El Viento Flamenco
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El Viento Flamenco

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"Musical Roots Run Deep - Review from the 2006 Deep Roots Festival"

"The evening show in Convocation Hall began with El Viento Flamenco. Every time I see this group they are even better than I remember them.

Dancers Maral Perk and Megan Matheson, egged on by the wonderfully hair-curdling voice of Sean Harris and the astonishingly sharp handclapping of the entire cast, the ground rhythms of percussionist Tony Tucker, and above all by Bob Sutherby's passionate flamenco guitar playing, balanced the fluidity and airy grace of their hand, arm and swaying torsos, with near violent heel and toe taps. They were dressed in white (Perk with black polka-dots) and their dances led to Evelyne Benais' dramatic finish in black." - Stephen Pedersen for the Chronicle Herald, September 24 2006

"From Flamenco to Dances with Stones"

"Evelyne Benais's El Viento is arguably the most popular dance group in the Maritimes. The company has been influenced by the raw, earthy gypsy element of flamenco rather than the more polished concert variety. The group members do not go by Spanish versions of their names. They remain dancers Benais and Megan Matheson, singer Sean Harris, guitarist Bob Sutherby and percussionist Tony Tucker. The women don't wear traditional fussy flamenco costumes, nor do they sport the de rigueur middle-part/chignon hairstyle. If they weren't performing flamenco, El Viento would look like an East Coast step-dance band, and that's its charm.

"El Viento's mandate of solo dance numbers with musical/vocal interludes is individualistic and it works. Benais is tall and imposing and Matheson is nubile and sexy. Both can cut the footwork. The musicians are excellent , and Harris is a sweeter singer than most cantors."
- Paula Citron for the Globe and Mail, June 27 2006

"Flamenco Group Celebrates Decade - Ron Foley Macdonald"

From the strains of the Gypsy Kings to the electrifying films of Tony Gatlif, the sounds of Flamenco have spread from their native Spain right around the world over the last quarter-century. Here on the East Coast of Canada, we've been lucky to host the St. John's born, Halifax-based troupe El Viento Flamenco for more than ten years.

To celebrate a decade of activity--from concerts, to founding a school for both music and dance, to a major collaboration with the Dalhousie Theatre School last winter--the El Viento Flamenco Company launched their freshly recorded live album at the Great Hall of Dalhousie's University Club in the first week of July to a sold-out house of happy fans, friends and associates.

The six-person group--guitarist Bob Sutherby, percussionists Tony Tucker and Megan Matheson, dancer Evelyne Benais and singers Sean Harris and Maral Perk--deliver a stark, unadulterated version of Spanish Flamenco that has definitely not been watered-down for mass-market consumption.

In fact, El Viento Flamenco's austere purity is something truly amazing to behold. With the longest selection--entitled Seguiriya--on the album clocking in at a massive 15 minutes and 24 seconds, this is raw and exciting stuff, sung in its original language and driven only by acoustic guitar, percussion, handclaps and foot-stomps.

Recorded in front of a live audience by CBC honchos Glenn Meisner and Pat Martin--live sound was by the renowned Sonic Temple-based recordist David Hillier--El Viento Flamenco In Concert is a fascinating, intense and deeply rewarding musical experience.

And while the company has not compromised its extraordinary musical and dance presentations over the last ten years, El Viento Flamenco has worked hard to expand its audience, appearing widely from major receptions--the 2001 Atlantic Film Festival Opening Party was one--to Network Television performance programs (Bravo, The New Style Arts Channel, recently featured the group in its own show put together by the Halifax-based New Scotland Production Company).

The eight selections on the new album range from traditional pieces to more contemporary works, all in the various dance and declarative forms that dictate much of Flamenco's modern-day boundaries. Serious, passionate, and remarkably sustained, the music on the disc celebrates Spain's sense of place where Western and Oriental streams of music meet, making for an unforgettable fusion of ornamented line, furious rhythm and keening emotion.

The bulk of the vocals are handled by Newfoundlander Sean Harris, a singer trained in Western Classical tradition who has plunged himself into the study of contemporary Spanish and Flamenco practices. Realizing one of the great connections between The Rock and Iberia--five hundred years of fishing fleets from Spain and Portugal and the Basque region on the Grand Banks have indeed bred a spiritual closeness--Harris handles the many demanding twists and turns of Flamenco vocalizations with the confidence of someone with deep and abidingly profound understanding of the tradition.

Similarly, guitarist Bob Sutherby drives the sometimes-manic rhythms of the group with an extraordinary dedication to his role as the single harmonic instrument for the group. His interaction with the rest of the troupe's handclaps on the ten-minute second track on the album, Alegria, makes for an engrossing rhythmic dialogue that reveals the group's superb ensemble abilities.

Having received rave reviews from the National Press for their recent return to Newfoundland in June for a Canada-wide Dance Exposition, El Viento Flamenco seem to be entering their second decade with renewed enthusiasm.
- Aliant.net

"Anderson's blues show ignites fiery audience - Stephan Peterson"

"In 19 years of covering the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival, I have never heard such a powerful uproar from a festival audience, and this was no rock concert. The audience ranged in age from eight to 80.

"... El Viento Flamenco literally kicked things off for a bold, energetic first [set] ... I can't remember any Folk Harbour concert presenting a more consistently brilliant lineup at a single event. No wonder the tent hardly emptied from the first hot-tempered strum of Bob Sutherby's flamenco guitar to the last shouted "Ba-dum" of [Lenny] Gallant's 'The Band's Still Playing'.

"Sutherby, by the way, is a superb guitarist, his tone and style impeccably crisp, while Sean Harris's searing tenor, Maral Perk's darkly intense alto, Tony Tucker's percussion and the intricate rhythms of hand claps and heel-hammers from Benais and her dancers provide a dizzying context for Benais's sinuous dancing, her arms and fingers tracing mesmerizing arcs and ornaments in the air with astonishing fluency and grace.

"It was a grand beginning to an unforgettable evening."
- The Halifax Herald

"Whole Note Magazine"

It never ceases to amaze me how flamenco has infiltrated cultures far grom its original Spanish roots. El Viento Flamenco is a dance/music troupe from Halifax via Newfoundland. Yes Newfoundland. And this is the real deal. The members who comprise the troupe, founders Evelyne Benais (dance), and Bob Sutherby (guitar), singers Sean Harris and Maral Perk and percussionists Tony Tucker and Megan Matheson, come from a variety of musical backgrounds - rock, blues, folk - but they have all been infected by the flamenco virus and have come together to bring us authentic gypsy soul.

This is a CBC recording of a live performance and while listening to an audio recording of a dance performance may seem odd, it works well due to the percussive nature of flamenco dancing. Especially when it is performed with the rhythmic precision that Benais has. Add to that Sutherby's lyrical playing and the solid percussion accompaniment
and you have a fine performance. However, what lifts this recording and group into stellar territory is Sean Harris. The man sings like an angel. For diehard flamenco traditionalists this may be a bit of a problem. Flamenco singers aren't supposed to sing like angels. They're supposed to sound tortured; like they've been to hell and back and chain-smoked the whole way. But Harris delivers all the rest of the requisite flamenco attributes in spades: passion, power and the vocal gymnastics that flamenco's modal and rhythmic quirks demand. El Viento Flamenco "In Concert" delivers a gorgeous and accessible flamenco that is made in Canada.

Cathy Riches, Toronto's Whole Note Magazine - Whole Note Magazine


El Viento Flamenco (2002)

El Viento Flamenco in concert (2006)
Our radio airplay has begun and is increasing through broadcast on shows such as Atlantic Airwaves (who recorded our CD) and Global Village on CBC Stereo Two.



Spanish Music and Dance from the Shores of Atlantic Canada

Winners of 2007 East Coast Music Award (ECMA): Best Roots/Traditional Group Recording

Flamenco is the traditional music and dance of the gypsies (Roma) of Southern Spain. It has developed over the last 250 years, with influences from various cultures, including Latin American and Middle-Eastern. Today, the vast spectrum of Flamenco styles is kept alive and vibrant by artists of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds in Spain and around the world.

El Viento Flamenco brings its own, very distinct voice to the art form. With a singer and guitarist who hail from rock and roll, a percussionist who is involved in everything from Newfoundland folk to African drumming and Punk rock, and dancers who have grown up and lived in places as varied as Turkey, France, Spain and Canada, El Viento Flamenco stands subtly but resolutely outside of flamenco tradition. The dancers of the group take inspiration from the more raw, primitive "Gypsy" style of such stars as Angelita Vargas, Concha Vargas, and Juana Amaya in Spain, or Carmen Romero in Canada. One of the characteristics of this style is to dance solo (as opposed to group choreographies in the balletic style). Dancing solo gives the dancer the freedom to improvise and to enjoy the exhilaration of the spontaneous interaction with the musicians.

Sean's "voz clara" is perhaps the most defining element of El Viento Flamenco's sound. With years of performing gospel, blues, and rock, he has developed a unique style and clear timbre, which sets El Viento Flamenco apart from other flamenco troupes around the world. The group also benefits from Maral's background in Armenian folk and Turkish pop tunes and Megan's background in Nova Scotian folk music. Together, the singers provide the inspiration for the powerful and elegant simplicity of the dancing: both the singers and dancers are sustained by the crisp, aggressive sound of Bob's guitar. Tony, with his influences of Celtic, Middle-Eastern, African and Rock drumming, adds the final touch to El Viento Flamenco's singular sound. The genuine expression of each artist's individuality is of prime importance: in this way, El Viento Flamenco is fiercely authentic.

In the last five years they have toured extensively throughout Atlantic Canada, including all the Atlantic Presenters in the Maritimes and the Arts and Culture Centres in Newfoundland and Labrador, they have performed at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, they have made several regional and national appearances on CBC radio and television, they have performed at Government House for the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, they have had their music arranged for orchestra in preparation for two concerts with Symphony Nova Scotia, and they have been featured in a half-hour documentary on Bravo Television.