Flamenco Fest Sizzles Chicago’s Nights

By: Caitlin Gath

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local NewsIt’s likely that if you experience it once, you’ll only want more.

At least that’s what Amor Montes de Oca says when she is referring to the traditional Spanish flamenco, a genre of music, song and dance.

“It’s so vast, you can study it for a lifetime,” she said. “There’s so much history.”

De Oca, the founder of Arte y Vida Chicago, an online calendar of arts and culture events throughout the city, has been instrumental in producing the Chicago Flamenco Festival, which will debut Feb. 9 in its twelfth year.

While sponsored by the Cervantes Institute, an agency from the government of Spain whose sole purpose is to promote their culture to the rest of the world, Arte y Vida is a presenting partner. “We want this to be a part of the Chicago cultural landscape,” de Oca said. Cervantes [Institute] has committed to bringing this culture to Chicago because it’s uncommon.”

Although flamenco is an art form that is very much rooted in the traditional, this year the festival will present a program is that is very contemporary and avant-garde. “We want to showcase the cutting-edge of flamenco,” de Oca said.

And the headlining act, Canteca de Macao, a Spanish flamenco group based out of Madrid, is sure to do so. According to de Oca, their style is fused. While this group is very rooted in traditional flamenco, they have pushed their own style and their own type of flamenco by including Latin and reggae influences.

Canteca de Oca will debut their new album, “Nunca es tarde” at the festival, which is special because it not only shows a more mature group, but a more dynamic and richer sound.

The album is also special for another reason: it is funded 100 percent from fans around the world. “We’re celebrating their entrepreneurial spirit and we’re very proud that it engages the community,” de Oca said. “Without the audience’s support, this album would not have happened. The trust that the bands put on engaging fans around the world is commendable. It’s noteworthy. It goes to show that a little bit from everyone can add up to a lot. It’s communal and that’s very awesome.”

“And the music itself is awesome. It will make you move.” Other headlining acts include Diego Amador, a jazz flamenco pianist, and Raimundo Amador, a blues flamenco guitarist who has collaborated with B.B. King. The duo will be presenting the world premiere of their album, “BLACK and Gypsy,” to be released in March of this year.

And for International Women’s Day on March 8, Caroline Planté, a Canadian woman who has been recognized as a flamenco guitarist and composer, will perform.

“Traditionally flamenco is a man’s world and she has established herself as a strong female. Her dancer is a male, while traditionally the guitarist is male and the dancer is female. We are celebrating this reversal,” de Oca said. A new event that was added on at the last minute is a concert by Rosa Torres Pardo and Rocío Marquez. Pardo is a prestigious Spanish pianist, and Marquez, a singer, will accompany her.

For de Oca, the love of flamenco won’t be fading any time soon.
“I’ve been a student of it. I’ve been a fan of it. I find it incredibly attractive and I have just become more and more involved in it because it’s so fascinating to me,” de Oca said. “Hopefully someone who has never experienced it will take a chance and come to it.”

The kick-off date for the festival is Feb. 9 with Diego Amador, and runs all the way to March 13. More information can be found at www.chicagoflamencofestival.com. Other partners in the festival include the Flamenco Arts Center, the Old Town School of Folk Music, Ensemble Español and the Latino Cultural Center. For more information on the five-year-old Arte y Vida, their website, www.arteyvidachicago.com, is currently being remodeled, but will be up again soon. The focus of the publication is to showcase and make it very easy for anyone that’s interested in Hispanic arts and culture, to find it.

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