ACATIFE: immortalising the folk-lore

ACATIFE: immortalising the folk-lore

says  Norman Warwick

The popular music group Acatife was founded in Villa de Teguise, Lanzarote, in 1983 with the aim of deepening the knowledge and dissemination of the island’s folklore and contributing to its development, with its own contributions.

Their first public performance was on the TVE program Tenderete, by the remembered Nanino Díaz Cutillas.

Since then, more than five hundred performances throughout the Archipelago. Performances such as the XXI Sabandeño Festival or the First Estameña festival organized by the Gofiones have left their mark on the group. Also performances in other cities in the national territory, as well as in Germany and France, on national and international television networks, and 8 recordings in the market place, Acatife is among the musical groups with the greatest contribution to Canarian popular music.

Acatife have approached their work from three different angles: the rescue of songs still present in the collective memory, the musicalization of lyrics by popular composers and poets, with special attention to research work on the musical heritage, the work of Diego Catalán, Sebastián Sosa Barroso or Jesús María Godoy, from the popular Canary Islands ballads and other editions and authors and also from the composition of their own songs, with texts inspired by tradition or rooted in the pulsating social news of Lanzarote and the archipelagic region.

Emigration, which so plagued the town of Conejero until not many years ago, constitutes a center of special interest in the repertoire of Acatife.

From these years of uninterrupted career, their 8 recordings are a splendid sample: Acatife’s first album, which was a tribute to the martyrs of Cruz del Mar, was released in 1986. It was followed by “Peñas del Chache” (1991), “Acatife sings to Christmas” (1993), “Cantos de Lanzarote” (1995), “Christmas in a place in the Atlantic” (1996), “El Diablo de Timanfaya” (1999), “In Lanzarote” (2012 ) and recently, “Mi Pueblo y César” (2023).

The recording of this latest album “Mi Pueblo y César” was live, in a concert that took place in Jameos del Agua, one of the emblems of Lanzarote, the spectacular nature and sound of the environment as well as the complicity with the audience in attendance, has its faithful reflection on the album. The presentation on June 9 2023, took place at the Víctor Fernández Gópar “El Salinero” Theatre, Arrecife. This had been one of the events that the group was carrying out for its 40th anniversary, for this it had the collaboration of the artist Isabel Cabrera who carried the common thread of the show and with Almudena Hernández who gave voice to the main theme Mi Pueblo y César, composted by the writer and poet Jaime Quesada. This album was born with the coincidence of 3 anniversaries, the 40 years of the group Acatife, 600 years of Teguise, the 100 years of our illustrious artist César Manrique.

It was an exciting evening when Acatife gave a live presentation to premier this new album. The Diabletes de Teguise toured the stalls, starting the show.

An emotional moment of the night was when César Manrique’s voice was heard. He shared his message of conserving the island of Lanzarote.

The Altaja Typical Dance Association contributed its talent to the event with the participation of three dance couples.

The show concluded with “Soy Canario”, but the audience’s applause asked for more. Acatife obliged with an encore of “Guajira Linda.” Attendees were able to take home Acatife’s new album, available in the theater hall after the show.

Alfredo Cabrera, one of the attendees, described the experience as “sensational” and mentioned that the support of the public was “the finishing touch” to an incredible night.

The XXIX editions of the Acatife Festival, which annually brings together artists from Latin America and the rest of the Archipelago and the State, are a good example of its implementation in Lanzarote society; as well as the Volcán de Plata Acatife distinction that the group grants to people or institutions for their contribution to the popular heritage of the island.

Acatife is not known for covering songs by other authors or groups, but for making traditional songs, of their own composition or of unpublished compositions. It remains faithful to its stage format, using the same type of simple formation and the same string instrumentals with percussion accompaniment.

There is no set date for future performances, but Acatife have ambitious plans. They want to take their music to other theaters and town halls on the island and even outside of it. In addition, they are already working on the Acatife Festival scheduled for 14 July 2024.

You can understand, perhaps, why we were so pleased to see Acatife contributing again to the recent Christmas 2023 celebrations.

From a stage in the town hall square in front of the Church of Señora Nuestra del Carmen in Playa Blanca, with the streets and roundabout and main roads surrounded by Christmas lights and with a waning moon looking crestfallen in a starless sky we heard faint music. There shouldn´t be any music yet. The concert wasn´t due to start for another hour. We ran towards the square to find it empty but there they were, on stage, making beautiful sounds, vocally and musically. twenty five musicians. This, though, was only rehearsal and tuning-up time, even if the only clue to that fact was that the players were all still in their civvies, bundled up in their fleeces and scarves and caps.

Dee and I and our publicity-shy friends  were able to take four of the empty chairs and sit and enjoy half an hour of wonderful music. As soon as all the instruments had adjusted to the weather conditions at this outdoor event and as soon as all the players were playing from the same music sheet they wandered off. As rehearsals go that had had been pretty damned well full-on,….or so we thought.

About thirty minutes later the ensemble walked out on to the stage to see all the seats now occupied. They were now dressed in all their finery and really looked the part. An all male group  of grown men and young boys in crisp white shirts and dark trousers.

There were timplists and guitarists and sundry other stringed instruments and there were whistle blowers, tubular bells players and hand-clappers and castanet clickers.

The vocal sound, was quite incredible. At times a solo singer of quiet, intimate tomes would be subsumed in a sudden and amazing well of ensemble sound. It all put me in mind of Harry Secombe and Welsh male choirs.

The instrumentation too, could vary from intensely percussive to simple – string picked riffs. The songs were of Lanzaroteño and Canarian folk-lore celebrating the gifts of the land and the climate, and the fishing boats and the sea and the volcanoes. They were songs of perseverance and optimism: they were songs from the home and songs form the workplace, songs for the past and songs for the future.

We enjoyed a marvellous sixty minute performance delivered free to the public, and we had even had the nerve to sit through the free rehearsal too. I am very glad we did because it was incredible to see and hear how this collection of players and singers could lift themselves from what could have easily been accepted as a peak performance to hit new peaks.

All those empty seats at rehearsal time were, of course, filled by the time the concert started. And beyond the fans in the square were the winers and diners in the roadside open air restaurants very clearly listening in to a concert taking place just across the road from them.

Acatife are a fine act !

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.