Monday, 31 December 2018

El mal querer

by Rosalía

I first heard Rosalía’s name a couple months ago from one of my students during a “one-to-one” English conversation session. “Sure, she sings flamenco”, she said, “but young people are actually listening to her”. Needless to say, the very evening I went to YouTube to look Rosalía up and was promptly blown away.

[It was also irritating to see those endless comments criticising her for cultural appropriation, for singing flamenco while being neither gypsy nor andalú, for not singing flamenco (“¡Esto no es flamenco!”), for — whatever. Do yourself a favour, don’t waste your time reading them.]

El mal querer, which was conceived as Rosalía’s university thesis, is an unashamedly conceptual album. Every song has a second title, corresponding to a chapter in an XIIIth-century Occitan romance Flamenca, of which history has preserved neither beginning nor end. Musically, it is all but straightforward — if interested, watch a fascinating although at times a bit too technical analysis by Jaime Altozano (recommended by yet another student). But, before doing that, try to listen to the whole thing several times in a row without distractions. I was doing just that and kept discovering new things.

As great (and it is great) as the studio album is, there is more to Rosalía. Six months after its release, Malamente is a cultural reference as integral to the Spanish landscape as anything you can think of. (Just watch the parodies by Los Morancos and Polònia (Lentamente) and you’ll see what I mean.)

On 31 October Rosalía played a free concert, sponsored by Red Bull, at Plaza de Colón in Madrid. The concert was also streamed live on the Red Bull website. This stream was recorded and published by somebody on YouTube, only to be taken down a few days later (Red Bull blocked it “on copyright grounds”). I was lucky to see it, in its entirety, before it disappeared. The live performance, with dancers and all, seems to be even more impressive than the videos.

I don’t expect Rosalía’s detractors will ever shut up. This matters not. It is not just Spanish “young people” who are listening to her: she is gaining audience worldwide. Now that my beloved Ojos de Brujo, Canteca de Macao and Chambao (all great flamenco fusionistas, but how many people outside of Spain know them?) are no longer performing, it is up to new generation of musicians to make flamenco cool again.

Friday, 28 December 2018

Spider-Man: Un nuevo universo

a film by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman

The only way to get rid of a so-so film aftertaste is to watch a really good one. And so, on Boxing Day (even though nobody celebrates it here) we all went to see the latest instalment of the Spider-Man franchise. And what a great movie it turned out to be!

You don’t need to be a fan of Spider-Man to enjoy it. In fact, it is the only Spider-Person film you’ll ever need, or want, to watch. The superheroes — Spider-Men, Spider-Women and Spider-Ham — are super diverse (to rhyme with “Spider-Verse”), the villains are delightfully evil, the animation is breathtaking... What’s more, it is both very clever and side-splittingly funny. At least, in Spanish it was. What are you waiting for?

According to Wikipedia,

The film’s directors all felt that the film would be one of the few that audiences actually “need” to watch in 3D...
Well we saw it in 2D and it was still great, although in the beginning I was wondering if they were by mistake screening an anaglyph 3D version without giving us the red/cyan glasses. Wrong! This is a deliberate design feature, one of the devices the film creators employed to bring the original printed comic book alive. (Another one is the use of halftones.) To quote the film’s animation co-director Patrick O’Keefe:
To stay true to the medium, we decided to go with a CMYK offsetting as our blur. The film actually has no motion blur in it, but, instead, borrows from certain anime techniques to replicate the feeling of motion with a frame. At first it was a real problem because you’d get a lot of [visual] chatter. Despite our best intentions, you still need a “lens” that can focus. So we decided, all the [sense of] focus is done with a CMYK offsetting like you’d get off a four-pass printing press.
So be warned: your eyes may hurt a bit.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody

a film by Bryan Singer and Dexter Fletcher
Is this the real life or is this just Battersea?
Robert Rankin, Armageddon: The Musical

This Christmas day, Timur and I went to see Bohemian Rhapsody (in English) in Monopol. It turned out to be neither that good nor, and especially nor, that bad as I heard or read.

Of course, it would be naïve to expect a biopic to be 100% accurate. It is not the film’s historical inaccuracies per se, and even the fact that they were rather knowingly (as both Brian May and Roger Taylor were involved in the making) introduced for extra drama or something. Not that the story of the Queen-size band needs any extra drama. Neither it is that the film focuses almost exclusively on Freddie Mercury, as if the other band’s members did not have lives offstage, in spite of the mantra of “the family”. And it is not the happy, of the sorts, ending where “Mr. Bad Guy” finally gets his dad’s approval along the “good thoughts, good words, good deeds” lines. All this is forgivable but, unfortunately, also forgettable. And that is, in my humble opinion, unforgivable. I am not sure if Sacha Baron Cohen would make better Freddie (than Rami Malek’s), but I am quite sure he would make the whole affair funnier, more alive and outrageous and, as such, more truthful to the spirit of the band as flamboyant as Their Majesties.

On the bright side: Malek’s performance is brilliant, the other band members are not bad either, and the music is, well, by Queen.

Tuesday, 25 December 2018


a film by Nicolás Pacheco

Don’t know how but I spent six and a half months in Santander without venturing even once to the cinema. And then, during my few days in Valencia, I just went to see this tragicomedy I’d never heard about before.

Jaulas is the first feature film by Nicolás Pacheco (Seville, 1980); to me, it is a work of a mature master. Perhaps inevitably, the critics note the influences of Kusturica, Almodóvar and Buñuel — and why not, they are all great influences. Yet Pacheco has got a gorgeous style of his own.

I am a bit uncertain as to when the story is set. (Where = Seville, no doubts about that.) It could be taking place right now, yet mobile phones are conspicuous by their absence. 1990s, even 1980s, perhaps? And does it matter?

Watch this film, if you can find where.

Monday, 24 December 2018

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

by Stieg Larsson

One evening in February 2003, Larsson’s character Mikael Blomkvist

went to the cinema to see <the 2001 film> The Lord of the Rings, which he had never before had time to see. He thought that orcs, unlike human beings, were simple and uncomplicated creatures.
One day in November 2018 I picked up a paperback with rather horrid cover design which had been gathering dust in the teacher’s room. As it happened, I also had never before had time to read this book. The English translation of the international bestseller was published in 2008.

I don’t read Swedish so can’t really offer my opinion on “needless prettification” [1] but I also was not impressed by this particular translation. Nor am I into crime novels. Even so, I was gripped. I spent several nights reading into early hours and now, surprise surprise, I want more.

(Meanwhile, the book is back to its former place, waiting for the next reader.)

Ah, Sweden. Beautiful country, it is. Each part of the novel is preceded by an epigraph. Here they are all:

  • Eighteen percent of the women in Sweden have at one time been threatened by a man.
  • Forty-six percent of the women in Sweden have been subjected to violence by a man.
  • Thirteen percent of the women in Sweden have been subjected to aggravated sexual assault outside a sexual relationship.
  • Ninety-two percent of women in Sweden who have been subjected to sexual assault have not reported the incident to the police.
No source of these data is quoted, but the (still depressing) statistics is available elsewhere [2].

Larsson’s wish notwithstanding, the English title makes more sense than Swedish Män som hatar kvinnor, “Men Who Hate Women”, as Lisbeth Salander, “a grown-up Pippi Longstocking”, is a (super)heroine par excellence.

Also, as I just realised, it is an almost perfect Christmas story.

  1. According to Wikipedia,
    Both Larsson’s longtime partner Eva Gabrielsson and English translator Steven T. Murray have said that Christopher MacLehose (who works for British publisher Quercus) “needlessly prettified” the English translation; as such, Murray requested he be credited under the pseudonym “Reg Keeland”. The English release also changed the title, even though Larsson specifically refused to allow the Swedish publisher to do so, and the size of Salander’s dragon tattoo; from a large piece covering her entire back, to a small shoulder tattoo.
  2. The 2014 EU-wide survey shows that famously egalitarian Nordic countries also lead Europe, percent-wise, in terms of physical, sexual and psychological violence against women. This contrasts with self-perception of the frequency of said violence: for instance, only 9% of women in Finland view the gender violence as “very common”, compared to Spain’s 31% and EU-28 average 27%, while 47% of Finnish women experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15 (22% in Spain, EU-28 average 33%).

Friday, 30 November 2018

Live music in Santander and beyond, October—November 2018

...where “beyond” includes Burgos and Barcelona.

  • 17 October: Leo Minax & German Kucich @ Rvbicón, Calle del Sol 4, Santander
      Brazilian-born, Madrid-based singer-songwriter Leonardo De Deus Gil aka Leo Minax accompanied by German Kucich on piano. An unexpected gem of a concert in a family atmosphere.

  • 24 October: Rachel Therrien trio @ Rvbicón
      An international trio featuring Canadian trumpeter Rachel Therrien, Spanish bassist Darío Guibert Montaña and German drummer Mareike Wiening. Fantastic original repertoire, but it was their version of ¿Por qué me pega? that made my evening.

  • 30 October: Inés Saavedra @ Canela Bar, Plaza de Cañadio
      This was the only concert of VII Encuentro Internacional de Canción de Autor, organised by Paolo Latrónica, that I attended. And a good thing, too.

  • 31 October: Hermes Quintet Latin Jazz @ Rvbicón
      This is Halloween — and no less than three concerts that I would like to see, but in the end I chose the nearest (to my place) and, incidentally,the cheapest of the three. Featuring Hermes de la Torre (piano), Miguel Angel Martín (trumpet), Daniel Jablonski (sax), Dani Peña (percussion) and Julián Fernández (percussion).

  • 3 November: Pheromone Blue @ Museo de la Evolución Humana, Paseo Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos
      As I happened to be in Burgos that night, I went to see this Madrid-based electronic music trio playing in the Human Evolution Museum (MEH) and, while at that, to see the museum itself. General admission is €6 but, as I discovered, teachers can enter for free. I did not have any ID or paper saying that I am a teacher on me but the ticket lady was satisfied with the proof of salary shown on my mobile phone. Which was nice because MEH itself turned out to be a bit “meh”. The museum is huge and rather underused. I mean, there are bones from Atapuerca, such as the early Neanderthal skull nicknamed Miguelón, the human pelvis called Elvis or the Pleistocene bear’s skull named Isidro, but there is only so much a collection of funny-named bones can do for you.
      Back to Pheromone Blue — it consists of Mario Ramos Jr (vocals, guitar, synthesizers), Iker Ramos (keyboards) and Fernando Delgado (drums). Although all their songs sounded like variations on the same theme, I enjoyed the music more than expected. I wish Mario played guitar more because he really can.
  • 7 November: Adam Giles Levy @ Rvbicón
      An English singer-songwriter, singing-playing kind of acoustic guitar-blues-rock, on Spanish leg of Peninsula tour. I know, this may not sound particularly exciting; I had my doubts too but in the end I went to see him and do not regret it. In the middle of the second number he broke a string, excused himself, replaced the string and finished the song.

  • 14 November: Ton Risco & Jacobo de Miguel @ Rvbicón
      Jacobo de Miguel (piano) and Ton Risco (vibraphone, percussion) play beautiful, somewhat ECM-esque music.

  • 17 November: Jairo León @ La Vorágine, Calle Cisneros 15
      This lecture-concert entitled ¿Cómo entiende un gitano el flamenco? consisted of Jairo León mostly talking and sometimes playing. I would prefer the other way round, but here you are. To be precise, he played three compositions, so the evening went marginally better than that ghastly Vogon poetry event.
  • 21 November: DHD Trio @ Rvbicón
      The Rotterdam-based international trio featuring pianist Humberto Ríos (Cuba), bassist Damien Roussos (Cyprus) and drummer Daan Arets (The Netherlands) plays high-energy Cuban-flavoured jazz.
  • 24 November: Amparanoia @ Sala BARTS, Av. del Paraŀlel, 62, Barcelona
      I travelled to Barcelona over the weekend to see the last concert party fiesta of Amparanoia’s Machín World Tour 2018, as a part of the Festival Mil·lenni. The band’s current line-up is Carmen Niño (bass), Angie Lófer (keys), Willy Fuego (guitar), Vesko Kountchev (violin and viola), José Alberto Varona (trumpet), Micky Martínez (drums), Flor Inza (percussion) and, naturally, Amparo Sánchez (voice and guitar), with surprise guests Joan Garriga (Hacer dinero), Dani Macaco (El coro de mi gente), Aziza Brahim (¡Ay, moreno!) and Pau Lobo (Ella Baila Bembe).
  • 28 November: David Cid Trio @ Rvbicón
      Another fabulous trio composed of David Cid (piano), Xurxo Estévez (double bass) and Rakel Arbeloa (drums) playing energetic pre-bebop-style jazz.
And so, autumn is over...

Thursday, 22 November 2018

The White Album

by The Beatles

The White Album was the first collection of the Beatles music that I remember, as an album, from the early 1970s, even though I didn’t hear it in full until (a decade or so) later. Nor did I know how it was called. My cousin had an incomplete recording of it on the A-side of a magnetic tape reel. On the box it was simply written “Double album”. The other side contained some unrelated material which was apparently not worth mentioning. For this reason, the “real” White Album for me finishes with Sexy Sadie, while the rest of it still sounds superfluous.

I was long wondering who was playing the guitar intro of The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill which, back in the 1970s, appeared to be a pinnacle of guitar virtuosity and a masterpiece in its own right. To my disappointment, I learned from Wikipedia that it

opens with a flamenco guitar phrase, played from a standard Mellotron bank of pre-recorded rhythms and phrases by studio engineer Chris Thomas. It is unknown how the sample was chosen.
To be honest, I am not ready to pay £125 for the seven-disc 50th anniversary box set. I am quite happy with my remastered edition, thank you very much.

As far as I know, there were no Melodiya singles with the original White Album material (quite unlike the case of Abbey Road). However, I vividly remember the single with Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da sung in English by Весёлые ребята (the B-side had «Старенький автомобиль», a rather horrid Russian-language rendition of Drive My Car).

Perhaps my favourite cover version of a White Album song is Dear Prudence by Morgan James and Haley Reinhart.

Happy Birthday, White Album.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Mark Roman’s Sci-Fi Shorts

by Mark Roman and Corben Duke

The dynamic duo (who, according to the blurb, “collaborate entirely by the exchange of e-mails and insults”) return with a much shorter and, dare I say, better book than The Worst Man on Mars. And no, I didn’t buy this book either: it was a freebie, so I don’t (and shouldn’t) feel shortchanged.

Thirteen humorous sci-fi stories telling of the man who saved the world (kind of), and the man who didn’t, the laptop that discovered it is self-aware, the weird message from Outer Space, and the spur-of-the-moment decision that doomed Mankind.
Well those thirteen do contain The Rovers Return which is really a chapter of TWMOM (it was shortlisted in the Short Story Category of the Yeovil Literary Prize 2014 and, indeed, works as a standalone short) and five very short shorts. None of which fall short of the Mark or Corben. All readable just in one short beach afternoon.

My, there’s no shortage of “short” in this text.

Mark Roman’s Sci-Fi Shorts

  1. The Man Who Saved the World (Kind Of)
  2. The Rovers Return
  3. Bad Call
  4. We’re Back!
  5. I, Laptop
  6. Farther Christmas
  7. Changes
    Short Shorts: 100-word Stories
    1. Dragon Slayer
    2. A Nice New Home
    3. Recognition
    4. The Magic Sword
    5. And Then There Were...
  1. The Visitor

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Live music in Santander, September 2018

While I was looking for a new place to live (long story, another time), I did my best to attend most — all but two concerts, to be precise — of this year’s Raqueros del Jazz festival. The programme was excellent. However, I feel that I must say a couple of words about its organisation.

I never bought tickets to Rvbicón events in advance, including all concerts of the last year’s RDJ. On 13 September, when I came to see Amós Lora Quartet, I was told that there were no tickets left. After my enquiry, the lady at the doors helpfully informed me that Carles Benavent concert was also sold out. I found myself on the street pondering what to do next in this new for me situation. The last thing I wanted to do was to walk back home. To my joy, in a minute or so the said lady emerged looking for me. She told me there was a cancellation and she had one ticket available.

Encouraged by this, I thought I should try my luck on Saturday. The only way to get to the concert was to wait from 8 pm onward in a hope of cancellation. I was the first on a “waiting list” — by 9 pm, there were only five “reserved” tickets left, and at 9:15 they were finally on sale. While we (the small group of hopefuls, that is) were waiting, we learned that the tickets for RDJ were on sale one month in advance. Do I have to add that I was not the only customer surprised by that? There never was any info about advance sales. At the same time, there was a constant stream of vaguely familiar-looking people trying to filter inside without tickets, wishing to talk to the boss etc. etc. I am sure that in the end all these Rabbit’s Friends-and-Relations somehow got in, filling this apparently finite space way beyond its capacity.

All the concerts took place in Rvbicón unless indicated otherwise.

  • 2 September: Jam session
      The festival kicked off with a lively jam session featuring Cantabrian jazzmen such as Rafael Santana (piano), Toño Gutiérrez (double bass), Rodri Irizábal (drums), Saúl Crespo (piano) and others.
  • 4 September: Luis Verde Quartet / Vientos Cruzados
      Modern mainstream jazz featuring Luis Verde (alto saxo), Mark Schilders (drums), Moisés Sánchez (piano) and Reinier Elizarde “El Negrón” (double bass).
  • 6 September: Daahoud Salim Quintet
      This international collective formed in Amsterdam features musicians from Spain, Germany and South Corea. Impressive compositions and overall musicianship, but Sun Mi Hong’s drumwork is simply mindblowing. Bruno Calvo (trumpet), Pablo José Martínez Hernández (trombone), Sun Mi Hong (drums), Hendrik Müller (double bass) and Daahoud Salim (piano).
  • 8 September: RAMBA with Andrzej Olejniczak, Calle Carlos Salomón
      I knew the work of Andrzej Olejniczak from his time with String Connection; however, by the time I went to see them (as a trio) in Moscow in 1980s, he already left the band. I didn’t know that now he lives in Basque Country! Also, it was a pleasure to see Tana Santana again as a part of RAMBA.
      Andrzej Olejniczak (sax), Marcos Salcines (piano), Tana Santana (double bass), Carla Sevilla (vocal) and Juanma Urriza (drums).
  • 12 September: Caminero Quartet
      Inspiring and very original music by Pablo Caminero who strums his bass as if it was a flamenco guitar. Highly recommended.
      Pablo Martín Caminero (double bass), Ariel Bringuez (sax), Moisés Sánchez (piano), Michael Olivera (drums).
  • 13 September: Amós Lora Quartet
      I’m happy that in the end I managed to get to this concert. If I had to name just one highlight (of many), it would be the rendition of Paco de Lucía’s Zyryab.
      Amós Lora (guitar), Gito Maletá (piano), Reinier Elizarde (double bass) and Manu Masaedo (percussion).
  • 15 September: Carles Benavent Trio
      I saw Benavent last October as a part of a very different trio and again this January, and he never fails to surprise me.
      Carles Benavent (bass), Roger Mas (piano) and Aleix Tobías (drums).
  • 16 September: Jazztedigo @ Calle del Sol
      This was the last concert of the festival that I saw. Rubén Bubby Ortiz (guitar), Saúl Crespo (violin) and Germán Caprara (drums) played a great selection of jazz and swing standards.
The only concert I saw in September that was not a part of RDJ was this one:
  • 23 September: Mabel Sierra & Soul Band @ La Viga, Carretera de la Arnia, 1, Soto de la Marina
      I just can’t have enough Mabel Sierra! Great program, shame about the venue: far cry from Rvbicón, the customers of La Viga did not seem to respect neither music nor the musicians. Soul Band are: Iván Velasco (guitar), Miguel Sánchez (bass) and Natxo Miralles (drums).

Friday, 31 August 2018

Live music in Santander and beyond, August 2018

The summer’s over... And here’s the end-of-summery summary.

  • 4 August: Jairo & Sesi @ Rvbicón, Calle del Sol, 4, Santander

      It promised to be an informal musical encuentro between Jairo León (piano) and Sergio Mier (guitar). However, after Jairo playing two solo numbers, it morphed into an almost private party with a multitude of guests reading their mostly awful amateur Vogon poetry in honour of somebody who appeared to be as embarrassed as the musicians and the rest of the audience. One of the versifiers was a spitting image of Lord “I shall kill everyone by giving them syphilis” Byron from Blackadder. It would have been funny were it not so long, and the two protagonists of the show (I mean Jairo and Sesi) had no chance to play a single song together. The photo below sums it all up. Thank goodness we didn’t have to pay for this entertainment.

  • 8 August: Albert Vila Trio @ Rvbicón
      The latest project of Spanish guitarist and composer Albert Vila, featuring French bassist Alex Gilson and Dutch drummer Daniel Jonkers. Highly recommended.

  • 11 August: Mabel Sierra Trio @ Bluemoon, Savieja, 9, Loredo, Cantabria
      A charming mix of boleros, soul and bossa nova. On this occasion, Mabel Sierra was accompanied by Quiu Herrero (guitar) and Yanil Macagüero (bass).
  • 15 August: Free Mode @ Rvbicón
      A band from Majadahonda (Community of Madrid) playing feel-good, mostly Anglophone mix of reggae, funk and swing.

  • 17 August: Aba Taano @ Festival de las Naciones, Sardinero
      Gospel, songs by Miriam Makeba, and even ABBA medley brilliantly performed by the Ugandan a cappella group featuring Harriett Nabbaale, Joshua Kimeze, Morris Kamogga, Louis Mayanja and Derrick Ssenteza.
  • 18 August: James Room & Weird Antiqua @ Kursaal, Avda. de Zurriola, 1, Donostia / San Sebastián
      A great live act featuring James Room (vocals, guitars), Indigo L. Agudo (drums, percussion, backing vocals), Aitor Zorriketa (guitars, backing vocals) and Gabriel León (double bass, electric bass). Somehow mislabelled in the program of this year’s Semana Grande of San Sebastián as folk-jazz, this band plays Americana-inspired yet original music. A kind of country-rock number that I heard upon arrival did not appeal to me that much and I was about to leave when the band started playing Tom-Waits-esque Jailed Lion. I got hooked and stayed.
  • 18 August: Yasmin Shah Trio @ Altxerri Jazz Bar, Calle Reina Regente, 2, Donostia
      Later that same night, Yasmin Shah (vocal, piano) played in Altxerri Jazz Bar with Nicolas Chelly (bass) and Olivier Verneres (drums). I have to say that I was more impressed with Yasmin’s piano playing than with her singing. The trio made a break at 22:45 to allow the audience to get out of the bar and watch the fireworks.
  • 19 August: Extraño Veneno @ Rvbicón
      The only reason to see the duo of Pablo Díaz and Julián Suárez that Sunday evening was it being a free event, or, rather, “Pay after show” event. As the name suggests, this scheme means that it’s entirely up to you how much to pay to the buskers. Provided that you stay till the end of the show, which I didn’t.
  • 22 August: Rachel Reyes & The Fireballs @ Rvbicón
      Rachel Reyes (vocals) with Víctor Sánchez (guitar), Moisés Pindado (bass) and Adrián Carrera (drums). Yet another band from Madrid playing a way too familiar set of rhythm and blues, soul and funk standards. Good enough to eliminate the aftertaste of the “strange poison” but instantly forgettable.

  • 24 August: Katia and Marielle Labèque @ Palacio de Festivales de Cantabria, Calle de Gamazo
      The first part of the penultimate concert of the Festival Internacional de Santander consisted of works by Philip Glass: The Chase (Orphée and the Princess), Stoke’s Duet, The Poet Acts (Katia Labèque solo), Étude No. 5 (Marielle Labèque solo) and Four Movements for Two Pianos. For the second part, Bernstein’s West Side Story arranged for two pianos and percussion by Irwin Kostal, the Labèque sisters were joined by Raphaël Séguinier (drums) and Gonzalo Grau (percussion).

  • 29 August: Blue Ribbon Healers @ Rvbicón
      Since I saw them the first time almost four years ago, the band have further perfected their “sonic gumbo” although not their spoken Spanish. But who cares when the music speaks for itself! Blue Ribbon Healers are: Rob Pate (guitar, vocals), Cindy Rose (mandolin, vocals) and Scott Stobbe (guitar).

Now, bring on September...

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Live music in Santander and beyond, June—July 2018

It’s summer, and I’m back to Santander!

  • 13 June: Edu Andérez Trio @ Rvbicón, Calle del Sol 4, Santander
      Edu Andérez (guitars), Antonio Romero (bass guitar) and Luis Escalada de Cabo (drums) play music of, or influenced by, Charlie Haden, Pat Metheny, Ralph Towner, David Cullen, Alex de Grassi and Terje Rypdal.

  • 20 June: The Boogies & The Bugas @ Rvbicón
      A sextet formed in 2017 in Santander featuring Oriana Carreña (vocal), Tatiana Ramírez (vocal), Patu Campos (vocal), Rafael Santana (piano), Toño Gutiérrez (double bass) and Rodri Irizábal (drums). They play a charming mix of boogie woogie and swing, with repertoire ranging from I Got Rhythm to I Will Survive.

  • San Juan Night, 23 to 24 June: Freedonia @ Leioa (Lejona), Basque Country
      This is the third time I see Freedonia and they just get better and better.

  • 7 July: Corcoré Trio @ Bluemoon, Savieja 9, Loredo, Cantabria
      My first time ever in Bluemoon Loredo and no disappointment. Felipe Borja ‘Popín’ (piano), Antonio Romero (bass) and Rubén Pérez (percussion) treated us to some fine flamenco jazz fusion.

  • 18 July: Juan Sebastián Trio @ Rvbicón
      Juan Sebastián returns to Rvbicón (last time I saw him here last September) accompanied by Rubén Carlés (bass) and Dani Dominguez (drums). The trio plays the themes from the forthcoming album — I am looking forward to it!

  • 22 July: Música para un espacio de Renzo Piano @ Centro Botín
      The sitting area was “by invitation only” (I’ve never learned how to procure those invitations for free events at Centro Botín), but I and other free music lovers found place on the stairs and balconies of the building designed by the very Renzo Piano.

      Ensemble del Encuentro Música y Academia, directed by Fabián Panisello, opened the concert with Schönberg’s Kammersymphonie. It was followed by Domaines for solo clarinet by Pierre Boulez, performed by Ferran Arbona. Ensemble del Encuentro returned to play Luciano Berio’s Folk Songs for mezzo-soprano (Beatriz Oleaga) and seven instruments. I enjoyed this last part the most; the audience, apparently, too. Oleaga and the band played the Azerbaijan Love Song as an encore.

Friday, 20 July 2018

Yuri’s 21st

Here are seven analogue-era, “made in Britain” photos taken in different years by Tamara.



Cromer, 1998

Yuri and Timur, Saffron Walden, 2000

Autumn in Cardiff


Peak District, 2006

And this video I found on my old netbook before taking it to Cash Converters.

Aarhus (back then Århus), 2009

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Cheese time

On Friday 18 May we went to the XXV Concurso Oficial de Quesos de Gran Canaria (25th Official Gran Canaria Cheese Competition) where, I am told, for the first time the public could both taste, buy, and vote for cheese. To do that, one had to travel to atrociously-named INFECAR (La Institución Ferial de Canarias) located in one of the more horrid parts of the city. Nevertheless, we successfully navigated there (and back) by public transport. The place itself is not so bad but seems underused. The cheese tasting took place in a spacious foyer of the Palacio de Congresos. Next to the entrance, there was a little stall with cheese for sale.

While the experts were going around the tables where the cheeses were piled (it looked like they were given one latex glove each, so they used their gloved hands to hold iPads and poke the cheeses barehandedly), we also had a look around.

According to the catalogue that I took from one of the tables, there are about 80 queserías artesanales (artisanal cheesemakers) in Gran Canaria. Here, 31 cheesemakers presented 65 cheese varieties competing in 13 categories. Most of the cheeses were made with unpasteurised milk.

We limited ourselves to sampling and eventually purchasing three wedges of cheese, leaving voting to others. (The full list of winners can be found here.) All three cheeses were classified as semicurado (variously translated as semi-cured, semi-hard, semi-soft, take your pick).

  1. Cortijo de Daniela Semicurado/Tuno Indio by Airam Rivero Bethencourt and Esmeralda Santana Falcón (Lomo del Pilón, Espartero, Teror)
      This sheep’s milk cheese got our attention mostly because of the spectacular purple colour given to its rind by the fruit of cactus Opuntia dillenii, known in Canarias as tuno indio, penca, penco, pencón, topete or tunera. We loved the taste of freshly cut cheese. Rather disappointingly, after spending just a couple days in the fridge it was not as nice anymore. So, a word of advice, if I may: don’t buy if you don’t mean to eat it the same day.
  2. El Cortijo El Montañon by Flora María Gil Mendoza y Domingo Moreno Moreno (Pico del Montañon, Caideros, Gáldar)
      Very tasty, crumbly sheep’s and goat’s milk cheese.
  3. El Buen Pastor by Juan Andrés Vizcaíno Guedes (Casa Pastores, Santa Lucía de Tirajana)
      This sheep’s and goat’s milk affair is similar to the above but a bit softer (in more than one sense).

More photos of cheese @ Shutterstock.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Live music in Las Palmas, May 2018

The summer is upon us, and suddenly, suddenly we are spoiled for choice. Here’s mine:

  • 20 May: La Hormiga Contra La Abeja @ Fabrica La Isleta, Calle Princesa Guayarmina, 54
      It’s been a while — almost three years! — since the last time I’ve been to a jam session at Fabrica La Isleta. (Come to think of it, that was my first and last time.) The price went up from €2 to €3, which is still cheap, although I find it a bit cheeky to charge (a potential performer) for a jam session. Not that I was up to jamming recently. Timur and I went to see La Hormiga Contra La Abeja (“The Ant vs. The Bee”), the project of bassist and composer Tana Santana. And it was great. My favourite compositions were La Hormiga Contra La Abeja and El baile del vivo. The band played for about three quarters of an hour, then the guests started to join for a jam. We stayed for two standards, ’Round Midnight and Lullaby of Birdland, before heading home (Timur still had classes on Monday). Judging by number of guests with musical instruments, the jam went for at least one hour more.

    La Hormiga Contra La Abeja

      Tanausú “Tana” Santana Garrido: double bass, voice, composer
      Xerach Peñate Santana: drums
      Chago Miranda: electric guitar
      José Ángel Vera: sax

  • 26 May: Perinké Big Band @ Teatro CICCA, Alameda de Colon, 1
      Timur and I went to see Perinké Big Band with guests, presenting their new album, Canary Islands Standards for Big Band. The themes were composed and/or arranged for big band by Rayko León. As Rayko explained himself, the goal was to fuse Canarian folklore with 20th century styles, not only those of “classical” big band but also of Latin jazz, dixieland and funk. I cannot honestly say it was a seamless fusion. For example, I was not exactly convinced with songs such as Maspalomas y tú and Mi tierra guanche (those who grew listening to Широка страна моя родная would understand). The numbers I enjoyed the most were Afro-Cuban flavoured La Aldea (with great support of La Parranda de Teror) and Polka majorera. I loved the vintage sound of the orchestra. The musician I was impressed the most was the violinist Raúl Bermúdez.

    Perinké Big Band

      Ximo Martínez: music director
      Rayko León: piano
      Eduardo Naranjo: alto sax
      Héctor Guerra: alto sax
      Echedey Angulo: tenor sax
      Eliseo Bordón: tenor sax
      Candy González: baritone sax
      Marcos Pulido: trumpet
      Juan Antonio Guerrero: trumpet
      Silvia Jiménez: trumpet
      Antonio Ojeda “Tonono”: trumpet
      Luis Hernández: trumpet
      Orlando González: trombone
      Javier Herrera: trombone
      Franklin Cárdenes: trombone
      Antonio Peña “Ñito”: trombone
      Samantha de León: double bass, electric bass
      Samuel Medina: drums
      Amelia Gutiérrez: percussion


      Juan Manuel Alemán: clarinet
      Raúl Bermúdez Cárdenas: violin
      Moneiba Hidalgo: vocal
      Lorena Román: vocal
      Mari Carmen Segura: vocal
      La Parranda de Teror
  • 27 May: The Josés & Cristina James @ Clipper La Puntilla, Calle Caleta
      I don’t know if this is the time and place to bring it up; I’ll do it anyway. I’ve heard quite a few Spanish bands playing what they call “standards”, “soul standards” or “R&B standards” (whatever “R&B” stands for). And here’s what really pains me: astonishing level of musicianship meeting poorly, carelessly selected repertoire. There are thousands of great songs, why oh why they keep playing the same tunes ad nauseam? Is Summertime obligatory? Can we give Stevie Wonder some rest? What Michael Jackson is even doing here? Ah well. The rant is over. The band playing this Isleta Sunset was solid and inventive, the singer has soul and definitely can sing the blues.

    The Josés & Cristina James

      José Alberto Medina: piano
      José Carlos Cejudo: electric bass
      José Víctor González: drums
      Cristina James: vocal
  • 29 May: Efecto Pasillo @ Plaza de Santa Ana
      I heard of Efecto Pasillo before, not so much their actual music though, and had absolutely no idea that they are hailing from our beautiful island. And, would you believe it, I learned that they were to perform on the eve of the Día de Canarias, hours before the show started, thanks to Tamara. And what a show! What wonderful and positive music — just what I needed. The band administered their medicine of “buenrollismo con la precisión casi farmacológica” from 22:40 till about ten past midnight, followed by a firework display.

    Efecto Pasillo

      Nau Barreto: guitars
      Javier Moreno: drums
      Arturo Sosa: bass
      Iván Torres: vocals, guitar

Hasta luego, Las Palmas. I’ll be back before Christmas.