Passionate, dramatic and technically demanding, flamenco is an Andalusian art form born from Roma people, although it more recently became popularised by the Spanish star Rosalia. Amid palmas (hand claps), curling fingers and raw feet stamping in one of the Spanish capital’s tablaos, you’ll realise why watching a flamenco performance is one of the best ways you can get closer to Spain’s culture and roots.
José Muñoz, director of Tablao 1911, a famous and mythical flamenco venue in Madrid, tells us about how the venue’s early origins, the performers he has collaborated with, and why this art form is such an important asset to Spain’s cultural scene.
Flamenco dancer Paula Rodriguez performing at Tablao 1911 in Madrid
How did the Tablao 1911 start off?
Known at that time as ‘Villarosa’, it was set up in 1911 by three partners linked to the world of bullfighting and the cultural life of Madrid’s Barrio de las Letras neighbourhood. At the time, people from different cultural sectors met to share their art and also to find work. Since its origin it has been an important part of the city of Madrid. The incessant visits of the greatest flamenco artists, as well as personalities such as Ava Gardner, Frank Sinatra, Ernest Hemingway or King Alfonso XII made this flamenco temple a legendary place.
The façade of flamenco venue Tablao 1911
How did you come to be the director? What is your relationship with flamenco and how did you venture into this world?
I started as head of the audiovisual department at Cardamomo, another exceptional flamenco venue belonging to the same business group, and from there I was promoted to director of 1911. I have been a lover of flamenco since I was a child. My family comes from Andalusia and we have always respected and admired flamenco. With time and through studying this art, you come to know that it is not only a musical style, but that it includes a whole way of seeing life — an art of living.
What defines your tablao? What makes you different from the other tablaos in Madrid?
Its interior is of great artistic wealth and the details of the venue are very attractive, based on the Mudejar architecture that can be seen in Granada or Córdoba in southern Spain. We host an extraordinary group of artists who create shows of excellent quality. Combining tradition with modernity, thanks to the collaboration with one of the best manufacturers in the world of sound systems, Meyer Sound, we offer guests the opportunity to see the most important artists on the current scene up close and perfect sound in every corner of the room. To this we must add the commitment to the quality of the singers and guitarists, and the accompaniment of an instrumentation that gives a greater musical colour to the group, such as the transverse flute and saxophone, the cello or the violin.
Can you tell me about the artists you collaborate with?
We try to host the best artists in the world of flamenco. The quality of these artists and their professionalism are highly valued by those of us who are fortunate enough to work daily with such extraordinary talented people. They breathe a unique way of seeing the world, which is flamenco. The Roma culture also has great weight, as most of our artists are Roma people — authentic people who treat music and dance with devotion and make those who attend the show shudder.