On the last day of our beautiful holiday in Seville, we promenaded along the river of Guadalquivir again, which cradles the celebrated area of flamenco, el barrio de Triana. Spreading along the riverside there you find Calle Betis, where you might have a chance to touch the most natural form of flamenco.
Quite a few renounced flamenco artists choose this magical quarter of Triana as their artistic hub. Wandering about the area you could spot several flamenco landmarks including dance studios by famous artists, tablaos, bars, etc., while you might also happen to hear someone singing or playing the guitar in the streets. On the street level, to be honest, some such musicians, who try to distribute their activities mostly to tourists, may not meet the so-called professional level. However, if paying close attention, you might be able to encounter ‘real’ flamenco too, and Calle Betis could be one of the places where you could witness such spontaneity.
We meant to go to the bar called Rejoneo in Calle Betis, suggested by our friend Jesús Chavero, who was my band singer and had moved to Seville last year. It’s one of such nightclubs where they put on flamenco jam sessions including Sevillanas. Walking along Calle Betis to search for the particular venue, it was a pure chance for us to pass ‘Flamenco Esencia’.
We noticed that they usually offer staged flamenco shows with tapas, but we arrived too late for it. Instead, at their outside tables facing the river, our curiosity caught a group of youngsters spontaneously starting Bulerías there, singing, doing palmas, clicking the table, foot stamping, laughing, not as a performance but as a part of communication between themselves, just as if it emerged from the natural flow of their conversation.
Though it could seem casual, what we must not forget is that this type of art is possible only among flamenco-savvy friends or colleagues, who grew up or are living in the culture. We didn’t know if they were actually working there as artists or just doing social gathering. In any case, they mutually weaved and shared the flow of flamenco rhythms, knowing where to twist, when to pop, etc. Not pre-planned nor staged, they were not just having fun but also creating something amazing at the same time.
After fascinatedly witnessing their instinctive arts, we still headed for Rejoneo and another bar called Lo Nuestro, hoping to see flamenco live gigs or jams there. Such night bars, however, tend to open late from 11pm, and around 11.30pm it seemed still too early as if nothing was going to happen that night. Maybe much later, but we were impatient, anticipating our return flight on the next day.
After all, we decided to go back to Flamenco Esencia, since there looked like more things going on that particular evening. Inside, we spotted a guy on stage singing Rumbas while playing the guitar too, accompanied by a cajón player. Some ladies had fun dancing to the live music, while other customers were also enjoying themselves. To me, it reminded me of how Sevilla Mia, the tiny Spanish bar in central London, used to be. As we arrived late, the session unfortunately didn’t last long. After the ‘fiesta’ time had gone, we just relaxed having a couple of drinks there, looking around the decorated interiors, wondering how this cosy place would normally be like with their regular flamenco shows. Maybe next time we can see their full state - we’d love to revisit Seville anyway!
Living in a non-flamenco environment, it’s quite rare to witness naturally emerging flamenco sessions. Even in Seville, there is no guarantee to predict when it will happen, so it’d be a pure chance. However elaborate, sophisticated and marketed the world of flamenco has become, the true essence still remains in its spontaneity and communicative nature. In Calle Betis and Triana, if you’re lucky, you might be able to savour such charm and magic.