Singer; Guitarist; DJ; Spain; Flamenco; Spanish music; Latin music; Parties

Juan García: a singer/guitarist and DJ celebrating flamenco culture and hosting the most popular Spanish and Latin music nights in Manchester

Name

Juan García

Ethnicity

Spanish

Area

Harpurhey

Researcher

James Nissen

Comments

Introducing Juan “La flamencura no tiene cura! [The flamenco has no cure!]. It doesn’t matter where you are from, if you love the music, you will feel something, something from the soul”. Juan Antonio García – ‘El Primo Juan’ – is a singer, guitarist, DJ and events organiser based in Manchester. He was born in the small town of Alcalá de Henares, just outside of the city of Madrid, but his family originally comes from Cádiz, Andalucía. He is a flamenco and rumbero musician and he has performed at famous festivals across Spain, including the Feria de Abril in Sevilla. He also plays with Almas de Plata, a family band made up of Juan and his two sisters, Elísabeth and Bárbara, which combines a mix of styles from flamenco to pop. In Manchester, Juan is best known for organising performances and parties featuring Spanish and Latin music through his successful company Olé Olé Events and for his own performances at Spanish restaurants and venues in the city including El Rincon de Rafa, La Tasca and La Viña. Juan's Musical Life Story From a young age, Juan was obsessed with music. He studied music at school and learnt to play the flute. Over the course of his childhood, he listened to a wide range of styles, including flamenco, classical music, blues, jazz, rock and bacalao [house music]. But, even from the beginning, it was flamenco which spoke to him most powerfully, connecting him with his Andalusian heritage. With his passion for this tradition, he ultimately fell in love with the guitar, learning to play in the street and with his family and friends. “Music for me is everything. When I started to listen to music [as a child] with the cassettes and the headphones, I listened for hours to different music. Every time, I discovered something new. Music is definitely something I couldn’t live without!”. “I think my love for flamenco came from my grandfather, [who] was born in Cádiz, which is one of the main places of flamenco. All this area – Jerez de la Frontera, Cádiz and San Fernando – it’s very involved in the flamenco…When I was a kid, I was listening to the flamenco all the time. I was always listening with my dad in the car – my dad played the guitar – so I learned a lot this way. Myself, I read about the flamenco, I watched videos after school, and every day I would play for like ten hours! My mom would say ‘Stop, Juan!’ but, when you start, you love it and you want to learn more and more and more and more!”. By age 18, Juan had emerged as a versatile musician with ambitions to become a professional performer. He pursued every opportunity to learn more about the flamenco: he listened to the music of pioneers like Triana, Camarón de la Isla and Los Chicos; he took in Niña Pastori shows in Torrejón; he participated in flamenco juergas [sessions] in different places all over Spain; and he travelled to the flamenco heartlands of Granada and Sevilla to meet other musicians and learn more about this rich tradition. Around this time, he coined the artistic name ‘El Primo Juan’, which came from his living situation. “From 17 or 18 years old, I was living with my auntie. So all the friends of my cousin, they start to call me ‘primo Juan’ because I’m their primo [cousin], you know? After that, everyone call me ‘primo Juan’ so I put my artistic name like this – ‘El Primo Juan’”. Juan was not the only member of his family with musical ambitions; in fact, both of his sisters were also developing careers in music. They decided to combine all their creativities and formed the group Almas de Plata to play together and to honour the memory of their grandfather. They performed in Madrid and Andalucía as well as other places in Spain and they released their eponymous debut LP in 2013 (See:https://elprimojuan.bandcamp.com/album/almas-de-plata). “We decide to put that name because alma is ‘soul’ and plata is ‘silver’. Almas de Plata [Silver Souls] is the name because we are souls from Cádiz [which is known as ‘La Tacita de Plata [The Silver Cup]’]. My grandfather had died and he was in Cádiz, so we put that name in memory of him”. In July 2013, Juan decided to travel to Manchester. He intended to visit for a year to learn English but, impressed by this ‘musical city’, he decided to stay. Eight years later, he has built a successful career as a musician and an events promoter. However, his early experiences in Manchester were difficult and his recognition came from hard graft. “When I came here, I didn’t know English…it was really difficult. I started to learn English and I had to work really hard. Sometimes I felt ‘I cannot do it’. I started like a waiter in a Spanish restaurant – I gotta say thank you to them for giving me the opportunity to work – but I didn’t feel really good about myself when I was working, because my language was not good…English people would come to me and they wanted something but I didn’t understand…especially because the accent is really difficult…I had to ask one friend to translate, so I felt a little bit dumb…But, after six months, I started to understand”. “I’m good with contacts – I like to speak with the people – so I started speaking with the Spanish restaurants and the Spanish people here and I started my business, I started organising the parties…Some English people also gave me a chance – they helped me find opportunities…So, people in Manchester started to hear my name ‘El Primo Juan’ for parties, for flamenco…I played in many restaurants around Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, in Scotland…I developed my business and my flamenco career”. Driven by his own longing for Spanish music, Juan created a business, Olé Olé, to produce events and parties that celebrate Spanish and Latin music. Many of these events offer a variety of cultural elements, including food and dance, in addition to the music itself, providing an immersive experience and sharing an insight into the broader culture surrounding the music. “The idea with Olé Olé was to show my culture in England – to bring flamenco performers from Spain and to show the cultural elements, with the food, the dance, all these things…Now, I make more ways – I do events with flamenco and I do others [as a DJ] with reggaetón and Latin and Spanish music…Normally, the people like flamenco with dancing and singing to accompany the people eating and sometimes they want more of a party later and we do a special flamenco show”. Juan’s hard work in building a new career in Manchester has evidently paid off. Until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Juan was performing flamenco and rumba regularly at the most popular restaurants and venues for Spanish music in the city, Olé Olé was organising cultural celebrations and throwing mega parties, and Alma de Plata was recording new material and preparing to perform more around the UK and Spain. Juan is determined that, after the pandemic has passed, he will pick up these his different threads again and become even more active in performing and promoting flamenco. “It was a bit difficult in the beginning, because the people don’t know me and they didn’t know Spanish music. Even in Revolución de Cuba, they preferred the electronic music and the chart hits. But, after time, they start to trust me. I worked with Revolución de Cuba and at La Tasca, Impossible, Walkabout, Maliki – many important clubs in town. La Tasca gave me the chance to work there and throw parties and, after three parties, they gave me the keys and I put the Spanish and Latin music there and put free entry and the people said that I made one of the best events in Manchester…I was moving 300-400 people at these events. At the beginning, some people said ‘Who is this guy?’ but I said ‘You will see who I am!’ and I worked hard to create Olé Olé”. “After the pandemic, I want to focus more on flamenco, because this was the reason I created Olé Olé. I’m expanding Olé Olé in Spain now as well – I’m doing some work [there] and I’m developing more music events…I think [me and my sisters] want to focus more in the music now too…We don’t know the future, especially with the [COVID-19] virus and everything…We’re thinking to start again, because we love these things…[and] we got nostalgia for the old life…I’ve been doing my music and my sisters have been doing their music and I think it is the perfect time now to bring it together”. “If everything goes well with the pandemic, I’m definitely gonna be as active as I can in England. So I invite the people to come to see me here in Manchester, to ask for ‘El Primo Juan’, you’re always gonna find me in one corner of the city!”. The Meanings of Juan's Music Juan’s main purposes in performing flamenco are to express its feelings, to make a connection with audiences and to share the culture. He explains that there is a wide range of emotions conveyed in flamenco tradition and that each palo (flamenco form; literally ‘stick’) has its own mood as well as its own musical characteristics such as compás (rhythmic cycle) and mode. Juan’s signature phrase, ‘La flamencura no tiene cura! [The flamenco has no cure!]’, indicates his belief in the power of flamenco as a force that can take over any listener, regardless of their background. “The flamenco is something that we can’t explain with words. It’s something that is inside of us. The flamenco is coming from a long time ago, it’s something that we’ve grown up feeling it. If you go into the flamenco, you start to feel something very deep. Flamenco is the feelings, it’s not just the music…I think it’s one of the most important cultures of our country. I think we can’t lose this, because I think it has become universal – everyone love it…When I explain flamenco to people and show them videos, everyone says the same – ‘I love it!’. It’s something that, when we see the musicians and the dancers and the singer, we all feel something, something from the soul”. “With the flamenco, there are different compás – the most important are the bulerías from Jerez, tangos from Granada, sevillanas from Seville, soleá, seguiriya, martinete, soleá por bulerías, algerías de Cádiz – we have many palos and different compás…Every single palo is saying something about feelings and the place it is coming from. The algerías is happy and saying the love for Cádiz. Fandango is very deep, it’s expressing the feeling when someone has died or when your wife has left you and you are depressed. The rumba is more for partying and drinking with your friends”. For Juan, flamenco also offers a way to maintain his connection to Spain, both emotionally when he is in Manchester and also practically when he travels to perform in his mother country. He emphasises the community aspects of flamenco culture, highlighting that, in festivals and juergas, all the musicians present become one in the music. “I love flamenco and I’ve been in this world for a long time…Every summer, I try to go to Spain, especially because the weather here is not really good! I normally perform in the Feria de Sevilla and, this year, me and my sisters played in El Palmar in Cádiz…I go to all the ferias in Jerez and Seville with my guitar and I meet people…You never know who you will end up with! I’ve been in different places with famous people doing some parties and I appreciate that they invite me too. It’s because the flamenco is not just for famous people – it’s for everyone who is there. So, if you are enjoying the music in the right moment with the right people, you’re going to experience something really good”. As a DJ, Juan’s main aims at his Spanish and Latin music parties are to create ‘good vibes’, to get the audience dancing, and to open people’s ears to new music. He explains that his mobility between Spain and the UK helps with this, as it enables him to bring over classic Spanish records as well as the freshest tracks from the European mainland. “Every time I go to Spain, I speak with DJs, I bring new music from Spain. In Madrid, the parties are amazing, so I keep contact with the young DJs there and they pass me new things. I think it helps me bring the new vibes here…and keep it fresh with the parties”. “Honestly, I like to be old school too. The people like classic music as well…In the Spanish parties, I put some songs from my dad’s [time], like Manolo Escobar. I put Estopa, Rafael, Los Chicos – proper Spanish singers from Spain, not just the songs in Spanish on all the radios, like Don Omar and Daddy Yankee. I put something old and, when you listen to this, you remember the past…and then I always mix them with the reggaetón. I think this is what makes me different from other producers”. “Normally, in the parties, the people are dancing, because they love the music. If they are not dancing, I’m doing something bad! I like to bring all the people to the dancefloor. I put different styles so, if I see someone is not dancing, I try to find the song I think they will like that will bring them to the dancefloor”. Spanish Music in Manchester Music motivated Juan to choose Manchester and, after his arrival, it was music which convinced him to stay. He recounts being impressed by the ubiquity of live music in the bars and pubs and around the streets of the city and he was overwhelmed by its musical and cultural diversity. He hopes that, one day, he might be able to collaborate with other musicians to bring together different musical influences in this context. “When I wanted to come to England, I looked at London and other cities – but, when I started to read about Manchester and the influence it has had with music, I decided to come here. It is a place for musicians. All the time, people are playing in the streets. I play in the street as well and I love it, because I like to share my music with the people”. “Manchester is a really good place for music and for culture because it has a really good mix of influences…For me, it was a new world, definitely, because you can see a lot of different musicians from a lot of different countries playing and sharing their culture…I love it because, every day when I go into town, I can listen to new music on the street – this is something really unique”. “I spoke with friends about doing flamenco in English with some English musicians…or mak[ing] something with the Arabic musicians, because it’s similar in the culture…If I do something like this, it will attract the English people and it will also be something new for the Spanish people!”. Juan suggests that the music scene for traditional Spanish music in Manchester is relatively small, but he points out that contemporary Spanish-language music, particularly Latin American dance music, is thriving in the nightlife of the city, and Juan himself has played an important part in developing this scene. With flamenco, Juan’s staple role has been to perform within the Spanish community in Manchester, providing music for family parties, for festivities and for restaurants. However, Juan has also worked to cultivate a following for flamenco amongst the wider Manchester community, organising events that have attracted a more diverse crowd, and he hopes that more sustained opportunities to see flamenco will come in time. “My music and my work has [mainly] been for the Spanish community in Manchester. The people miss the flamenco so I play for them in the clubs and restaurants. Many people call me for birthdays or something. They say to me ‘Juan, you make me feel like home, you make me feel like I’m in Spain!’. I like that. When we do events in La Viña or La Tasca or different Spanish restaurants, the Spanish people come and say ‘Juan, I need this, please come to my house and play the music’ and the people come and they enjoy it”. “Last year, at El Rincon de Rafa, after six years working with events, I bring one very famous guy from Córdoba – he’s called Manuel Vega – and we made a big event there…After working really hard to bring my culture here – I made some flamenco shows and I brought my sister and some other performers – we brought this famous flamenco musician and I was really impressed because it was fully booked and 80% of the audience were [non-Spanish] people. The restaurant owner, Rafa, told me ‘Juan, you have made me really happy here because we are sharing our culture professionally with the English people too’. I think this was one of the top moments in my flamenco career because it made the English people come and they fell in love the flamenco…I paid from my pocket everything and I invested my time in this – because it was difficult to book the flights, the hotels, the promotion – but everyone loved it. It gave them the chance to hear and appreciate the flamenco, without having to go to Spain!”. “If I could, I would do flamenco every day or every weekend! I would love to do this more, but it’s difficult because you’ve got to have money…In Manchester, we need a place to go to see flamenco like this. If we have this place to go, I think the people, including the English people, they’re gonna go. Everyone likes the flamenco and everyone likes the experience. [We need] a small place with proper Spanish food and wine and proper flamenco to show them the culture and give them the whole experience”. Through his flamenco performance and his event management work, Juan has not only made a successful career for himself as a musician and promoter in Manchester; he has transformed the celebration of Spanish music in the music scene and has helped to raise the profile of Spanish and Latin music in the nightlife of the city. ‘Despa-Brexit’ (see video) This song is Juan and collaborator Ismael Balotelli’s adaptation of Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi’s international smash hit, ‘Despacito’ (2017). It is a playful criticism of Brexit, the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union following the 2016 referendum. In the song, Juan comments on the glacial pace of the process (‘Despacito, nos iremos todos pero despacito [Slowly, we will all go, but slowly]’), challenges divisive narratives about foreigners (‘Llevo muchos años en vuestro país/Trabajando duro y pagando impuesto’ [I have been in your country for many years/Working hard and paying taxes]’), and warns against the economic impacts (‘Bares y aeropuertos quedarán vacíos [Bars and airports will be empty]’), but he remains hopeful that enduring links will connect Spain and the UK (‘Que toda Europa sigamos estando unidos/Cuando vengas a Majorca, siempre seréis bienvenidos [Let us remain united in Europe/When you come to Majora, you will always be welcome]’). “It was in 2017, because from 2016 in England we started to talk about the Brexit, but it never happened. So that’s why we decide to make a song – a funny song – because they kept saying ‘Brexit is coming’ but then it didn’t come. Now, it is definitely coming, but we are in 2020! At that time, ‘Despacito’ was the most famous song in the world, so we decided to reshape this song. With one friend, we start to write the song and, in the evening, we just play in the back of my house with the guitar – you can see the video is really simple – and that was it! In England, many people saw that video and it’s been in the news and in interviews on the TV. The people really connected with it”. “The song is a criticism of Brexit, but in a funny way, because I don’t want to be disrespectful to the people. In a nice way, we say ‘We’re gonna go and all the airports are going to be empty and the Spanish people are gonna go away and what are you going to do because we work in the hospitality services and we say also that the English people like to go to the beaches in Majorca so we don’t understand the Brexit’. I think it’s better to be open with the world, including with the European people as well, because we can both benefit each other”. “Spain has a really good connection with England. Many English people have flats or houses in Majorca and in south of Spain – Alicante and Málaga…And I’m here in Manchester and I feel in my home – I really like it here…Brexit hasn’t changed Manchester”. ‘Por Alegrías de Cadiz’ (see audio) This short recording comes directly from the streets of Manchester, where Juan accompanies the powerful voice of his sister, Bárbara, who sings out an excerpt from a song by the legendary Camarón de la Isla for the entire neighbourhood.

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Singer; Guitarist; DJ; Spain; Flamenco; Spanish music; Latin music; Parties

Juan García: a singer/guitarist and DJ celebrating flamenco culture and hosting the most popular Spanish and Latin music nights in Manchester

Name

Juan García

Ethnicity

Spanish

Area

Harpurhey

Researcher

James Nissen