Phyllis Akinyi

AFROMENCO

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About

What does a flamenc@ look like, and what if you don’t fit that image? I can't help but wonder.. Who is keeping the 'flamenco image' going; the flamenco community, the flamenco venues, or the tourists paying to see the shows? Why don't we see more afro descendent flamenc@s in Spain's flamenco scene? Looking at the history of flamenco it should be common or at least more common to see ‘afro’ flamencos. Where did they go? Because, surely, they have been here at one point. Just listen to current flamenco rhythms or watch flamenc@s dance and you'll see a clear connection to the African continent and Diaspora. The anthropologist in me is interested in investigating these notions academically, whilst the artist in me needs to express it from a personal standpoint. 

Hence, the idea of AFROMENCO, which came to life through this train of thoughts combined with my own embodied experiences as an afro-flamenca. I realized that l had tried to conform to the current notion of a “flamenca”, both in appearance and in movement. For years l had tried to eliminate certain movements that my body found natural but that the flamencos found weird. I made sure to keep my hair long enough to be able to do typical flamenco ‘hairstyles’ and wear the ‘right’ outfits on stage. But even so, l still had to defend my place in flamenco, l was still too different and, to top that up, l didn’t feel comfortable in my (flamenco) body - neither in movement nor in appearance. Through conversations and personal investigations l learned just how “flamenca” l actually am, or at least would have been 200 years ago in Andalusia when it was more ethnically diverse. I therefore decided that l needed to create space for ME in flamenco and stop trying to conform. This is how Akinyi Flamenco was born, and with that Flamenco45 and now AFROMENCO.

I officially embarked on my AFROMENCO journey in Spring 2017 when l started collaborating with Afro-Spanish percussionist Ngoy Ngoma. We created a 10 minutes piece that mixes traditional flamenco rhythms with afro-beat. In December 2017 l did a piece with Congolese bass player Lycantho, which also featured K_OS who's a Greek-American poet/artist. Around the same time l started collaborating closely with percussionist Stephan Jarl who really understood my vision, and we created a duet that later became the foundation for my current version of AFROMENCO. Next step was an investigatory trip to Kenya (February/March 2018) where l learned Maasai dances while living with the Maasai people - a trip organized by Kenyan choreographer Fernando Anuang'a, known for his contemporary Maasai fusion. 

FlamencÁfrica,my current Afromenco performance, is a work-in-progress that lm developing alongside some of Madrid's finest musicians in their respective fields. We're mixing traditional flamenco with melodies from Gambia, Congolese funk, and, of course, Kenyan dance moves. Our first showcase was on April 29th 2018 at Taberna Flamenca 'El Cortijo' - a traditional flamenco venue, and since then we've been performing at various Afro-Festivals in Madrid. 

Summer and Autumn is already getting booked, so lm very excited to see what the AFROMENCO future holds for us.

 

 


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