Zamani Flamenco to Appear in Startling Proximity to Corn-Dogs
posted in performance on april 23rd, 2008
It just occurred to me the other day that it’s been some time since I’ve written a post about my little ensemble Zamani Flamenco. In fact, as the last post includes the infamous carpeted stage fiasco, it further occurs to me that many of you might imagine that Zanbaka and I have since thrown in the proverbial towel and chosen to focus on less self-abusive pursuits. Driving school buses, for instance. Or late night impotency pharmaceuticals telemarketing.
But this is not the case. In fact, we have a show coming up in less than a fortnight – April 27th at 1:45, to be exact – at the Seattle Center’s "World Rhythm Fest." And the "we" has grown: Zanbaka and I have added two more dancers – Daniela Serrano and Julianna Jones – to our little clowder for this appearance. All of which means that I’ve been busily grinding away at a new set arrangements and accompaniments.
Which, of course, is just how I like it. We’re doing a roughly half hour set which will include some tangos, alegrías, bulerías, and, or course, some good ol’ sevillanas (which is apparently my all consuming obsession these days). It has been good to work through some of these palos with multiple dancers (sometimes in sequence, sometimes all three at once). What I’ve discovered probably won’t surprise you: I need to play slower.
But you might be surprised that this playing slower business is difficult. Not difficult in a "getting out the notes" kind of way, but difficult in a "getting out the music" way. A falseta that I was playing for Tangos at a brisk clip, for instance, virtually played itself – and accenting the compás came easy. When I slow this same falseta to a more rolling, "groovy" sort of tempo (credit to the dancers for that nomenclature), the notes come easy enough, but the compás has to be worked at.
The factor at play here, I think, is what my guitar teacher Marcos Carmona calls "bounce." I’ve had a hard time getting my head around this idea and now, as I try to explain it in writing, I can see why: it’s hard to explain. I suspect that bounce has a lot to do with not only the volume and velocity of the accented compás notes, but also with the space that is left around those notes. Instead of playing an accented note right on the beat, that note might be a fraction of a second before or after the beat. And I’m talking nanoseconds here – not the kind of time you could notate in 64ths, but really just a hair one way or the other.
[This is, of course, a lot different than contratiempo accents, or accenting the 7 of the bulerías instead of the 6. These too are ways of accenting compás by not playing it "straight," but aren’t quite what I’m trying to get at here. I might keep working on this one.]
"But Andy!" you say: "What’s up with the title? You promised us cordogs!" Indeed I did. In fact, the title is an oblique reference to the fact that the World Rhythm Fest stage is in the "Center House" at the Seattle Center – which also happens to be the "food court." This will be the second time in recent months that Zanbaka and I have performed there (the first time being Winterfest) and I have a secret dread that if I show up too many more times they’re going to start making me wear one of those paper hats or a hairnet or something.
Well, as they say, those who play must also eat.
Speaking of which: You! Go play!