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Posts Tagged ‘concerts’

Walking the streets of Puerto de la Cruz around midnight last night, you’d have been forgiven for wondering if some giant, flesh-eating plants had invaded the town leaving the streets bereft of its citizens. But there’d be two vital pieces of information you’d be missing. Firstly, much of the population were nursing the hangover from hell after a full day of partying at the Fiestas Del Carmen on Tuesday and secondly, those who were still capable of dancing were all being held hostage at Plaza Europa by a diminutive African woman named Angélique Kidjo.

After the excesses of Tuesday, it took a Herculean feat of will to drag myself away from the prospect of a comfy sofa and a night in front of the box last night, but someone has to do it…
Bitching about the fact that there was no break between fiestas at this time of year and sounding like Victor Meldrew in knickers, I headed down to town at around 9pm for the opening night of the annual Jazz & Mas concerts.
Arriving in Plaza Europa, some hundred or so chairs were laid out theatre-style, most of them already occupied. The stage was set outside the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) building, lined by bright green kiosks enticing us to piensa en verde (think green) and beyond the stage large Heineken banners fluttered in the sea breeze like prayer flags calling the faithful to imbibe.

Yul Ballesteros

Jack and I positioned ourselves standing a metre or so behind the chairs, so that we could easily access side of stage for photos, and berated the use of staid seating for a concert as we watched a more mature crowd jostle for spare chairs.

First up was celebrated local(ish) lad, Yul Ballesteros, fresh from the New York modern Jazz scene. Born in Gran Canaria, this young man has been wowing New York with his guitar prowess and last night, it was easy to hear why. His improvised style may not be everyone’s first choice of easy listening but he certainly pleased the jazz aficionado audience last night. His set lasted for over an hour and had Jack and I doing a U-turn on our earlier diss’ of the seating arrangements as our backs, still exhausted from Tuesday, began to register painful indignation at this abuse.
Feeling slightly guilty, I didn’t join in with the random cries of Otra when Yul and his quartet left the stage.

Angélique Kidjo

Muttering to each other about only staying to watch a bit of the next performance, we watched a small African woman with close-cropped grey hair; flared loons split from the knee down and ankle boots, take to the stage. Unaccompanied, she split the night with a voice so powerful and sweet that it brought tears to the eyes. She sang her song in Swahili, keeping time with a soft rhythmic tapping on her thigh; this tiny figure on a huge stage which she filled with her presence. In an instant, she had captured the 500 strong audience and held them in her thrall.

She ended her song to tumultuous applause and immediately went into a fast tempo African number, a fusion of funk and soul to the beat of African drums, her body gyrating and stomping in a dance display of pure vitality and joy. That was it. The onlookers from the back surged forward to surround the seating area, dancing like they’d just discovered how good it was. Soon the ranks broke again and a tide of dancing bodies swept to front of stage as Angélique lifted every single individual up and sent their spirits soaring through the night.

The fact that she spoke entirely in English, most of which would have been lost on them, did nothing to diminish Angélique’s hold on her audience as she told us about how her father had introduced his children to the world by bringing them music from all the places he could never afford to send them to; Europe, America, India – musical influences that she now melted and fused with her native African beats to produce her high energy, compelling songs.

Our broken backs now forgotten, we watched, sang, danced and laughed as Angélique held us hostage late into the night. By the time we left, a good percentage of the audience were up on stage with this incredible woman, helping her to celebrate her fiftieth birthday by dancing to the drums of her childhood which echoed through the empty streets and followed us all the way back to the car.

If you ever get a chance to go and see Angélique Kidjo – do it.  It’s not just a concert, it’s a life-affirming experience.

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It never ceases to amaze me how effectively the Tinerfeños manage to safeguard their culture and identity.
Despite 500 years of being at the crossroads between Europe and the Americas and 50 years at the heart of mass tourism, very little of northern European or North American culture has left its mark on this society.
But what’s most surprising to me is the way in which so much mainstream music has entirely by-passed these islands. It’s not just a marked preference for Latino and traditional Canarian with the only new kids on the block being rap and hip hop, it’s the virtual absence of any reference to UK and US charts sounds everywhere outside of the bars, clubs and discos of the purpose built tourist resorts.

So when Jack suggested we should go along to the Festival de Músicas Alternativas en Canarias (‘alternative’ music festival) in Puerto on Saturday night, I joked that we might even get to hear some Indie rock.

Mento - a polished performance

Mento - a polished performance

Arriving at the harbour at 9.30pm for a scheduled 9pm start, the stage was still being set up and a handful of people were milling around the mixing desk so we decided to go for a stroll around town to give them Canarian time to get under way.
When we arrived back in Plaza Charco we could hear that the first of the bands had started their set and we laughed as the sounds of garage music came drifting across the fishing boats. I was close.

On stage, Mento were in full flow rocking out the volume with some throaty Jim Morrison style vocals from the lead and augmented by dry ice, lasers and a cine reel. Around us, a hundred or so twenty-somethings were foot tapping and head shaking and below the stage a tie-dyed hippie was reeling and wheeling across the space.
When Mento finished their set, DJ Carlos Robles took to the stage.

This Drama - high on energy, low on melody

Flying in the face of the traditional DJ role of setting the audience alight with heart stopping volume and epilepsy-inducing lights, Carlos slipped quietly into the shadows behind one of the stack systems and slid ‘The Killers’ onto the turntable at the sort of volume Aunty Barbara would approve of.
A quick burst of some White Stripes and an improvisation of something that sounded suspiciously close to folk and the young DJ exited as discreetly as a roadie.

Unsurprisingly, most of the audience hadn’t even spotted DJ Robles’ appearance and carried on chatting until their attention was garrotted by the livewire appearance of ‘This Drama’. To an ear shattering explosion of chords above an aggressive drum beat, these punk rockers catapulted themselves onto the stage causing a tidal wave of excitement that sucked the audience to their feet in its undercurrent.

To a backdrop of a scene from ‘Quadrophenia’ the lead vocalist pogo’d across the stage, his skin tight jeans belted below his buttocks and his sleek, black Mod hair covering one eye.
Below stage a group of lads got caught up in the euphoria and began pogo-ing and hurtling into each other like guided missiles on mescaline, desperate to disguise their dancing as anarchy (boys…).

Impressively tight timing and high energy output culminated after just one minute as the first number came to an abrupt end.
Over the next twenty minutes, This Drama belted out a dozen songs, all remarkably similar, lacking any discernible tune and each lasting no more than a minute and a half. Then they were gone.

We headed back to the car park where the usual Saturday night crowd of Puerto’s teenagers was just getting its partying off the ground and every neon-lit, alcohol filled car we passed was belting out Latino and rap.
It might be a while yet before so much of what is considered here to be ‘alternative’ makes it to mainstream gatherings like this one but it’s good to know that when it does, there’s some raw local talent waiting in the wings to be heard.

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Scanning the posts on the Tenerife forum of TripAdvisor, I notice that lots of people are planning to come to Tenerife for Christmas and New Year and are keen to know what festivities they’re likely to find in or around their resort.

Of course, this being Tenerife, information from the local town hall on forthcoming events in its municipality is thin on the ground, and in English, positively conspicuous by its absence.

Your quick guide to whats on in Tenerife

Your quick guide to what's on in Tenerife

There are two things about the Tenerife method of marketing which are critical for you to know if you’re hoping to glean information about what’s on in Tenerife over the festive season.
Firstly, ‘planning’ is not a skill that Tinerfeños rate highly and even the most efficient of businesses on the island will rarely practice it. Secondly, ‘word of mouth’ is still the preferred form of business, social and personal communication.

These two factors combine to stage events where the agenda is produced in what is considered to be plenty of time i.e. the day before, and the only people who attend them are those who were there last year or who know someone who was there last year.

In an attempt to provide some kind of advance notice of what’s happening in Tenerife, we’ve just launched Tenerife Matters; short, sharp, timely information on events, fiestas, concerts, exhibitions and anything else that we feel may ‘matter’ to anyone planning to visit Tenerife in the near future.

Check it out.

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