With Diego El Cigala cleaning up at the Grammys, Catalan gypsy-punks Ojos de Brujo scooping a BBC Radio 3 World Music Award and Enrique Morente jamming with Sonic Youth in Valencia, the socio-musico-cultural phenomenon that is Spanish flamenco has never been hotter. Like any improvisational art form (particularly jazz, with which it often shares a platform), it’s most effective in the raw, on stage, as hands and heels thwack in virile syncopation, a guitar bleeds unfathomable flurries of notes and the dancer flaunts her disdain with a flourish of ruffled silk.
Those who are in serious search of the elusive duende may find themselves faced with a surfeit of touristy options, but genuine flamenco is almost always out there if you look hard enough. Madrid is home to producer extraodinaire Javier Limón and his Casa Limón label, and the capital city boasts such famous tablaos as Casa Patas, Corral de la Morería and El Corral de la Pacheca, where Hollywood actors are as ubiquitous as the tiles and white linen. Less pricey and more accommodating to the spirit of the juerga (spontaneous session) is the wonderful La Soleá, where both local and out-of-town enthusiasts test their mettle. Festivals to look out for include the annual Flamenco Pa’Tos charity bash and the Suma Flamenca event that farms out shows to Madrid’s wider communidad.
One of Spain’s biggest festivals is Seville’s La Bienal de Flamenco, an award-winning event held from mid-September to mid-October. In the city itself, Los Gallos is one of the oldest tablaos, but it’s worth scouring the cobbled backstreets for La Carbonería, a former coal merchants where free flamenco pulls in a volubly appreciative scrum of locals and tourists, or heading to the old gyspy quarter of Triana where barrio hangouts like Casa Anselma exult in Seville’s home-grown form, the “Sevillana”.
In Madrid: Corral de la Morería c/Moreriacutea 17; El Corral de la Pacheca c/Juan Ramón Jiménez 26; La Soleá c/Cava Baja 34. In Seville: Los Gallos Plaza de Santa Cruz; La Carbonería c/Levíes 18; Casa Anselma c/Pagés del Corro 49.