photo: Carmen Lara in still from the audiovisual piece The joy at Work by artist Alonso Gil, 2008 / ALONSO GIL
REMEMBERING THE PROJECT THE jOY AT WORK, CREATED BY SEVILLIAN ARTIST ALONSO GIL 6 YEARS AGO, CHARO MARTÍN, IVÁN RAMOS AND CARMEN LARA TELL US ABOUT HOW FLAMENCO IS MIXED WITH THEIR EVERYDAY LIVES AND BRINGS JOY TO THEM.
“Oh, spring of my twenties / locket of my youth / Oh I dreamed of a happy love / And that adored dream is you”
CHARO MARTÍN sings while sweeping the floor of her patio, her movements following the rhythm of the bulería.
“Oh in the neighborhood of Triana / There’s no more pen or ink / For me to write to my mother / Whom I’ve not seen in three years”
IVÁN RAMOS, “El Pumu,” performs a debla for a party on a terrace in the historic district of Seville, at the same time as he cuts a ham.
“Oh my senses are all confused / Dear mother of my soul / Oh my senses are all confused / As I dragged myself along the walls until I manage to reach your door”
CARMEN LARA chants an alegría (joy), while reading a book for her economics class at Cantillana High School, where she works, in that locality of Seville.
THE IMAGES WERE PART OF AN INSTALLATION of videos from Sevillian artist Alonso Gil in 2008. The installation, named the The Joy at Work, consists of eight monitors, located in a single room, that show images and videos of eight different people singing at work. Charo, Iván and Carmen are three of the artists included in the work, which in documentary form focuses the joy of work through flamenco song.
THE INSTALLATION, filmed in Andalusia and Extremadura, “presents people from different trades singing as they go about their chores in gestures ranging from celebration to lament, in joy and exhilaration. That singing doesn’t form part of a “performance,” but is just for the personal enjoyment of the person who sings,” Alonso explains.
AS A YOUNG GIRL, Charo was a dancer. She stopped dancing because of back problems and began to sing at age 28. She was always surrounded by artists and musicians, and also studied piano. Her family never introduced her to flamenco. They felt that it was connected to taverns, wine and the night, and they did not want that life for her. As a result, she attended instead the conservatory of music in her town of Huelva.
AFTER ALONSO’S INSTALLATION, Charo realized that she wanted to learn more about music and also that she wanted to teach. She went to “Escuela Superior de Música de Catalunya,” the Superior School of Music of Cataluña, in Barcelona. She studied classical music, but her main interest was in flamenco, in the people who sing in the streets without formal training.
NOW CHARO LIVES IN SEVILLE and is a professor of Accompaniment of Flamenco Singing at the Ángel Barrios Professional School of Music in Jaén, Southeast Spain. There, together with a guitar player, she teaches how flamenco singing and playing come together. She has students whose ages range from 14 to 50.
ALONG WITH TEACHING, she also has her own musical projects. She knows different artists including an Italian jazz guitarist, Sergi Gómez, with whom she performs and records flamenco as often as she can. Charo practices everyday in her house. “I wake up and I sing a little,” she says.
CHARO HAS JUST FINISHED a 10-day artist’s residency in the town of Alanís de Sierra, north of Seville, in which, together with a guitarist, a contemporary dancer and a percussionist, she has been investigating the relationship between the body and the voice. Their intention has been to work holistically with flamenco, including dance, spoken voice and musical improvisation. She has used texts that have been created in the past year through a process of physical, vocal and interpretive work.
“IT IS NOT ANYTHING INTENDED TO make me famous. I don’t want to be on television, a lot of pictures or publicity. I don’t have a website. All of my musical work is related to my life,” she says, in part because she has a 15-year-old son that she does not want to leave by himself. Also, singing is a form of self-knowledge and liberation. There is a flamenco rhythm for each emotional moment.
IVÁN, WHO HAS KNOWN CHARO for many years, tells us that there are a lot of stories in flamenco. It is a great tool for communicating and transmitting different feelings.
IVÁN WAS BORN INTO A MUSICAL FAMILY, with origins in Jabugo, a town of the mountainous Sierra de Huelva, riddled with old stories of bandoleros. He began to sing when he was 15 years old with his friends in his neighborhood, el Parque Alcosa in Seville. Today he lives in Edinburgh, Scotland.
HIS PROFESSIONAL CAREER began after the family moved down to Seville where he spent two years singing at the Carbonería Bar, in Barrio Santa Cruz, working with artists Antonio Fernández, Carlos Heredia and Luís Agujetas among others, before moving on to sing in the internationally renowned Seville tablao, Los Gallos.
IVÁN WON HIS FIRST PRIZE in the Cantes de Cádiz competition (Cante Flamenco Homenaje a Chano Lobato) in 2001, which led to performances in numerous peñas throughout Andalu- sia including Torres Macarena. He spent a year teaching flamenco singing classes at the Taller Flamenco in Seville. He was also a member of the Orquesta Bacdunas for 6 years and performed all over Spain as well as Morocco. Now an established figure on the flamenco scene in Seville, he worked in 2010 with renowned flamenco dancer Angelita Vargas and in 2011 was the voice of the acclaimed “Rumba del Banquero,” a flasmove denouncing all financial institutions, performed by collective Flo6x8 in Seville. The following year, Iván was given a small role in the Alberto Rodríguez awarded film Grupo 7.
HE NOW PERFORMS REGULARLY IN EUROPE, and set up the company in 2012. Most recently, he was invited to perform in George Heriot’s School, Edinburgh, as part of their production of Lorca’s The House Bernarda Alba.
IVÁN FAVORS TRADITIONAL FLAMENCO, specially the singing of Pepe Marchena. “I believe flamenco has a diversity of forms of expression and of musical registers that come from ancient traditions, and that other musics don’t have,” he explains.
“I like it because flamenco registers every area in which flamenco singing exists. Each one has its own distinctive palo (rhythm).”
FOR MUCH OF HIS LIFE he has worked in jobs related to restaurants because his father owned a family restaurant for 20 years.
TODAY HE ALSO CONTINUES HIS CAREER in the restaurant industry slicing Iberian ham, the Spanish delicacy, as he does in the video installation The Joy at Work.
CARMEN TEACHES ECONOMICS in the town of Cantillana, Seville, at a high school that bares the same name of its city. Flamenco allows her to express herself through its lyrics. She knows Iván through her sister, who is a flamenco dancer. Carmen explains that, as with popular music, flamenco reflects a person’s basic feelings. Her favorite rhythm is soleá, whose lyrics generally express a solemn tone.
WHEN SHE WAS YOUNG, along with school, she also always found time for art in her life. For Carmen, a person should dedicate part of her time to art and another to something more scientific or practical.
SHE DANCED IN THE CONTEMPORARY STYLE since she was a little girl. Her ex-husband, a percussionist and guitarist, introduced her to flamenco. She first began taking flamenco dance classes and at 25, she began to sing it.
FLAMENCO IS CARMEN’S SECOND PROFESSION. She has a great deal of experience and is widely known amongst flamenco performers and savvy audiences in Seville. In Seville’s Flamenco Bienal of 2012, which is the most prestigious event in the world of flamenco, Carmen performed throughout the month of September in the show “Acabaré Flamenco”, represented as part of the parallel program of the Bienal at Teatro Quintero. The same year, she participated with the Carmen Lara Trio in the flamenco circuit of the Diputación Provincial of Seville.
CARMEN HAS ALSO COMBINED her passion for flamenco with her passion for education. This year, she’s teaching flamenco singing at he Peña Flamenca of the Asociación Familiar La Olivia, in a very popular neighbourhood of Seville.
SHE PRACTICES IN HER HOUSE, but she cannot dedicate enough time to her art. “[Art] cannot always be your job, but it is important to do it. There are many good musicians who are not professionals. Music is for fun,” emphasizes Carmen. “I need music and art in my life.”