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Show Guide for Benise-The Spanish Guitar

Show Guide for Benise-The Spanish Guitar

The music of Benise’s Spanish guitar, combined with dancers, cirque performers and African drummers, transports the audience to Spain, Cuba, Brazil, the Mediterranean and Africa.

Benise The music of Benise’s show encompasses multiple styles, including Spanish flamenco, Cuban salsa, and Brazilian samba.  Benise roams the world looking for music.  After immersing himself in that particular culture, he creates an album featuring that music.

Benise’s (pronounced “Buh-nes-say”) current show, Nights of Fire! has been described as a fusion of Cirque du Soleil and a Latin Riverdance.  Airing regularly on PBS, the show is based on his travels and the music he borrows from cultures across the globe.  The music of Benise’s Spanish guitar, combined with dancers, cirque performers and African drummers, transports the audience to Spain, Cuba, Brazil, the Mediterranean and Africa. 


In the show Benise assumes the role of the traveling troubadour with his guitar, which sings the stories of people and places from the past and present.  


Footage of Benise’s travels, combined with choreography, tell the stories of the cobblestone streets of Old Havana, an Arabian desert, the canals of Venice, the oldest existing bullring in Spain, a café in Paris and a sacred Buddhist Temple in India that has existed for more than two millennia. 

The style of the show, with its choreography and many performers, create the effect of a five-minute movie.  Each song portrays different moods and styles.

The Beginning of Benise


Roni Benise had modest beginnings.  He grew up in rural Nebraska and later moved to Los Angeles to join the rock music scene as a guitarist. After hearing Spanish guitar on the radio, Benise’s life was changed.  He put away his electric guitar and began learning classical guitar.  After offering to perform Spanish guitar in local music clubs, he was rejected by almost every venue. Not willing to give up, Benise began performing on the streets of Los Angeles.  Through word-of-mouth, crowds of people started lining up to see him perform.

Benise wanted a huge show on-stage that incorporated dancers, musicians and performers.  He produced his own shows to allow himself the freedom to make his own music. The show, Nights of Fire! did become big.  It won an Emmy® in 2006 and Benise was featured this year on ABC’s Dancing With The Stars. He also started his own record label, called Rosanegra Music and film company, Rosanegra Films to ensure that his music would be a product of him and not of a corporate boardroom.

The music of Benise’s show encompasses multiple styles, including Spanish flamenco, Cuban salsa, and Brazilian samba.  Benise roams the world looking for music.  After immersing himself in that particular culture, he creates an album featuring that music. 

 

Samba


Samba is the national dance of Brazil.  In the 1800’s, the Portuguese colonists and their west-African slaves came into contact with the native Bantu population of Bahia in eastern Brazil, resulting in a dynamic blending of musical cultures. After slavery was abolished in 1888, many people from Bahia relocated to Rio de Janeiro, where Samba grew in popularity.  Samba’s popularity exploded to other regions of the world in the 1950’s and continues to engage dancers all over the world today. 

Salsa


Though it has roots in Africa and Spain, Cuba is salsa music’s home.  Salsa was born in the 1960’s through the musical traditions of Puerto Rico and dances of Cuba. While the music typically has lyrics, salsa’s focus is dance.  Lyrics are typically simple and do not interrupt the dance flow.

The band itself usually has up to 12 members.  The core of the music is the percussion.  The clave is the key percussion instrument, though congas, timbales and cowbells play an important role as well.  Other fundamental instruments in a salsa band are trombone, trumpet and bass guitar.  There are also at least one or two vocalists, and often a piano player. 

The structure of a salsa song is based on the Cuban son.  The son became popular in Cuba in the 1930’s, and eventually spread to the United States, beginning with Miami, Los Angeles and New York. There are various opinions about the origins of the term ‘salsa,’ but it is often associated with the development of the Latino identity (and music) in New York in the 1960’s. 

Son also has roots in African and European music.  The danzóns of France, the Spanish sonero, and the rumba and drumbeats of Africa combined to give the son its unique flavor as a musical style. 
 

Flamenco


While the exact date of the birth of flamenco is still under debate, flamenco was born sometime between 1760 and 1780. Flamenco is native to the Spanish Gypsies of Andalucía, though it is also a combination of many cultures, including those in the Near East, Far East, North Africa and Southern Europe. Both a style of music and style of dance, it was developed over several hundred years. 

The ABC’s of Flamenco


There are three separate elements to flamenco: singing (canto), dancing (baile), and flamenco guitar (toque). 

Canto


There are three different types of song in flamenco.  Grande, or literally “large”, is a heavy, somber and serious style that fits dark and sad moments.  Pequeño, meaning “small,” is a light and happy style that portrays love, nature and happiness.  Intermedio, or “intermediate,” is a semi-serious style that occasionally sounds oriental. 

Baile


Baile has a number of different styles, which are all used for different occasions and vary by the individual dancer.  In the traditional styles, young people typically do not perform in public; they aren’t considered to have the emotional maturity to convey the soul (duende) of flamenco.  For this reason, older dancers–even those 50 years of age and older–are not necessarily beyond their peak.  The commercialized styles typically have ornate costumes that are more attractive to mass-audiences. 

The most authentic and traditional form of flamenco is Gitano flamenco.  Highly informal, they are performed at weddings and other ceremonies and are completely improvised.  There is less virtuosity in the technique, but the music and dance form is largely the same.  One difference is in the arms, which are bent and can go around the body and over the head. 

Puro is the most commercially “pure” version of traditional flamenco.  It is always improvised and always danced solo.  Choreography and sometimes castanets –wooden finger cymbals–are looked down upon. 

In classical flamenco, the dancers carry themselves much like a ballet dancer.  Many classical style dancers actually have ballet training.  The back is held straight and the hips move little.  The arms are held outward.  For the more commercialized styles, dances are often in groups and are more frequently choreographed.  

Modern flamenco concentrates on fancy footwork and a high level of technicality.  Costumes and other props, such as castanets and fans, can be used.  This style takes years to perfect. 

The newest style of flamenco is Nuevo.  These dances are always choreographed and sometimes borrow from other forms of dance.  Costumes are not as fancy as classical or modern flamenco.  Men often dance bare-chested and women dance in plain dresses. 

Toque


Guitar wasn’t originally a part of flamenco.  Flamenco guitar is both similar and different from the classical guitar.  A few of the main differences are that the flamenco guitar is more percussive (it produces a much sharper sound), is lighter and is less resonant than its classical counterpart. 

Both guitars, though, have similarities.  They were both developed around the same time. Both have six strings, and while the classical guitar has a pick guard, the flamenco version has a golpeador that protects the body from finger taps (golpes).

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