History of Rumba Catalana
15. Paradoxical Situation of the Rumba Catalana in Barcelona
In Barcelona Rumba Catalana is Hardly Programmed on the City’s Stages Anymore
Musicians get by by playing at congresses, conferences, or for tourists disembarking from cruise ships
In Spain, a few years ago, the Left quietly made its mea culpa. The great Gypsy bands of the 1970s and 1980s, such as Los Chichos and Los Chunguitos, are now considered classics of Spanish cultural heritage.
In Barcelona, however, the traditional Gypsy rumba is hardly programmed on the city’s stages anymore. Elsewhere in Spain the situation is no happier, partly due to the political tensions between Catalonia and the rest of Spain. “The ‘Catalan’ label has closed many doors for us,” says Jonatan Jiménez, of the band Arrels de Gracià, “but here it’s even more incomprehensible“.
Musicians get by by playing at congresses, conferences, or for tourists disembarking from cruise ships.
This is a depressing situation for some musicians, even if it allows them to make a good living from it, because the demand does not weaken. The activity is very lucrative for the organizing companies: all over the world Barcelona is associated with rumba, the Gypsy bands are in high demand.
Of course, these are not concerts but entertainment gigs – sometimes lasting only 20 minutes – and the program is established by the organizers, who favor the repertoire of the Gipsy Kings. “In 80 or 90% of the events, that is what they ask us“, explains Jonatan Jiménez. “In fact, the repertoire is almost always the same: “Sarandonga”, “Una lágrima”, “La noche del hawaiano”, “Caramelos”, “Borriquito”, “Volare”, “Bamboleo” …“
Rafalito Salazar, founder of the group Ai Ai Ai remembers his debut in the circuit. “That day, when I saw that I had to play the ‘Porompopero’, I wanted to die,” he confesses. “Afterwards you get used to it, I don’t go there as an artist anymore but as a provider.“
Tourists will go back to their country and tell their compatriots that the most typical music in Barcelona is Catalan rumba. However, few Barcelonans will be able to corroborate this theory because, for some years now, it has been impossible for them to hear it live.
IN THE NEXT CHAPTER :
France is the other homeland of Catalan rumba. The situation is quite different for the French Gitanos who, contrary to their Spanish Catalan cousins, never explored the variety genre, always stayed on course. The tradition remains strong, and many new artists and bands are thriving.