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Lucy Pollak
Featured Articles
United States
Greater Los Angeles
Hollywood, CA

Maria Bermudez FLAMENCO: Sonidos Gitanos and Chicana Gypsy Project

by Lucy Pollak
June 29, 2010
Hollywood, CA
Maria Bermudez revolutionizes the art of Flamenco, transporting audiences on an extraordinary personal journey from her Chicana roots to the land where Gypsy flamenco reigns - and back again. Maria Bermudez FLAMENCO: Sonidos Gitanos and Chicana Gypsy Project brings Bermudez' magnificent flamenco puro company, Sonidos Gitanos, from Spain to introduce its newest and most exciting endeavor to Los Angeles audiences. "Chicana Gypsy Project" is a blending of Gypsy flamenco music and dance with American jazz, Mexican rancheras, and original compositions. Two performances take place at the Ford Amphitheatre on Friday, July 23 and Saturday, July 24, both at 8:30 pm. Special Guest Bailaor (male dancer) will be Juan Ogalla.

Seventeen years ago, flamenco dancer Maria Bermudez left East L.A. and went to the source of flamenco, Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, to study and submerge herself in the culture. She settled there, marrying a Gypsy musician - and bringing with her a love of African-American blues and her Mexican-American heritage. Chicana Gypsy Project seamlessly unites these strands - the Cante Jondo or "deep song" of flamenco, blues, and ranchera, all expressing the cry of the heart and gut.

As the founder and artistic director of Sonidos Gitanos ("Gypsy Sounds"), Maria has exposed audiences across the world to the authentic flamenco sound and style of Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, the city where she has resided for so many years. In 2007 she formed Chicana Gypsy Project, which draws on her rich Mexican-American heritage as well as her immersion in the Gypsy culture of Andalucia. Combining her elegant jazz-flavored voice with her sensual and earthy flamenco dancing, Maria Bermudez blends cultures and art forms into a sound and style that is uniquely her own. Following the Project's debut in New York City, music critic Damaris Solis wrote, "Ms. Bermudez is a first-rate chanteuse [with] well-worn treads on her soulful chops."

"The many cultures of Los Angeles, where I grew up, helped shape me as an artist," explains Bermudez. "The Fountain Theatre was my artistic home in L.A. for many years, and I'm grateful to them for bringing me back to the Ford with Chicana Gypsy Project."

Maria has toured nationally and internationally with Sonidos Gitanos, bringing flamenco in its purest form from Jerez de La Frontera, which has been designated by the Spanish government as La Cuna del Flamenco ("The Cradle of Flamenco"). The Fountain first brought Maria and her newly formed company to the Ford in 1995, then again and again… in 1997, '98, 2001, '03, '04, and '06. The Fountain also presented them at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in 1996, San Diego's Lyceum Theatre in 1999, and at L.A.'s Japan America Theatre in 2007. Her outstanding and critically acclaimed performances have graced the stages of prominent venues in North America and Europe, including the Hollywood Bowl, the Joyce Theatre and Lincoln Center in New York, the Festival de Beaucaire in France, and Teatro Villamarta, Spain as part of the prestigious Festival Flamenco de Jerez. Through her work with flamenco's finest artists, she has become known as the "Ambassador of Gypsy Culture." She was honored by the city of Jerez in 2002 for her relentless dedication to the artistry of the region.

Most recently, Maria's extensive career has inspired the documentary film Streets of Flamenco, due to be released later this year. Inspired by the premature death of her brother, a promising flamenco dancer, the film follows Maria's journey from East Los Angeles to the Gypsy barrios of the flamenco world.

Musical Director Ildefonso "Pelé" De los Reyes is the singer/songwriter/composer for the Latin Grammy-nominated Flamenco group, Navajita Plateá, which has seven CDs on the market and one in the works. The group has had numerous hits; outstanding are "Frio Sin Ti" and "Noches de Bohenmia," Gold and Platinum albums respectively, from which selected songs were chosen to underscore the Spanish film Dias Contados that starred Javier Bardem. Navajita Plateá opened for Chuck Berry at the House of Blues in Madrid, and Pelé's song "Grito al Aire" was chosen to represent the TV campaign against racism and xenophobia. His music contains ingredients of pop, rock, flamenco and blues, while always maintaining his Gypsy roots. Pelé has become a reference for flamenco-oriented groups with a pop approach. Standard-bearers for their own style, they define themselves as Andalusian Gypsy musicians, but also as faithful followers of not only traditional flamenco cante, but also of the great blues, pop and rock artists of today.

Guest Artist Juan Ogalla (dancer) has performed all over the world with the prestigious Flamenco Ballet Cristina Hoyos, and with Soledad Barrios' Noche Flamenca. Highlights include the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona and Manuel Morao's Gypsy Passion on Broadway. Here in Southern California, he performed as Guest Artist at the New World Flamenco Festival at the Irvine-Berkley Theatre. His style is considered elegant yet earthy, strong and sexy.

Guitarist Jesús Alvarez blends traditional flamenco guitar with a contemporary sound. He has performed and recorded with La Chiqui, El Mono, El Capullo, Diego de Morao, Mijita Hijo and many others. He has played with Sonidos Gitanos in all of its Ford performances since 1998. Jesús is presently creating his own flamenco company, "Viejomundo."

Violinist Bernardo Fernández Parrilla is the son of guitarist Juan Parrilla and nephew of the legendary "Parrilla de Jerez." He formed a trio with his brothers Juan (flute) and Manuel (guitar) called "Alburejo." Bernardo's highly acclaimed violin-playing can be heard with Enrique Morente, Carmen Linares, Antonio Canales and Manolo Sanlúcar, as well as with Joaquín Cortés, with whom he has performed in several international tours. Bernardo joined Sonidos Gitanos for the tour that included L.A.'s Japan-America Theatre in 2007. He is presently a member of the Latin Grammy-winning Tomatito Sextet.

Singer Ana De los Reyes has a voice of pure emotion and strength. Ana has accompanied artists such as Monolete, Cristina Hoyos, and the internationally famed Joaquin Cortez, with whom she toured for several years. Ana sang with Sonidos Gitanos for its Southern California tours in 1999 and 2007. She has performed in the world's most prestigious theaters including New York's City Center, L.A.'s Universal Amphitheatre, and London's Royal Albert Hall.

Singer Miguel Rosendo is a highly acclaimed accompanist and soloist with a deep, profound, and "classic" flamenco voice reminiscent of past generations. He has toured Europe and Japan with such renowned artists as Dorantes, Antonio El Pipa, Javier Baron, and, most recently, with the prestigious Ballet Andaluz of Cristina Hoyos and with Manuela Carrasco. He performed with Sonidos Gitanos during the 2007 Southern California, three-city tour.

A self-taught musician, Manuel "Lolo" Bernal (electric guitar) has worked with artists such as Navajita Plateà, Kiko Veneno, Raimundo Amador, E District, Papa Levante, Diana Navarro, and Hakim among others. He is also a composer, producer and arranger.

Heavily influenced by American jazz and rock, drummer Bernardo "Tato" Macias created the highly successful group 'Mantra.' In the studio, he has recorded with prominent artists such as Tito Alcedo, Navajita Platea, Kiko Veneno, Lole y Manuel, Chano Dominguez, and many others.

Francisco "Paco" Lobo (acoustic bass) studied at the Manuel de Falla Conservatory of Music in Cadiz, Spain. He has collaborated with the Seville Symphony Orchestra, Merceds Ruiz, and Manuel Serrat among many others. He is presently a professor at the Música de Cámara, Real Conservatorio Profesional de Música Manuel de Falla de Cádiz, Spain.

Maria Bermudez FLAMENCO: Sonidos Gitanos and Chicana Gypsy Project takes place on Friday, July 23 and Saturday, July 24, both at 8:30 pm. Tickets range from $30-$55; buyers can save $5 per ticket by purchasing at least 7 days before the performance date. Students with valid ID and children 12 and under are $12.

The Ford Amphitheatre is located at 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, off the 101 Hollywood freeway across from the Hollywood Bowl and south of Universal Studios. On-site, stacked parking costs $5 per vehicle. FREE non-stacked parking serviced by a FREE shuttle to the Ford is available at the Universal City Metro Station at Lankershim Blvd. and Campo de Cahuenga; the shuttle, which cycles every 15-20 minutes, stops in the "kiss and ride" area. The Ford is disabled accessible. Portable wireless listening devices are available upon request. The Ford offers a number of dining options: a variety of food and beverages is available on site and box dinners for evening events may be ordered in advance. Picnicking is encouraged. For a complete season schedule, directions, parking information, and reservations, the public should call the Ford Theatres Box Office at (323) 461-3673 or go to www.FordTheatres.org.

Photo © & courtesy of Lucy Pollak

Photo © & courtesy of Lucy Pollak

Photo © & courtesy of Lucy Pollak

Photo © & courtesy of Lucy Pollak

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