Monday, 5 March 2018

Gran Canaria’s Women Band live

Women sing.
Women dance.
Women play harp.
They also play piano.

According to Lise Karin Meling, “The foundations for which instruments women and men should play are laid already in the Middle Ages”. The flute, the violin, the oboe the horn, the cello, the double bass, the bassoon, and the trumpet all were considered unsuitable for women. And guess what, they still are. Can you name any female bassist/drummer/saxophonist/trombonist/trumpeter? I can, but all of them are jazz players, and also are exceptions, for jazz remains a men’s world. And what about women conductors?

Yesterday, Timur and I went to see this all in the shape of the Gran Canaria’s Women Band in the Auditorio Alfredo Kraus.

GCWB was founded in 2016 by Pilar Rodríguez and consists of fifty Canarian women. According to La Provincia, this is the first all-female symphony orchestra in Canarias (and second in Spain). In fact, just like Gran Canaria Wind Orchestra, GCWB is a concert band: no violins or violas (and a good thing too), just one cello and two double basses. Also, neither piano nor harp. But plenty of percussion, including a drumkit.

It was an interesting and varied programme, starting with world permière of Atman by Canarian composer Nisamar Díaz. I liked Second Suite for Band by Alfred Reed and Ruckus by Randall Standridge the most. In my view, there was not enough chemistry between the guest vocalist Eli Guillén and the band during the first two songs. The choir Coral Chelys Odalys, directed by Maite Robaina, came to the rescue. Can’t Take My Eyes Off You sung by Eli and a choir was a success. And then there were encores: a paso doble (I don’t know the name) and I Will Survive!

It looked like the show was sold out: I bought the tickets on Thursday and there was just a handful of seats left. Now how great could it be if the band could perform not just once a year, to celebrate the International Women’s Day...

Unfortunately, the programme booklet does not list the musicians of GCWB. Also, for a few songs, they credited the arrangers but not the composers.

Gran Canaria’s Women Band

Musical director: Pilar Rodríguez
Auditorio Alfredo Kraus, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Sunday, 4 March 2018, 12:00
Part I
  • Nisamar Díaz (Gran Canaria, 1980)
    Atman (world première)
  • Steven Reineke (Tipp City, Ohio, 1970)
    Main Street Calebration
  • James L. Hosay (Nashville, Tennessee, 1959)
  • Alfred Reed (New York, 1921 — Miami, 2005)
    Second Suite for Band (Latino Mexicana) (1978)
    1. Son Montuno
    2. Tango
    3. Guaracha
    4. Paso Doble
Part II
  • Randall D. Standridge (Little Rock, Arkansas, 1976)
  • Justin Hurwitz (Los Angeles, California, 1985), arranged by Michael Brown
    Highlights from La La Land
  • Mecano, de Germán Arias
  • Germán Arias
      Eli Guillén: vocal
  • Arr. by Frank Bernaerts
    What I’m Feeling
      Eli Guillén: vocal
      Coral Chelys Odalys
  • Bob Crewe, Bob Gaudio, arr. by Johan de Meij
    Can’t Take My Eyes Off You
      Eli Guillén: vocal
      Coral Chelys Odalys
  • Franck Pourcel, Paul Mauriat, Norman Gimbel, arr. by Jan van Kraeydonck
    I Will Follow Him
      Coral Chelys Odalys

Monday, 26 February 2018

Ámbar Caesar Avgvsta

The Carnival of Las Palmas is over and the weather is getting noticeably better. I start to feel thirsty enough for a glass of Weizenbier. But it does not have to be a German one. (I have to say that, during the last year especially, the choice of beer in Canarian supermarkets markedly improved.)

I discovered Ámbar Caesar Avgvsta, made by La Zaragozana brewery, about three years ago, in my favourite corner of now-defunct supermarket El Árbol in Santander. I bought just one bottle because I loved its shape...

...and then I bought quite a few more, because I loved its content too.

More photos of beer @ Shutterstock.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Black Panther

a film by Ryan Coogler

Yesterday, Timur and I went to see Black Panther. It was released last Friday and already broke all kinds of records and earned a lot of acclaim. Not just because it is a black film, but because it is a damn good film. Certainly the best superhero movie I’ve seen. But, of course, it is a black film. (And why it shouldn’t be, for vibranium’s sake, if Wakanda is in Africa!) It’s written and directed by African-Americans and starring black actors from all over the place. They even speak Xhosa in Wakanda. True, there is a minor white goodie (Bilbo Baggins) and a secondary white baddie (Gollum); both of them, however, were meant to be outsiders.

Although we watched the Spanish-dubbed version, not only the name of the movie was left as is (not Pantera Negra), they also use the expression “Black Panther” throughout as the king’s title. (I know, I know, it’s Marvel Universe, nobody should really translate Spider-Man as Hombre Araña either, although they do.) Could it also be because pantera is feminine and doesn’t sound right applied to a male? And here’s the problem: T’Challa can only survive because he is surrounded and helped by smart and ass-kicking women. I mean, he is the king all right, I don’t mind him, it’s just “his” (they are not his) women are so much better. Why can’t Wakanda be ruled by a woman, or, better still, by women?

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Muchos hijos, un mono y un castillo

a film by Gustavo Salmerón

If you were to make a documentary on a subject of your choice, what would it be? Think of three topics:

Thursday, 15 February 2018

La ridícula idea de no volver a verte

by Rosa Montero

This is the first book by Rosa Montero I ever read. It took me a while.

That’s how it starts:

Como no he tenido hijos, lo más importante que me ha sucedido en la vida son mis muertos, y con ello me refiero a la muerte de mis seres queridos. ¿Te parece lúgubre, quizá incluso morboso? Yo no lo veo así, antes al contrario: me resulta algo tan lógico, tan natural, tan cierto. Sólo en los nacimientos y en las muertes se sale uno del tiempo; la Tierra detiene su rotación y las trivialidades en las que malgastamos las horas caen sobre el suelo como polvo de purpurina. Cuando un niño nace o una persona muere, el presente se parte por la mitad y te deja atisbar por un instante la grieta de lo verdadero: monumental, ardiente e impasible.

Although it is written in easy enough Spanish, it is no easy reading. (As far as I know, there’s no English translation yet.) Montero chose to deal with her personal tragedy, the death of Pablo Lizcano, in a beautiful and creative way. And she succeeded to convert the mourning into — I hesitate to say “a masterpiece”, but a literary gem nonetheless.

But why Marie Skłodowska Curie? I am not sure. Of course, there are parallels — as there must be. Perhaps not too many though. Montero is fascinated with coincidences, as I am*. Along the way, she comes up with some interesting albeit sweeping generalisations which, as generalisations go, sound pretty accurate. In any case, I am grateful to the author for her choice. I don’t usually read biographies (this book isn’t one) and knew surprisingly little about Marie Curie.

So... was/is Mme Curie “a splendid role model and a feminist icon” or a “token woman”? Rosa Montero sees right through Marie’s unsmiling exterior and reveals a beautiful human being, a true friend, a passionate lover... To do that, however, she had to go (and take the reader with her) through Marie’s diary, and I was not comfortable with that. Diaries are not meant to be exposed to the outside world.

I read most of The ridiculous idea... feeling that Montero focuses a lot on Marie and (her loss of) Pierre but not that much on Pablo, who is the reason of her research and the book itself. Turns out, I was not the only one wondering about that. It gets explained in the end — to be precise, in the chapter called Escondido en el centro del silencio. The author’s self-censorship is understandable and must be respected. Still, the few paragraphs which actually speak about Pablo are among the most beautiful parts of the book.


* I am not a fan of hashtags and honestly can’t see any point in placing them (e.g. #HacerLoQueSeDebe or #HonrarALosPadres) in the paper book, but here you are. To make them a bit more useful, Montero even provided the Index of Hashtags (p. 211), in place of, er, just index. And which hashtag do you think is the most popular? #Coincidencias!

Sunday, 11 February 2018

ST Fusion live

Yesterday, at 20:15, Timur and I were waiting for a bus to Auditorio. One bus, marked FS (Fuera de servicio, “out of service”) but still packed with mythical creatures, passed by. The no. 17, which we eventually boarded, was late and full of unicorns. I don't know where all of them were heading for none stayed till the last stop. As for us, we went to see ST Fusion. This Japanese-Canarian band had to compete with multiple carnival events in Las Palmas and, next door in the same Auditorio Alfredo Kraus, Pastora Soler. Never mind that: ST Fusion had the audience of true jazz lovers.

In his liner notes for Birds of Fire (not the original LP but a CD that I bought in 1994 and still have with me), Gene Santoro wrote:

Fusion is a dirty word, almost an unword. And this despite the fact that fusion is simpler and more accurately descriptive than some mealy-mouthed coinage like “worldbeat”. But it just goes to show once again (thanks, Mr. Orwell!) how a word can crystallize powerful misperceptions, then flatten and distort our understanding of history and culture. Fusion has become a dirty word because of the 1970s jazz-rock hybrid it got pasted onto, and is practically unusable in any other context.
That was written, I reckon, in the late 1980s. Since then, as Bob Dylan said, things have changed: I heard the word “fusion” applied, with sufficient justification, practically to every kind of modern music, including reggaeton.

So... what kind of fusion is ST Fusion’s fusion? I’d say it’s still firmly rooted in that original MO/RTF/WR jazz-rock fusion, and thank goodness for that! But wait, there’s more to it: classical music, hard rock, MPB, (Japanese) folk, even (Japanese) rap... And?

Ted Gioia said: “A style which includes everything ceases to be a style — it has become an encyclopedia of tech­niques.” I am happy to report that, apart from formidable technique(s), ST Fusion has got a style, man, and quite a unique one. I came to listen to instrumental music and did not expect to hear, let alone enjoy, Satomi Morimoto’s soprano singing. Guess what, I really did enjoy it, together with her piano playing and most of the stuff the band were doing. But especially these:

  • A Japanese folk song (fishing song) with Tomás L-P Cruz swapping bass for shamisen*
  • Diagonal — a dedication to Barcelona’s famous avenue and un temazo
  • Halfway through the second song (its title escapes me now), Miguel Manescau broke a string and continued his solo as if nothing happened
  • Frozen City: Satomi said that she wrote it thinking of Tokyo, “frozen” referring not to its climate but to the people who are far too busy running to and from their work and, for example, nobody stops to ask “¿Que tal, mi niña?” when you are waiting for the bus. I have a theory that not many people in Tokyo even can say that phrase.

ST Fusion

    Satomi Morimoto: piano, vocals
    Tomás López-Perea Cruz: bass, shamisen
    Miguel Manescau: guitar, bass guitar
    Akior Garcia: drums

* If I were in charge, I would give the sound engineer a warning; for instance, I couldn’t hear very well Satomi’s singing in this one.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Pasión Española

I only learned about this concert a few days ago. I did not even know that we have a wind orchestra (aka concert band) in Canarias. Wind orchestra is basically a symphony orchestra without the string section, save for double bass. GCWO were formed in 2014 and played their anaugural concert three years ago, also in the Auditorio Alfredo Kraus, in February 2015. Nor did I know any of the composers in the program apart from Isaac Albéniz. The new works of Valencian composer Luis Serrano Alarcón were performed for the first time in Canarias. So, a few discoveries in store for me.