But I was bound and determined to find it last year in Andalucia.
Prior to our trip, I was inspired by the writings of Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca who discussed the elusive concept in the book “In Search of Duende” (A New Direction Pearls publishers, 1975).
Lorca described duende ‘as a power, not a work. . .a struggle, not a thought.’ Likening it to a demonic ‘earth spirit that captures an artist, be it a bullfighter, Flamenco dancer or musician’ in such a manner as to cause an emotional – even physical response – by the audience.
In theory, we would know it was duende when we found it.
With our legal and journalist backgrounds, finding such a thing would be a stretch of our ‘fact and figures’ approach to life. I anticipated it would require attending a bull fight or a flamenco performance to even have a chance at experiencing duende, but then as we walked back to our hotel in Seville late one night. . .
We saw through the open back door of a tavern that is was packed with men in dark robes with colorful sashes, patches and a few tassels. We’d noticed similar dress on a few people we’d passed earlier on the street. It sounded like they were having fun, so curiosity – or was it that rascal duende – led us inside for a closer look . . .
. . .at the red and white sashes, the patches and other adornments on their outfits:
It didn’t matter that we were the only English speaking twosome in their midst; certainly the only Americans. In our broken English/Spanish conversation we think they told us they were from various universities, they gathered annually at different locations in Spain.
To this day and despite Google searches we still aren’t sure exactly who they were or what they did, why they gather, or why they were in town.
But sometimes that really isn’t important when you think back on an experience. . .
Especially when it was an experience like no other we had in Spain because when they picked up their instruments and began to play music. . .and sing. . .
The atmosphere changed as first one and then others picked up instruments and joined in. . .
The man in the center, a patron at the bar, requested a particular song and they began to sing it. . .
A song of such power and emotion that soon the patron – with a deep, strong voice – had joined in. . .
Here I should note that earlier in the evening Joel had told the woman in the photo that I had been searching for duende on this trip. . .
We were caught up by the music’s intensity, the vibrancy in the small place, the spontaneity of the continuing song-fest . . .
You want duende?”
This, . . . this, is duende!” she said to me.
But she didn’t need to tell me that.
I knew it was duende – I’d felt it too.
“But there are neither maps nor exercises to help us find the duende. . . .
The great artists of the south of Spain, whether Gypsy or flamenco, whether they sing, dance or play, know that no emotion is possible unless the duende comes. . .”
- Federico Garcia Lorca
Have you ever searched for something so elusive in your travels? Did you find it?
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