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Flamenco Forward

Ojos De Brujo
Then they tell me about Na' en la nevera (Nothing In The Fridge), from the first disc Vengue, one of the many burnt into my memory from the night before. Marina explains: "It's is a tanguillo and it tells a story about someone who wakes up and there's no light and they light a candle and open the fridge and find it empty. They're hungry and they start to think how they'll get money the next day and say: 'I'll sing in the street'. And after five hours singing a typical fascist passes saying: 'Why do you want the money then, for drugs?' And she says: 'What do you mean for drugs? It's just to eat'. And then it talks of this bar, La Manola, in my neighbourhood in Valencia where artists and drunks and freaky people come. It's very bohemian, very cool. But it all becomes like a nightmare. And then it says: 'I woke up from this nightmare and I was OK, although the fridge was still empty'. So you can be happy even if the fridge is empty. Lots of people have a full fridge but they're unhappy. And that's something of the moral of it all."

And the whole gypsy ethos is an essential influence? Marina: "It's an attitude and a way of life we value. I've lived it, with few belongings and just moving on, managing travelling, meeting people, getting to know places. It's an affinity with a way of life. Many gypsies have been very persecuted, many imprisoned. It's a society that has been racially discriminated against. And so many flamenco lyrics have always been socially and politically engaged in that way. There are also very old lyrics saying it's good to be a gypsy. Zambra is a flamenco form with a lot of Arabic links. It's like a modal journey musically, its lyrics are about a group of people who live in a car. The image is that the wheel of a car is the gypsy flag, symbolising being a nomad, so that wherever you are is your home, so it's everywhere."

And collectives? "There' s a need to organise. Capitalism breaks up the links within a neighbourhood. It takes away the small shop and so you get the supermarket and it's not the same social interaction. Each time there is less opportunity to relate and everyone gets locked into their own worries. Before, people would take their chair out into the street and sit and talk to their neighbours about these things a bit. Now everyone is shut in their houses watching TV. And public spaces disappear for tourism, places for consumption rather than places to sit and be."

Ramón: "Before they used to complain about the landowner. Now we complain about the world bank which is the same thing in the end, with every economy in its grip." All of them: "We have to 'seguir volando,' continue flying. And breaking down frontiers."

This feature first appeared in fRoots 237, March 2003


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