Flamenco Guitarists at Garden Court Theatre

Cape Times (South Africa), July 14, 2015 | Go to article overview

Flamenco Guitarists at Garden Court Theatre


FOLLOWING a dearth of professional flamenco performances in Cape Town in recent years, The Garden Court Theatre in Walmer Estate will be hosting two new productions by local dance companies. Flamenco del Sur opens first on Thursday, followed by Tierra Flamenca's Tres on August 7.

Flamenco del Sur offers four shows, with a cast that features guest artists Linda Vargas and Ramon Fernandez from the Linda Vargas Flamenco Dance Company in Durban and professional percussionist Bryan Stone. Tres will present two performances, featuring Tierra Flamenca artistic director Che Adams with Demi Jade Johnson and Kim "Kiki" Pretorius.

Both productions offer the all-too-rare privilege of seeing consummate flamenco guitarists on stage: Durban's Demi Fernandez will play for Flamenco del Sur, while Cape Town's Bienyameen Camroodien will accompany the Tres dancers.

Interestingly, both men are teachers too; Fernandez is a lecturer in jazz music at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, while Camroodien teaches music privately and maths at the Catholic school that he attended in his youth.

Fernandez was born to Spanish parents in Brazil, who later moved to South Africa. His formal studies were completed in this country, but much of his artistic development in flamenco occurred first-hand, amid the Spanish tablaos, and while working with the guitarist, Miguel Perez. Fate had something to do with it too. An aspirant pianist, the 18-year-old Fernandez left for Spain to further his studies, but his musical equipment was lost en route.

Fernandez, who had always loved flamenco, decided to concentrate on guitar, or face choosing another profession. Surprisingly, 18 months later, all his equipment was delivered to his doorstep, intact, and with the piano still in tune. His travels came full circle when he found himself without a performance contract at the beginning of one Spanish winter, and he returned here.

Camroodien, meanwhile, began studying flamenco guitar in his early teens, but only visited Spain for the first time in 2011, where he performed in Seville and attended master classes with Manolo SanlA*car at The Cordoba International Guitar Festival.

Drawn to flamenco through the recordings of Paco Pena and Jose Feliciano, Camroodien pursued lessons with Pablo Navarro in Cape Town, who quickly taught him all the melodies (falsetas) that he knew. That's when the real learning started. Navarro said the next step was to learn the rhythms, which he said could best be done by accompanying dancers at the studios where he played. …

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