Katia Moro performing at Flamenco Barcelona. Photo by Tori Sparks.
What is Flamenco Barcelona? A musical style? A frame of mind? Actually, it’s a school and performance space tucked away in a narrow callejon in Gràcia. They showcase some of the city’s best musicians from within the local community, as well as invited artists from across Spain.
When you first walk through Flamenco Barcelona’s front door, it looks more like a bookstore or small photography gallery. Venture further in, and you’ll find yourself in a wood-floored room with a mirrored wall and typical Flamenco-style chairs set up facing rows of low-slung stools. A few mics. No stage. The lights are dim, incense is burning, and you’re close enough that you’ll be able to clearly make out every drop of sweat on the singer’s forehead. Those seated in the front row will almost inevitably be swished by the skirts of the dancer—and even those in the back row will feel the vibrations of her tacones, heels slamming the wood floor to the point that it visibly buckles. This is not the Palau de la Música. It’s a raw and intimate experience.
“We have concerts every Friday and Saturday night, but the main focus is the educational aspect,” says owner Cándido Álvarez. “Our main goal is to preserve the deep tradition of Flamenco and Rumba Catalana that exists here. We started seven years ago in a location just off the Rambles, and have been in our new location in Gràcia since May 2012.”
“Many of our maestros are from the neighbourhood of Gràcia,” Candido tells me. “There is a centuries-old tradition of Flamenco in this neighbourhood. Some people think that Flamenco is something that is only part of the culture of Andalusiá, but that’s not true at all. The Gitanos actually arrived in Barcelona in 1425, before they made their way south to Granada and Cádiz and Sevilla. The best dancer in history in my opinion was Carmen Amaya, and she was from here. We want people to see that they don’t have to go outside of Barcelona to find real Flamenco.”
All of Flamenco Barcelona’s professors are local. The school offers classes at all levels in dance, guitar, cajón, and Flamenco history, as well as various cultural workshops, such as Gitano cooking classes, wine tasting, and guided tours of the Raval, or the Barrio Chino, another neighbourhood that played a major part in the development of Rumba and Flamenco in Barcelona.
The performers at the concert I attended were Katia Moro (bailaora/dancer), Thais Hernández (cantaora/singer), José Santiago (guitarrista/guitarist), with Christian Chacón unofficially sitting in on palmas. I talked to them while they were getting ready for the night’s performance.
Katia has been dancing and teaching professionally for fifteen years. She studied classical Spanish dance for seven years at the Institut de Teatre in Barcelona, and later began to specialise in Flamenco. She says, “I’ve studied with many master teachers, like La Hierbabuena, La China, El Farruquito, people who really know what they are doing. Since then I have taught classes in France, Turkey, Japan, and China, but my home is always going to be here. The musical community is very strong.”
You might have seen Katia in the Opera Flamenco show at the Palau de la Música, expertly handling the long bata de cola, or train. She says she enjoys dancing everywhere, but particularly loves that at Flamenco Barcelona “we’re so physically close to the public, which makes the experience more immediate here than, for example, when we’re on an elevated stage and the public is far away from us.”
Thais is originally from Castelldefels. She sounds like she has had years of experience, though she has only been singing Flamenco for two years. “I’ve studied under different teachers for voice technique, but never specifically for Flamenco. No one in my family is involved with Flamenco, my parents actually don’t like it at all! I really appreciate the opportunity to sing at Barcelona Flamenco, I’m learning so much here.”
José agrees, saying he values the opportunity that Candido is giving to local musicians. “The community of Flamenco and Rumba here in Barcelona is like a big family. We all help each other, fill in for each other, we all know each other well. The problem we had was that there weren’t many places to play when I was a kid. But now, in the last ten years, new places are starting to open up, like this one. I like that it’s a place that is concerned about preserving the history of this style of music.”
Although, he adds with a wink, “I didn’t actually want to play guitar in the beginning. My cousin insisted I try it about nine years ago, and it came pretty easily actually.” He grins. “Claro. I am a Gitano after all!”
More information on performances, classes and workshops can be found at:
Progrès 38, Gràcia
Tel. 622 517 065