Entering La Chanca society!

Ever since I moved to La Chanca people have been telling me about the Chanqueñan singer Sensi Falan and last week I finally got to meet her.

She is quite a special person. Born into a family of ‘marineros’ she was brought up in La Chanca, and despite becoming pretty well known, still has her home here.

She writes a lot of her own music, and most of her later work has a storytelling style rooted in flamenco, with a Moroccan influence. She is also very popular as a performer of traditional coplas and boleros.

Before the meeting I had of course researched her online, where in most of her latest videos she is a curly haired blonde, so I almost didn’t recognize her when she walked in with straight red hair! She had such a wide welcoming smile it was impossible not to like her from the word go, and she proved to be really easy to talk to, ready to tell us all about La Chanca and her music. Truly ‘simpática’ as the Spanish say.

We met in her sister’s bar, El Tintero, named after the historic use of the building for dyeing and mending fishing nets. It is an amazing place, lined with photos of flamenco and football!

The lunch was set up by a mutual friend, Claudia from Lucainena. Claudia is also a mover and shaker, she runs an impressive retreat called El Saltador in Lucainena where over the years she has organised all sorts of interesting cultural events, from outdoor theatre to concerts and alternative therapies.

Me, Sensi, Claudia and Sensi’s sister

The meeting was really for Jeanne and I to talk to Sensi about possible music outreach projects in La Chanca, and it was very interesting to hear her take on life here, the challenges we might encounter in trying to start something up and possible ways to achieve it.

The idea basically is to offer the kids that hang around the streets a chance to do something constructive in a group environment, learning to play an instrument or sing in a choir.

Sensi said the problem we will encounter is that many of the people living here are against change of any kind. They have their way of life, often based on marijuana production and sale, and are wary of anyone that might interfere.

The loud music that blares out over the community is apparently one of the types of anti social behaviour they use to keep people away that they don’t want around – along with the rubbish that continues to multiply despite the best efforts of street cleaners.

She told us that the music comes from only two or three houses, and they use it to mark their territory.

Well they haven’t succeeded in pushing me out yet, even though the music did become almost intolerable at one point over the summer.

Now that winter’s here though the cold is keeping people in and doors shut and the music isn’t as much in evidence.

Sensi was very supportive however, and said once she has finished recording her latest album, she would be happy to help get something off the ground next year. I really hope so as it would be fantastic to work with her.

Meanwhile things have continued to be very busy – that’s why it’s been so long since the last blog.

I had a lovely month of family visits with my mother and then Alex and Ellie coming over.

I missed them all so much when the last one (Ellie) flew back to the UK, but daily life takes over so that the whole missing thing just becomes something you live with like having to do the washing up or clean the house. A fact of life.

La Chanca – or I should really say La Hoya, as Sensi confirmed all the locals call our area that – continues to be both intriguing and sometimes surprising.

A couple of weeks ago, while Ellie was staying, we were woken in the middle of the night by a series of loud bangs followed by a high pitched shouting.

All the neighbours came rushing to next door and there was at least half an hour of animated discussion outside.

The next morning we asked what had happened and the answer was as usual, “Nada”.

Our neighbour then said someone had tried to “rob” his mother in the night – and pointed out several large dents in the front door.

But it couldn’t have been that, as burglars don’t usually announce their presence by banging angrily on the door! So we will never know the truth.

The same neighbours did however look out for me the other day, after they saw my garage door was open. I had left the house and the garage door must have not closed properly leaving a gap that anyone could have crawled under.

Anyway they pulled the sliding ‘rejas’ (gates) across and telephoned the alarm centre to try to get hold of me (they couldn’t because I was teaching) and as soon as I got back the mother popped out of her door in her habitual dressing gown to tell me everything.

I was really happy they had protected me, and it feels good to know I can trust them, at least where my property is concerned!

Link to Sensi Falan on Youtube