concert by Bohemia Lanzarote and special guests

Teatro El Salinero, Arrecife, Lanzarote, June 26th 2021

reviewed by Norman Warwick

Formed by a mixture of eleven male and female voices, Bohemia Lanzarote (left) brings a particular and unique vision of popular music with a point of innovation in both sound and harmonic, which has served to consolidate their own label and position themselves as one of the reference groups in this musical style at a national level. All under the baton of the Tenor Lanzaroteño, Juanma Padrón, one of the most resounding voices of our islands, as well as arranger and musical director of the group.

On 26th June 2021 at the El Salinero Theatre in Arrecife, Bohemia Lanzarote delivered an incredibly mature performance as they were joined by a number of guests from different genres of music and incorporated and supported their guests quite superbly.

Maru Cabrera

The first of these special guests to appear was Maru Cabrera, who reckons that she enjoys living life, ´as if there were no tomorrow. Always with a guitar or a camera in tow and a smile for those who love me´.

​Her capabilities stretch even beyond music, however, and she holds Degrees in Law and in Business Administration and Management. Marketing specialisms. She is the founder of Brío Marketing Estudio.

Nevertheless, she strode on stage as the first guest of the evening, (without her beloved guitar) and sang, instead, in front of Bohemia Lanzarote with their seven piece vocal ensemble and back line of six incredibly versatile musicians each playing an array of instruments in the course of the night.

Maru gave a strong, soulful performance, looking and sounding perfectly at home with such a large sound. To check her out for yourself visit SOBRE MÍ | Maru Cabrera

Another excellent guest performance on the night came from Badel Albelo who has served as a councillor of the City of La Laguna. For almost two years he was previously head of the Autonomous Body of Musical Activities of La Laguna and coordinator of Culture.

Badel Albelo (left) is, in his other life, a professional tenor who trained as a musician at the Superior Conservatory of Music of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, in the specialty of singing, and has completed his training with various courses of vocal improvement, both nationally and internationally, with teachers such as Helena Lazarska, María Orán, Manuel Garrido and Pedro La Virgen.

He is also an experienced technical assistant in Administration and Finance. As a cultural manager, he has studied in Labour Relations and has held functions in the field of Human Resources, administration and financial management.

However, such a busy life has not prevented him from developing his artistic career in the most important theatres in Spain, as well as in  Italy, England, Panama and Peru, and in so doing has reaped dividends of several awards for his performances.  

Tonight he gave a soaring, triumphant and emotional version of Granada (a song my dad and my Uncle Sid used to perform round the pubs of Manchester back in the sixties !) and brought wild applause from the audience. Again the musicianship and low key vocals from Bohemia Lanzarote were superb and subtly placed.

On a night when we were given soul and opera among many other genres of music we also had beautiful Fado sounds from Portugal. This music has a long history of speaking out on gender politics and reflecting class divisions in the history of the country. I posted a special article on the topic that was published around this time last year at Lanzarote Information and  in a revised version on Sidetracks And Detours. This was not the fiery, frenetic music I have come to associate with Fado, instead being keened, wordlessly but beautifully by Maite Salgueiro (right). This was a vocal and musical mastery by all the musicians, the choral ensemble and the solo performer-

Jairo Cabrero (left) also added to the musical diversity of the evening. Zumba combines Latin and International music with a fun and effective workout system.

With classes and instructors worldwide, anyone can Join the Party! Jairo, who is a zumba instructor himself, gave a brilliant performance that showed us all why we should join that party !

I´m sure many of our readers will remember the song, Billie Jean, by American singer Michael Jackson, released by Epic Records on January 2, 1983, as the second single from Jackson’s sixth studio album, Thriller (1982). It was written and composed by Jackson and produced by Jackson and Quincy Jones. Billie Jean blends post-discorhythm and bluesfunk and dance-pop.

You might already be wondering how I have managed to place Michael Jackson in a review of musicians such as Bohemia Lanzarote.

I have done so because Jessica Abu (left) tonight landed on stage like a lightning bolt. She gave us sexiness and sass and a mass of spontaneous combustion as she introduced us to a Billie Jean that was full of energy, with a slinky backing from the group. She was absolutely captivating, always smiling, clapping, singing, moving and constantly encouraging the crowd. She was another bright star in tonight´s sky.

The lyrics describe a woman, Billie Jean, who claims that the narrator is the father of her new-born son, which he denies. Jackson said the lyrics were based on groupies‘ claims about his older brothers when he toured with them as the Jackson 5.

Billie Jean reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, topped the Billboard Hot Black Singles chart within three weeks, and became Jackson’s fastest-rising number one single since ABC, The Love You Save and I’ll Be There in 1970, all of which he recorded as a member of the Jackson 5

Billboard ranked it as the No. 2 song for 1983. Billie Jean is certified 6× Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The song has sold over 10 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling singles of all time. It was also a number one hit in the UK, Canada, France, Switzerland and Belgium, and reached the top ten in many other countries. Billie Jean was one of the best-selling singles of 1983, helping Thriller become the best-selling album of all time, and became Jackson’s best-selling solo single.

Jackson’s performance of Billie Jean on the TV special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever won acclaim and was nominated for an Emmy Award. It introduced a number of Jackson’s signatures, including the moonwalk and white sequined glove, and was widely imitated. The Billie Jean music video, directed by Steve Barron, was the first video by a black artist to be aired in heavy rotation on MTV. Along with the other videos produced for Thriller, it helped establish MTV’s cultural importance and make music videos an integral part of popular music marketing. The spare, bass-driven arrangement of Billie Jean helped pioneer what one critic called ´sleek, post-soul pop music´. It also introduced a more paranoid lyrical style for Jackson, a trademark of his later music.

Billie Jean was awarded honours including two Grammy Awards and an American Music Award. In a list compiled by Rolling Stone and MTV in 2000, the song was ranked as the sixth greatest pop song since 1963. In 2004, Rolling Stone placed it at number 58 on its list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and was included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame‘s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. Frequently listed in magazine polls of the best songs ever made, Billie Jean was named the greatest dance record of all time by BBC Radio 2 listeners.

The interpretation here justified all the acclaim the song has ever received. Bohemia Lanzarote provided musical genres from around the world during this concert but perhaps the most intriguing was this interpretation of Michael Jackson´s Billie Jean by Jessica Abu.

There were other excellent solo performances on the night by the likes of Willy Morales, Airam Villegas, and Alex Jiménez. Each artist was introduced as an ´interpreter by the group´s left-handed guitar playing vocalist who also served as mc for the night.

I have placed these interpreters as if they were the stars of the evening. They were, but that tells only part of the story. These artists were surely stepping outside their comfort zone to sing with strings. bass, keyboards, horns and percussion in an orchestral / jazz band setting.

Each artist had to adapt to the band and the band to them. This seemed to be achieved by mutual ability and absolute trust and empathy. This was evident throughout the concert but never more so than when a rap artist delivered his stream of consciousness philosophy over a quite incredible musical backing.

In the course of the concert that back line of musicians gave us sinewy South African riffs that Paul Simon  imported on to Graceland, they gave us foxtrot and salsa, plenty of jazz sounds and also brought us music from Portugal, The USA and Venezuela.

From the percussion and conga drums we heard fascinating rhythm, and brassy jazz from the horns, beautiful picking on the strings, and chattering waters on the keys all driven along by a powerful bass.

a richly deserved ovation

All of this will live long in my memory but there was one song in particular that tugged at my heart. It was led by a vocalist who also played a bhodran-like instrument and was, I think, a song about working the land. Nevertheless it had that percussive feel of a sea-song and I was put me in mind of the wonderful Fishermens´ Friends, and it sounded just the sort of song we used to sing round the folk clubs of the North West of England in the seventies, although we did our fishing not in the seas of Lanzarote but in the murky depths of The Manchester Ship Canal. There was no sea-bass or cherne there. All we ever caught were dumped mattresses or shopping trollies. This haunting song performed by Bohemia Lanzarote captured the might and the majesty of the ocean or so it seemed, but the cinematic backdrop shown throughout the concert was of a field of waving barley.

Tonight, this concert had finished, seriously, with a pyrotechnic stage display and three encores, demanded by an audience that had bought out the tickets that could be made available under covid restrictions. The absolute closer of the gig, that third and final encore, introduced us to one more musical colour to paint on the canvas; that of Disney.

We were a given a swinging, gravelly-voiced version of what, only last weekend, in our Sunday Skype, I had proudly told my ten year old grand-daughter is one of my very favourite songs in one of my very favourite films.

The song was written by songwriters Robert and Richard Sherman, and was performed on the film sound-track by singer and musician Louis Prima as King Louie, with Phil Harris providing additional vocals.

Then, the curtains closed and the lights downed, and we in the audience were guided our into the night by the wonderful, smiley but diligent staff who have worked so hard to bring back live music and keep us safe whilst we listen. These staff members were nevertheless giving us some strange looks as most of us exited the theatre with head lowered, and shoulders hunched, fingers hooked and scratching our side. Some of us were bears and some of us were monkeys and Man, we were gone, real gone as we stepped out into the streets but I swear we made sweet harmonies as we sang oh coo ca choo, I wanna be like you, oo, oo. We were just showing the world that we know our Disney and our Kipling and have all read or watched Jungle Book !

It was the perfect end to a concert that had provided my wife Dee with ´the best concert we have seen on Lanzarote´ and me with memories for life.

We had heard the music of the gods but what I will take with me, when I finally go to meet them across the across the great divide, will be that simple bhodran-led folk song. If this was indeed El Idioma de los  Dioses then I am certainly reassured that I don´t need to take a radio with me when I´m eventually called to meet them.

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