CHRISTOPHER TWIGG: The Fall of the Guajira


The concert begins on time at five minutes past nine – I have a good seat near the front – in today’s Diario de Sevilla the Flamenco critic Juan Vergillos describes it as ‘la experiencia flamenca mas intensa que ha vivido nuestra ciudad en anhos’ (Keats says the excellence of every Art is it’s intensity). I don’t understand flamenco at all but the intensity was indeed overwhelming, frightening, soul devouring – tears salt tears streamed down my face – it was visceral, elemental, primitive, ancient – quite incomprehensible. Like Grief? I didn’t know the names of the dancers but they are famous – Milagros Mengibar is around sixty – her face is like a mask of a Carthaginian Queen – tragic and resolute – energies are summoned – the stamping is demonic – Luisa Palicio is tall much younger (born 1984) almost Scandinavian-Germanic looking with ‘bad skin’ – she falls over on her bum – I don’t know how that happens – she slips or trips – the fallen Flamenco bailaora – and we the audience gasp and go Ole and the electric cleansing tears stream down my face –

of this incident the critic wrote: ‘ when the artist is alive she runs risks of death… for this reason unpredictable things happen such as the fall of the guajira… but this fall was not death but life, the round consciousness of breathing, the discovery of walking: Palicio advancing epically, inventing the art of walking, one foot first, slowly, then the other foot later on… Mengibar and Palicio invent space, they make conscious each molecule of oxygen’.

The noise – sometimes they leave the microphones behind and step forwards to the front of the stage – there were two cantaores one short like Ronnie Corbett the other dignified and a bit Teddy boyish with grey hair swept back and sideburns – waistcoats, heels – when the guitar begin its trine, its trilling – Alegrias of Cadiz but they sound sad enough – strawberry and white foam of flounce, veils quivering and shivering, no children it’s all to do with Death – the women’s entrances are extraordinary like thoughts or personages of Greek drama – I have read Lorca’s essay on duende – he talks about black sounds – presences – the women – hieratic – they represent energies – to what extent is it planned or improvised? The guitarist is a shaven headed bearded man my age – he is supremely relaxed and expressive – uses this amplification of microphone and floor to make climaxes as basic and powerful as in the Midnight Rambler – and the Cantaores sing to the women with passionate gestures as if all their experience of love and sorrow is focussed upon these figures NOT OF BEAUTY but OF THE PASSAGE OF TIME – Her golden mask Egyptian-Tunisian – like an older Queen Nefertiti – the young one who fell – merciless, inscrutable, beyond human – ghosts in a gallery of ghosts, living waxworks – Clytemnestra, Helen of Troy… and the men beseeching, imploring, praying – I gave you everything… it’s a terrifying dance, so cool and measured the guitarist an intermediary between audience and possessed ones – the voices wailing from deep deep down – place names, genres of songs, pathetic details – the goldfinch I gave you yesterday has died – the Oles (Olays) are for encouragement, recognition of beauty – que bonito somebody calls when the ‘young’ woman half- embraces the heart-wounded man – to get things started, to say you’re not alone, I’m with you – this is my favourite Art form because it is the most direct I know – the bass notes (the bass string el bordon) of the guitar like solemn grooves – ‘yo te mando castigo’ (I send you a punishment). You are talking to someone who saw and heard Camaron de la Isla in Fuente Vaqueros in the late eighties. Chinese faces -Japanese -Noh Plays. El Sentimiento Tragico de la Vida – ‘la toromaquia’ the one cantaor comments as the younger woman’s veil becomes the red flag of the matador – I don’t know what any of these things are called – I don’t care – I see what I see, hear what I hear – the performers are also spectators of the performance – like a many headed creature they comment on what the other heads are doing – (as great blues singers calm their demons in spaces between the singing: – OK OK OK calm down, alright, alright) the audience feel fear – their separation from the performers is being broken down they might be swallowed up in the energetic maelstrom, my hands might turn into feet, my throat into someone else’s rib cage… let it hammer on, let it come down, let it rain blows of the lunar blacksmith! The nobility of time passing through us – the zapped flies and the hideously blind eyes – I quote again from the critic of the Seville newspaper: ‘Mengibar and Palicio have an absolute ear. They are familiarized with the eloquence of silence. That which these dancers propose is the momentary awareness of the intense HAPPINESS in which we would all live if it were not for these small nothings to which we give so much importance.’

I dream of Tom Lubbock – he’s leaving me a picture – of or signed by T.S.Eliot in a kitschy plastic frame – at first I don’t realize it’s a gift – he’s walking away from me – I should have asked him in the Prado what he was doing – how the notes he made in front of the Velasquez painting and the finished piece worked together – and Marion was very friendly too in the dream, pleased to see me – no sign of Eugene… who will he grow up to be? a footballer?

Christopher Twigg lives in Talgarth and paints.  ‘Glimpses of unfamiliar Japan’ is an ongoing series of photographs of the landscape of mid Wales. His poetry collection ‘In the Choir’  (Alces Press)  was paperback of the week in The Guardian in 1997.


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