Jamming Galician-style

There is in Sar, at Santiago de Compostela, near a freeway, a place called El Puente [The Bridge]. There, I was told, take place the best jam sessions in the whole city. My limited musical knowledge does not allow me to decide whether, in fact, they are the best or not, but what I experimented at this diurnal-old-rustic-men but nocturnal-musicians-and-creators-meeting-point, caused these words to be written far into the night, before going to sleep; such was the impression they left me.

The reason of my visit were Suelen Estar Quartet. They are Macarena Montesinos (1982, Vigo) Saúl Puga (1982, Vigo), Elena Vázquez (1984, Santiago de Compostela), and María José Pámpano (1981, Santiago de Compostela). Their classical music education led them to explore no limited or shackled paths. Almost a year ago they created the quartet, and since then, have been playing improvised music, what, according to María José is not quite common, because quartets normally don't have violin and viola, and they usually opt to play classical music. They affirm not to be the free music pioneers of Spain, but they certainly are one of the few quartets who have the entire range of strings and opt to play improvised music.

Saúl and Macarena have been friends since their childhood, and they met Elena and María while working at Livietta e Tracollo, an adapted opera composed by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. They anchor point was the improvisation and music experimentation orchestra O.M.E.G.A., and since then, they decided to begin this enterprise. For the moment they are doing well, although as Macarena says, "we were born yesterday". They performed with the dancer Mónica García and they will be at Bar Labranza (Bueu), at Xancarajazz (Vigo), at the Liceo Mutante (Pontevedra), or at the Festival Alt, and I'm dying to see them again. When in a small place surrounded by strangers, at the bar with a beer in hand, at any Compostela's Thursday, you feel passion, happiness, anxiety due to a violin, a viola, a contrabass and a cello, one thinks "what on Earth have I been doing till now?" and an automatic answer comes: "you've been watching series on the Internet, prick".

Jam Session
To fill me up, after them, and with them, a jam session took place in which, besides the four strings, there was a sax, an oboe, a piano (played by Pablo Seoane and Alejandro Vargas), a bass, a guitar, a beautiful voice (the multifaceted Lúa Gándara) and balloons, toy guns, percussion; a solemn moment where the Galician radio was heard...all joined together, mixed up, in a hypnotic melody which for a second froze time and dazzled the air. There's no need to mention that I fell in love with that place and its people. There's no need to say either, that I'm new to this context, but if such a condition implies such pleasure, I would rather be a beginner in everything.

Suelen Estar and the improvisation spark
Chatting after the concert with Saúl, who has devoted his life to music, I came to know that they chose Suelen Estar because the other name they had in mind didn't meet the marketing recognition rules, and, plus the one they finally chose, is totally right, because they usually are here or there. After meeting a tuno in the bar who had danced with Celia Cruz at Obradoiro's square in 1993, I made my way towards Elena, who was at the El Puente entrance, and I interrogated her whilst smoking a cigarette. She was musically educated on classic basis but one day a friend introduced her in the improvisation and musical experimentation world through O.M.E.G.A. (which will have its own space on further articles) and threw herself into that universe without second thoughts.

The quartet doesn't allow them to live splendidly and on most times they feel undervalued. People bargain with their work as if they were a pound of turnip greens at the local market. They have other jobs, such a school teachers or private classes. They look to the future sideways and their plans don't go further than the short or middle term. They don't know how things are going to be in six or four months, but Macarena affirms that "a spark is being originated" and that even though the audience is not yet totally accustomed to improvised music, there is a higher education or sensitization of the viewers, and she fondly remembers the ovation they had, not so long time ago, during a performance at the Teatro Principal [theatre] in Compostela: "by the time we finished everyone was completely silent and then all of them started to clap and shout", which was very heartwarming because they weren't sure their music would fit in that venue.

Don't panic!
As Manu Mimé, protagonist in "A censura do porto santificado", as the A Peregrina's people, and those from Vista Alegre, the great musicians who met at El Puente the night of the first of March, 2012, they do what they like, profoundly enjoying doing it, and you can see that, because as they play, paint, or create, they spread that feeling, filling you up, so you want to shout, sing with them, and paint with them. But, for the time being, I'm just going to keep on writing, so don't panic.

P.S.: I left the Suelen Estar Quartet components putting their instruments in the car, heading back to Vigo. I came back here, to Pexigo de Arriba and I made a promise of going back to El Puente; I would roll along, from time to time.
                                                                                                                                        Galego / Español

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