MUSIC FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES
A Meeting Of Timples, Teatro Tias, January 2020 review
The annual La Canderlaria and San Blas religious festival in Tias always presents a plethora of arts that showcase the town and its artists and their guests during a week of events for all the family.
The festival also seems to carry the unusual feature of offering spots in which aspiring student musicians make debut public performances in a theatre setting, in front of family, friends, strangers and tourists. To make that slightly less, or perhaps even more, daunting they play set pieces alongside a music tutor and player who has been mentoring them all year. To ensure that the nerves really do jingle like Mr. Bojangles, this performance is then a contributory factor to the young person´s musical grade for the year. No pressure there, then.
The evening opened with their mentor, Jose Perez, well known on the island as a superb timple player, came to the stage and explained what was going on to those who could understand him, However, what we have described to you above was gleaned from the atmosphere, audience response, and pale faces of the nervous examinees, because we cannot understand Spanish at this speed.
We have actually spoken to Jose before and mooted the idea of an interview with him (as his English is better than mine!) but it has proved difficult to arrange. Nevertheless, we remain keen to do so, as he delivers invigorating performances as a solo artist, and occasionally puts together his own bands when the occasion justifies it, and is a much in-demand guest in all sorts of other musical line ups on Lanzarote.
Here tonight we saw him in a new light, and not only because his recently bearded face seems to lend his smiling personality a little bit of gravitas but also because he embodied everything a mentor should be.
He was sympathetic and empathic to his students, showing patience and cleverly disguising his own playing to fall in to support them if they stumbled, though that happened only rarely. On this occasion he was playing guitar to enable the distinctive timple styles of each student to be more clearly heard.
The four students seemed to range from perhaps as young as ten or eleven years old to fifteen, maybe sixteen. All performed more than admirably and it seemed that all could have careers ahead of them in the music industry.
The picking from all was excellent, often with dextrous fingers flying across the strings with one of the two excellent male performances evoking somehow The Streets Of Laredo of the old wild west. The two girls, also, each gave a quite charismatic performance, as if transcending exam requirements in the sheer love of playing.
From the grin on his face, Jose seemed pleased with his charges, and they all exited the stage clearly even more delighted by the words of encouragement from their mentor than by the wild whoops and hollers of supporters in the audience and, even, more than any sense of relief that their ordeal was over.
Photo 2 jose perez and all examinees Those few of us in the audience who had no familial or emotional investment in any of the players felt like judges in a talent show. Who had the X Factor? They all did.
The prospects of career and fun that beckons these young musicians were then clearly shown by a guest band for the evening. What their name was, where they were from, why they were there I can´t tell you. (What do you think I am? A reporter ?). There was no printed programme, the introductions were in Spanish or Lanzarotan or Canarian or some dialect thereof. (You have no idea how hard our life is.)
Still, we do our best and I am pleased to report that this was a wonderful ensemble, with a finger-picking good timple player at its centre, an unobtrusive acoustic guitarist, a really cool player of a long-necked bass and a female drummer who seemed to somehow keep everyone rock-steady whilst constantly smiling, almost laughing, at how much fun this was, being at one with other musicians. These instrumentalists supported, played alongside with and were in turn supported by two female vocalists, who themselves complemented each other perfectly. One had a soul, jazz vibe about her voice, whilst her colleague had an incredibly strong voice that rang round the theatre.
´How would you describe that music?´ asked my mate Iain as we made our way out of the theatre at the end of the night.
The answer would depend on my required word count. One word, brilliant, would do, but I would expand and say that I was particularly reminded of The Rankin Family, a group I twice saw perform in the nineteen nineties.
Quite why the ´traditional jigs, reels and Celtic folk songs´ were brought to mind by this anonymous but massively talented band in Tias tonight I´m not too sure, because I was throughout the show also fleetingly reminded of snatches of Steeleye Span, the shuffles of the Beuna Vista Social Club and strange little riffs that took me to Willie Nelson and yet to answer Iain´s question The Rankin Family was the first name to spring to mind.
My memories of those gigs I saw in the nineties are of The Rankin Family making music that sauntered on a walk as lonely as a cloud but at other times became part of the madding crowd, all dance and joy and call and chatter and love of life.
This group on stage in Teatro, Tias delivered much of the same mood. It was their encore that brought the Cuban reminders, but there had also been a folk lore song, instantly memorable to any tourist to Lanzarote who has ever spent a Sunday morning at Teguise market where the folk lore dancers and timple players play.
The band also gave us a folk tune, so damned catchy, that I know I know and can´t get out of my head even though I can´t remember what the tune is. It reminded me very much of my Lancashire folk club days but that is what this group did all night. They reminded me on occasions of all the music I have ever loved, and yet somehow promised me new music I have yet to hear. (I always felt that way about The Rankin Family, too)
So was this ´unknown´ band simply a collection of musicians put together for the night? Surely that could not be so. Although their individual playing was always superb it was as an ensemble that they shone the brightest. They had about them, as well, a ´band´ attitude, and a modest sense of how good they are and they all clearly appreciated the talents of the others.
I am an old fogey these days on the music scene, and I know too little about the potential for touring and recording profitably on The Canary Islands, but if the young examinee student musicians from earlier in the evening stayed in the wings to see and hear this they must surely have been inspired to continue their studies and reach this level of proficiency, and be able to enjoy this much fun for the rest of their lives.