“Flamenco”—the word calls up an image of a slender dancer in an elaborate, ruffled costume with her fringed shawl and her castanets. Certainly, this stereotype has been perpetuated in everything from airline posters to dolls made for souvenirs. To some, this is flamenco for tourists, as they embrace the cante jondo, the deep song of agonizing lament sung by a man, a cantaora, without accompaniment, or with a single guitar. This, they claim, is authentic flamenco, the blues of Andalucía, improvised in jam sessions called juergas, sung because it must be sung, not because someone is listening or watching.
A joint exhibition of the Artist Andalucia group from the Serranía de Ronda and Northern Cadiz yesterday launched their most recent exhibition at the Grazalema Tourist Information Centre using the large gallery space to full advantage. Two of the artists were particularly pleased that sales of their works were made on the first day of opening.
Artist Andalucia is made up of Alfredo Lopez, Joe Gilronan, Frank Hair, Patricia Lane, Pauline Emmens, Alan Pearson, Christine Ellingham, and Ron Morley, all of whom are based in Benaojan, Montejaque and Olvera.
A very large crowd of visitors descended on the Tourist Centre to see the exhibition, with Clive Muir, owner of the centre estimating over 500 people made it for the first 4 hours of opening. Guests included large numbers of expatriate residents and Spaniards from Grazalema interested in seeing such a large exhibit.
Patricia Lane, a local artist from Montejaque in the Guardiaro Valley was first to sell a piece, nearly two hours before the exhibit opened with the buyer sneaking into the exhibit space to get claim their desired painting. Patricia confided to Ronda Today that she was absolutely shocked, but delighted all the same since she had a goal of selling just one painting, luckily extra paintings were on hand to avoid an empty space as guests, friends, and art afficionados started arriving.
Another local artist Alan Pearson of Olvera also sold one of his works, an event which excited all of the artists who rarely have the chance to celebrate the good fortune of one of their own since most other galleries and artists markets of the Serranía seem to be poorly frequented.
Christine Ellingham, a prominent Benaojan artist stated to Ronda Today that she was immensely excited to be associated with the exhibit in the Grazalema Tourist Information Centre because the owners are so active in promoting locally produced goods and that the spin off for artists is fantastic.
Today marked the 54th Corrida Goyesca on the last day of the Pedro Romero Feria 2010, with thousands of supporters in the streets of Ronda to see the Rivera brothers and their bullfighting comrades in arms.
The three matadors showing off their skills were Francisco Rivera ‘Paquirri’, Enrique Ponce, and Sebastian Castella, who looked resplendent in their Goya themed outfits. Ladies in the crowd as they approached the Plaza de Toros from the Hotel Reina Victoria eagerly shouted ‘guapa, guapa’ as their carriages passed.
As per tradition, they were joined on their way to the Plaza de Toros by the Damas Goyescas and their president for 2010 Lola Riaza, who also looked absolutely gorgeous and had visitors and residents alike rushing to take snapshots of their finery.
Unlike previous years, tickets to the Corrida Goyesca did not sell out, in fact shaded seats were still available directly from the official ticket office immediately before the toreros arrived to begin the show. Handpicked journalists who covered the event described a smaller crowd than normal and wondered if this was a result of the recent banning of bullfighting in Catalunya.
Significantly fewer politicians from Andalucia and the national stage attended after the town hall in Ronda cut back on spending for a box seat and their usual dinner afterwards. As well, the Duchess of Alba who is a long time supporter of the Corrida Goyesca failed to make an appearance fueling speculation she may be ill.
Here are a selection of our photos taken before the toreros entered the bullring.
It is becoming a popular and enjoyable event within the Pedro Romero Feria, the annual grape stomping to officially kick off the beginning of the wine pressing season after grapes have matured in the summer sun. The arrival of the Damas Goyesca to lend their feet is eagerly awaited.
Aside from stomping grapes in traditional wooden tanks, which is a lot of fun, the day has a more serious agenda as dignataries and visitors are able to sample some of the latest wines on offer, as well as some of the best meats and cheeses made in the Serranía.
For thousands of years wine has been made in the Serranía, ancient Iberian people are understood to have fermented grapes, though the Romans really gave wine making a boost with dozens of warehouses at Setenil supplied by large villas surrounding Acinipo. In fact Acinipo wine is believed to have been in great demand in the larger cities of Iberia and Rome itself.
During the last century vineyards have slowly made a comeback, not achieving much renown until recently, though the pace of change of acceptance of Ronda wines is speeding up with several local wines taking Gold at some of the most prestigious international wine competitions.
The annual wine stomping at the Museum of Wine in an old factory near the Santa Maria church is new tradition, but one that is proving popular with wine connoisseurs and tourists, in fact in 2007 over 4,000 people attended.
Great strides have been taken to promote wines of the district, with a special designation having been approved “Designation of Origin Malaga – Serranía de Ronda”, especially after the great phylloxera tragedy.
Thankfully the days of Ronda wines being shunned are well past us, and great vineyards such as La Sangre de Ronda, Jorge Bonet, Los Aguilares, Andalus, Doña Felisa and many more attracting attention from some of the best restaurants in Spain, and other wines sought ofter in foreign markets, the future is looking bright.
The concert featuring Angeles Vela and Maria Villalon it is fair to say was a significant highlight of the Pedro Romero Feria 2010, attracting a dedicated fanbase of around 400 in the stadium tent, all of whom seemed very happy to spend their 10 euros for a great concert.
Starting around forty minutes later than the advertised time, fans were not disappointed with Angeles Vela who performed her two most popular songs ‘Tan lejos de ti’ and ‘Duele’ followed by two rousing flamenco fusion numbers that had front row seats clapping and stamping their feet.
After a 20 minute intermission to setup the stage, Maria Villalon and her band appeared to rapturous applause and immediately went into ‘La lluvia’, her most recent hit in the Spanish top 40 charts.
Maria’s stage performance was exceptional, a true professional in every respect of the word, we can see her slightly nervous demeanor during the X-factor competition has matured into a confident and very sexy star ready to take on the world.
Stage attitude Maria has in spades, and she is not afraid to use the full stage as she exhorts her band to play louder, and her fans respond. Lighters were lit and sideways swaying encouraged by brave souls at the front.
It would be easy to dismiss Maria as the local girl given a taste of stardom, but it is very apparent from watching Maria on stage, this is a woman ready to undertake a global tour after she completes her grueling national tour of Spain.
During her set Maria acknowledged her family sitting in the front rows, especially her grandmother.
Though this author’s most special moment was when Maria smiled with clear recognition in my direction.
Perhaps the biggest joy seeing Maria Villalon singing live in Ronda is that she actually does sing, and is very talented, this is not a woman who mimes. Having been privileged, or is that unlucky enough to see Britney Spears in concert, I can tell you it is a real joy to see a natural performer on stage.
My final thoughts on tonight’s show relate to the interaction between the band members and Maria, there are no prima donnas on stage, everyone is committed to entertaining the audience, and for a 21 year old that is exceptional.
The final set of songs performed paid homage to Maria’s first two albums recorded when she was in her early teens including ‘Maria’ though the crowd were especially kind when new songs such as ‘Sin Hablar’ were belted out as part of a test of their potential popularity.
Not content to go home early, we were treated to a set of around 25 songs, culminating in a loud and excited reprise of ‘Te espero aqui’
Maria’s final song ‘Aguita de Abril’, after an emotionally charged concert didn’t leave a dry eye in the tent, this was Maria’s moment to thank her father for all his support over the years on her to way to stardom.
Not being allowed to leave the stage, Maria became visibly choked with emotion a the crowd demanded an encore with, after which followed several more sets that must have left Maria exhausted.
All in all a great concert by Ronda’s favourite daughter, and the crowd responded very enthusiastically to all of Maria’s songs from both of her Sony-BMG albums. Maria has really touched the hearts of her most loyal fans, the people of Ronda!