The hot ticket: Hispanic festival may have Scots connection but it’s the real McCoy

The hot ticket: Hispanic festival may have Scots connection but it’s the real McCoy

Posted on : 13/10/2008


The hot ticket: Hispanic festival may have Scots connection but it’s the real McCoy

Published Date: 13 October 2008

IT’S MORE a case of hot tickets than hot ticket as the vibrant Hispanic Festival hits Edinburgh for the third time. The week begins on Thursday with Spain’s National Fiesta De La Raza Day.

Federico Palomera, present Consul General of Spain, tracks the links between Scotland and Spain back to when Black Douglas was killed in southern Spain fighting the Moors at the Battle of Trevo, while on his way to Jerusalem with the heart of Robert ADVERTISEMENTThe Bruce. For Ana Cabrera, the Hispanic Festival’s creative producer, the festival is “the real McCoy, breaking with stereotypes of Spanish and Latin American culture. The twist is that it’s created by Spanish and Latin American people who actually live here. Their total respect for Scottish culture underpins the unique vision of their work”.


To drive this message home, the festival’s opening event will weave together the classical guitar of Galo Cerón with local poet Christie Williamson’s Shetlandic Scots translations and readings of the work of Federico García Lorca, the Andaluz poet killed outside Granada during the Spanish Civil War.

The passion of Andalucia, captured in this first evening event in the intimate acoustic of the Royal Mile’s Scottish Storytelling Centre, is followed by a performance by Flame and Fury, the fiery combination of flamenco from Sevillean dancer Maria ‘Tote’ Conte with Celtic music from Stobo Village Band lead by Mouth Music’s Martin Swann, with accordionist Lewis-Powell-Reid and percussionist Fraser Watts.

Fresh from a week’s professional residency at Dance Base where she teaches, Conte – who has pioneered this charged encounter at previous festivals – is taking it one step further by working with Madrid-based flamenco dancer Raúl Calderón. “It’s flamenco puro,” she explains, “with the dancers exploring the ways the 12 beats characteristic of the soléa, bulerías, alegrías and tangos transpose to Scottish rhythms.”

In one piece Conte and Calderón examine the “game” of gender relationships while re-working flamenco motifs, with Calderón swirling the bull fighter’s cape while Conte responds using the embroidered shawl in classic style.

Two key artists taking part in the Hispanic Festival have made their mark since arriving in Scotland from Chile following the coup d’état of 11 September 1973, which brought dictator Pinochet to power. Galo Cerón was only a child when his trade unionist father fled certain death by taking his family across the Andes mountains via Patagonia. Cerón remembers how living for a time in Salta, Argentina’s folklore stronghold, impressed him in those difficult formative years. Eventually arriving in Dundee via the United Nations Association’s refugee resettlement programme, he became a classical guitar student at Glasgow’s Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, graduating to a postgraduate scholarship to Moscow. Since then he has provided the music for various theatre pieces – notably for Grid Iron and the National Theatre of Scotland’s Roam, staged at Edinburgh Airport, and Amada, Cora Bissett’s magical adaptation of a short story by Isabel Allende.

With the support of sponsors Scottish Power and the Scottish Arts Council, Cerón has been able to mount Kalkutún, a performance featuring striking arrangements of Latin American music for string ensemble. “Kalkutún means bewitch in the ancient language of the Mapuche Indians, one of the oldest tribes of the Americas that still live in the south of Chile and Argentina,” he explains. “I’ve taken traditional pieces including Papel de plata and Dolencias, which are often played on Andean panpipes and quena flutes, and arranged them for violin, viola bass, guitar and percussion.” Cerón, who has more than a dash of Mapuche blood himself, expresses his deep sensibilities for his continent in a haunting arrangement of Brazilian composer Heiter Villa Lobos’s Bachianas Brasileiras No5.

Cerón will be working alongside fellow countryman Carlos Arredondo in Saturday’s major concert, when the two will pay homage to two influential cultural figures, collector and composer Violeta Parra and theatre director and songwriter Víctor Jara. Both came to untimely deaths: Parra committed suicide in 1965 when depressed; while Jara was notoriously tortured and killed by the military following the 1973 coup d’état.

Arredondo, who teaches at Edinburgh’s Stevenson College, is passionate about the music of his two heroes, who led a renaissance in the continent’s folk music. “Violeta Parra wrote this key song Gracias a la Vida, which means ‘thanks to life’,” he says. “Her songs and those of Víctor [Jara] take you on an inspiring journey through the Americas from desert to countryside, mountains to sea. Their social and political stance is implicit within the poetry of their truly wonderful lyrics, which tell stories about people and their everyday experiences and beliefs.”

Arredondo will host his own solo recital, Recitando and Cantando, which will include his memorable song for Brazilian rubber-tapper Chico Mendes who took on the multinational giants. With Rumba Caliente kicking off Friday’s late night Noche Latina dancing with DJs at the Caves; and with Saturday dance workshops, this will undoubtedly be a dynamic Hispanic Festival.

• Various venues, Edinburgh, 16-19 October. The full programme is online at