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Madrid: Going OUT

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- a post from my special guest Gemma García -

Many of my guests are also visiting Madrid during their trip to Spain

and many ask me to recommend them a good tour guide in Madrid. Today it's my pleasure to introduce you to Gemma, from Madrid Cool & Cultural, who's sharing her passion for Madrid with a very special guest post.

gemma garcía madrid cool and cultural

Madrid: Going OUT

Madrid seemed frantic to become a copy of any other European metropolis, but now the city feels more Spanish again. Resourcefulness, creativity and reinvention are bubbling up in art galleries, designer ateliers and restaurants. The city’s symbol may be a bear, but for style, culture, history and sybaritic delights, there are plenty of reasons to be bullish on Madrid.

Are you following us?

ART- Art in Madrid is motion since the 14th till the 21st century. Allow us to astonish you with pictures to be watched through a mirror, with moving tables, with stone made characters that look real.

LIGHT- Madrid Light is magic and makes its maze-like streets change in every corner, rendering each trip unique and different. That is why it may have been an inspiration source for so many painters.

WATER – Crucial element in our original name MAGIRITH –mother of water- it made Arabs dream with its hearing and Jewish enjoy their purifying Migbés.

SHOP – From art galleries transformed into bars, to amazing artists ateliers, it’s to be included one of our favourite leather factories that was founded in Madrid in 1850. Loewe will take you to the glamourous Gran Vía where Ava Gardner used to walk up and down towards her beloved shop window.


“ Is Madrid a brave town, that with older and more modern, has it more than 100 taverns and one single bookshop in place”.

This was stated 300 years ago by one of our most distinguished neighbours and still the ratio hasn’t changed much. Traditional taverns, gastrobars and its 18 Michelin stars won’t disappoint you.

Do you trust us? Let us show you these places of the beaten path where only locals go.

Always passionate about Art and History, after living for a year in Boston, USA, she decided to turn her hobby into her profession and founded Madrid Cool & Cultural in September 2010, focused exclusively on organizing tours for small groups of artistically and culturally motivated travelers. Her tours are very creative: her experience as a traveler and lover of art, culture, and gastronomy has being extremely useful in designing a unique product, molded to the tastes of each client and the time spent in town.

Gemma García,

founder MC&C, Madrid Cool & Cultural

M Phone: +1 857 400 0695 +34 627 594 496

Passion of the South: the Flamenco Forms

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The Setting macanita-de-jerezThe plaza of a southern Spanish pueblo, 1.30am, July maybe August. The temperature has finally subsided to comfortable levels. The crowd gossips animated­ly. Women fan themselves. Bottles clink on glass. A loud laugh peals out from a bar door... On a makeshift stage in a corner of the square, a seated guitarist begins to play... a run, a ripple, an eddy, a moody shuffle. The percussion section behind him, three pairs of syncopated hands, joins in. One member lets out a shout of excitement. The crowd lends an ear.

The singer, seated near the guitarist, raises her head. She waits, six, seven seconds, rocking gently to the underlying rhythm. She emits a blood-curdling, quavering shriek. The crowd lends both ears. If she has the spirit — the spirit of the song and the spirit to com­municate it to the crowd — they will stay riveted to their spots until she finishes. If she hasn't quite got it, the chatter will slowly start up again and gradually the crowd will thin.

The Forms Flamenco is a trinity of arts — song, dance and music — that first took recognisable bailaor-flamencoform among gitanos (Roma people) in Andalucia's lower Guadalquivir valley in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Its remoter origins may have included Muslim music and verses from medi­eval Spain, possibly the Byzantine chant sung long ago in Visigothic churches, and songs brought to Spain in the Middle Ages by the Gitanos themselves. Much flamenco is undoubtedly reminiscent of song and dance from India, where the gitanos supposedly originated.

The earliest flamenco was cante jondo (deep song), a tortured lament that grew from the experience of the marginalised gitanos, pushed to the periphery of Spanish society. jondura (depth, profoundness) is still the essence of flamenco, and some of the early jondo forms are still sung — notably the martinete, whose only accompaniment is the sound of a hammer striking an anvil, as in the smithies where many Gitanos worked. A flamenco singer is known as a cantaor (male) or cantaora (female); a dancer is a bailaor/a. Most of the songs and dances are performed to the guitar of the tocaor/a. Flamenco's scales and rhythms can be difficult for the average beginner to tune in to, but it's hard to remain unmoved by its passionate intensity. Technically speaking, flamenco differs from most Western music by using the Phrygian mode, in which the interval between the first and second notes of an eight-note scale is a semitone. In conventional Western music the interval is a whole tone. Spaniards, especially Andalucians, have always loved dancing, and it was only natural that dance (baile in flamenco contexts) should soon accompany song.

Traditional costumes For women, the Shawl, fan and long, frilly bata de cola dress; for men, flat Cordoban hats and tight black trousers — date from Andalucian fashions in the late 19th century, when flamenco first took to public stages. There are several main song types (palos). The siguiriya, an expres-sion of intense despair about loss or death, is the biggest test of a singer's ability. It's thought to have originated in Jerez de la Frontera, one of the three key cities of flamenco's lower Guadalquivir heartland. The solea, marginally less anguished, probably came from the Triana district of Seville, for centuries a gitano quarter. The livelier alegria is a contribution from the third city, Cadiz. Jerez is also the home of the buleria, the fastest, most upbeat type of song. Relatively lighter forms include the tango, originally from Cadiz, and its derivatives the rumba, guajira and colombiana, all with Latin American influences.

artist-manuel-molinaThe home of the fandango is Huelva, but other areas also have varieties of fandango — such as Malaga's malagueña and Granada's granaina. Almeria's taranta is not dissimilar. Coplas (flamenco songs) are made up of short, rhyming bursts called tercios; the underlying rhythm is called the compas. The highly popular sevillana dance, learnt by girls all over the country, is not flamenco at all. With high, twirling arm movements, and consisting of four parts each coming to an abrupt halt, the sevillana is probably an Andalucian version of a Castilian folk dance, the seguidilla.

Birth of the Guitar The guitar originated when the 9th-century Cordoba court musician Ziryab added a fifth string to the Arab lute. Around the 1790s a sixth string was added, probably by a Cadiz guitar-maker called Pages. In the 1870s Antonio de Torres of Almeria brought the guitar to its modern shape by enlarging its two bulges and placing the bridge centrally over the lower one to give the instrument its carrying power. Toque (literally touch, this is guitar playing) for a long time functioned solely as accompaniment to singing and dance. Percussion in flamenco is provided by stamping or tapping feet, clapping hands and sometimes castanets.

De la diosa Astarté a la Virgen del Rocío

almonte rocio-salto-de-la-reja¿Quién no ha oído hablar o visto imagenes del salto de la reja en la aldea del Rocío? ¿Quién no sabe que en este pueblo agrícola de la provincia de Huelva, se celebra la más grande romería europea, que a veces congrega hasta medio millón o más de personas?

Hoy les presento el trabajo académico original de una amiga (Raquel Venegas, Sevilla) acerca de los famosísimos rituales ligados a la romería de la Virgen del Rocío en Almonte, provincia de Huelva, Andalucía. Se trata de un trabajo muy original e sumamente interesante que vincula una vez más el presente cultural de Andalucía y nuestras raíces fenicias y greco-romanas.
Según un documento acopiado por la Hermandad matriz de Almonte y que data de 1798, fue un pastor del SXV (un cazador según otras versiones) quien encontró en un terreno impracticable llamado La Rocina, una estatuilla colocada sobre el tronco de un árbol, la misma que terminó como patrona de Almonte. Esta epifanía sigue esquemas muy comunes en las apariciones marianas: la Virgen es habitualmente hallada en el entorno natural, especialmente cerca de un árbol, y con menos frecuencia dentro de una cueva o a orillas de un río. La pregunta sería ahora qué relación tiene la Virgen María con los entornos campestres o boscosos y por qué ese carácter bucólico.

Para Raúl Ortega, “la que se presenta ante nosotros es en realidad, la Universal Diosa con sus universales atributos, los cuales se imponen más allá de la disparidad en el tiempo y de los credos” (Ortega R., 2013). Una de las primeras grandes diosas de la Antigüedad, prototípica sobre la que se basa la Virgen María es la gran Artemisa griega, dueña de bosques, montes y selvas, de la vegetación y de los animales libres. Orgullosa de su castidad, Artemisa era “una diosa primigenia adorada no como una más del resto de deidades femeninas del panteón heleno sino como la diosa total, la que resumía y acabaría generando a todas las demás” (Ibidem).

La Virgen del Rocío tiene su ermita curiosamente en la zona protegida de Doñana, una de las reservas de la biosfera más grandes y diversas del continente europeo. Tanto María como Artemisa cabrían dentro de una noción más general como es la de Madre Naturaleza. A este respecto, se dice que “la diosa es el alma, lo que le da vida a la materia inerte, la generadora de lo orgánico. Una sustancia intermedia e intermediaria entre el espíritu más abstracto, que es el atributo propio de los dioses masculinos, de lo solar más ascético y elevado, y la seca e inerte materia, así como la Luna está situada entre el Sol y la Tierra. Ella es la exuberante fuente de vida que realiza el mandato del ´Creced y multiplicaos´. Es el Anima Mundi (…)” (Ortega R., 2013). Como la Luna (relacionada con la fecundidad pero también con la noche, lo furtivo, lo fantástico y lo psíquico), la virginidad de la diosa se establece así entre lo natural y lo sobrenatural.
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