LIVE MUSIC BOUNCING BACK !??! by Norman Warwick


wonders Norman Warwick

Just to say a big, big thank you! began a brief e mail from the organisers of Ribble Valley Jazz And Blues Festival.

That´s ok, I thought, what have I done? Then I realised this was a general vote of thanks to thousands of people, but as lovely gesture nonetheless.

What a weekend! The sun came out, the venues were full and the music was fabulous.

So a huge thank you to all the audiences for their support, the volunteers for making everything run smoothly, to all the venue owners for joining in, to all the musicians who made us all happy, and last but not least, to all the committee/trustee members for all their hard work and preparation over the last nine months!

The Festival was held at various venues around the Ribble Vally in the north west of the UK over the three day bank holiday a couple of days ago. When radio presenter Steve Bewick arrived here on Lanzarote on the day after the festival  he with and his wife Marlene bemoaned the atrocious weather they had left behind in that region but fortunately it sounds like  it somehow skirted round the festival site.

The festivals are coming back here on Lanzarote, too, after so many cancellations and postponements over the covid period. Groups and popular musical bands are now preparing for summer festivities. Rikabanda, Lanzarote Swing, Los Conejeros and Los Magnéticos, for instance, have all told the press that they are in talks to close dates for the summer festivals.

Here Comes Summer and this time we´ll be able to listen to live performances again of great songs like “Ganas de tenerte”, since the orchestras and groups of Lanzarote are rehearsing for the long-awaited parades and popular summer festivals.

Rikabanda, Lanzarote Swing, Los Conejeros and Los Magnéticos, among others, are even talking to some town halls to finalise dates , although still without many confirmations.

After two years of hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, the groups are very excited and eager to return to the stage and sing the favourite songs of their audience at events such as the patron saint festivities, of which in the past they have been a main attraction.

However, they face this period with uncertainty, since  the local councils of Arrecife and Yaiza held severely reduced events that did not include any local bands or orchestras during daytime carnivals. Now, the  musicians are taking on trust that this situation will not be repeated this summer. Live music, too, must be given the opportunity of recovering from the compliocations of the last couple of years.. 

Rikabandais (right) currently the only orchestra on the island, known for its songs I Will Lie or I Will Not Suffer Again, but since the arrival of the pandemic, they have not played in any festival event since.

“Our last performance was at the Arrecife 2020 carnival, just before confinement and we have not performed since that time,” says José Domingo, president of Rikabanda.  When we found out that festivals were coming back, we were very happy because we have every intention of continuing as a live band´´.

The orchestra,  they say, is already rehearsing for the summer festivals with “more enthusiasm than ever”, although the team will not be the same as before the pandemic.

 “We have been rehearsing since the beginning of the year, but we have made changes´ , says José Domingo. ´There are people who have not wanted to continue, because it is difficult for people to commit to rehearsals without contracted dates being confirmed´.

In addition, the president of Rikabanda points out that ´some of our players could not, or did not want to, count on carnivals about which they feel they have been left in something of a vacuum.   ´I suppose that the city council technicians advised that an orchestra was not the most convenient for reasons of covid, but in the end there were two DJs in Arrecife and several groups in Playa Blanca,´ he adds.

Now the orchestra is focused on closing the agenda for the summer patron saint festivities and promoting itself through social networks to “seduce people”. 

´We are specifying performances for the summer with some councillors, both in Lanzarote and in (our neighbouring island of Fuerteventura, to see if we manage to have the season covered´, explains the president of the orchestra. “We will play our old songs, but also some new songs, which could come out next month´.  .

On the other hand, the president of Lanzarote Swing did consider leaving during the pandemic and ending the group once and for all. 

´ I thought up to 20 times to leave the group, because it was not profitable.  My daughters even went on to sing on their own in hotels weekly, because it is a guaranteed job, but I like music and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to leave it ´, explains Clotildo Morales, president of Lanzarote Swing. ´These last few years have been very hard and not only because of the coronavirus pandemic, but because of the politicians ‘ pandemic´.

The group’s last performance was at the San Bartolomé carnival in 2020, since in Arrecife and since then have not be called upon, perhaps because they bring most of the orchestras from outside.

´This continues to happen. The other day there was a daytime carnival in Arrecife and Playa Blanca and they brought DJs and orchestras from Las Palmas and Tenerife, charging up to 4 times more than us, and even then they didn’t call us´,  says the president. “The reason was because, according to them, they already had the contracts signed, but the reality is that the councillors  in charge of recruiting acts to perform in parads and concerts, might prefer a kind of re-branding of the events that might gain them increased profile and esteem with the public.´.

In addition, he affirms that a Yaiza councilor told him that outside groups are professionals.

 ´So we are not? They do not support local talent´, insists Clotildo. 

In any case, the group has been rehearsing for several months, although there is still no set date for the holidays, but its president confirms that they are already in talks with town councils to perform at festivals such as the one in La Vegueta.

´With Lanzarote Swing we still don’t have any closed dates, but then there are dates and they don’t call us, they are playing with my work´, insists Clotildo. ´Hopefully this will change, because we really want to act and we are very excited.  If all goes well, we may consider creating an orchestra again , but the situation right now is complicated´.

For its part, the famous group Los Conejeros (right) returned to the ring on May 1 in a small festival organized in La Asomada , a date that they jad b een looking forward to.

´We’d been rehearsing for about two months now and we have some closed dances, like the one at La Asomada, and for the summer we’re also in talks with several town councils´, says Manuel Viñoly, president of Los Conejeros.

With the outbreak of the pandemic, they had to suspend their agreed performances at the Tinajo and La Graciosa carnivals, so the group even considered disbanding completely , but in the end they managed to resist. “We even considered leaving the group because the situation was unsustainable, but in the end we decided to keep in touch with the same people we had, even with some new talent´, explains Manuel. ´We even made a virtual video clip during confinement´ 

The Conejeros received the news of the return of the festivals with great joy and emotion. ´After two years standing still, how are we going to live it?´, Manuel points out. ´From that moment people started to drive me crazy, sending messages and asking when we would return to playing”.

This year, the group intends to focus on practicing the themes of yesteryear, such as Noches de fantasy or Marejada , because “they are songs that everyone likes”, although they are also managing new music.

Many amateur groups are also already planning to perform at the next parties, as is the case of Los Magnéticos (left) , who play music from the 60s and 70s , with hits like “Un Rayo de Sol”, and songs by Karina, Marisol or Raphael.

These types of groups were not really affected by the pandemic, since playing is more of a weekend hobby than a job for them .

´It is true that we had to cancel some agreed performances with the arrival of the state of alarm, but we did not have much problem leaving it because in the end we did not make our living from this´, says Patricio Rowell, singer and guitarist of the group Los Magnéticos. “But those who do this professionally lost their jobs completely for two years.”

His first gig after confinement was in October 2021, in a small room, with a lot of security and with a seated audience wearing a mask. ´

It was a somewhat peculiar performance, since they didn’t even let you take off your mask to drink water, it was a difficult situation, but at least we could play´,  adds Rowell.

The Magnetics began rehearsing when more than four people could meet due to sanitary restrictions, since it is a group of five people. Since then, they have dedicated themselves to covering private events, but they are already in talks with town halls for the popular festivals that may arise in the summer.

´It is true that they have been two very bad years, so we received the news of the return of the parties and festivals with great joy, it was clear that this would not be for life´,  says the singer of Los Magnéticos.

We don´t have to read too deeply between the lines of the story above to realise that doubt has between local councils and organisers and those musical ensembles who seek to participate in festivals in a professional manner, and who wish to be recognised (and remunerated ) for doing so and for the added value they can bring to local festivals.

All these small events and local musicians not only benefit their own local communities but also are an add on to our tourist offer, and whenever I am covering such events in a ´press´ capacity I am invariably left with the feeling that they show the heart and soul of contemporary Lanzarote,….so come on, because happy days are here again.

I am not, however, fully aware  of the machinations between councils (who seem to me to be the organising body of their own carnivals and cultural and religious festivals) and the musicians invited by the council to play at such events. I am put in mind of UK events that I was involved in over there, such as rushbearings, and we would see representative bands representing various regions, trades and cultures. There was huge onus on those bands who performed, either as marching band as we see in carnivals or as a stage presence when the traditional elements of the day have been concluded, in a professional manner and reach out to the audience.

On my five or six years on the island I have seen incredible performances  meeting those requirements and detected a mutual repsect between organising councils, performers and audiences.

Whilst it seems right to me that we take baby steps as we re-organise life after covid, and seek new and safer wyas to deliver the cultural agenda, we should be mindful, too, and grateful for those acts who made the events so memorable in the first place.

Bringing in the new, however, need not mean disregarding the old that serves us so well.

The primary source for this article was  a press release by Lancelot Digital, who are an excellent and positive information stream not only for the arts but for life in general on Lanzarote. The outlet, though, is a force for good, unafraid to question the government and its councils and to monitor outcomes.

In our occasional re-postings Sidetracks And Detours are confident that we are not only sharing with our readers excellent articles written by experts but are also pointing to informed and informative sites readers will re-visit time and again. Of course, we feel sure our readers will also return to our daily not-for-profit blog knowing that we seek to provide core original material whilst sometimes spotlighting the best pieces from elsewhere, as we engage with genres and practitioners along all the sidetracks & detours we take.

This article was collated by Norman Warwick (right) , a weekly columnist with Lanzarote Information and owner and editor of this daily blog at Sidetracks And Detours.

Norman has also been a long serving broadcaster, co-presenting the weekly all across the arts programme on Crescent Community Radio for many years with Steve Bewick, and his own show on Sherwood Community Radio. He has been a regular guest on BBC Radio Manchester, BBC Radio Lancashire, BBC Radio Merseyside and BBC Radio Four.

As a published author and poet Norman was a founder member of Lendanear Music, with Colin Lever and Just Poets with Pam McKee, Touchstones Creative Writing Group (for which he was creative writing facilitator for a number of years) with Val Chadwick and all across the arts with Robin Parker.

From Monday to Friday, you will find a daily post here at Sidetracks And Detours and, should you be looking for good reading, over the weekend you can visit our massive but easy to navigate archives of over 500 articles.

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