There are those who complain…

… that Flamenco guitar has become too baroque. I have no such complaints. Here is one of many reasons why:


Leonard Cohen and Flamenco

There’s been a redesign over at

While browsing their new site I came across Leonard Cohen: Lorca, el flamenco y el judío errante.

As long as I can remember I’ve listened to Cohen. Only in 2011 however, when he was awarded the Premio Principe de Asturias, did I become aware of his flamenco connection.

Here’s his acceptance speech:

I’ll have to improve my Spanish before I attempt to read the book.

Infectious Alegrías

Some infectious alegrías from David Palomar and Rafael Rodríguez.

ConTraste Flamenco recently dedicated a program to Palomar’s latest album Denominación de origen. His performances are so delightful however that television is a better way to appreciate his music than radio. He featured in RTVEs Cádiz y Jérez episode of Flamenco para tus ojos, along with El Cigala, Tomatito, Diego Carrasco, Montse Cortes, and Diego del Morao. Well worth a watch.

His video for El Cacharrito de Tomasa is exactly what I imagine it’s like whenever he’s out and about in Cádiz.

What is Flamenco?

Since coming across the above video on I’ve wondered if a similar exposition of flamenco exists. Brook Zern’s presentation is the best approximation I’ve found so far:

There is little explanation of the music itself though, just a brief demonstration of a bulerias rhythm. Zern is more concerned here with getting across what he sees as unique in flamenco (and bullfighting).

Nuestro Flamenco

For the wannabe flamenco aficionado who lives outside of Spain, radio is vital. While the quiddity of flamenco might only be fully experienced in a tabloa on the Iberian Peninsula, in this era of radio renaissance there is plenty to sustain us.

To José María Velázquez-Gaztelu, the host of Nuestro Flamenco, I owe a great debt. If you let him, he will show you magnificent vistas and hand you a map as you set off to discover the world of flamenco.

Having been unable to listen to his program over the past month, I have a backlog of episodes that I’m dying to work through. To mark the occasion, and to encourage others to listen to Nuestro Flamenco, here’s three of my favourite recent episodes:

El universo musical de Moraíto, 20/11/14

El cante de la saeta, 02/04/15

El sonido de Dani de Morón, 16/07/15

Scientific Plaque No.2: Sir Howard Grubb, Observatory Lane, Rathmines

Sir Howard Grubb, Observatory LaneThe premises that this plaque concerns were built around 1866 when Thomas Grubb got a contract to build the biggest telescope of the southern hemisphere. Thomas was largely occupied at this time with his work as engineer of the Bank of Ireland so his son, Howard, was taken out of college before he had finished his degree to help with the business. The telescope that resulted was erected in 1869 and was “an icon of Melbourne during the boom decades following the 1850s goldrush”. It was heavily damaged in a bush fire in 2003 however there is a project to restore it.

When the restoration is complete, the Great Melbourne Telescope will stand not only as an artifact of Melbourne’s past but also a monument to the achievements of the Grubbs. The plaque on observatory lane will pale in comparison. Unfortunately, their optical works no longer exist. One can easily imagine a museum, akin to the National Print Museum, where people could marvel at the methods used by the “Rembrandt of the lens making age”.

In 1925, the company was bought by Sir Charles Parsons and relocated to Newcastle. They continued making telescopes, including the William Herschel and Isaac Newton telescopes, until 1985.

Thomas Grubb was born in 1800. In 1834 he built a 15 inch reflecting telescope for Armagh Observatory and later a 12 inch refractor for Dunsink Observatory. Around the age of 40, he was appointed the engineer of the Bank of Ireland, a job that saw him designing machinery for printing and numbering bank notes. Along with various astronomical instruments he also made cast iron billiard tables and patented a photographic lens. His interest in photography gave him a connection to Mary Rosse. In 1864 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. Two years later he got the commission for the Great Melbourne Telescope. It was to be the second largest telescope in the world, the first being that of Lord Rosse which had limited movement. He died in 1878.

Howard Grubb was born in February, 1844, in Leinster Square, Rathmines, Dublin. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1883 and knighted in 1887. Along with his work on astronomical tools, he made surveying instruments and periscopes for the earliest British submarines. During the war he moved to St. Albans, Hertfordshire, for easier supply. Work in Dublin was suspended. After the war, due to the economic situation, the company had to be saved by Sir Charles Parsons. Howard died in 1931.