Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Gitano guitar

Listening to Camarón de la Isla's Leyenda del Tiempo, the legendary and game-changing Flamenco album from 1979 transports me instantaneously back to an extremely hot day in the start of July this summer. On the extreme outskirts of Barcelona, having passed less and less tourist infiltrated barrios' on the train out from the Arc del Triomf metro station, we walked a mile or two down a dirt road back in the direction of the city centre, heading towards a petrol station, whose vague whereabouts I had managed to acquire via hitchwiki.org (an highly useful digital tool for hitch-hikers) .

Standing in the 40 degree heat, wearing a tee-shirt on my head and trying to thumb a lift South with the occasional traffic that passed through the rippling expanse of car park, I felt a tad ridiculous. Ridicule however, quickly turned to frustration and general disparagement. Sprinting over to the sole lorry parked up, the signs were promising, he was heading direction Tarragona, he could understand my pigeon Spanish but he only had space for one. We weren't desperate enough to split up so that lift never came to fruition.

Some time later, Juan in his van turned up, shades on, aircon blasting and moved his electrical goods into the back, making space for us up front. The feeling of moving after standing so still never fails to lift the spirits, and not having to extend our arms was a nice change as well. The music was just as encapsulating as the fact we had gotten the lift, it was competing against and winning the air conditioning for best vibrations in the small cabin. Juan fitted seamlessly into the imagery of the Flamenco conjured up, albeit with a modern twist. The rawness and energy of this mystical Spanish folk music made him speak up. The journey could have been a quiet one, Juan was perhaps not a man of many words, but he spoke with an apparent love of Camarón and his music. A love I was only later to discover resonated throughout almost the whole of Spain.

Was this Spain itself projected through the tinny speakers? Cigarette smoke wobbled from side to side in the cabin as Juan told us of the Gypsy's early demise through alcohol and drug addiction. Tragic, passionate, fiery and shrouded in mystery, I was in a semi-trance and only snapped out of it to make sure we exited at the right time in order to stay on track for Almeria, which is incidentally the birthplace of collaborator and fellow Gitano, Tomatito. As a parting gift, Juan offered us a CD, a copied disc in a rough plastic cover. I carried this gift throughout our 2 month hitch-hiking, volunteering and exploration adventure, managing to keep it safe and intact.

I played it when we arrived back in the UK, expecting a red and yellow wave of mystery and power to wash over me, instead I was greeted by terrible modern Spanish pop music with Euroclub beats blended together in some horrible musical comparison to Spain's current crisis. Perhaps Juan wanted to musically show us what Spain meant to him through Camarón de la Isla but also project the change that has occurred to his country to us when we arrived home. 

Camerón de la Isla - La Leyenda del Tiempo

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