Tangos de Cadiz in Barrio Santa Maria

20 Feb

Si alguna vez va tu a Cadiz
Pasa por el barrio Santa Maria

Veras a los gitanitos

Como te canta por alegrias

(If some time you go to Cadiz

Pass by the Santa Maria neighbourhood

See the young gypsies

How they sing alegrias)

I adore this verse of tangos de Cadiz and, along with Alegrias (an upbeat happy song) and tientos (a slow, powerful lament), they are favourites when performed by top dancers of both genders. This weekend I returned to the home of tientos, tangos and alegrias, Cadiz, for my fifth visit. Each time I’ve probed deeper into the city’s history and flamenco culture.


This time with luck and good management I had the most satisfying experience yet.


My accommodation was a 19th century renovated studio apartment within the shadow of Santa Maria church, just around the corner from a bronze bust of flamenco singer Enrique ‘El Mellizo’. The first tientos I learned was in the style of El Mellizo. Goosebumps.

Calle Santa Maria above and a clever feature in the studio apartment.The main purpose of my visit was to see Cadiz singer, Leo Iglesias (Leo Power). I met Leo at Peña La Perla in 2011 when she sang for the friday night show. Leo is a force of nature; bilingual, dynamic, gifted, with a powerful voice and engaging presence. Here’s my blog post of that visit.

She’d agreed to give me a private flamenco singing lesson accompanied by guitarist, barrio Santa Maria resident, Antonio Gomez. As I’d explained to Leo, the weekly group classes in Seville have given me melody, ryhthm and an understanding of how to play around with the various lyrical and structural options, but I wasn’t sure what guitar ‘tona’ I should be singing flamenco in. She agreed to help me find my flamenco voice. 

We sang a little and found my comfort zone (3 or 4 por medio, depending on the song) then we recorded all the tangos de Cadiz. She also gave me some local lyrics for tangos letras and colletillas which fit better than those I’d learned. I don’t have any great ambition for my singing, but it would give me immense pleasure to be able sing a little when I or others dance socially, just for the sheer joy of it.The unexpected treat was the 10pm gala flamenco show on the friday night. When I mentioned to a French dancer in class that I was going to Cadiz for the weekend she told me about a huge show at Momart Theatre organised by Farruquito and Faustino Nuñez. It was the third, annual fundraiser to support the rehabilitation of flamenco artists with drug addictions. It hadn’t appeared in the Seville media and tickets weren’t being sold online so it wasn’t well known outside of Cadiz.

Twenty-six handpicked (by Farruquito) artists for 15 euros, I had to go! (See below photo for a list of the artists + guitarist Rafael Rodrigez and Palmista Rafael Utrillo). The dancer Carpeta, Farruquito’s younger brother, was on the bill, but he didn’t appear.

 Luckily I was able to buy a ticket (it did sell out) as soon as I arrived Friday afternoon. I cycled to the theatre near the wharves to arrive half an hour early so as to get a seat (general seating on concrete risers). I was still well back from the stage, but no matter, I had made it.The queue at Momart – very orderly for Spain.

The show started as scheduled at 10:05pm and finished, without an interval, at 1:24am. It’s hard to choose standouts, but of the dancers, Maria Moreno, Farruquito and his cousin El Barullo (2016 national dance champion), were the most engaging.

You haven’t really experienced alegrias until you are in a room with about 2,000 Gaditanos all clapping alegrias in perfect time as they anticipate the entry of a dancer of the calibre of Farruquito. This is the first two minutes of his performance (I ran out of phone memory…).

And a little of Maria Moreno.

Singer Pepe El Marismeño was a crowd favourite. For his final two songs he and the guitarist went ‘unplugged’ and his voice was wonderful. Everyone sang along with his song, ‘Ayudame’ (Help Me), appropriate for the event, and they went wild for Diego Carrasco’s brief appearance.

On Saturday my Aussie-Japanese friend from dance class, Sugika, joined me for the rest of the weekend. We walked kilometres in the sunshine, along the waterfront and up cobbled streets decorated for Carnival (the big party weekend is next weekend).

Like Biarritz you see surfers strolling the city streets.

Everyone seemed to be eating Saturday lunch in the street.

The only flamenco on Saturday night was the 9:30pm tablao at La Cava. We baulked at the 22 euro entry price (drink included) but decided to go anyway.
To be kind to the dancers I won’t name them or make any comment about their performances. I will say that the young guitarist, Jaime de La Isla (from San Fernando), and the singer, Jesus El Canastero, were wonderful, especially the guitarist. We were sitting so close we could see every finger movement. Jaime play cleanly with such a relaxed manner, it was pure pleasure to watch him.

A wet Sunday and a slow start, but we still had time to climb Torre Tavira, the official maritime watch tower of Cadiz since 1778. They’ve built a camera obscura into the top. For six euros you have a magnified bird’s eye view of the city with commentary by a very amusing bilingual guide. Then you step out onto the terrace to see it for yourself. 

A quick coffee then on to Gadir, the archeological museum. Entry is free but regulated to hourly groups of 25 or less. After a multimedia presentation in Spanish with English subtitles themed around a CSI-style investigation into the cause of death of a skeleton found at the dig site, we walked on raised walkways above the remains of 1000 BC Phoenecian houses and streets.

The verdict was that the the 25-30 year old male Phoenician-Egyptian had perished in a fire, breaking his leg as he tried to flee.

A good lunch and it was time to board the train back to Seville for my final week of classes before heading to Jerez. At the top of the street leading to the station we paid our respects to La Perla de Cadiz, arguably the most lauded female flamenco singer ever. ¡Viva Cadiz!

PS: To take your bicycle on the train with you buy your ticket at the station well in advance (not available online or at agencies). They should give you a seat in the disabled access carriage adjacent to the bicycle rack – maximum three bicycles. The extra charge is 3euros. You can use their lock for one euro or just use your own.

5 Responses to “Tangos de Cadiz in Barrio Santa Maria”

  1. Cathy February 20, 2017 at 6:01 pm #

    Haha I wondered where your bicycle was. Looks like you had an amazing weekend. I’m so happy for you! Xox Cathy

    • Sharon Tickle February 20, 2017 at 6:50 pm #

      Sure was good to be by the seaside ;-)) Sxx

  2. higonrg@cs.com February 21, 2017 at 5:39 pm #

    glad you got away from touristy Sevilla, Sharon! Cadiz is great.

    • Sharon Tickle February 21, 2017 at 7:44 pm #

      Not sure about that, heaps of tourists in Cadiz. Lots of French, Italians, Brits and domestic tourists!

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