Monday, 20 July 2009

on finding flamenco

Last weekend we were very fortunate to have our Bristolian friends Emma and Pete visiting. Aside from it being lovely to see them and catch up on their news, having people to visit is always great as it prompts us to get out and do things. If they hadn't visited we probably wouldn't have stirred much beyond the grassy area around our swimming pool (though obviously we did find time for a swim or two). As it was we found ourselves in tour guide mode, and in between Friday night's voyage around La Latina and Chocolateria San Gines and Sunday morning's trip to El Rastro we were presented with the challenge of finding some flamenco for our visitors.

Aside from a hilarious few minutes in our kitchen and some buskers, we had yet to see any flamenco since moving to Madrid. Indeed, the only flamenco show we had seen to date was in Sevilla back in May last year. Fortunately for us the local English-monthly In Madrid had just run an article suggesting the best places to go. After a bit of research on their recommendations it seemed clear that in Madrid there are basically two options.

Option 1: you pay between €25-€35 for a show.
Option 2: you go to a bar where flamenco aficionados and musicians are known to frequent and hope something happens.

Funnily enough Pete and Ems decided on option 2, and so after a wander through Huertas and a meal on a terraza just off Plaza Santa Anna, we headed back to La Latina to find one of the bars recommended, La Solea. Luckily I'd brought the newspaper article with me which included the address (34 Calle de Cava Baja) otherwise we'd never have found it, the entrance being a nearly unmarked and unremarkable door set back slightly from the street. Popping my head around into an almost deserted bar I was assured they were open and we took our seats on a wooden bench that ran all the way around the wall of a small salon lined with decorated tiles and photos of flamenco masters.
However, despite the lack of a crowd a guitar was in evidence among the huddle of Spaniards around another table. It was of course still early; only 11:15pm. Plenty of time. We ordered drinks, immediately decided to nurse them gently as they cost an arm and a leg. Still, it looked on!

And so it was. Gradually the place filled up, the guitar started, singers appeared and tocan las palmas began. By midnight the small room was full, every seat taken, with standing at the back. Another salon was opened up and the proprietor started funneling people through that one instead, although we only noticed this as we were leaving, so enthralled were we. It was no stunning spectacle - no dancers, so showboating, no huge band - just singers, clapping and a superb guitarist, but the intimacy and organic nature of the evening was absolutely mesmerising. Definitely the right option.

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