Murtola, was sure to be bring tears to many eyes. It was followed by Bulería del Desenamoro, song of the ending love, and by the final song Sobre las palmas, translated to Finnish from the Arabic by langugage wizard Sampsa Peltonen and to Spanish by Anna Murtola herself. This song brought on stage the whole group of talented musicians to the joyful sounds of a traditional Arabic love song. After a well deserved standing ovation, Murtola returned to the stage to sing a capella the touching Andando sola and left the close to full Malmitalo audience feeling we had experienced something extraordinary.

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With a Fire Within – photo by Matti Sten, previously published on Anna Murtola, Flamenco Singer’s Facebook page

This evening was full of fire and light and for this I owe a very special thank you to the artist. So, thank you Anna for your exceptional warmth and charisma that brings light to the darkest of November skies. It must be fuego por dentro – the fire within.

Valoa lokakuun pimeyteen

Lokakuun puolivälistä jouluun on vuoden pimein aika, kun päivä lyhenee, eikä lunta Etelä-Suomessa yleensä ole. Pimeyttä helpottamaan on siis keksittävä keinoja. Kotona pimeyttä voi helpottaa ns. kaamosvaloilla ja yhä useammin aiemmin jouluvaloina tunnettuja valoja näkee ihmisten ikkunoissa ja parvekkeilla jo lokakuusta lähtien. Näin myös meillä. Helsingissä myös esimerkiksi Stockmannin tavaratalo on koristeltu valoin jo hyvissä ajoin ennen joulusesonkia, tuoden valoa pimeyteen.

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Valot piristävät lokakuun pimeässä

 

Kotimme lähellä Alppilassa sijaitsevalla Linnanmäellä on vietetty kymmenen päivän ajan jo perinteeksi muodostunutta valokarnevaalia. Valokarnevaali juhlistaa huvipuiston kauden päättäjäisiä ja huipentuu tänään sunnuntaina 21.10. klo 21.50 järjestettävään ilotulitukseen. Meille alueen asukkaille Linnanmäen valot tuovat toivottua piristystä pimeään maisemaan.

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Perinteinen vuoristorata valaistaan Linnanmäen valokarnevaaleilla

 

Vaikka Linnanmäellä on valokarnevaalien aikana myös mahdollista ajaa valaistuissa huvipuistolaitteissa, meidän perinteisiimme on kuulunut iltakävely ihailemassa alueen valotaideteoksia. Näin tänäkin vuonna. Tänä vuonna ensimmäistä kertaa koimme, että Linnanmäen huikean hieno tapahtuma alkaa olla jo niin suosittu, että huvipuiston rajat alkavat tulla vastaan. On Linnanmäeltä uskomattoman hieno idea sekä pidentää huvipuistokautta että tarjota ihmisille hieman toisenlaista hupia pimeään vuodenaikaan, mutta mietimme alkaako kotoisa huvipuistomme jo käydä hieman pieneksi väkimäärälle ja onko lähivuosina mahdollisesti tarpeen rajoittaa kävijämäärää turvallisuuden varmistamiseksi. Tästä huolimatta, Linnanmäen valotaideteokset olivat jälleen näkemisen arvoisia.

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Karuselli juhlavalaistuksessa

 

Miten muuten pimeää vastaan voi taistella? Muun muassa harrastamalla, nauttimalla ruskasta, tapaamalla ystäviä ja kuuntelemalla musiikkia. Omissa kuulokkeissani on tällä viikolla soinut flamencolaulaja Anna Murtolan maanantaina 15.10. julkaistu esikoislevy “Fuego por Dentro”, joka samalla on ensimmäinen suomalainen flamencolaulajan soololevy. Hienolla levyllä Annaa säestää muun muassa Joonas Widenius Trio. Annan flamencosävytteistä maailmanmusiikkia esittelevää levyä voi kuunnella muun muassa Spotifyssa.

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Helsingin kaunista ruskaa

Sol y Sombra Blog viettää ensi viikolla syyslomaa ja palaa jälleen marraskuussa esittelemään matkavinkkejä, flamencoaiheita ja ruokaohjeita. Antoisaa lokakuun loppua kaikille lukijoille!

 

Summer in Spain equals Flamenco

This post will also be published in the Minna en el Mundo -section of this blog. 


Some might think that it is nearly insane to willingly travel to Spain at the hottest time of the year, but for me, the turn of July to August is the time of the best flamenco courses. For this reason, it is also the time to travel to Spain.

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Madrid is flamenco

Having missed maestra Rafaela Carrasco‘s courses at the XX Helsinki Flamenco Festival in February, I was enthralled to attend her summer courses in Centro de Baile Jerez at the beginning of August. And she was every bit as wonderful as I had heard. A true professional with a deep understanding of the tradition of flamenco, she was able to teach us a not only the technique of flamenco but also a fabulous tangos de malaga choreography in five days.  To describe her skill and warmth in words is difficult but to say that she is unique would perhaps do her the most justice. What a joy to learn from her, but also, what a joy to finally visit Jerez and to study in Centro de Baile Jerez, a school so well run by its owners.

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Centro de Baile in a residential area in Jerez de la Frontera

In Madrid I returned to the prestigious and legendary Amor de Dios flamenco academy to attend shortly the fifth edition of Veranos Flamencos de Amor de Dios directed by maestros María Juncal and Alfonso Losa who I have had the pleasure to study with before both in Helsinki and in Madrid. To study especially technique with María Juncal is always a revelation with her strong feet but also a very feminine body work which is a skill I increasingly notice I need. Alfonso Losa with his pedagogical skill is always a pleasure to study with and we will see him in Helsinki again soon. I was also fortunate to study these few days with maestra La Lupi whose emphasis on the feeling of flamenco and understanding of music made her solea de Cadíz even more inspiring to learn.

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Entry to Amor de Dios Flamenco Academy

Even though we are fortunate to study in Helsinki with fabulous teachers and to have frequent visits of Spanish maestros, I find it inspiring to study and see flamenco in its home country. To see and study flamenco in Spain is to see and study it in its own cultural context. Therefore it is also important for me to see tablao performances when in Spain. I am of course lucky enough to have as my traveling partner a husband who recognizes this need and is willing to assist. Therefore we saw flamenco both in Madrid in Tablao Las Carboneras and in Jerez de la Frontera in La Guarida del Angel.

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La Guarida del Angel in Jerez old town

Madrid has a vast array of renowned tablaos with talented performers frequenting them. Tablao Las Carboneras is one of them and we were lucky enough to see Nino de los Reyes – another flamenco star I have had the pleasure to learn from – performing with his wife Triana Maciel and other great performers such as Pino Losada in guitar. Although I was enthralled to see these great performers, I was especially touched by the spirit and the love between them. This is what is so essential to flamenco. Unfortunately we did not see this spirit in La Guarida del Angel. The performers were skilled technically but the love was not there. And when there is no love, there is no flamenco, just technical execution of music and dance. This was a great shame especially as La Guarida del Angel, an old synagogue, gave the evening such an amazing backdrop.

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Show in Las Carboneras with Pino Losada, Lucía de Miguel, Triana Maciel and others

 

For setting La Guarida del Angel had one over Las Carboneras, but if you wish to see flamenco with a feeling, I cannot recommend a visit, especially during the tourist season in August. The case may be different during flamenco festival season, I urge you to go and see. When it comes to tablaos in Madrid, Las Carboneras was artistically every bit as good as Casa Patas, which I have visited before on numerous occasions. However, if you wish to have dinner or enjoy a few drinks, I do recommend Casa Patas for its more economic prices and amazing food. Having said that, with either one, you cannot go wrong. The talent will be there which ever you choose.

 

 

 

Batácora premiered at Tampere Flamenco Festival

The stage is bare apart from four figures, the bass player Dile Kolanen plays his instrument in the corner. There are three figures on stage wearing black bata de colas. Wait, three… this is supposed to be a duet… yet there appear to be three dancers on stage…

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Photo from Tampere Flamenco Festival instagram page by photographer FotoMarkku

 

These were my initial reactions to Batácora, the duet of flamencas Maija Lepistö and Marja Rautakorpi, which premiered on Tampere Flamenco Festival on Friday 29th June, 2018. Moments later all became clearer as the piece advanced to rhythmic work on the black flamenco floor and the third person lying on the floor was revealed to be cantaora Alicia Acuña. And what a singer she was! Basing her work on the combination of voice and motion, she was constantly united to the movement of the bailaoras, a true collaborator to the dance, which was emphasized by the ingenious decision to clothe her identically with the two dancers.

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Photo from Tampere Flamenco Festival instagram page by photographer FotoMarkku

The piece ebbed and flowed together with the fascinating bass, an instrument that is not part of the tradition of flamenco but complements flamenco so well, the simple but efficient lighting of light designer Ville Virtanen, and the strength of the singer who was more a part of a trio than an accompaniment to a duet. And what a joy to see these two bailaoras, Maija Lepistö, a much admired dancer and choreographer, and Marja Rautakorpi, a fresh, newer talent, as they showcased not only their incredible versatility but also the versatility of the bata de cola. Having seen both dancers in a more traditional setting at the Helsinki Flamenco Festival this year, it was delightful to see them show their more contemporary and experimental side. Both with flowing body work, I was this time enthralled and inspired especially by their effortless rhythmic footwork and the way they they worked as a duet, being at once strong individuals and part of a team.

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Photo from Tampere Flamenco Festival Instagram page by photographer FotoMarkku

Although one might think that the piece was quite short, approximately 30 minutes, I believe that true wisdom and insight was shown here by choreographers Lepistö and Rautakorpi as the audience was left wanting to see more. I for one am waiting for the next opportunity to see and be inspired more by this incredible team of artists! Thank you Batácora team for true inspiration!


This piece can also be read at the Minna en el Mundo -section of this blog and will form a part of my flamenco text library in English. 

Minna en el Mundo: Spring is the time of recitals

This Sunday’s post is about flamenco recitals, read more under the heading Flamenco content under Minna en el Mundo. The “Cinco Años Juntos” brought together nearly 100 flamenco students and aficionado and professional musicians with an age span from 4 to 84 years to celebrate the five-year co-operation of our profes – teachers, that is –  Elina Robinson and Laura Rintamäki. What a joy to be part of this!

Instagram Travel Thursday / Tänne haluaisin palata

Madrid aina mielessäin…

Ah Madrid, kaupunki, jossa olen käynyt lukemattomia kertoja ja jonne olen aina valmis palaamaan. Jopa niin, että kummastellessani puolisolleni, miksi emme käy enemmän ulkona, hän kysyy, haluanko ennemmin Helsingissä ravintolaan vai matkalle Madridiin. Vastaus on taattu joka kerta! Kävin kaupungissa ensimmäistä kertaa vuonna 2005 ja se oli rakkautta ensi silmäyksellä. Vuosien varrella rakkauttani on lisännyt vuonna 2009 alkanut intohimoinen flamencoharrastukseni ja näistä kahdesta tämä blogipostaus nyt kertoo, Madridista ja flamencomatkailusta Amor de Dios -flamencoakatemiassa.

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La Isabelita -muraali Antón Martin -kauppahallin seinässä. Tässä rakennuksessa sijaitsee legendaarinen Amor de Dios -flamencoakatemia.

Madrid on kaupunki, jossa ei tarvitse (ellei halua) juosta lukemattomissa nähtävyyksissä vaan uskomattoman kauniista kaupungista, sinisestä taivaasta ja eläväisestä tunnelmasta voi ja kannattaa nauttia toreilla ja puistoissa. Yksi omista suosikkipaikoistani Madridissa on Templo de Débod, jonka puistosta avautuvia auringonlaskuja ja näköalaa Casa de Campo -puistoon ja kuninkaanlinnalle monet suuntaavat katsomaan iltaisin. Kaunis on myös Almudenan katedraali kuninkaanlinnaa vastapäätä. Katedraali loistaa kauniin vaaleana päivisin ja kullanhohtoisena auringonlaskun jälkeen.

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Templo de Débod
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Catedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena

Upean tunnelman ja kauneutensa lisäksi Madrid on minulle nykyään myös rakas flamencoharrastukseni kautta. Legendaarinen Amor de Dios -akatemia on hyvin tunnettu myös Helsingin piireissä ja minäkin uskaltauduin vuonna 2016 lähes seitsemän vuoden harrastuksen jälkeen koululle Helsingissäkin vierailleiden huippumaestrojen María Juncalin ja Alfonso Losan johtamalle Veranos Flamencos de Amor de Dios -kesäkurssille. Osallistuin kokonaisuudessaan neljän viikon koulutusrupeaman ensimmäiselle viikolle keskitasolle (joka vastaa Suomessa noin ylempää jatkotasoa), mikä tarkoitti neljän tunnin yhtäjaksoista treenirupeamaa maanantaista perjantaihin. Vierailevana opettajana tuolla viikolla oli erittäin vaativa Rafael Estevez, jonka kurssista selviämistä pidän edelleen sitkeyden ja periksiantamattomuuden osoituksena. Sen verran kova koulu nuo viisi tuntia olivat kaltaiselleni perfektionistille. Viikon lopussa, varpaat muussina ja sydän onnesta pakahtuen, vannoin palaavani joku vuosi. Ehkä en vielä tänä vuonna, mutta kuitenkin…

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“Älä mukaudu muottiin, etsi oma tyylisi!” lukee Amor de Dios -akatemiaan nousevan portaikon ikkunassa.

Madridissa on myös oiva tilaisuus nähdä flamencoa, niin sanottuja tablaoita on kaupungissa useita ja monet niistä ovat varsin tasokkaita. Suuria nimiä nousee lavalle päivittäin ja kaltaiselleni “aficionadolle” kattaus on aikamoinen. Suosittelen tablaoita myös flamencoa tuntemattomalle, mikäli haluaa nähdä jotain todella espanjalaista. Omaksi valinnakseni useimmiten on valikoitunut Casa Patas -tablao, joka on yksi kaupungin tunnetuimmista ja tablaon ravintolassa olemme puolisoni kanssa nauttineet myös herkullisia illallisia ennen iltakymmenen näytöstä. Ehkäpä ensi kerralla valitsen jonkin muun tablaon, omaa valintaani ohjaa hinta-laatusuhteen lisäksi myös esiintymisvuorossa oleva artisti, mutta Casa Patasta voin suositella kenelle tahansa.

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Casa Patas -flamencotablao

Tänäkin kesänä piipahdan Madridissa vähintäänkin muutaman päivän ajan, vaikka varsinainen kohteemme on tällä kertaa Jerez de la Fronteran kaupunki Andalusiassa. Tuosta matkasta ja flamencotunneista flamencon kehtona tunnetussa Jerezissä paljon lisää tässä blogissa myöhemmin tänä vuonna!

Viva Madrid! Viva el arte flamenco!

Tämä blogikirjoitus on osa Instagram Travel Thursday -tempausta, jonka järjestäjinä toimivat Travellover ja Vagabonda.

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Flamenco in Barcelona

This text is from summer of 2015 when I had my first flamenco classes in Spain while living in Barcelona for two months. The text has previously been published in Minna en el Mundo on 28.7.2015. It can also be found in the Minna en el Mundo -section of this blog.

On this trip I also got to experience what it is like to take flamenco classes in its original environment. Really exciting! From Cornellà de Llobregat, near Barcelona, I managed to find a school that had courses by renowned flamenco maestros during the weekends. My first experience with the school was quite astounding as when I arrived for the first class, I found that it had started a half an hour too early. Spanish sense of time upside down…

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Escuela de Flamenco Paca García

I took part in two so called master classes, short courses of two days. My first teacher was a really sweet and incredibly talented yound bailaora from Jerez, Gema Moneo. She taught us a really fiery bulerias, well, I don’t know if taught is the right way to say it… Maybe she showed us what she wanted and then we had to try to comply. Really not my strongest skill… but at least I got to practise that! The second course was taught by Alfonso Losa, who was at least a bit familiar from his course in Helsinki in March. Losa taught us three hours of bulerias on Saturday and three hours of tangos on Sunday and a bit of technique in the beginning of each day. The material was typical Losa, I felt like I should have been moving into three directions at once. However, the persistent technique training from the spring paid of as Losa did show me that my technique was quite good although there is a lot of work to be done with my speed.

I did not manage to learn or memorize a lot of material from these two courses but the most important thing was that I had the courage to go and that I survived in really tough company in a completely unfamiliar surroundings. I learned once again how much I can already do and, on the other hand, got a reminder of how much there is still to learn. But, I have the rest of my life to learn! And the most important lesson was that it was not the end of the world that I did not learn everything. In fact, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world if I hadn’t managed to learn any material at all!