Director of Tablao 1911: Flamenco is not just a musical style. It’s a whole way of seeing life — an art of living • Art de Vivre
Director of Tablao 1911: “Flamenco is not just a musical style. It’s a whole way of seeing life — an art of living.”

Director of Tablao 1911: “Flamenco is not just a musical style. It’s a whole way of seeing life — an art of living.”

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. 

Paula Rodriguez. Image 1
Paula Rodriguez at  Tablao 1911. Image 2

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.

 Tablao 1911. Image 1
 Tablao 1911 in Madrid. Image 2
 Tablao 1911 interior. Image 3

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.

Flamenco dancer El Yiyo
Flamenco dancer El Yiyo performing at Tablao 1911 in Madrid

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.

Flamenco dancer Karime Amaya
Flamenco dancer Karime Amaya performing at Tablao 1911 in Madrid

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.

How do you select the artists?

We have artists with a recognized career who have been important members as interpreters or as composers of artists of the stature of Antonio Canales, Joaquín Cortés or Sara Baras, among others. We are fortunate to share with them this space for them to create and carry out their art. We are also lucky to have the best bailaores performing. And something that I would highlight is the inclusion of the best representatives of the Bolera School, which is part of Spanish Dance, and which we try to recover to spread the richness of an exquisite dance form, which requires a highly refined technique and elegance. 

Flamenco perfomance. Image 1
Flamenco dance. Image 2

Flamenco dancer Paula Rodriguez performing at Tablao 1911 in Madrid

Do you have an important cultural role in Madrid?

Yes, because there is a notable influx of people who consider a visit to a tablao essential as part of their trip to our land. It is a way of enjoying the richness and joy of Spanish culture. For me, the most important thing lies in the way of seeing the life of flamenco artists, their authenticity, their love for those everyday things that allow them to enjoy every moment and that they capture in their improvisations. They have great respect for the public, which they consider part of a gathering of people who share moments of life. This is how flamenco was born, in meetings where the joys or misfortunes of those who attended were shared. The quality of the artists has made it Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. 

Flamenco dancer Laura Fúnez
Flamenco dancer Laura Fúnez performing at Tablao 1911 in Madrid

How do you think Spanish identity has been influenced by flamenco?

The Roma people settled in a large part of the geography of our country, but especially in Andalusia is where the symbiosis between the Christian, Arab, Jewish and Roma people takes place. All these roots are what have made flamenco art sprout and by drinking from each other, they have created a way of understanding the unique world, which stands out in its knowledge, joy. All these characteristics are indebted to these cultures. The identity of an entire country is the result of numerous elements. Yes, it has influenced identity, but I would not say that it is the greatest of them, I wish it were, because, as I have commented before, it is a unique way of living that responds to the vicissitudes of life from joy, passion, the love of meetings, authenticity, everyday things with a great love of life. In the country of Bhutan, the Gross National Happiness is measured instead of the Gross Domestic Product. If we lived according to that criteria, we would be a very rich country.

What do you most admire about flamenco dancers?

Their mastery over time. How they manage to express such deep emotions in such a simple way. That is why I call them ‘masters’ on a day-to-day basis.

You can book a performance at Tablao 1911 from Monday to Thursday at 7.30pm and 9pm. And Friday to Sunday at 7.30pm, 9pm and 10.30pm. 


As an Art de Vivre subscriber, discover more fascinating places to visit on your trip, such as The Groucho Club in London — an arts haven for private members.

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Interview, Flamenco
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