Later this evening, will get on a plane from Montreal bound for Barcelona. I’ll be attending a two week residency at JIWAR. In some ways, I’ve been waiting over 15 years for certain aspects of this trip..
Please know – I don’t speak Spanish. I play the guitar – poorly. I only sing in the shower (and even at that, only when no one is home).
But, while living in Vancouver in the late 1990s studying for my undergraduate degree in visual arts, I discovered a special cafe near my apartment called the KINO. During the day, this inauspicious little place, which served excellent coffee,, was a quiet place to sit and draw in my sketchbook. However, one night a week (if memory serves me correctly, it was Thursdays) the sleepy cafe became a performance venue for the city’s flamenco artists. Let me just say, as I daydream about my impending trip to Barcelona tonight, I am no more of the stereotypical frame of mind that Spain is ‘all flamenco and bullfights’, then I am that Canada is all ‘lumberjacks and maple syrup’. However, the power of the flamenco art form thrust its arms out out and grabbed me by my pulsing, sticky, imperfect heart from the very first moment that I witnessed a performance in Vancouver. The musicians appeared to range in age from early 20s (my age at the time) to 70s or 80s. Each performance I had the privilege of witnessing seemed to leave me near tears, and completely covered in goose-bumps. My favourite singer at the KINO was an elder from the community who sang like his whole life’s loves and sorrow was contained in each note – I never understood a word but to this day I’m convinced I knew exactly what he was singing about (even more so as I age myself, and think back at the life-experience conveyed through the looks on this face).
And, the dancers. Watching them move was like physically experiencing the application of expressionist paint that I was studying at the time in school. They cracked, flicked and dripped – slid and stomped. I loved them in the most primal sense of the word.
Without a doubt, this trip to Spain will introduce me to many more magical experiences, people, tastes and places, which will only enrich my knowledge of the country. However I will be forever grateful to this little cafe -The Kino- on Cambie Street in Vancouver for introducing me to the raw power of flamenco – this particularly powerful art form, and so far, the only aspect of Spanish culture that I have had the joy of experiencing.
These are photos of performers from the KINO Cafe in Vancouver, shared from the Kino’s fb page which you can see here.