Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Iberian Evening in Café Lento

Sally Bavage writes:
The fourth partnership event with this lively and popular local café was, once again, a storming success.  It was packed out, with latecomers having to press their noses against the glass from the outside, watching proprietor Richard Lindley as he compered a delightful mix of tapas, wine, poetry and music. Portuguese songstress Mila Dores was incomparable!

Eyes closed,  you were in a Spanish bar, with the perfume of warm chorizo in your nostrils and the plaintive tones of Mila in your ears.  She was accompanied by talented musicians Neil Innes on guitar and Richard Ormerod (playing for the LitFest again on Saturday evening, 17 March, at Scriptophilia in the Heart centre) on percussion and flute.  We were treated to a selection of songs in English, Spanish and Portuguese that covered the usual themes of love, loss and death. The Girl from Ipanema was written first in Portuguese in 1962, and Mila’s cover version was a knockout.  One number, sung in the ‘fado’ style of unaccompanied voice, left us emotionally wrenched as it lamented the fishermen and explorers who left Portugal, never to return.

Poetry by Federico García Lorca, perhaps the greatest Spanish poet of the twentieth century, who was murdered by General Franco's fascists at the start of the Civil War in 1936, was presented in Spanish by José González and in English by Richard Wilcocks.  His portrait was in a frame on the counter. There was blood and tears, loyalty and love, loss and death, and also passion and meaning whichever the language, the words flowing round us in a narrative stream. The first poem was Romance sonámbulo (Dreamwalker Ballad) from Romancero gitano, which begins 'Verde que te quiero verde.' ('Green how I want you green.') 

Richard Lindley also read us a trio of shorter poems: The Guitar (La guitarra) plays well to the audience, The Shout (El grito) is short and loud and Seville (Sevilla) takes us to the heart of the hot south of Spain.

It is fascinating to hear the same poem read to a  hushed audience, first in the gentle sweeps of English rhythm and then in José’s more staccato Andalucian tones.  One poem, two languages, two rhythms, one idea.

At times the audience was swaying, not with the effects of the wicked sangría mixed by our resident expert but in time to the mellifluous voice and music washing over us. Fingers and toes tapped compulsively to some of the faster beats.  Not Tourettes but just darn good music! 

Altogether, an extraordinary evening. Just how do you spell ‘whoop’ and ‘holler’ in Portuguese?


  1. Eu amei esta noite em Headingley! Mila era magnífico.

  2. Great night! Thanks Cafe Lento and Headingley LitFest.

    Clare (Lento Jnr.)

  3. Quise oír más lectura de Jose porque él sonaba tan bueno. La poesía de Lorca se debe leer por alguien de Andalucía.