He sat in a small alcove at Torre Norde of the Placa Espanya. With his geared cycle behind him, a small mic and amplifier fitted into his soundhole and his guitar cover lying open in front of him, all he did was sit on his tiny stool and play.
He didnt get much of a notice, except people passing by would always slow down to listen to a snatch of what he was playing or to empty their change/coin purse of 5 and 10 euro cents.
Funny though, he really didnt look like he needed the money. He had a long aquiline face, with an appropriately placed french beard, clean cut looks, black sweater with a warm black scarf around his neck, a great pair of glasses and shoes. No, he really didnt look like he needed the money.
I sat on the steps in front of him, tired of carrying around the tiny bit of groceries I bought in a hurry. Walking all the way around town with them in your backpack, has got to be the most surefire way of getting a killing neck/nape/back ache. I was more than happy to set them down and sit for a moment’s rest.
I wasnt expecting an outstanding performance, but I got one. One song, and then another – each one bested the one before. He noticed me, I clapped after each – grinning madly from ear to ear. I tried to take a video – covertly – without thrusting a lens into his face. I sort of succeeded, capturing the legs of all the other tourists walking by, in the process.
I stopped the recording after a bit of one song, to stop worrying about whether my memory card was filling up, and then, he began.
The one song, I probably was waiting for since I got to spain. It filled the small cupola and alcove with notes that were oh-so-strong and yet had a sense of gentle longing about them. The sounds bounced back and forth between the red brick walls and the curves of the columns – just like they bounced inside my inner ear and my cranium. I dont know what they hit on their way, but they were resplendent. I kept trying to correlate his fingers on the fretboard with what I was hearing. I gave up after exactly 30 seconds of doing this. I was not there to study and understand, heck, I do that all the time! I closed my eyes, held my bag closer to me and just listened. The closest approximation of what it sounded like is the song on this page called ‘Dont you care’ by Los del Norte. A deeper, stronger, more sad version of this.
I left a small note in english (sadly) and 5 euros in his cover. I knew he didnt need the money at all, but I felt his performance earned it.
Walking back from my flamenco evening, with colours and the staccato of heels on wooden floors in my head, I bumped into the very same guitarist with his set of rambunctious and extremely genial friends. We unsuccessfully tried to talk in broken english and fast spanish. It only ended up in perplexed looks, wide grins, lots of hand movements. Alise from Panama, stepped in after a particularly long spanish sentence and translated the whole thing in perfect english! I was most pleased and relieved. I was a local celebrity among his friends – the girl who stayed to listen to him play and left a note! He was most pleased and invitations to join for a drink came from all directions! There was no way of saying no and heck, I had nothing better to do anyway!
“La Carboneria located in the twisty alleyways in front of the Cathedral offers free Flamenco shows nightly at 11PM” is all what wikitravel has to say about the place we went to; which is quite a pity. It is one of the most quaint, interesting, awesome places to hang around in Sevilla. Carboneria, used to be the place where coal was hoarded and sold. The signs remain, small sooty corners in walls, covered up with plaster, paintings and posters. Beneath a small chimney sat a small piano where a small, non-descript man was clearly enjoying himself. Further inside was a small picnic area, filled with benches and people with tinto de verano, sangria or their poison of choice. A small elevated table stood towards the centre of the room with 3 chairs, which hosted a small, intimate but forceful flamenco performance.
The evening passed discussing poetry, philosophy, neurons, music, rhythms and in the same vein – tissue slicing, microtomes, paraffin embedding, brain slices, staining and Ramon Y Cajal. My kind of crowd, totally.
I walked back to my hostel a happier, slightly giddy, grinning backpacker.