- Terelle Jerricks
By B. Noel Barr, Music Writer Dude
On July 1, the air will be filled with ancient music of the gypsy’s at El Camino College. The sounds of one the most exciting, sensually charged music and dance presentations to date, have changed over time and distance across the trade routes. For this program, the element of rock music is infused as a primal element to the more traditional sounds and dance of Flamenco.
The word, “Juncal,” means aficionado or supporter. It’s someone who has an intense, occasionally overwhelming liking of a particular subject. In this case, Flamenco music. Juncal Street is a five-member troupe of young Flamenco all-stars. It is a cultural blend of North American, French, Spanish and Gypsy performers. Who, regardless of their stylistic background, create an urban fusion of sight and sound dedicated to a new vision of Flamenco. The intense and impassioned way in which they feel and perform communicates the essence that this art deserves. It is also a very bold idea. For the most part Flamenco has been relegated to a specific presentation that is quite old.
The quintet of performers are Fanny Ara, artistic director, dancer and choreographer; Manuel Gutierrez, a dancer and choreographer; Jason McGuire, a guitarist; Jose Cortes, a vocalist; Joey Heredia, a drummer; and Tommy Dades, the bassist.
We spoke with Fanny Ara via phone from her home in San Francisco, and asked about her about Juncal Street.
Ara explained, “This show for me is pretty unique, besides my dance partner Manuel along with a guitarist and a singer. I’m bringing a drummer and a bassist. It is very urban Flamenco. I just wanted to make it more modern. I wanted to bring out the rock ’n’ roll in the Flamenco. The goal of the show is to go back to the roots of Flamenco, which is the streets. That is why it is called Juncal Street. Like the blues, for instance, it came from the streets.”
The idea she presents is fascinating because it is similar to many traditional styles that are divergent from multiple sources leading to a particular end. Usually a form of music that does not take a different path stagnates in growth. Relegating it to one way of presentation, like not allowing a trap drummer to be in Flamenco or integrating a rock sound into Flamenco would upset the hard core traditionalist. Unfortunately that happens across the board with about everything. We have to remember that in order for growth to occur, new ideas or blending of ideas has to happen.
We asked if she was going to have a full drum kit on stage or is going to be a beat box.
Ara said, “No, I’m going to have a full drum set on stage. I think it is very unique and we are very excited about it.”
Ara, went onto say that integrating the rock with the flamenco is something she always wanted to do.
“I’m in love with the bass and with drums, because Flamenco is so raw I thought it a great combination. You see we are friends here and we have talking about this for a long time. I woke up one morning and said, ‘Why not, let’s do it!’ I think the American audience is going to react better to decision makers, rather than the typical traditional Flamenco. Living in the U.S. now for ten years I see it as a melting pot that I wanted to do that with my own career. To go somewhere and have the balls to do it.”
I noted to Ara that this is a concept that steps beyond the norm for Flamenco. The use of a trap set is very different. I had seen a beat box used by never anything like say conga drums a full drum kit. Ara said that when you have piano Flamenco it is very jazzy, so other percussive instrumentation is used. The true Flamenco people are not into it, they tend to be very closed minded.
“I have never been very closed minded toward the art form,” she said. “I can’t lie to myself. I’m not Gypsy and I’m not from Spain. I’m from France.
“I want to do Flamenco like I feel Flamenco myself. That is the beauty of this group, we have a Gypsy singer (Cortes) is going to keep the roots of what Flamenco is all about. The other dancer (Gutierrez) he is also from Spain. Then you have Jason McGuire (Irish-American, world music pro) is a freaking genius on guitar. The other two, Drummer Joey Heredia and bassist Tommy Dades are American and they bring the groove that is from this country. We all have something that we can give as artists to Flamenco.”
What is significant here is that we have a music that may be changing again, as it has since its very beginning in India. Changing the art form as it traveled the trade route to Spain, now to United States to San Francisco onto the stage of El Camino College. This is a great idea that is fresh and invigorating, this infusion will also bring people to the table those who have never experienced Flamenco and they will look to find the origins. Celebrating the legacy of the tradition, while embracing the new. This is a must see performance, starting at 6 p.m. July 1, at the Campus Theater in Torrance.
Venue: El Camino College Theater
Location: 16007 Crenshaw Blvd., Torrance