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Flamenco; Linking cultures through “Duende”

My name is Manni Coe and I am a Private Tour Guide. That is my official title but it falls really short I what I actually do.  Saturday night was a clear example.

I had been guiding 22 Arabic people (mainly from Saudi Arabia) through Andalucia, and on Saturday I organised a private Flamenco show for them in a little restaurant in the old town of Marbella.

I had prepared them for the evening, as I always do with my groups, because I believe if visitors see Flamenco cold, with no prior knowledge of its roots, purposes or role in Spain, then it is a huge opportunity missed. So I had hosted one of my lectures for them on the theory of Duende and explained the deep emotions that run through the art of Flamenco. They were set.

Flamenco visitorOn our way to the flamenco venue we chatted about the culture and sights we had seen in Andalucia, and my guests told me of their own culture back in Saudi Arabia.  A pair of beautiful eyes, belonging to one of the ladies, joked that if I wanted to see her face I would have to pay a million euros. If I had been in possession of a million euros I might even have handed them over there and then, just to be able to see her face and its promise of beauty.

It was in that instant that I understood for the first time, the power of this woman, this beautiful Arabic woman from Bahrain. She knew that all I could see were her eyes and they held me captive. It was nothing sexual but it was definitely sensual. I knew when she was smiling, I knew when she was sad and when the Gypsies began to dance Flamenco, I knew she was enthralled and moved.

There was an air of expectation in the room that the Flamenco would be everything we had talked about during the lecture, and as soon as the “Guitarra” struck a chord I knew that we would be rewarded. His fingers strummed up real “Duende” and the scene was prepared. Juan began to sing and his voice was not strong but it rang with the split tones of a pure Flamenco voice, weak and strong at the same time, brimming with emotion.

His wife entered to dance to his melodies and all of a sudden I saw 22 faces (well…19 faces and 3 sets of eyes) that were totally transfixed by what was unravelling before them; layers and layers of passionate emotions wafting and weaving through the fabric of this couple´s presentation. The purest form of Flamenco.

Their trilogy with the guitar held the music on its own accord and the room was silent. One client looked absolutely perplexed, confused and amazed at what he was witnessing. It´s almost as if for these people from Saudi Arabia, this too was an expression of their own culture. They understood, and the dancer and Juan felt it too.

There was a total connection and I began to relax, really relax and enjoy the scene for what it was.  Million Dollar eyes were shining. I was trying to guess her emotion but it was difficult to define. She looked at me for an intense moment, then as the trilogy broke, my people stood up to applaud them; they didn´t want to move.

In other cultures, a similar group would have broken up, ready to move on to the next thing, to “leave” the theatre. These guys wanted to stay until the final credits and bask in the memory of the music.

We half walked half danced to the bus and as they boarded two different people made comments that are making me smile even now. One shook my hand and commented, “That was an honour”.  Another said, “Up until now in my life, I have never lived anything as emotional as that.” There was no possible reply. How do you reply to that? I escorted them home, talking of fusing cultures and healing wounds. Maybe I was a little delirious but it was almost as if we were living a memory of Al- Andalus.


Flamenco and culture tour
Culture tours in Andalucia

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