Spain’s economy is slowly recovering from the big crisis that started in 2008. Does such crisis explain the depression that the local folk music has suffered in the latest years? For sure: ‘Yes’. Spain’s capital city, Madrid, is just a reflection of the national situation. The good news is, despite significant budget reductions folk music festivals still go on, and many artists fight to continue playing and touring although under much more modest circumstances.
2013, a specially bad year
Until 2007 things were running quite well for Spain’s economy, and folk music was following a progressive trend with lots of events, and professional possibilities for the local musicians. Back in 2011 & 2013 we extensively described what happened in 2008, and we tried to monitor how folk music festivals were still taking place over the whole country. We could check that many of those festivals were still running, but capable to get on stage mostly local bands (which is very good), but less and less international artists (which is bad). And by talking to several of those local musicians they told us how often they were being paid just enough to cover travel expenses. At the end, that was making most of those concerts as simply playing for fun, and in recognition to the loyalty of their audiences.
There were a few situations in 2013 that made things really worse:
Early in the year, Santy BARRAL the manager of Madrid’s Irish pub La TABERNA ELISA announced that all activities were going to stop, which of course included everything related to live music performances. Since the early 1990s, La ELISA was Madrid’s main place for live folk music performances, jam sessions, concerts,… It was the place where all folk music artists from Spain or abroad wanted to stop and not just for a drink, also to play in improvised performances. What was going wrong? Since the crisis started in 2008, less & less people was stopping by, the business was not profitable. Only exceptional concerts organized by Santy Barral, due to his direct contact with artists such as Tommy PEOPLES, Paddy KEENAN or Eoghan NEFF, helped to make ends meet at La ELISA.
The saddest news came a few months later. The 24th of July a speed train travelling from Madrid to Galicia’s capital city Santiago de Compostela suffered a dramatic derailment causing 79 deaths. Santy BARRAL was one of them. The news about Santy’s fatality struck Madrid’s folk music community in the morning of July 25th.
The economic crisis was also putting pressure in another Spanish folk music institution, the magazine INTERFOLK. FolkWorld interviewed INTERFOLK’s director Ángel GOYANES back in 2012, and at that time we already got the impression that with all budget reductions suffered by: artists, agencies, record labels, concert & festival organizers,… (whose advertisements used to provide substantial income to INTERFOLK), the financial feasibility of the magazine was at the limit. And unfortunately that got confirmed when in 2013 INTERFOLK announced via internet that after 15 years of hard work they had to put an end to such a great project.
And finally, just to make things even better the Galician band BERROGÜETTO, one the most acclaimed Spanish folk artists for the last twenty years, decided to split.
Time for changes
O well! Maybe we just have to accept that things do not last forever. Probably we are just in a moment of crisis, changes that slowly but also deeply will affect many aspects of our daily life: in the economy, the society, the lifestyles,... The arts and culture will be part of that. There is probably a new generation of folk musicians just around the corner getting ready to launch that transition.
In order to understand how that kind of generational change took place thirty years ago, this issue of FolkWorld has an article about the folk musician José CLIMENT, who was one of the founder members of the band La MUSGAÑA. Jose has also released a solo album ‘Mirando Nubes’ (Watching Clouds), which is also reviewed in the CDs section of this magazine.
Photo Credits: (1) Madrid, (2) Taberna Elisa, (3)Santy Barral (unknown).