August 1, 2007

“This is a sephardic tune,” said the singer, “that we flamenco-ised.” And so began what sounded to me like a Moorish wailing, such as you sometimes hear in Fado, that gradually accelerated into a rhythmic dance. Hands clapped in accompaniment, the guitar strummed furiously, the drummer tapped his drum and the dancing girl, lifting her long skirts above her knees, waved her fingers in the air like strands of seaweed.

Yesterday lunchtime I was a spectator at a performance of El Viento Flamenco, whose members dance, sing and play in a southern Spanish way (composing their own music), the three dancing girls wearing flowers in their hair and the figure hugging dresses with those flouncy skirts. Maral Perk, who according to the website is actually Armenian-Turkish, the one in red satin (see below), has a fine contralto voice as well as being able to dance. The tenor wore a suit and seemed to be suffering from the heat. No matter, he didn’t let it stop him; his voice was positively operatic. The percussionist, who apparently has “extensive experience with African and Cuban drumming, Newfoundland Celtic and Hard Rock kit drumming” could make an instrument out of the box (cajón) he was sitting on as well as beating his (djembe?) drum, and the guitarist joined in by drumming on his seat too, sometimes. One part of the show was all rhythm, no melody at all. They all clapped, drummed, slapped their thighs and stamped out a tattoo with their feet. It is similar to tap-dancing, but so rapid a movement with the heels that the dancer’s whole body visibly vibrates, especially the cheeks. Another item featured a guitar solo, all the other performers standing respectfully still with hands on hips as he played it.

I made a few notes: crescendo effects, fierce defiance, sinuous hips — belly dancing techniques! Twirling skirt, syncopation (first beat missing), jerking shoulders, closed eyes, complex rhythms. Dancer up on toes!

The dancer called Evelyn made two appearances, the first time in a red and black layered dress with long, ballooning sleeves and a black leather bodice, tightly laced, the second time all in black. She mesmerised everyone present (in the plaza on the corner of Bank and Wellington Streets). Towards the end of the show, Maral sang an Edith Piaf song, Emportée par la foule, and the tenor sang again in the Spanish style, but in English:

I’ll not refuse any man who brings flowers to me …
The man who brings me chocolates, his I’ll surely be …
O why has no man ever sung to me …?


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