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la Peña

We keep doing flamenco. Most Spanish people are a bit surprised when we mention it. They ask, in a sort of unbelieving way, "You like flamenco?" Flamenco certainly has a strong following amongst the Spanish but I don't think it's exactly popular.

It's not the most accessible music. Suddenly the audience will mouth alé and there will be a ripple of approval but I never quite know why. The words are completely unintelligible to me, well I catch occasional phrases now and then but basically nothing. I don't find myself humming any of the tunes when the concerts over and often, to tell the truth, I've been shuffling in my chair for a while before it's all over. But I keep going back for more.

I told my mum I was going to some flamenco and she said that, to her, it was all just noisy stamping. Certainly people dance flamenco and I have more than one English language student who dances. But my idea of flamenco is not a dress swirling, finger clicking, heel stamping señorita. No, it's two oldish blokes, both a bit overweight, usually with interesting hairstyles wearing over tight suits perched on dining room chairs and wailing their hearts out. Well only one sings. The other holds his guitar at an impossible angle and strums out a storm whilst stamping out the devil of a racket with his shiny shoes.

That's what we got on Friday evening. The Cartagena Flamenco Club, la Peña Flamenca de Cartagena, has been holding a series of concerts to celebrate the centenary of Antonio Piñana who is considered to be one of the greatest flamenco artists to have come from Cartagena. We got to see the last concert in the series, Antonio Ayala, "el Rampa", playing at the Casino in Calle Mayor.

I enjoyed the music. I thought he was probably a cracking singer at one time but now maybe past his best. Then again what do I know. The event though was a hoot. The venue was pretty small, maybe room for about 100 people. The show started about twenty minutes late which is bang on by Spanish time for this sort of event. Beforehand there was a constant movement of people. Sitting still in your seat is obviously not considered to be a Spanish virtue. Anyone who was at all official, a committee member, made it very obvious and I suspect there may have been a lot of power brokering going on within the peña. Then the performers were on stage. Antonio said hello, people settled down a bit and away we went or rather we didn't.

Despite the sound system being nothing more than two microphones, an amplifier and two smallish speakers it hadn't been tested and didn't work. Twenty or so members of the peña descended on the sound system. Their main contribution was to tap the microphone and to shake their heads whilst one younger chap got the system to produce loud electrical cracks from time to time. Eventually we got a purely acoustic performance. The human traffic didn't really let up all through the performance and by the forty minute mark the audience were much more fun to watch than the performers.

We were in a bar afterwards. The bar owner speaks to us. We told him about our adventure. "Did you enjoy it?" he asked. "Who can say" said Maggie

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