RIYADH: The first joint Saudi-Spanish concert brought a night of musical harmony and a taste of flamenco on Sunday at the Cultural Palace, Diplomatic Quarter in Riyadh.
The concert was brought to life by the Embassy of Spain’s collaboration with the Ministry of Culture’s Music Commission and the Royal Commission of Riyadh.
The first part of the concert featured Jose Hevia, a renowned Spanish bagpiper and inventor of the electronic bagpipe, accompanied by Maria Hevia, who played percussion, and Roberto Jonata on the piano.
Midway through the first showing, artists from the Saudi National Orchestra collaborated with the Spanish group to bring a multicultural music experience.
The orchestra team had Mohannad Talal on the maestro oud, Yazid Alfaidi on the qanoon, Fahad Kash’shaf on the nay, and singers Mohammed Awlia and Roza.
The second part of the show was a flamenco show with the Anabel Veloso group.
Veloso’s show brought a captivating fusion of music and dance from Andalusia, the Spanish region with a history of Arab influence.
She told Arab News that she has been dancing since she was seven years old, and was excited to bring flamenco to Saudi Arabia.
“It was unexpected because we didn’t know how the people would feel about flamenco. We can really feel that everyone liked it, the feedback was amazing,” she said.
Veloso said she sees the influence of Arab culture in Andalusian culture and music.
“We are almost like brothers and sisters and the instruments, you know, the guitar and oud. Everything is so similar,” she said.
Ambassador of Spain to Saudi Arabia Jorge Hevia told Arab News that the mission “wanted to do something big.”
Hevia had the idea to invite Jose to the Kingdom, after seeing him perform in his hometown, Colunga.
He said: “We both come from Asturias, and I know him very well I met him 31 years ago in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, my first post as a diplomat … I didn’t see him until recently in my little town in Colunga where he was performing, so I had the dream of bringing him to Riyadh.
“Finally with the help of the Music Commission, the Ministry of Culture, and the Royal Commission for Riyadh, we are happy to bring him here. And then flamenco, whenever we talk to our Saudi friends, they all say ‘oh, we want flamenco.’”
Roser Ponsa has been living in Riyadh for two years and said she can “see a huge change in the city.”
Ponsa said: “Now we attend events such as this one tonight that have been amazing. Today is my (first) day back after some holidays, that I was back in Spain (for), and arriving here and having tortilla de patatas, the Spanish omelet, and some churros and cheesecake, I mean, (I feel like) I never left. I feel welcome. I feel happy and at home.
“I think that there has been a very nice evolution. So, we started with Spanish music from the north of Spain, Asturias, and then the orchestra of Saudi musicians joined them, and you could see this transition, we ended up with flamenco, and you could actually hear the Arabic sounds and the Arabic rhythms within the music. So, it has been lovely.
Silvia Vincente, also from Spain, has lived in the Kingdom for over a year and says it is exciting for her to see a live show representing her culture.
“It was exciting for me to be able to see something live. When I was in the show, I felt like I was in Spain but the background (pictures) had photos of Diriyah, it was like Spain and Saudi. I saw all the people here enjoying my music.”