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Flamenco Duo Sonia and Ismael, A Perfect Partnership

by Bonnie Rosenstock
March 27, 2017
Joe's Pub
The Public Theater
425 Lafayette St.
New York, NY 10003
212-967-7555
Coinciding with St. Patrick’s Day, renowned for its overindulgence of libations, flamenco dancer Sonia Olla and flamenco singer Ismael Fernández poured out their hearts in “Raudal,” which translates from Spanish as a torrent of water or other liquid. It also signifies “abundance,” which flowed from the two performers and their mighty musicians at Joe’s Pub on March 17 as part of the 2017 New York Flamenco Festival.

Fernández, whose grandparents and mother are gypsy, honed his flamenco chops in the streets of Seville in southern Spain (Andalucía) and by performing with his relatives, the Fernández Family. Olla’s maternal grandfather was gypsy and while her family on all sides hailed from Granada in the south, she grew up in Barcelona, in northern Spain. When the two artists merged their professional and personal lives (they married ten years ago), something magical happened. Since they moved to New York in 2014 (with frequent trips back to Spain for work and recharge), a new dimension in their evolution has emerged, one of fusion and experimentation.

A mix of heavy-hitting international musicians accompanied the duo: New York-based Macedonian Duke Bojadziev on electric piano; Alex Conde, jazz-infused flamenco piano; 2009 Grammy-nominated Greek-American Panagiotis Andreou on vocals and electric bass (also, “Best Latin Jazz Bassist” award in 2010), who delivered some cool scats, wa-was and reverbs on his guitar; Cuban percussionist and Latin jazz drummer Ivan Llanes (congas); and Spaniard José Bandolero (traps and cajón). Fernández opened with a solo, accompanied by cajón (beat box drum), and then Olla performed all too briefly in a spectacular teaser of taconeo (footwork). The evening seemed to adhere to a format: Fernández singing with any combination of the musicians, then the musicians getting their own moment in the spotlight, followed by Olla’s exquisite dancing to Fernandez’s soulful flamenco voice with musical accompaniment.

Fernández and the band delivered different musical genres and sounds, ranging from jazz and flamenco fusion, Latin jazz and if not mistaken, a hint of Argentine tango snuck in. Olla maintained the more traditional home fires, as no matter what music, it’s still flamenco dancing, which she performs to perfection. At times, Fernández’s vocals blended well with the newly acquired rhythms, but at other times, he seemed to struggle to find his voice. But credit to him for wanting to expand his repertoire and challenge himself.

He was at his best, however, when accompanying Olla, whose name by the way means “pot,” as in simmering. Their deep connection, the knowing looks and smiles they exchanged were thrilling. At the finale, the duo brought the house down with their riveting, powerful partnership. Stoking the fire that is Olla.
Sonia Olla and Ismael Fernández in “Raudal.”

Sonia Olla and Ismael Fernández in “Raudal.”

Photo © & courtesy of Alejandro Mallado


Sonia Olla and Ismael Fernández in “Raudal.”

Sonia Olla and Ismael Fernández in “Raudal.”

Photo © & courtesy of Alejandro Mallado


Sonia Olla in “Raudal.”

Sonia Olla in “Raudal.”

Photo © & courtesy of Alejandro Mallado


The cast of “Raudal.”

The cast of “Raudal.”

Photo © & courtesy of Alejandro Mallado

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