Photos by Julio Albarrán (cc)
Any person who has had the chance to attend any of the ZEMOS98 Festivals has been able to experience how unique those days are. You meet people, you re-encounter friends, you learn an endless number of things, you discover experimental artistic proposals, you practice thinking in common, you share experiences… And when they are over you go back home feeling that you are closing a very intense chapter of your life, as if it were an entire world.
The fact that this year’s Festival was the last has ended up turning that feeling into an overwhelming flow of emotion and questions. This overflowing is undoubtedly going to be channelled in many different ways. Energy, like love, is not destroyed, but transformed. Now it is the turn of silence, which is not a void but a basic element for building, just like when you write a poem or compose a musical piece and you know that silence is necessary to weave its structure.
The closing night of the 17th Edition of the ZEMOS98 Festival contained those two very essential things: poetry and music, contributed by artists who, as they themselves explained, are a part of this Festival’s family. Very talented people who have gradually grown parallel to their professional careers (or better, their passions), and fondly remember their collaborations in previous editions of the Festival. For many of us they are referral artists whom we discovered thanks to the great programming at the Festival every year; for others it was an encounter with something new, but for all of us it was a unique event as Deleuze would describe it, «the displacement of our sensitivity», or the type of experience we crave to find owing to its capacity to transform.
The announcement that Niño de Elche would present his new release Voces del Extremo with a band composed of some of the musicians who recorded the album caused great expectation. Furthermore, the addition of Fran MM Cabeza de Vaca and María Salgado as opening artists filled us with enthusiasm. I may say that, as predicted, they exceeded our expectations, giving us one of the most special nights of these last years, in the festival and in general. Maybe because it was the last one, maybe because the guests were great, the Alameda Theatre was overwhelming brimming with its lights and shadows. Laughs, a tear shed here and there, fury and desire, euphoria and tranquillity. I had a feeling surrounding me, an image, as if at the beginning we were drowsy chrysalis maybe sad or exhausted, and suddenly we burst into thousands of butterflies caressing us as they flew all over the place, bonded by fondness, words and music: the trace of all this that really matters.
María and Fran offered a show difficult to fit into an article, because time coiled with them into a series of choppy loops and because what they do is beyond words. María Salgado is an indispensable poet: for her capacity to produce poetry that speaks of the conflicts that affect us now, and also for her use of a language so in synch with our time. The same happens with Fran Cabeza de Vaca but in the field of musical composition. He is capable of experimenting with different formats and disciplines to take his work with sound into new territories. No wonder they both met on the way, not only because of their habitual connection between music and poetry, but also for the things they have in common and because they come together precisely in that exploration of boundaries. The performance quality, the aura of the spoken word or the machines onstage are no more than tools to encourage dialogue, echoes, reverberations, things that have no name nor seek it, that are very close, that are small, broken in memory, and that are reconfigured only through this process, taking a shape again to come back to us.
Paco, Niño de Elche, also chose the extreme, but through voices. He took us to a totally different level, also marked by its political content, the resistance from this side, the power of poetic images, but in this case in his songs. For those of us who know him and admire him, it is clear that one of his virtues is that he knows how to choose good company; he surrounds himself with knowledgeable people. Because he is especially remarkable in his relentless will to learn and start new projects. In this latest release several of the defining elements of his artistic evolution have come together: his relationship with the poets who come together every year at the poetic encounter «Voices of the Extreme» in Moguer, in the province of Huelva, many of them well known for their «poetry of conscience» and with Antonio Orihuela as the unifying force; also his engagement with the Sevillian avant-garde art scene, in this case with Daniel Alonso and Darío del Moral (from the band Pony Bravo) or Raúl Pérez (La Mina Studio). The musicians accompanying him were also a guarantee of good work, as are Raúl Cantizano, Javier Mora or Fernando Junquera.
As Pedro G. Romero rightly says in his text Bofetada («Slap in the Face»), which I highly recommend: «This record is worth listening to, not because it is innovative or bold. But because it is necessary», because it speaks of «political urgency. Even combat»; and for showing «an evident commitment, taking sides». Just what we needed for the closing night of the Festival, when it was time to say goodbye and ask ourselves «now what?» The concert gave us such a strong release of energy that the night would still last a few hours more, in which we continued getting organised, enjoying the event, thinking together, exchanging knowing looks and smiles filled with hope. In his farewell speech, referring to the decision taken by the ZEMOS98 collective to stop organising the Festival, Pedro Jiménez said: «We are killing it ourselves so they don’t do it». A sacrifice that turned that last concert into a ritual, and that inevitably reminded me of that popular and chilling phrase by a flamenco singer, who said full of courage and dignity: «I’m the master of my hunger».
«Miénteme», music video produced live during Niño de Elche’s show at 17th ZEMOS98 Festival
*The title of this text, «As if it were an entire world», is a quote from one of the poems recited by María Salgado from Hacia un Ruido («Towards a noise»).