THOROUGHLY MODERN MRS: Zik’R Leicester Square: Latin Music Festival

For fifteen years London has hosted an annual Latin music festival, La Linea which ‘til now, I’ve always managed to miss. Celebrating the multi-cultural melting-pot that is our capital city, it promotes new artists, projects and collaborations and the show I finally went to see was itself a joyous celebration of a cross-cultural music, flamenco.

To say ‘flamenco’ is to think of Spain: it’s images of gypsies, of joy and pain, of hard living and a love of life – all bound up in iconic emotive music and proud and sensual dance. It’s easy to forget that the gypsies travelled to Spain from North India across the Middle East and North Africa before making the Mediterranean crossing that brought them to Andalucia. In this journey of generations they picked up musical elements from the lands they passed through, rhythms, melodies, harmonies and vocal styles that mixed together with the folk songs of Southern Spain, became flamenco.

In Zik’R, it’s this journey that is celebrated. Through subtle musical suggestion and instrumentation the roots of flamenco are unearthed and watered. The show which tells the story of one woman’s journey from India to Spain and is itself a metaphor for her spiritual and physical awakening, opens with a haunting harmonium drone and solo ney (vertical flute). Immediately we are placed somewhere in India or perhaps old Arabia. The stage is set in darkness and dry ice for the dramatic entrance of a single woman into this evocative soundworld.

Dressed in a black flamenco dress and in an inversion of a typical flamenco night, she dances a solea, the soulful late night yearning song of the small hours. The beats of her flashing footwork are intertwined with the interlocking rhythms of the tabla and cajon, the whole uplifted by the syncopated clapping of the supporting trio of Spanish flamenco artists and the flourishes of the Spanish guitar. The dance is proud and emphatic and in her performance Karen Ruimy brilliantly conveys both strength and vulnerablilty, the essence of femininity.

The solea beautifully sung by one of the two male vocalists sounds traditional although all the music and songs are composed by the group put together by the producer/musician Youth and Karen Ruimy. The combination of Eastern instruments within the traditional flamenco line-up works beautifully and this band of multi-instrumentalists blends tightly together to support the dancing.  This includes traditional Indian dance as a male dancer reminds us of the dervish and introduces a nuance of Sufism to the evening. A great display of machismo is offered up in the dance of the male flamenco dancer and the highlight of the evening is when the lead male and female flamenco dancers perform a duet.

The action, which is effectively paced so we keenly experience the soulful reflective moments as well as the joyous partying, takes place against a simple and effective backdrop of a graphic sun rising in the sky until the moon appears, under which the fiesta kicks off with a rousing buleria, (up-lifting fast paced flamenco). There’s a lovely female duet where the Spanish backing singer steps out into the limelight and although the lyrics throughout are sung in both Arabic and Spanish, it does not detract from the enjoyment of the evening if you don’t understand either language.

Zik’R is Arabic for ‘remembrance of God’. This evening of flamenco with its subtle, clever twist is a lovely way to be reminded that spirituality and music and dance and song and excitement can – and do – go hand in hand.

You can catch Zik’R at the Edinburgh fringe festival from the 21st. to the 30th. of August. More information here.

Written by Thoroughly Modern Mrs.

Things to do in Seville

Seville is a city of sunshine and sangria and it is impossible not to be enamoured with the bright blue skies and vibrant character of southern Spain. It is a place deeply immersed in its regional traditions, religious festivals, flamenco and tapas. Relying strongly on tourism, visitors to Seville are invited to experience all that’s on offer, but be warned English is not widely spoken. The winding cobbled streets hide many gems: museums, craft shops and a staggering 700 churches. Follow the obvious tourist routes or grab a map and discover your own Spanish secrets.

To eat
Puratasca: This eatery in downtown Triana is satisfying the stomachs of locals and tourists alike. Casual and reasonably priced with favourites like chorizo lollipops and vegetable tempura.
Bar Alfalfa: is the ideal cheese and wine stop. A very cute corner bar with an intimate ambience – for just a few euros you can munch on a plate of Manchego and sip Spanish wine.
Eslava: The best tapas we tasted in Seville. The cafe gets very busy, so arrive early to avoid disappointment. The star dish is without doubt the pork ribs with honey, even meat avoiders can’t resist this mouth-wateringly good recipe.
Egana Oriza: finding fine dining in Andalusia’s evocative capital is something of a battle. Egana Oriza is a rare exception to the rule offering traditional, fine Spanish food. Start the meal with a glass of Cava and enjoy the airy dining room and vibrant flavours.
Dulce Regina: the cities best cookies are found here; for two euros you can pick a flavour of homemade biscuit to nibble as you wander down the cobbled streets peering in the colourful windows.

To drink
El Garlochi – a fabulously kitsch bar dedicated entirely to the iconography, smells and sounds of Semana Santa; the ubercamp El Garlochi is a true marvel. A cloud of church incense hits you as you go up the stairs, and the faces of baby Jesus and the Virgin welcome you into the velvet-walled bar. Taste the speciality cocktail, Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ).

To see
Cigarette Factory: opera lovers will have this building at the top of their to do list. The famous site was used in Bizet’s opera Carmen as well as other operatic compositions. The building is now used as the campus for University of Seville… I can’t think of a more amazing place to study everyday!
Museo de Bellas Artes De Sevilla: This giant gallery displays an astounding collection of art. With old masters like Murillo, beautifully restored and hung high on the walls, it is an awe-inspiring experience.
Casa Anselma: When I asked where to see the best Flamenco everyone pointed me in the direction of Casa Anselma, a characterful bar in the borough of Triana which opens every night at 12am for a show of passionate dancing and singing.

To do
Horse and carriage ride: these tours are available to pick up all over Seville, and though touristy are a fantastic way to see the city and rest your feet. Rides can be personalized so it is an opportunity to see the attractions you may have missed. A 45 minute tour will cost you 45 euros.
Parque de Maria Luisa: take a stroll round the paradisical half mile of palms and orange trees, elms and Mediterranean pines,  flower beds and romantic sculptures.
Cathedral and Giralda Tower: Built in the 15th century to demonstrate the city’s growing wealth and prestige, Seville’s cathedral is the largest in Europe. Work up an appetite climbing the tower and see the whole city shimmering beneath you.

To shop
Delimbo: the concept store attached to this contemporary gallery space sells a range of creative goodies. We loved the thick brightfelt pens and the wacky Modernaked cat rings.
Antonio Garcia: this magnificent and historic shop sells authentic sombreros and jackets for bullfighters and dancers. The atmosphere is worth stopping by for, and if you want an affordable souvenir I’d recommend the gorgeous Spanish leather belts (costing around 20 euros).
Andalusian taste: for all your foodie needs this little shop is the best bet. Buy some irresistible Iberico ham and Manchego cheese to take home as gifts.
Laurel Antigüedades: a lovely little vintage shop selling old silk scarves, ornate hats and retro dresses. I bought a wonderful Toni Benitez fascinator and a simple retro cotton camisole top.

Personalised day trips can be arranged with theotherspain.galeon.com – with an English speaking guide you can see whatever you choose.