By Franklin Abbott
Vicente Griego will be performing Atlanta during the Music in the Park festival and Atlanta Streets Alive this Sunday in West End between 2 and 6 p.m He will be performing with dancer Joaquin Encinias, guitarist Doble T and dancer Julie Galle Baggenstoss (aka Julie Moon). Both events are free.
“Flamenco is world history wrapped up and expressed as an art form,” Griego says. It comes from the south of Spain, which was a crossroads for Greeks, Romans, Goths and Celts from Europe and Moors and Jews from North Africa. Another group moving among those people were the gitanos, or gypsies. Their songs and dances mixed well with the outliers of that part of the world, the people who fled to the hills to avoid the Spanish Inquisition. Gypsy music blended with the songs of other ethnic groups forming the DNA of flamenco, “the world art form forged in Southern Spain.” The footwork of flamenco dancers echo of gypsy rhythms. The hand movements of flamenco dancers, the floreo or making flowers, come from the gypsies as well.
Central to flamenco performance is the concept of duende. Duende has no English word equivalent. It was made famous by the poet Federico Garcia Lorca, who wrote poems and plays infused with duende. Griego says, “we wait for duende our whole lives.” He calls it “a sacred thing, a gift from spirit. It comes from outside you and possesses you. It is sometimes called the angel and when it comes we say the angel has arrived.”
Griego is from New Mexico and first encountered flamenco in the national festival in Albuquerque. He felt a deep resonance with the art form but had a slow beginning as a singer. He toured with Jose Greco as a road manager all the while soaking up everything he could about flamenco and meeting some the art form’s greatest masters. As a singer he brings great presence to his performances. His artistic name, El Cartucho, is one he took to honor his grandfather, a miner who spent most of his life underground and who was called El Cartucho, literally a bombshell or cartridge. Griego’s huge voice is a blast indeed. He says he studies the waves on the beach to watch how they crest. In performance, Griego says, “at some point something has to blow.” That’s where the duende comes in, when the angel arrives.
In the flamenco experience Griego says that the artists truly give of themselves. They strive for a place that is about pureness of heart and connection both with each other and the audience. He says they aim for a place of “no separation,” an experience that is more like a ritual, something sacred, something beyond words.”
Franklin Abbott is a psychotherapist and writer based in Atlanta.