Guitarist Antona and singer Fariña at Beit Al Oud 18 October (Photo: El Namla cultural agency)
On Monday and Tuesday, 17 and 18 October, the strings of a guitarist and the voice of a cantaor (Flamenco singer) resounded within the Arab mosaics of Beit Al-Oud in Old Cairo.
The small chamber of Beit Al-Oud, with its mosaic-covered fountain and arched ceilings, is a direct reflection of the Mudejar (Spanish-Arabic) architecture of Flamenco’s original home in Andalucía, or Al-Andalus for Arabic-speakers. The location and Egyptians made the musicians feel comfortable and “at home,” said Antona, the guitarist.
Egyptians welcomed the musicians with “a warmth, which is similar to how we are in Spain,” said Antona, who opened the seminar on a note of appreciation and identification with Egyptian culture.
On Monday, Antona, and singer, Fariña, spoke to an enraptured and grateful audience on Flamenco’s origins. Any visitor to Andalucía who notices the architecture can confirm it was definitely Arab at one point in time, and Flamenco still preserves some of its Arab origins.
The maestros also discussed the beats, which aficionados count in twelve, but is really simply one set of 3/4 and a couple of 2/4 played right after each other with an emphasis at the 10th beat, followed by a breath, signalling the start of the new round. There are many variations of this 12-beat, but that is the base.
On Tuesday, Antona explained what makes a guitar sound ‘Flamenco’ - the Phrygian scale. He strummed examples and answered questions knowledgably.
In the end, the audience couldn’t figure out what they wanted more - to ask questions or to delight in the reverberations of the cantaor's songs around their heads, magically accompanied by the guitar.
Fortunately, Antona and Fariña are not just holding seminars and demonstrations, but offer a chance for deeper interaction. Medium-to-advanced guitarists can try to catch up on their guitar workshop held from 5:00 this week (see programme).
El Namla cultural agency, the organisers, told Ahram Online they are pleased with the workshop's turnout and especially with the students’ dedication. One of the El Namla's founders, Ruth Jurado, has been in Egypt for six years, and proposes to facilitate frequent and, most importantly, meaningful visits from the artists to the Middle East.
The seminars/demonstrations continue tonight at Beit Al-Oud at 8:30pm, with the enthusiastic support of a fellow stringed-instrument player, Naseer Shamma, who is renowned for his elegant touch on the oud.