Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Music on Tenerife – When Salsa Becomes Boring

The first time I heard a live band on Tenerife, it sent a shiver of excitement through my  body. I can't remember where it was or when, but it involved a group of lads dancing with pumped up energy on a stage as they belted out a sound which had a mix of of hot sultry nights, cool mojitos and dark eyed and olive thighed women shaking their booties for all they were worth. It felt sensually exotic.
Six and a bit years further down the line, the same sound feels about as exotic as having fish and chips in Whitby. Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy fish and chips in Whitby and I still enjoy Latino/salsa music...but I also like to hear something different every now and again.

Like most people, the Canarios in general are creatures of habit. They know what they like and they stick to it like superglue. I've blogged before about Carnaval having three types of music – live salsa bands for the older revellers; DJs playing electro salsa for the younger revellers and for the teenagers, a nice pop salsa beat.

Every traditional fiesta I go to features live salsa music...except when it's traditional Canarian (of which there are about three original songs with an endless combination of variations).

I'm human and therefore prone to animal instincts and so am also a creature of habit. But the same thing over and over, whether it's food, music or anything for that matter, can become tedious.
Thankfully on Tenerife there are also loads of other places to get a music hit especially during summer months. There are classical concerts, rock, jazz, blues and proper old school trance. I've seen Robert Cray, Echo and the Bunnymen, Irish up and coming rockers The Deans and the wonderful Orishas (okay, they're Cuban Hip Hop with a Latino beat, but they have quite a unique sound) as well as a whole load of lesser known names. So I do okay for getting to listen to a wide range of live music, but here's the bit that is very revealing about the Canarian culture.

A couple of weeks ago we went to a concert that was part of the FMAC festival. This is a festival dedicated to alternative music. The alternative music in this case was jazz funk and indie rock. There you go, it's official - indie rock isn't part of the mainstream music scene here, it's classed as alternative music.

The other thing that speaks volumes is this. Thousands upon thousands of people always turn out for the traditional fiestas and the streets are filled with people of all ages salsa-ing the nights away.
For all the bands (with the exception of Orishas) I mentioned before and the alternative music festival the other week, the turn out was closer to a couple of hundred. The majority of local people simply want salsa, salsa and then some more salsa.

In truth it's admirable. It shows a culture which is rock solid and sticking to the things it likes, completely unaffected by half a century of mass tourism. Salsa might have lost some of its spice for me, but as long as there are plenty of 'alternative' festivals to maintain the musical balance, I'm a happy bunny – I can have the best of both worlds.

However, next time you're up north at a trad fiesta and there's some guy in the crowd shouting 'Give us some Kings of Leon,' you'll know who it is.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Huge Travel Discounts in the Canary Islands

(Photo - the twin peaks of La Palma above Santiago Del Teide)
There’s something quite fascinating for me in being part of an archipelago; it’s like being a part of a family – a solid, geographic family. And I think it gives a place a very special feel and character.
When you spend your holidays on Tenerife, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura or Gran Canaria, it’s highly likely that it never even occurs to you that you’re one island in seven; why should it? The same is true for most of us ex-pat residents of the islands. In some respects, it’s a bit like living anywhere else; you tend only to be aware of your own immediate surroundings- the ‘my back yard’ syndrome.

Look out over the south and west coasts and you can’t fail to see Tenerife’s nearest neighbour, La Gomera. Look harder on a clear day and you’ll see the twin peaks of La Palma lying to La Gomera’s northwest and the tip of El Hierro lying off her south coast. Off the north east coast of Tenerife the mass of Gran Canaria is clearly visible on many days.

But to really get a feel for being a part of the Canarian Archipelago, drive up to Teide National Park on a clear day (September and October are the best months for crystal clear visibility) or take the cable car to just below the peak and experience the awesome beauty of all four of those islands, and sometimes five if Lanzarote sneaks onto the eastern horizon, lying in their crystalline azure waters; brothers and sisters to Tenerife.
It’s said that if you climb to the peak of Mount Teide for sunrise, on a clear morning you can see all six satellite islands. Unfortunately when Jack and I did it, we could only see five and it’s not like you can just ‘pop back again’ the next day to see if you can get all six this time. Still, it’s definitely on my ‘things I still want to see’ list.

So, with all those other islands lying tantalisingly in such close proximity, each completely diverse from the others, why not take the opportunity to do a little family visiting?

Having recently had reason to do a bit of island hopping for both business and pleasure purposes, it strikes me that some regular visitors to Tenerife may not realise that they’re entitled to reduced fares on all the inter-islands transport; ferries and aircraft.
And by way of illustration of just how valuable that discount is, here are some price comparisons (all prices are from websites for one day return journey on 5th April 2010):

Tenerife to La Gomera:    ‘Tourist’ rate        ‘Resident’s Rate’
Fred Olsen Express               €60.92                  €30.44
Naviera Armas                     €46.31                  €23.17
Binter Canarias Airlines          €137.70                €70.70

How do I qualify for the discount?
Anyone who lives in the Canaries, either full time or for some part of the year is entitled to resident’s discount.
You’ll need a copy of your NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjeros) which is the number you applied for when you made any kind of large purchase (a car, apartment etc. or set up standing orders for rent, utilities etc) and your Certificate of Residence of the EU.

If you haven’t already got your Certificate of Residence, it’s well worth taking the time and trouble (the usual assorted bureaucratic hurdles) to get it, as it entitles you to all sorts of other discounts like entrance to parks and facilities; the cable car; excursions etc.

With your discount under your belt – there’s really no excuse not to go out and revel in the fact that you’re part of an archipelago – a gloriously beautiful one.