Flamenco Festival Heats up Chicago Winter | WBEZ
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Flamenco Festival Heats up Chicago Winter

So far we've got of inches of sticky, nasty, already slushy snow on the ground. But don't fret. Tomorrow night, the first concert of the Chicago Flamenco Fest 2010 will warm things up. If you're willing to kick up your heels, your mind will follow – as far as four thousand miles away. For WBEZ, Catalina Maria Johnson has the story.

MUSIC: Juanito Pascual

That's guitarist Juanito Pascual, who along with many other distinguished musical visitors will bring some of the world's most passionate music to the Windy City...

MUSIC: Juanito Pascual

...when the culture and color of southern Spain add a bit of to our frigid winter with Flamenco Fest 2010. And three of Chicago's own most established Flamenco ensembles are turning the heat up on the 200-year-old art form. One of them is Las Guitarras de España. Here's founder Carlo Basile.

BASILE: The issue when you're trying to learn an art-form that comes from a different place and different cultural is, it's always difficult. I wish there was a Flamenco school here in Chicago where everybody could get a certification. It's not codified. Flamenco doesn´t really have that road map

Not having a road map may have allowed Chicago´s Flamenco groups to seek out their own, original journeys. “Las Guitarras de España” – “The Guitars of Spain”, has a history, for example, of collaborating with other international musicians and dancers in the city. Along the way they've explored the very early roots of Flamenco which probably began…

MUSIC: Satia singing Indian rhythms with Patricia Ortega-Alonso on vocals

...in India, with Gypsies that later migrated to Spain.

MUSIC: Satia singing Indian rhythms with Patricia Ortega-Alonso on vocals

As you can hear highlighted in this rhythmic interplay by Satia. She's a singer from Bombay who is guest-singing with Patricia Ortega Alonso, of Las Guitarras de España.

Today´s sounds have influenced the trio Idilio. Members Diego Alonso and Kassandra Kokoshis.

MUSIC: IDILIO

KOKOSHIS: Our arrangements are inspired in the Chicago indie rock scene, we change the texture.

MUSIC: IDILIO

ALONSO: We do traditional themes, but with a contemporary air. One of the pieces on our CD is called “Margarita” which is an Italian pop song from the '70s that and we decided to make it a “buleria” which is a flamenco form.

MUSIC: IDILIO

CMJ: The third local group that will be playing the Flamenco fest is El Payo, which takes its name from the gypsy name for non-gypsies or “payos”. This group bases its fusions on the highly danceable Flamenco pop-rock called Rumba Flamenca which you may recognize as the sound made popular world-round by the Gypsy Kings.

Music: PAYO of a GYPSY KINGS COVER

However, El Payo focuses most of their musical work on original compositions. The members of El Payo hail from, Ecuador, Mexico and Oak Park, Illinois, so their fusion, although based on the rumba flamenca, also incorporates their many other backgrounds, as David Chiriboga explains

CHIRIBOGA: We all want to go in different directions, so we fuse it with Mexican, Colombian, anything from rock to jazzy type feels…

Music: PAYO

No matter what road they take with the Flamenco, all three groups agree that it brings something special to the windy city. It´s called “duende.” This term is often brought up as a characteristic of dancers and musicians of Flamenco, as Raul Fernandez describes.

FERNANDEZ: I heard from somebody that means the child-like spirit within you that is inhibited or not inhibited to express themselves anyway so when someone is on stage and their singing Flamenco and they start to shake their whole body I guess they are expressing the “duende” within them..

“Duende” is something Chicago audiences will know a lot more about after two weeks of Flamenco Fest. The events begin tomorrow at various venues around the city.

The Flamenco Fest runs through February 27 with events at a variety of venues around the city, including the concert of Idilio, Las Guitarras de España and El Payo at Logan Square Auditorium on Feb. 20.

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