Flamenco isn't hard to describe. If you speak Spanish.
There's a word for it–duende. It doesn't really translate into English. I suppose if you had to try just one word, you could maybe use soul. But that would fall short. Duende is soul, but also grace, and unbridled emotion, and undisputed authenticity.
It has unmistakable overtones of jealousy, of violence, blood, madness, and death.
As the great Spanish poet, Federico Garcia Lorca said, “We only know it burns the blood like powdered glass.”
And, the purest artisic expressions of duende are bull fighting and Flamenco.
The midsummer Saturday night in Córdoba was called the Noche Blanca, or the White Night. All over Córdoba stages were set up, and the performances went all night from 10:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.
I must admit that we only made it to 3 a.m. We heard, but couldn't see, the first act in the biggest plaza in Córdoba. We couldn't get close enough for the crowd. So we abandoned the plaza and headed for a small square where the next performance was still an hour away. We bought a cheese sandwich and a few beers and waited in seats we'd grabbed in the second row and struck up conversation with a woman from Córdoba. She was a bit surprised that a couple of foreigners were staying up all night to watch something so purely Spanish as Flamenco. We told her a friend from Córdoba, who also happens to be an amazing dancer, had told us we should come.
“If you can't stay for the Noche Blanca, you could go to a guiri show,” our friend told us. Guiri is a ever-so-slightly derogatory term for foreigners, especially tourists. And a guiri show would be a flamenco show that starts and ends early and has only tourists in the audience. That's the show that they're trying to sell you whenever you wander into a touristy area of any Andalusian city.
I told her I didn't want to go to a guiri show. “Then you have to stay for Noche Blanca,” she said.
I asked her if we stayed if she thought that some tiny bit of duende would rub off on me. “No. But at least you'll get to see it.”
The group we saw was called Eterno Camaron, and the show was a tribute to the legendary Flamenco artist, Camaron de la Isla. The group is made up of three singers, a guitarist, keyboards, drums, and two dancers. And yes, they have duende.
The reaction of the square packed with Cordobans left no doubt. And, we got to see it.
Here are audio excerpts from the evening, including vocals, guitar, the rhythms of clapping and dancing, and the crowd, Olé!
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10 thoughts on “A Night of Flamenco, Córdoba, Spain”
I have been to a couple of “guiri” shows, and I had a hard time staying awake anyway. I love the strength and movement that is flamenco…but really, why do they have to go so late?
It is what it is, Corinne. I’m a little too old for this stuff, too, which is why we crapped out at 3. But, I’m not too old to remember the time Kris and I went to a club south of the river in Sevilla, where there wasn’t a guiri in sight, and we sat at the table with the guitarist and drank wine and chatted in our then broken Spanish and had the time of our lives. And walked home a couple of hours after dawn when the rest of the tourists were just beginning to think of maybe taking a tour of the cathedral. That’s why I really love Spain, and Flamenco.
A great piece! I want to go and experience the energy you convey. If I can stay up til 3 I would be quite proud.
Take a nap beforehand. It worked for me.
Love a culture where I can g out for supper at 10 pm. Spain is special and I look forward to one day going back. “Guiri” – yeah, don’t like any shows organized specifically for tourists.
That Guerrero guy is a mess :)
He may have been a mess, but it was about 35 (90) degrees still and he was dancing his ass off. I would have been dead.
I hadn’t heard that word “duende” but I love the way that it encapsulates so many things. Maybe some of it rubbed off on you without you realizing ;-)
Duende is the essence of Spain. So easy to see, so hard to acquire. I had a Spanish friend tell me last night that she’d studied Spanish dance since she was a small child. “Dance was my life,” she said. “But I could never dance like these people.”
Your narrative and these photos are making me reassess my opinion of Flamenco. I think I’ve only been to guiri performances. Not much duende.
Suzanne, it seems like the real thing is hard to find. They only seem to bring it out when they’re fairly sure there aren’t too many tourists around. But we did find a place in Sevilla that seems to have the real thing. At least that’s what it seemed to us, and the place was mostly full of Sevillanos, and there weren’t selling drinks, and the admission was limited in a small room. I think the real deal. http://www.casadelamemoria.es/