Flamenco pop

I can only claim to have some small appreciation for classical flamenco. Once I happened to see the dancer Joaquin Encinias perform1. I’ve never seen more grace, not even in Olympic athletes. It takes passionate music to back dancing like that, and Santa Cruz’ local flamenco musicians did well providing it. They call this soulful magic duende. (I’m sorry to say that Paco de Lucia’s ensemble, whom I saw a few days later, has not a bit of duende, and produces nothing but virtuosic elevator music in comparison.)

That said, I love me some kickin’ world-fusion-hip-hop-funk-jazz-flamenco.

I’ve known the Songhai albums (flamenco/kora fusion), Benjamin Escoriza and Radio Tarifa (medieval and Middle Eastern flavored flamenco) for a long time, but I can’t believe I didn’t know about Ojos de Brujo until recently. They mix Afro-Cuban, hip-hop, and Indian elements with flamenco. ¡Que sabroso! I would have included their latest album in my top picks of 2006 if I’d known.

Not in the same league, but very enjoyable: El Puchero del Hortelano offer their albums as free downloads, and Maui y Los Sirenidos play relaxing flamenco-flavored stuff as well.

I just hope that these groups manage to preserve that bit of duende that makes it all work.

1I was compelled to write a poem about Joaquin’s dancing. If I get the nerve I’ll post it at some point. Encouragement could make a difference.