Guitarist Riki Rivera and “bronze-voiced” singer Antonia Fernández gave a powerful flamenco concert at Al-Gomhouriya Theatre on Sunday. The programme included a selection of Spanish songs as well as a solo guitar recital by Rivera. And it was clear from the first song performed, Lo que pida la Luna (Whatever the moon may wish), that the two artists’ collaboration is effective: Fernández’s powerful, melancholic voice and Rivera’s sensitive melodies combine with such technical perfection they seem to express whole communities, a whole culture, even though they are not purely traditional. The same was true of songs like Presentacion por Zambrá, Tangos, Cantes de Levante, Alegrias, Bicho Raro and Pajaros Libres.
Influenced by the Muslim, Christian and Jewish heritage of Andalucía but rooted in the culture of the Gitano people, Flamenco emerged in the south of Spain, where it includes singing, dancing and guitar playing. Due to its place of origin, an Arab audience can easily hear familiar sounds in flamenco. In 2016, UNESCO declared it one of the treasures of humanity’s intangible cultural, moral and historical heritage. Knowledge of flamenco is passed down within the family structures of the community, and the greatest performers start early.
Born in Cádiz in Andalusia, Rivera is a guitarist, arranger and composer whose music reflects the traditions of Barrio de la Viña, Cádiz’s fishermen’s neighbourhood. He began his career in the Andalusian Ballet Company. As a composer he won the Goya Award in 2015 for best film music for his piece Niño Sin Miedo, which means “Child without Fear”. He has also performed at the most prestigious flamenco events in Japan, Mexico, Italy and Luxemburg as well as Spain. He works for several labels, including Sony Music Spain.
Fernández was born in Almeria in 1986 to an artistic family with deep flamenco roots. Her professional career began in 2007, she has since become one of flamenco’s best known names. In 2012, she won the first place in the 10th Young Flamenco Singers Andalucian competition. She also performed at the Biennale of Flamenco in Sevilla and at festivals in France, Italy, Morocco and Saudi Arabia. Fernández released her debut album, Dame la Mano (Give Me Your Hand), to critical acclaim in 2012. She has completed recording her second album, produced by Rivera, soon to be released by Sony Music Spain.
This article was first published on Al-Ahram Weekly.
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