Letters from Madrid – Music

Insert of LaBanda’s No todo es Seda CD that the band members signed for me

In the last Letter From Madrid we were looking for flamenco classes and I had found a great guitar teacher. Today I move to the music scene we encountered in Madrid soon after we got there in 1996. I wrote the first letter I’m sharing on April 18, 1996 after we had been in Madrid about three months — we discovered at that time Madrid had a very active live performance scene, and we had already seen more than a dozen live performances by the middle of April. We were there primarily to study flamenco, and one aspect of studying flamenco was to go to as many performances by different flamenco artists as possible so we could see what was current, and the different styles of flamenco being performed. While flamenco was the majority of shows we saw, we went to every kind of concert from Rock & Roll to jazz to chamber music to classical. I found a spreadsheet that I kept on every concert and artist we saw perform live in 1996. The tally was 83 concerts and 187 individual performers.  

The “Music” section will take several posts because the descriptions of many of the performances we saw in the first three months in Madrid are detailed and long.

I discuss LaBanda in this post. They were the first band we saw perform live in Madrid, and after some time we became loyal followers of the band, groupies if you will, and got to know the band members well enough that we would sit around and talk with them between sets. Be sure to check out the Youtube videos at the end of this post. Two of the videos are from a TV series on the arts. The lead guitarist, Leo, talks about the group, and if you don’t understand Spanish, don’t worry, most of the time is spent on them performing live.


18 April 1996

The music scene in Madrid is big and hopping. There are advertisements for concerts all over the place. Green Day is coming as are “The Smashing Pumpkins” as the posters have it written, Sting, Kiss (unplugged), the Sex Pistols (what’s left living I guess), Mark Knoffler and about every other currently popular or once popular group plus a lot of Spanish and European groups we don’t hear about in the states. There are classical guitar concerts, ballets, musicals, plays and orchestras playing almost every night. We went to a really good salsa dance with two bands that played until 5:00 am, and we saw Irakere, Cuba’s most celebrated salsa/jazz group. We have seen five really good flamenco concerts. We went to Jazz Club Populart on Friday nights in March and listened to the bands they have (April’s lineup didn’t look as good, we will have to see what’s on in May). The first band we heard was a Celtic music band named LaBanda and they were excellent. I would like to see them again. The second group was a blues group. They were pretty good. The leader is from New York and gave us his telephone number, and we have talked a few times since. We are planning to get together with him, his wife, and his daughter. We listened to a reggae band there also, but they did not do much for us. We have seen many ads for ballroom dancing but have not made it out to see what it’s like here. There is so much going on that we could spend every day and night of the week going to museums, concerts, plays, symphonies and discos, listening to whatever live music we are in the mood for in bars and night clubs. With that we would not even begin to see or hear a fraction of what’s available.

Celtic Music
The band that plays Celtic music is worth mentioning. The group is called LaBanda, and they were quite good and the music fun. There was a bass player, drummer, keyboard player, guitarist/vocalist, violinist and a guy who played all kinds of flutes, small reed instruments and the bagpipes. The music was a mix of traditional rhythms with a rock under-beat. The tunes went from traditional to rock and roll. A lot of the tonality between the guitar, violin, and keyboard had an early Kansas sound to it. The band was tight, there was good balance on the sound, and they sounded great. They did lose a little of the Celtic quality from the vocal arrangements being sung in Spanish. However, in one song the guitarist/vocalist got the whole crowd to yell “hey”, “hey hey” at a break in the music. It was pretty funny hearing a bunch of Spaniards yell “hey”. The second time around he said we had to sound more English “you’re learning the language now” he said in Spanish, “say it” “heyy”, “heyy heyy” drawling the words into two syllables. This was even funnier. The band was not very loud. For a matter of fact, the band was having a bit of trouble competing with a few groups of Spaniards setting in the front of the bar. The guitarist finally went back and turned up the volume to drown out the Spaniards, which I think they only matched the volume. The evening was lots of fun and very entertaining.

To be continued…

LaBanda Videos
Labanda – Fin de Semana https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JS5OXn8Dgfo

LABANDA. PROGRAMA ESPECIAL 1 DE 2 (1992) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIQlkrzBuBU

LABANDA. PROGRAMA ESPECIAL 2 DE 2 (1992) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbeLeRWHww8

LaBanda – La Batalla De Somme https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wTV3J3WJIs