The dancer on two wheels (pt. II.)

Beverlo is about 3 hours distance from Bruxelles by public transport. Eindhoven is about 50 kms from Beverlo. One of my favourite musicians, Totó la Momposina, gave a concert in Bruxelles on the day I was away in Aarschot/Betekom to perform. She gave another concert, in Eindhoven, a week later, on the day there was a whole-afternoon open stage festival – organised by Johanna – in Betekom.

Guess what.

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I felt a bit bad about rushing in and leaving so early from the festival, even though the real choice was not between staying a little or a lot: it was between staying a little or not going at all – I had a ticket to a concert, after all, about 50 kms away.

This time I printed my itinerary – I didn’t have the time to get lost and find my way –, nevertheless, I stopped every now and then at a map along the road (by the way, the region is indeed a biker’s paradise, as it advertises itself) to check if I was where I should be. At one of these, just this side of the border, I ran into another biker.
‘Are you lost?’
‘No, just making sure all is ok’
‘Where are you headed, anyway?’
‘but… that’s some 40 kms away!’
‘I know’, I said, though I was a bit perturbed, as I had counted it couldn’t have been more then 30.

Indeed, it wasn’t: I even had time for a coffee/snack break and arrived in good time.

Totó la Momposina is 77 years old now, still she sings and dances through her concert. She explains about each song and musical genre they play: about their history, the related traditions, the dances, the instruments, and the lyrics, making the show as much of an educational experience as it is fun, artistic and festive. She also gives credit to all the composers, except for herself – it’s the members of the band who have to do it for her.

Totó la Momposina – y sus tambores

The fact that I planned to cycle along the Zeeland coast  the following two days , but not only I had to come home and spend the whole week at home, three weeks after I still don’t have my voice, is another story. The “three weeks after” part may or may not be due to some other factors as well, stories for another day. So, have I at least done something stupid?


Arrival 3.0 – The dancer on two wheels (pt. I.)

It’s hard to tell a story while I’m living it (for the lack of time, if nothing else); on the other hand, I prefer not to write when I’m ill, to avoid (publicly!) documenting those moods – hence the delay.
A friend asked me, when I told him, “have you at least done something stupid, to get so sick?”

I’ll leave that to you to decide.

The story starts on Friday, May 26th, a day off work. Having run some errands, which of course took more time than I’d though they would, I left Brussels at 12.30, an hour later than planned. I say I left Brussels, but this being a biking trip it took me about an hour more to get out of the city.

You’ll never hear me complain about it, but it was hot. And I had a headwind. And I got lost twice, first at Haacht and then at Aarschot, where my phone’s battery died, leaving me without a map.

Google hugely overestimates my cycling speed: I arrived to Diest at 6pm, sweaty, tired and more proud than ever.

But why was I cycling to Diest on this Friday afternoon to begin with? Why, if not for the love of dance. I was headed to a folk festival named Dafodil.
Until I joined the folk scene, I only knew gigues from J.S. Bach, mazurkas from Chopin (I played some, in fact), and the only valse I knew was Viennese. It makes quite a difference do be dancing them. And dance I did, on that warm and lively night, under the open skies.


As the next day proved, Diest happens to be a lovely, if quiet, old town. So is Aarschot, where I had lunch, though it’s less quiet, as expected from a larger city.

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My destination, however, was Betekom, where I danced at a charity dance show organised by my friends Llady May and Saratis, an event as warm, welcoming and fun as anyone could wish for.
Saratis even offered me to stay at her place, even though we’d never met before the show! She and her boyfriend have two dogs – and had a third one over as a guest –, a couple of cats, maybe two? a turtle, a rabbit, and some small chicken. And possible some more I haven’t seen – an amazing household indeed.

Coincidentally, that night was also the 3rd anniversary of my arrival to Belgium. I couldn’t have wished for a better celebration than that hafla with my dancer friends, and that weekend as a whole. When I came back last September, I decided I’d play at being new in town until and unless I felt at home. It took me long, eight months since then, almost three years altogether, but now I am finally truly arrived.

the dancer on two wheels (photo by Ludo Vanlangenakker)

Colours of Andalucía – a maze of stories II.

it took me quite long (but I promised, so) here you go...

What I remembered of the colours of Andalucía was the white of the houses, the almost transcendent gold of the sunlight, and the deep purple of what turned out to be the flower of a banana tree.

In Sevilla, white goes accompanied by  warm, earthly ochres and sandstone, lined with  rich dark reds and the strong colours of azulejos. Of Sevilla itself I remembered litlle, to be honest, and as welcoming as the city – and its people – is, I had to realise how little I knew about the place.

In the San Salvador church, abour half-a-dozen middle-aged ladies were sitting on the front benches, praying: one of them would recite the first line and then the others joined in for the answer and finished te verse. They were already there when we entered; aprroximately an hour later, when we left, they still went on.

Meandering through the countless chambers, patios and gardens of the Real Alcázar, I suddenly understood having travelled there at the age of 9 made me ultimately pursue studies in architecture. It still urges me to immerse myself in the history, tales and art of those times.  of course, the same stands for the Moqsue of Córdoba,  which remains on of the most impressive buildings I've ever seen. Add to this the comments of my friend Raúl, who not only is an architect but also comes from the province of Málaga adn therefore knows much more of it than for example I do – you get the idea. It was so good to see him anyways: he was in budapest some 6 years ago, and we haven't met ever since. And though it may seem otherwise from this far, Andalucía is quite big, so simply arranging to meet somewhere was quite a feat. Yet we managed, and so talked through the day about past, present and future, as usual. He seems to have changed in a subtle, inexplicable way that is probably what growing up does to people. It struck me again how much of memory became intangible for the mere fact I had forgotten his accent, his ways of speaking (yes, I am a language freak).

Having seen the amount of wealth accumulated in Sevilla (and elsewhere), there's something I keep thinking about.  That is, if we (some people, including me) think that the extreme concentration of resources is harmful to the society as a whole, how can or how should we approach great artwork, knowing that the ones we consider the greatest are (with very few exceptions) results of an extreme concentration of resources in the hands of a select few? Not to deny or undervalue the talent that created them, of course, but almost none of these greatest works would exist without the exceptional richness of aperson or family that commissioned them (or, in certain cases, the artists themselves, who therefore didn't have to do any other work).

One of the great things about travelling as a grown-up (as opposed to travelling as a child) is that ou can stay up later. This of course is not something in and for itself, but becomes rather important when you can stay up & out threee nights in a row, going to 1) a concert of medieval music / music from Al-Andalus  in the Alcázar gardens, 2) a flamenco concert on the riverside, 3) another flamenco night, in this case with dance, to a place where there's a show every night but you can get very much surprised by the different artists each time. On our last night in Sevilla, we saw one of these surprising dancers.
She was sitting next to the musicians, dressed rather differently than the usual professional flamenco dancers you might see around town, with a make-up that only emphasised how very tired she looked. Next to the podium there were two little girls, probably her daughters and an elderly lady, I guess her mother, and she kept glancing, distracted, to the dirls, especially the smaller one, about maybe two years old. And still, it was completely evident that once she stood up to dance she would be muuch better than all the others we had seen. In fact, she was probably the best I have ever seen – so strong, so alive, so completely with the music, so without any of the dancing clichés some tend to use when dancing. Her name is Ana Japón, but I could not find anything about her on the net.

Having two more days off than my friend (with whom I travelled), once she took her flight I took a train to Cádiz, a town of dreams, unknown.

Cádiz is small, and these days insignificant, at least seemingly, with a history of millennia lost to the eyes, most of the ancient city having been destroyed. Cádiz proper, that is, the old town is a grid of narrow but straight streets lined with buildings of the 1700s, the golden era of Cádiz – and whichever street you take, in whichever direction, you will probably end up on the seaside. On the Caleta beach, a small urban beach in between two fortresses – one with the lighthouse – and lots of fishing boats, there is a much-recommended sight, a theatre show to see each and every day: the sunset. Cádiz is small, but of course in my two days I could not by far discover all the beauties of even Cdiz proper, much less the new part. I do not know the city, nor its sea. I do know maybe three of its songs, and I have met and had lengthy conversations with about a dozen of its people, once I got the hang of their dialect and started to understand more than half of what they were saying.

Cádiz is the Port.
Cádiz smells of the sea.

good music is worth more

From the Atomium I came home by metro, for I met some friends who live nearby. This was a round trip.

A flamenco recital of my friend Yves, home-made paella, nice company, and a true summer night (it was hot like hell, honestly, so I enjoyed it a lot). Life is good.

It was held at the place of a friend of Yves’, so the address on the map above is obviously not accurate – nevermind though that when I opened the map from the fb event’s coordinates, bloody gmaps gave me an incorrect one, too, so I knocked and rang several times at the wrong door. Luckily, they were not at home.

good music is worth much

It took me way more than 33 minutes, of course.

And if you wonder what this has to do with music: it was the Brosella folk&jazz festival, just last weekend (folk/wold music dayfor me 🙂 ).