Art music poetry Social Justice


Duende is the word flamenco practitioners and enthusiasts use to name the unnameable— the gooseflesh or shiver that you get when you experience the outpouring of passion and soul that is flamenco…But the soul of flamenco is rooted in its nomadic beginnings in India and its route through West Asia to its hold on Southern Europe, particularly Spain, and even influencing the Fado music of Portugal.

The soul of flamenco is never static. It is both a life giving tree to the Romani communities of France and Spain, under whose shade, their hearts flower, and simultaneously, the blood spilt in hundreds of years of exclusion and journeying, which gives flamenco its poignancy as outsider culture.

Concha Buika y Javier Limon

In the shadow of this

dark and divine night

Over the barrenness

which populates my awakened soul

There sounds a lament,
like a prelude to the dead hours,
hours that pass with the agonies of a slow death.

Silence returns to clothe me in gold, my saint,
the memory of my grandmothers returns
to sweeten my wait,
the records that taught me to adore music return,
my father returns, after 20 years.

Ah! if you returned,
if you returned I’d clothe you in gold, my saint.
I’d quiet everything
so that you could hear my desperate song.

If you returned I’d clothe you in gold, my saint.
I’d quiet everything
so that you could hear my desperate song.
If you returned I’d clothe you in gold, my saint.
I’d quiet everything
so that you could hear my desperate song.
If you returned I’d clothe you in gold, my saint.
Let the world stop turning,
so that you can hear my despairing song. (Buika)

Oro Santo, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

Flamenco’s tormented history is part of Spain’s twentieth century struggle between fascism and the rich inclusivity of anarchist and communist dreams for a new Spain. Flamenco is a contrapunto to the corporatist development of Catholic fascism, a liberatory act under the constraints of a militarized state and racist hegemonic culture, in spite of the Spanish state’s efforts to co-opt it.

Latcho Drom, 1993, Excerpt

In the 1990s, I travelled in Barcelona and its outskirts, taking in the magnificent beauty of the architecture, the beautiful Museu Picasso, the colourful patterns of Antonio Gaudi. But the most fantastic experiences were on street corners and plazas, hearing and seeing the flamenco of the streets! I have not heard more beautiful and spine-tingling music than the unexpected howl of the Cante Jondo, in a glimmering twilight full of pigeons, tourists and street performers near the Ramblas.

I got to hear the famed Chico and the Gipsy Kings once many decades ago and was amazed to see the Romani community of Toronto show up in full splendour and with unforgettable duende. The dancing, singing and clapping of the audience was as much part of the performance as “the band”.

Duende then is dialogue, it is call and response and the feel of the soul’s tug in a riff, a step, a rhythm, a voice. Flamenco speaks of loneliness but is never alone, for its very expression needs another– to hear, to interject, to dance, to play, and sing. And it is when this spark catches fire, that make moments of flamenco heart-wrenchingly beautiful.

Romance Sonambulo/Sleepwalker’s Romance by Federico Garcia Lorca

Green, how I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.
The ship out on the sea
and the horse on the mountain.
With the shade around her waist
she dreams on her balcony,
green flesh, her hair green,
with eyes of cold silver.
Green, how I want you green.
Under the gypsy moon,
all things are watching her
and she cannot see them.

Green, how I want you green.
Big hoarfrost stars
come with the fish of shadow
that opens the road of dawn.
The fig tree rubs its wind
with the sandpaper of its branches,
and the forest, cunning cat,
bristles its brittle fibers.
But who will come? And from where?
She is still on her balcony
green flesh, her hair green,
dreaming in the bitter sea.

–My friend, I want to trade
my horse for her house,
my saddle for her mirror,
my knife for her blanket.
My friend, I come bleeding
from the gates of Cabra.
–If it were possible, my boy,
I’d help you fix that trade.
But now I am not I,
nor is my house now my house.
–My friend, I want to die
decently in my bed.
Of iron, if that’s possible,
with blankets of fine chambray.
Don’t you see the wound I have
from my chest up to my throat?
–Your white shirt has grown
thirsy dark brown roses.
Your blood oozes and flees a
round the corners of your sash.
But now I am not I,
nor is my house now my house.
–Let me climb up, at least,
up to the high balconies;
Let me climb up! Let me,
up to the green balconies.
Railings of the moon
through which the water rumbles.

Now the two friends climb up,
up to the high balconies.
Leaving a trail of blood.
Leaving a trail of teardrops.
Tin bell vines
were trembling on the roofs.
A thousand crystal tambourines
struck at the dawn light.

Green, how I want you green,
green wind, green branches.
The two friends climbed up.
The stiff wind left
in their mouths, a strange taste
of bile, of mint, and of basil
My friend, where is she–tell me–
where is your bitter girl?
How many times she waited for you!
How many times would she wait for you,
cool face, black hair,
on this green balcony!
Over the mouth of the cistern
the gypsy girl was swinging,
green flesh, her hair green,
with eyes of cold silver.
An icicle of moon
holds her up above the water.
The night became intimate
like a little plaza.
Drunken ‘Guardias Civiles’
were pounding on the door.
Green, how I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.
The ship out on the sea.
And the horse on the mountain.

Translated by William Logan

Original Spanish

Verde que te quiero verde.
Verde viento. Verdes ramas.
El barco sobre la mar
y el caballo en la montaña.
Con la sombra en la cintura
ella sueña en sus baranda,
verde carne, pelo verde,
con ojos de fría plata.
Verde que te quiero verde.
Bajo la luna gitana,
las cosas la están mirando
y ella no puede mirarlas.

Verde que te quiero verde.
Grandes estrellas de escarcha,
vienen con el pez de sombra
que abre el camino del alba.
La higuera frota su viento
con la lija de sus ramas,
y el monte, gato garduño,
eriza sus pitas agrias.
¿Pero quién vendrá? ¿Y por dónde…?
Ella sigue en su baranda,
verde carne, pelo verde,
soñando en la mar amarga.

Compadre, quiero cambiar
mi caballo por su casa,
mi montura por su espejo,
mi cuchillo por su manta.
Compadre, vengo sangrando,
desde los puertos de Cabra.
Si yo pudiera, mocito,
este trato se cerraba.
Pero yo ya no soy yo,
Ni mi casa es ya mi casa.
Compadre, quiero morir
decentemente en mi cama.
De acero, si puede ser,
con las sábanas de holanda.
¿No ves la herida que tengo
desde el pecho a la garganta?
Trescientas rosas morenas
lleva tu pechera blanca.
Tu sangre rezuma y huele
alrededor de tu faja.
Pero yo ya no soy yo.
Ni mi casa es ya mi casa.
Dejadme subir al menos
hasta las altas barandas,
¡dejadme subir!, dejadme
hasta las verdes barandas.
Barandales de la luna
por donde retumba el agua.

Ya suben los dos compadres
hacia las altas barandas.
Dejando un rastro de sangre.
Dejando un rastro de lágrimas.
Temblaban en los tejados
farolillos de hojalata.
Mil panderos de cristal,
herían la madrugada.

Verde que te quiero verde,
verde viento, verdes ramas.
Los dos compadres subieron.
El largo viento, dejaba
en la boca un raro gusto
de hiel, de menta y de albahaca.
¡Compadre! ¿Dónde está, dime?
¿Dónde está tu niña amarga?
¡Cuántas veces te esperó!
¡Cuántas veces te esperara,
cara fresca, negro pelo,
en esta verde baranda!

Sobre el rostro del aljibe
se mecía la gitana.
Verde carne, pelo verde,
con ojos de fría plata.
Un carábano de luna
la sostiene sobre el agua.
La noche se puso íntima
como una pequeña plaza.
Guardias civiles borrachos
en la puerta golpeaban.

Federico García Lorca

Flamenco, Kaushalya Bannerji , 2019
Tony Gatlif, A fantastic Film

By Red Balloon

I am a chronically ill queer artist and writer. I have a number of degrees in higher education and have spent most of my life interested and active in social movements against racism, militarism, misogyny and homophobia. Over the course of my life, I have worked in the world of alternate news, translation, law, teaching, and with progressive cultures, music, poetry, performers, and artists. I speak and understand a few languages and plan to share media in them on this blog. I am a poetry, art, music, and nature lover with an especial fondness for cats!

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