In this third and final part of the re-published Prog Andaluz article from 2009, Erik Neuteboom takes a look at three various albums compilations plus albums by Sabicas with Joe Beck, Juan Martin, Bijou, Elbicho, Senogul, Taifa, and Zaguán. New articles about Prog Andaluz will be published soon!
No other country in the world delivers such a widespread blend of ethnic music combined with modern music as Spain and with the so-called Rock Andaluz in which rock, pop and prog-rock bands have incorporated the sound of the flamenco. I have taken the "artistic freedom" to separate the progressive rock formations from the rock and pop bands in order to create my own category named Prog Andaluz.
In a historical view, I consider the album Sabicas with Joe Beck - Rock Encounter from the late 1960s as the first musical encounter between flamenco and progressive music - a few years before Smash.
After the release of this album, it took almost ten years until halfway through the Seventies, before the Prog Andaluz movement really started to blossom. This was speer-headed by the trio Triana (the name is derived from the flamenco era in Sevilla) after the release of their pivotal debut album entitled El Patio in 1975.
The music is an exciting musical meeting of two worlds. There is the wealthy, upper-middle class world with the "stiff upper-lip" mentality found in mainly Southern England, in which progressive music was considered as an interesting and adventurous way to earn a living. And on the other hand there is the poor and emotional world of the flamenco musicians in Andalusia, whose music was the perfect way to express emotions, the same as fado in Portugal and the blues in the USA.
From the second half of the seventies, in Spain, many young prog-rock bands got inspired by Triana's music. Soon, the Prog Andaluz movement emerged.
Let me guide you through the most interesting bands and albums.
Various Artists - Rockandalus
This CD compilation is a perfect introduction! It contains sixteen tracks from five known Prog Andaluz bands: Alameda, Medina Azahara, Iman, Cai, and Guadalquivir.
The lion's share is by Alameda (six songs). In general, they sound a bit sentimental featuring romantic violins, tender piano, flamenco guitar, and at some moments tear-jerking vocals. One of the best compositions on this CD is also by Alameda, and it's titled Amanecer en el puerto. It contains beautiful, omnipresent keyboards, and strong, moving vocals. Another good track by Alameda is Al caer, with its sultry, typical Moorish atmosphere.
A very well known band of course is Medina Azahara, the successor of the legendary Triana, but with a harder-edge and less flamenco-inspired. On their three contributions, La esquina del viento, Paseando por la mezquita (great guitar riff that blends hard-rock with flamenco), and Andalucia, they deliver an enthusiastic approach with catchy rhythms, Mark Kelly-like synthesizer flights, powerful, often emotional vocals, and pleasant variation.
Iman also provide three songs: the beautiful acoustic Ninos (from their debut album released by Musea), Tarantos (wonderful floating guitar sound), and Cancion de la oruga (very warm and pleasant climate).
One of the finest blends of flamenco and prog-rock is from Cai on the track Noche abierta. A wide range of keyboards and exciting flamenco guitar-work. Their other song, Sone contigo, delivers strong, melancholic vocals and sensitive electric guitar.
Finally, there is Quadalquivir, with their powerful and dynamic jazz rock-oriented prog-rock sound. The interplay is great, the keyboard runs are impressive, and the guitar play is excellent. Here is the Andalusian Carlos Santana! This compilation is essential Spanish prog-rock, what a masterpiece!
Various Artists - Duende Electrico
This 2-CD set is another perfect introduction into the wonderful and exciting world of the Spanish progressive rock, loaded with great prog-rock ideas! The Spanish word 'duende' is used in the art of the flamenco. It points at the extraordinary moments when a flamenco artist has total communion with the audience. These moments are rare but very special, often accompanied by "ole!"-s. On this set you will find lots of duende between flamenco and prog-rock. I compare it with the unique and compelling blend of folk and prog-rock from Los Jaivas!
On CD 1, there is a lot of variety from bands and musicians, the songs are recorded between 1975 and 1994. Smash delivers a powerful blend of rock, blues, flamenco and sixties (Stones, Yardbirds) featuring fiery electric guitar and typical Spanish vocals. Iceberg, Iman, and Gualdalquivir make strong and captivating symphonic jazz-rock with a Moorish feel, and great interplay between guitar and keyboards, supported by dynamic rhythm sections. Gualberto plays a flamenco guitar piece entitled Tarantos para Jimi Hendrix. It sounds as an exciting blend of rock and flamenco featuring violins, electric, and acoustic guitar.
Another good track is Al andalus by Spanish rock legend Miguel Rios. It contains that typical Moorish atmosphere, distinctive vocals by Miguel Rios and a swinging, catchy rhythm. Of course, Spanish most pivotal prog-rock band Triana is included here. They play Quiero contarte, featuring wonderful melancholic vocals and compelling prog-rock. The track Aires de la Alameda by Alameda contains strong Spanish vocals and wonderful piano, it's typical for Prog Andaluz, just like the final song, Hablo de una tierra, featuring a very moving duet from the violin-Mellotron and flamenco guitar. Unique!
CD 2 contains songs from bands and musicians that are recorded between 1986 and 1996. Medina Azahara plays heavy progressive rock with echoes of Marillion. The track Paseando por la mezquita is their most Moorish/flamenco-inspired song and sounds powerful and moving. Pata Negra (featuring the Amador brothers) play an exciting blend of rock, blues and flamenco on acoustic guitars. Raimundo Amador is also part of anoter featured band: Arrajatabla. They deliver another exciting blend of prog-rock and flamenco with excellent electric guitar work.
A known new band is Ketama, with their strong blend of pop, rock, and flamenco, featuring typical Spanish vocals. A fine surprise is the music from (again) Raimundo Amador in Ay! Qué Gustito Pa' Mis Orejas. He plays a unique mix of Bob Marley-inspired reggae (with organ and typical rhythm-guitar) and flamenco, very swinging! Another known new band is Manteca, included with the track Tarila. It's a fusion-like mix of flamenco guitar and jazzy piano and saxophone. The final song is from Diego de Morón, and he is joined by members of Granada. The composition Despertar (a "rondena'") delivers a great blend of flamenco guitar and lush keyboards.
Various Artists - Hijos del agobio y del dolor
After the great compilations RockAndalus (CD) and Duende Electrico (2CD), here is a new and excellent doorway to the captivating and often exciting Spanish progressive rock: a box set entitled Hijos del agobio y del dolor (subtitle: Pioneros y origines del rock Andaluz) featuring a double CD and a DVD with a documentary.
On CD 1 and 2 you will find many legendary bands like, Triana, Medina Azahara, Qualdalquivir, Mezquita, Azahar, Alameda, Iman, and Cai. These bands, spearheaded by Triana, blended several styles like symphonic rock, hard-rock, jazz-rock and rock with flamenco, the ethnic music from Andalusia (Southern Spain). One moment you will be carried away by a virtuosic flamenco guitar intro, palmas (handclapping) or wailing, and expressive vocals, the other moment you will be stunned by howling electric guitar, Hammond and Mellotron waves, or quick synthesizer flights. A very exciting experience!
Also featured are interesting groups that are more mixing flamenco with blues and rock like Miguel Rios (intricate Moorish atmosphere) and All & Nothing (flamenco with swinging piano and fiery guitar), or bands with strong flamenco overtones like Camaron de la Isla (pleasant flamenco guitar, work but also a flashy synthesizer solo) and Vega (accessible and catchy flamenco-pop). The band The Storm is more in the vein of Rare Bird and Procol Harum, delivering a sound drenched in Hammond organ.
CD 2 is more focused on special sounding bands like Tabletom (swinging mix of flute, saxophone and piano) and Gualberto (wonderful blend of flamenco, raw electric guitar and vintage keyboards like the string-ensemble), the bluesy Cuarto Menguante and the band Tarantos (1969), delivering a pleasant mix of pop, rock and flamenco. My highlight is the track Nuevo dia by Lole y Manuel featuring moving female vocals, wailing cello, some Mellotron and great flamenco guitar work. An exciting, very compelling song!
The DVD is a documentary about the development of the Spanish progressive rock between the late sixties and early seventies, focused on the well-known band Smash. Their guitar player Gualberto tells his story along many other legendary or known early Spanish progressive rock musicians. The documentary also contains stories about the underground scene, the drugs, the gypsies and the blend of flamenco and fusion. Unfortunately, there is little live footage from bands, only some shots from Gong and Smash but no Cai, Triana, or Azahar. Nonetheless, this documentary (in Spanish, not subtitled) is a warm and pleasant view on a unique part of the prog-rock world. If you want to discover the exciting Spanish prog-rock scene, this box set is a must!
Sabicas / Joe Beck
In my eternal quest to Prog Andaluz music, I stumbled upon this unique and very interesting musical project from the late 1960s. This is probably the first musical encounter between flamenco and rock music! In those days, Joe Beck was a respected composer and rock guitarist. He had played in symphonic orchestras and performed with the top names in rock and jazz, from Tim Hardin to Steve Gadd. After making the album Middle Eastern Rock with Oud player John Berberian, Joe's producer Harvey Cowen suggested Joe to do the same with flamenco and rock.
He succeeded to recruit flamenco guitar legend Sabicas (1912 - 1990). Sabicas' brother Diego had to persuade him to do this collaboration, wanting Sabicas to scout musical boundaries. Now Joe decided to assemble the best New York era musicians: drummer Donald McDonald (when in the band The Satyrs, McDonald had jammed with Frank Zappa, Ritchie Havens, and Jimi Hendrix), 20-year-old bass player Tony Levin (introduced to jazz and rock by Steve Gadd, later joining Peter Gabriel's band and King Crimson, playing on the distinctive Stick), and keyboard player Warren Bernhardt (who accompanied singers like Donald Fagen, Carly Simon, Art Garfunkel, Ritchie Havens, and Liza Minelli). What an awesome line-up!
Inca Song (5:15) The first and final part deliver the jaw-dropping art of the flamenco guitar, from twanging and rhythm to speedy runs ("picados"), very exciting! Halfway trhough, there is an acceleration featuring a powerful rhythm-section, howling electric guitar, and an organ solo. This is the typical late 1960s rock sound and it's captivating to hear the blend of passionate flamenco guitar work and raw rock.
Joe's Tune (3:49) This track contains a Moorish atmosphere with flamenco guitar, jazzy piano and again howling electric guitar, culminating in an exciting duel between wah-wah-drenched electric guitar and speedy flamenco guitar runs.
Zapateado (9:36) This word means "tapping with the shoes". It's all about speed and control in a cheerful climate. The first part contains pure flamenco with guitar and, of course, "zapateado". The second part sounds like Jimi Hendrix-inspired rock, two different worlds but very enthralling!
Zambra (4:02) The "zambra" is the most Moorish-influenced flamenco rhythm, and Sabicas is a master in playing it. (My recommendation is to watch the DVD Sabicas: King Of The Flamenco if you can find it.) You can also enjoy the "tremolo technique" (imagine the guitar piece Recuerdos de la Alhambra by F. Tarrega), wonderful! Then rock with organ and fiery guitar, very powerful with that warm undertone of The sixties.
Handclaps (0:31) In the flamenco it is named "palmas", a very distinctive part of the flamenco.
Flamenco Rock (7:25) Halfway this album the bands starts to rock, in a bluesy climate we can enjoy a blend of Hammond organ, howling electric guitar and exciting flamenco guitar (from picados to tremolo), this is great Prog Andaluz!
Bulerias (7:25) This track contains vocals in the flamenco tradition - very emotional. It fits perfectly with the compelling work on Hammond organ and sensitive electric guitar, the blend of flamenco and rock sounds like early Triana, goose bumps!
Farruca (4:45) The first part contains the art of the flamenco guitar (beautiful tremolo), then a slow rhythm with swirling Hammond organ, powerful drums and bass, and Paco De Lucia-like flamenco guitar runs. Again goose bumps, what a hot session!
The circumstances in the recording studio were not easy. It was hard to communicate between the Spanish guitarist and the English musicians. It was also very difficult to amplify an acoustic guitar at the time, being quickly overshadowed by rock instruments like the drums, bass, guitar, and organ. Sabicas was not really satisfied about the result. "I did it for my brother", he said.
Juan Martin is a flamenco player who wanted to broaden his musical horizon and moved to England. He wrote books about the flamenco guitar technique and played together with rock musicians. The album Picasso Portraits is one of his many musical projects and, in my opinion, his best.
For this record, Juan Martin invited an impressive list of guest musicians: drummer Ian Mosley (Trace, Marillion), bass player John Gustafson (Quatermass, Roxy Music), Simon Phillips (one of the best session drummers ever), and keyboardist Tony Hymas (among others, he played on the splendid Jeff Beck albums Wired and There And Back).
The result is an exciting meeting between the world of the flamenco guitar and the progressive rock. This is one of my favourite LPs, which was recently released as a digitally remastered CD version.
You can enjoy a lot of captivating music here. There is great interplay between the quick flamenco guitar runs and a dynamic rhythm-section, embellished by the typical flamenco hand-clapping in Harlequin. Desire Caught By The Tail has a sensitive duet from the flamenco guitar and the Memorymoog synthesizer. Halfway trhough there is a sensational break featuring sweeping drums, spectacular synthesizer sounds, and rattling castanets, followed by a mid-tempo section with splendid runs on the guitar and a fine colouring by the keyboards.
Three Musicians has a swinging and catchy rhythm with a funky bass, powerful drums, and exciting rasgueado play. That's quick downward strokes from the nails on the guitar strings.
An exciting blend of typical flamenco elements (based a "bulerias", one of the more complex flamenco rhythms) and the technical approach of prog-rock fill The Aficionado. Hand-clapping and quick flamenco runs blend with a funky bass and pitchbend-driven Moog flights.
My highlights are two very special sounding compositions. First, Girls Of Algiers. It's based upon a "zambra mora", the most Arabian-influenced flamenco rhythms. It starts with swelling keyboards, drums and bass, then great interplay between the flamenco guitar, keyboards and rhythm-section. It all just sounds very dynamic. The tension between the spectacular Moog flights by Hymas and the quick runs on the flamenco guitar delivers a captivating climate. In the end there is a magnificent duel.
My second highlight on this album is The Picador. A cheerful climate, "malaguenas", with catchy and powerful interplay from the flamenco guitar, rhythm-section, and keyboards, also featuring sensational Moog runs. Halfway, the music slows down and then goes faster and faster again creating an abundant atmosphere.
This album is not just another smooth rumba-drenched blend of flamenco and rock. It is an exciting and often sparkling meeting of the flamenco guitar and progressive rock. Highly recommended!
I discovered this new Spanish band while surfing on a Spanish website. The very positive review about their debut CD entitled El profeta from 2004 seduced me to order it. What a discovery it was! Bijou are an instrumental five-piece playing prog-rock that sounds like "neo-symphonic rock".
The seven compositions on the album (with a running time of more than one hour) are absolutely marvellous: lush and varied keyboards from sparkling piano to bombastic orchestrations, very moving duo-guitar work (many sensitive and howling solos, harder-edged riffs or twanging guitars), a splendid and energetic rhythm-section, and lots of shifting moods, accelerations and great solos on keyboards and guitar.
The highlight on El profeta for me is the epic title track (in three parts, almost 25 minutes) in which they manage to create a very captivating Moorish climate, featuring keyboards that sound like the flamenco guitar in the piece Zambra mora, one of the most Arabian-inspired flamenco rhythms.
I hope Bijou will not turn into a one-shot-band and deliver more exciting Prog Andaluz moments!
Elbicho are a new Spanish seven-piece formation, rooted in 2001 when six members met at The Spanish School Of Popular Music in Madrid. The band released their eponymous debut album in 2003, followed by Elbicho II in 2005 and Elbicho VII in 2007. They also released three singles (De los malos and Locura in 2003 and Los rokipankis in 2007).
Their music is an adventurous blend of seventies classic rock / prog (from Led Zeppelin to Pink Floyd and King Crimson) and flamenco, in the vein of Camaron and Paco De Lucia. (Jorge Pardo and Carlos Benavente of the Paco De Lucia sextet collaborated on the first album.)
Senogul is an instrumental band from Asturias. Rooted in 2002, it took three years before they released a self-produced mini-CD entitled Tránsitos. It contains six compositions played live in the studio. In 2007, Senogul released an eponymous full-length album. It features 12 compositions, including new versions of all five tracks from the debut mini-album.
On the one hand, the music sounds very melodic and, in general, accessible. On the other hand, it is varied and elaborate.
My highlights are the two compositions in which Senogul blend several styles, where we can enjoy lots of shifting moods. First there is Tango Mango, which sounds as a hybrid of tango, symphonic prog, avant-garde, classical, and jazz. Delivering both synthesizer and guitar solos, sparkling play on accordion, and harpsichord. The other one is La Mulatta Eléctrica, loaded with tension and exciting musical ideas. From Al Di Meola-like symphonic jazz rock (fiery guitar and a propulsive rhythm-section) to pure Prog Andaluz (including palmas and jealous/cheerful shouts), with swinging piano and moving electric guitar runs. Very captivating!
The prime mover of this promising new Spanish prog-rock band Taifa is Luis Massot (vocals, bass and "laud"). In the late 80s and early 90s, he was a member of the band Elikat (described as "melodic metal" and "neo-classical hard rock"). This band released a demo (1987), an EP entitled Caught In Love (1989), and the album Electrikat (1991). Then he joined Mr. Cheese in London, where the idea to blend rock and an ethnic Spanish sound resulted in the foundation of a new group named Ziryab. A few months later, after many concerts, the band was signed under their new name Taifa by the Spanish label Avispa Records, which also hosts the popular Spanish Rock Andaluz band Medina Azahara.
Manuel Martinez, the singer of Medina Azahara, produced the first Taifa album, Más allá del sur in 1999. The self-produced video clip Guitarra - Espejo de mi alma was warmly received by the media and the public. Taifa did numerous gigs in Mallorca, Andalusia, and the rest of Spain, and they joined the Al-Lama festival in Oued Laou (Tetuan - Morocco).
In 2004, the demo CD Fe (3 tracks) was released, followed four years later by the second studio album, entitled Alhambra. The band, as a trio, recorded it in Mallorca, Andalusia, and Morocco, and invited guest musicians with different musical and cultural backgrounds. They used a wide range of ethnic instruments. Taifa also released a video clip entitled Las Torres de Babel, filmed in the north of Morocco. Click here to watch the video on YouTube. To me, this looks very professional.
On Alhambra (10 songs, 42 minutes), Taifa are scouting the borders between heavy metal, Rock Andaluz and ethnic music. Although at some moments the climates are a bit similar, in general, Taifa's music sounds as an exciting musical encounter of two different worlds. It's metal featuring a thunderous rhythm-section, heavy guitar riffs and blistering and biting guitar solos with spectacular use of the wah-wah pedal. And it's the art of the flamenco with sparkling guitar runs (reminding me of Vicente Amigo his splendid work on Medina Azahara's album En El-Hakim), expressive vocals with that typical wailing undertone (to me, often evoking Medina Azahara or, in the more mellow parts, Alameda) and some palmas and cajon.
An extra dimension in Taifa their progressive musical stew is the use of keyboards, samples, and ethnic instruments like the Andalusian violin. This instrument turns out to be a wonderful combination with the flamenco guitar and a great contrast with the heavy metal guitar and powerful drums in many songs. And I love the captivating duel between the violin and a fiery electric guitar in Mendigos de una ilusión.
I am also very pleased with the sultry sound of the laud (a 12-string Spanish lute) in the intro of the song Fe. My highlights are the tracks Nunca es tarde (from mellow with warm vocals and tender piano to compelling with heavy guitar work), La casa del olvido (sensational blend of heavy metal climates and the sound of the flamenco guitar and violin), and Por un trocito de cielo (like "Alameda meets Metallica" with emotional vocal parts).
If you are up to heavy metal atmospheres and a strong touch of flamenco with emotional Spanish vocals (often in the vein of Medina Azahara's singer Manual Martinez), this adventurous progressive music will appeal to you. I am very curious as to the development of this promising new Spanish formation. A big hand for Taifa!
Since the original publication of this article, Taifa have released two more albums: Despertando el silencio (2012) and Emburjo (2016). The band have a Bandcamp page where you can buy and listen to the latest three full-length albums. The albums, including the debut album and Fe, are on Spotify.
Zaguán was founded in 1997. They started as a Triana cover band. Which is ot surprisingly, when you hear the singer. He sounds like the second coming of Jesus De La Rosa, the Triana keyboard player/singer who tragically died in a car accident in 1983.
If I compare Zaguán's own compositions to Triana, I would say that Zaguán sound less symphonic (shorter compositions and a small range of keyboards) and more folky because of the omnipresent flamenco guitar.
The eleven songs on this second CD Testigo del tiempo (2005) (their eponymous debut album was released in 2002) are a very melodic and tasteful progressive blend of rock, folk, and symphonic. It features strong and expressive vocals, but not that typical wailing of the flamenco singers. There are some fiery and howling electric guitar and fluent Hammond organ solos and lots of exciting flamenco guitar runs. If you like Rock Andalus, especially Triana, this great Spanish prog folk band is worth to check out. A very moving experience!