Episode 384 – Mérida Fest! (Part 2 of 3)

NOTE: All the videos below are Ted’s (the photos too, of course!)

Sunday, January 15th. De Mérida a Santander: Angélica Balado (México) y Ana Cirré (España). The evening was advertised as a joyful collaboration between two Spanish-language artists. Singer/songwriter Angélica Balado is considered one of the most important exponents of contemporary song on the Yucatan peninsula, and has been performing and recording for over 30 years. Spanish-born Ana Cirré is a decade younger than her counterpart, and well known as a pop singer/songwriter in almost every Spanish-speaking country in the world.

What we expected was an intimate singer/songwriter night. What we got was two incredible powerhouse divas bringing the house down individually and in a finale duet. What voices! What stage presence!

Angélica in the sparkly blue jacket and the very blonde but very Spanish (right down to the characteristic Barcelona accent that turns “s” into “th”) Ana. Angélica joked that when she finally met Ana in person, she was surprised to see that she was Ukrainian!

Check out Ted’s video of one of Angélica’s songs, done as a duet with Ana. The entire audience seemed to know this one!


Tuesday, January 17th. La Comino presents Recreándome at Parque Santa Lucia, featuring Georgina Ciccio “La Comino”, Sihán Charruf, Libertad Angélica Mejía Ángel, Nancy Lizeth López González and Florencia de Garay Hernández in a performance highlighting a wide variety of flamenco music and dance styles. Some of the music was quite modern, and other pieces had clear Ottoman/Turkish influences.

Ted’s video of the opening dance captures the incredible energy, and a quite unexpected percussion section of beautiful dancers!

Georgina Ciccio

Wednesday, January 18th. Another amazing – and surprising – concert. Who would ever have expected a Spanish musician at a Mexican festival playing Irish-inspired tunes on bagpipes? This really is an international celebration for Mérida’s birthday.

FOUR different versions of bagpipes!

Here’s a sample of the bagpipe:

Entitled Viaje de Ida y Vuelta (Round trip and return trip), the 7 musicians (a harpist and a wind instrument virtuoso due called El Mantel de Noa, from Spain, and the 5 piece Yucatecan Grupo Orpheus) took us – with music and absolutely stunningly gorgeous projected graphics took us above the clouds, over the moon, and into our imaginations. It was far too hard to decide on just one or two images, so I saved nine! But first, Ted’s video below really showcases not only the heavenly music, but the spectacular visuals.

The Teatro Amramdo Manzanera, where several of the concerts take place, is an art deco gem with great acoustics – even for bagpipes!


Thursday, January 19th. Gotham Yardbird Sanctuary-México 2023

The event description read (translated from the Spanish) Zaid Nasser (USA); Jack Glottman (Colombia-Israel); Alberto Chiozzi (Italy), Jesús Alemañy (Cuba), Miguel Ángel Covarrubias (Mexico), Ricardo Silveira (Mexico), Carla Iturralde (Mexico) and Carlos Ramos (Mexico). Tea for two: a meeting of international musicians dedicated to jazz through a shared repertoire of music from the 1920’s to 1950’s and a belief that the music’s legacy must be shared with the new generations. The concert promises hints of traditional blues, romantic swing compositions, the avant-garde and libertarian essence that characterizes be-bop, and the creative mischievousness present in lyrics adapted to the “Vocalese” style. That’s a pretty ambitious program description!

8 musicians who seemed really pleased to be able to collaborate fir the evening.

It was a very well received concert, with wild applause and even an encore, but jazz nonetheless leaves both Ted and me a bit confused – especially the drum solos. My favourite number of the night was Moonglow, which was one of the few numbers that did not include vocals OR a drum solo, and stayed reasonably close to the original melody throughout.

Just before the encore (with a VERY intrusive photographer behind them!)

Friday, January 20th: something completely different. Tonight’s event was Cirque Afrique (Afrique en Cirque), originally from Guinea in West Africa and now based in Montreal! It was apparently the hot ticket event of the festival, and for good reason.

When they appeared in Sydney Australia earlier this month, they were described as “a handful of daring acrobats, accompanied by skilled musicians, performing authentic and original choreography to the pulsating rhythm of the djembes of Guinea, celebrating the diversity of traditional African arts whilst sweeping viewers into a wildly good time. From the explosive drumming to the serene twang of the Kora, music is at the heart of this showcase of strength, agility and joy.”

The stage set-up and some of the balancing and flipping.
Setting the “scene” with smoke, kora music, vocals,heart-pounding drums, and feats of skill.
The abs on these young men had the girls in the audience giggling – and the women sighing. Check the video below to see why!
Part of the grand finale balancing act.

One of the original founders of Cirque du Soleil was in the audience, and singled out for recognition at the end of the show.


Saturday, January 21st. What a night! (I keep saying that, but really, the quality of the entertainment has been spectacular.) The evening was another “Night of Cultures” featuring two acts: one from Portugal and on from Morocco, on the outdoor stage in the Plaza Grande in front of the cathedral.

First, Sara Correia, recognized as one of the most vital voices of Portuguese fado, performed. Called the “hurricane”, her style is considered the future of fado for a new generation. The first time Ted and I ever experienced fado was in Porto, Portugal, at an event in a historic winery. There it was explained that fado are all emotional songs about love, and most often either sad or angry. Sara really updated the genre, while staying true to its very dramatic style. My favourite of her many wonderful songs was one she wrote as an ode to the genre, called Porque Dô Fado, which says “don’t ask me why fado, ask me why life”. That’s not one Ted recorded, but the one he did is also wonderful. Watch for her emotional ending.

Sara and her wonderful band.

The second act was Tawfik Amencor, a young performer from Morocco who came to the world’s attention as a semi-finalist on a Moroccan talent show called “Tierra de Talento” (World of Talent). His music and vocals cross over from Spanish flamenco to Arabic sounds, and his band is absolutely fabulous: a terrific guitarist, a talented piano/trumpet player, a bass guitarist, and a drummer who plays using only his hands (no drum sticks!). It was a terrific, high energy performance.

Tawfik Amencor…
… and his band.

And so ends week 2 of this incredible festival of arts & culture. One more week to go. What a month January is turning out to be!!

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