In recent years, flamenco has become an increasingly respectable art-form, both in Spain and internationally. But it has also been used as a voice of protest against the current financial meltdown, which is hitting the Andalucia region particularly hard.

Most notable is the flamenco flashmob, a sudden public assembly of dancers and musicians performing in branches of Spain’s under-fire banks, with massive YouTube success.

This continues a long tradition of political dissent within flamenco that’s little known beyond its inner circle – and even here, it is often played down.

Author and erstwhile flamenco student Jason Webster explores this history, meeting musicians who have protested against the Franco regime and the contemporary economic situation, and examining some of the contradictions of Spain’s recent past along the way.

Producer: Chris Elcombe
A Somethin’ Else production for BBC Radio 4.

Flashmob Flamenco

A recording of Jason reading the first chapter of OR THE BULL KILLS YOU (click the player below)

Friday, July 2, 2010



Or The Bull Kills You…Storyline


Two matadors had their careers writ large in Valencia, Alejandro Cano and Jorge Blanco. Cano revelled in the drama and always played to the crowds. Blanco had revived the fortunes of bullfighting, embracing the classical style of fighting, pitting his life against that of the bull every time he fought. He was the matador who riveted the crowd with his display of the art of murder.

How can you live in Valencia and not enjoy bull fighting? Quite easy when your grandfather took you for your first time when you were just nine years old. You hated the sight of death in the bullring ever since. Shame that fate now has a different plan for Max Camara. Through no fault of his own, he ends up standing in for his boss and ends up presiding over the bull fights that precede the Fallah – the glorious springtime fiesta that holds the whole of the city in party mood.

Jorge Blanco is an aficionado’s matador, so much so that the local bull fighting appreciation society want to honour him with an award. His triumphs in the ring in the afternoon are going to be crowned by celebrations with breeders, matadors, friends and followers in the bar frequented by the society. Invited to attend, Camara reminds himself of the old saying ‘Better to be alone than in bad company’. But events hold him there.

Not everyone in Valencia holds with bullfighting or the revival of its fortunes and the surge in its popularity that Blanco has brought about. There is an election due and the incumbent Mayoress stands on a platform of banning it. She is not alone in her opposition – there are also the vocal anti-blood sport activists. They plan to disrupt the celebrations for Blanco. And someone has taken such thoughts to the extreme – found their own way to show a feted matador another form of the artistry of murder in the bullring.

It’s Camara’s case. The case of a matador despatched with some brutality, in echoes of his trade. And Camara is under pressure. The Mayoress is, on one hand, concerned about the impact this death may have on her campaign, on the other, concerned about the adverse effect it may have on the fortunes of the city. There is such a thing as bad publicity. Lurid, speculative headlines in the national press and TV coverage is definitely bad news.

Camara is caught in the middle. He is set upon in the streets and beaten up by some to pay for it. There are others who feel he is missing the obvious. Blanco’s private life provides an obvious explanation – a quick resolution to an inconvenient killing. Such concern intensifies when, rather than resolving one murder, there are more deaths. Each one as dramatic as the first. And, as if that wasn’t enough, Camara’s personal life is in shreds. But the easy suspect may well hold the key to it all.



Background image "Orange Mood" by Pensiero on Flickr ¦ Radfoot