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As the road unravels through palm trees and ‘chumberas’ (a very common cacti around this area), you get the feeling you’ve taken the wrong turn and that you’re heading directly into the bulls barn; but then, you see colourful lights in the distance and your heart starts pumping in excitement… we’re here!

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In the middle of the country side, between El Palmar beach and Vejer de la Frontera, there is a group of friends who have set a whole stage inside a truck, to perform every wednesday Music Jam Sessions.

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Budha Madre, is this Music Association’s name. A playful expression in reference to a common spanish slang way of saying AMAZING!

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It is certainly amazing how, once you manage to get there (there aren’t any signs on the way), you can listen to many different kinds of music, from Rock ’n Roll to Reggae, Jazz, Brazilian or even Metal, depending on who’s on stage…

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As if they were waiting for Cinderella to arrive from her dance in a pumping, the Jam Sessions start at 12 o’clock, and as long as the night lasts, everyone is free to join in and perform what they’re best at or simply enjoy the show with a beer.

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A streetwise guide to enjoying the Cadiz Carnival


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I have experienced many times The Cadiz Carnival, in fact, the first time I arrived in Cadiz, back in 2000, was to enjoy this magnificent event. It is mainly an open air party, so prepare to hang out in the streets. An incredible experience for the senses, but also for the soul. The humour involved in the lyrics and attitude are contagious. It takes place 40 days before lent, normally around February, so it is still a little bit cold even for South of Spain, although a good costume will provide enough warmth until you get the heat from the crowd. This would be the first and most important tip if you want to fully enjoy the Carnival:

GET DRESSED!

It doesn’t have to be an expensive or very elaborate costume. Actually, this is a party where creativity beats high budgets. If you don’t have time or can’t be bothered, simply paint a couple of red dots on your cheeks, that will do. Once you get dressed you will be part of the FIESTA and will be considered by others as part of the ‘gang’. If you’re part of a group, consider the possibility of themed costumes. They are great!

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GETTING INTO TOWN

That first year I visited Cadiz I still lived in Madrid. A couple of friends joined me last minute and we drove for 8 hours (normally it would take 6, but my van was an old one) on a Friday afternoon. We arrived at 3 o’clock in the morning just in time to finish our costumes and join in the party for the whole weekend!


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Trains work very well and there are many. Consider this option instead of driving. Parking is absolutely a nightmare.

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Some manage to park and spare the hotel room. This is quite a common view around town, specially on the opening night or should I say day?


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GATHER SUPPLIES

It is not the end of the world but act like if it was! Once you go on the streets you may find yourself stuck in the middle of a crowd and unable to walk to the nearest bar to ask for a ‘manzanilla’ (dry sherry). It is a real shame to run out of supplies the exact moment a ‘Chirigota’ starts its performance. At the Central Market you can get really tasty ‘bocadillos’ (sandwiches) with all kinds of different ‘sausages’. The famous ham or chorizo, but I would also recommend the ‘chicharrones’ with a pinch of salt and a squirt of lemon juice.


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Michael Ferullo, an Amercican visitor, decided to buy his pack at the neighbour supermarket.


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Another convenient option is to buy sea food from the many open air stores set around the busy areas. Sea urchins are a fantastic delicacy, freshly caught in the nearby sea at La Caleta Beach.


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This is a marathon more than a sprint. The party lasts for a whole week, so don’t go all crazy the opening night. The real thing is about to come and it would be a shame to miss it due to a terrible hangover.


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IT IS A SINGING PARTY!

As simple as that. The Cadiz Carnival is about getting together and listening to the witty lyrics a bunch of friends have put together during the past year and are now performing with more or less success, but always with tons of impudence.

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There are four different kind of groups. Choirs, Comparsas, Chirigotas and Cuartetos. Some sing more serious themed lyrics than others. Some participate in the official contest and others just like performing in the streets (‘illegal’). All of them get together and take over the whole town. The carousel of Choirs are programmed during the weekends so you can’t miss them. The ‘illegal’ chirigotas, which are the most funny ones, simply stroll around and perform whenever they feel like it.

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BRING YOUR KIDS

As crazy as it may seem there is also time and space for kids to enjoy the Cadiz Carnival.


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Sneaking into private parties shouldn’t be a problem if you’ve followed hint number one and you’re kind to those you bump into. Gaditanians are such relaxed people all year round that during the Carnival this can only multiply.


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Sneaking into the official contest that takes place at The Falla theatre demands other kind of skills.

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Selu's Chirigota perform at the Falla Theatre in the Official Singing Contest previous to the party in the streets.
The official contest starts a month before the whole street mayhem. Try getting your tickets online, but I tell you, it is very complicated. If you can’t manage, then, you’ll always have the street!

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Official Vs Illegal

Selu's Chirigota perform at the Falla Theatre in the Official Singing Contest previous to the party in the streets.

Selu’s Chirigota perform at the Falla Theatre in the Official Singing Contest previous to the party in the streets.

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THE OFFICIAL CONTEST

Jose Luis García Cossío, aka ‘El Selu’ is a central character of the Cadiz Carnival. He started his own group back in 1992 and has  been involved ever since, winning the Official Contest four times. Known for his sharpness, Selu, creates satire based on typical Gaditanian stereotypes, with lyrics as if they were written by the characters.

Getting dressed before their life performance in a 'peña' near by the Falla.

Getting dressed before their live performance in a ‘peña’ near by The Falla.

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This year he participated with a ‘Chirigota’ named ‘Ahora es cuando se está bien aquí’ – Now is when it’s good here – in reference to the Spanish housewives who hang out at the beach during the summer from early morning to late afternoon, when most people have already gone home. These ladies arrive at ‘La Caleta’ beach, equipped with everything but the kitchen sink, including fridges of food, chairs and sun umbrellas, and dedicate themselves to gossip, Bingo and sunbathing. This year they made it to the semifinals.

The 'Pasacalles' is the moment were the group heads off to The Falla.

The ‘Pasacalles’ is the moment were the group heads off to The Falla.

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Selu's chirigota member play his character infront local tv interviewer, after their performance at El Falla backstage.

Selu’s chirigota member play his character infront local tv interviewer, after their performance at El Falla backstage.

Four different kind of groups perform in the Official Contest: Coros (Choirs), Comparsas, Chirigotas and Cuartetos (Quartets), each one of them with different characteristics, number of participants and instruments. This year the official contest had 125 different groups. However, the main action is in the streets.

THE ILLEGALs TAKE THE STREETS

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In the official week of Carnival the city becomes the biggest open-air theatre in the world as the so-called ‘illegals’ perform on every street corner, and fill the old town with humour and talent.

The ‘illegals’ don’t participate at the official contest, and don’t need to submit their repertoire to any rules. Considering that the Cadiz population is 125.000 inhabitants, the number of artists per square meter is overwhelming. The final result is an incredible census of actors, poets, singers and guitarists, unrivalled by any other city in the world.

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‘Las Diógenes’ are an example of these ‘illegal’ chirigotas. They are a group of four friends who have been involved in the Carnival for 6 consecutive years, performing live in the streets. Their ‘tipo’, Gaditanian word for costume, was created by local artist Arsenio Rodríguez, whose amazing work with colourful recycled plastic containers of all shapes and sizes reaches it’s peak with this satirical dresses of Tenerife’s Carnival Queens, and closely referred to the Diogenes syndrome.

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The Cadiz Carnival is a feast of wit and satire, unknown to most foreigners, although it is getting more and more well known. This big street party involves getting dressed in costumes and enjoying the outrageous humour and vibrant atmosphere, and often getting involved ourselves. The lyrics can be social, political or religious themed, or simply a way to complain or protest, or make light of current affairs. Officially the feast lasts 11 days, but with the Falla Theatre contest and other gastronomic affairs, the spree lasts almost a month. Not forgetting the ‘Carnaval Chiquito’, The Small Carnival, that takes place on Sunday a week after the official conclusion, for the greatest enthusiasts.

 

 

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First ‘Epicurus’ of the 2014 season

We tried ‘really hard’ to follow the philosophers ideals for life enjoyment… here’s a little prove


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Cadiz Carnival 2014

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The Cadiz Carnival or CADIZ CARNAVAL as the local Gaditanos call it, is an amazing spectacle. Many ‘Gaditanians’ totally live for this event, all year round. For a town that inhabits 124,000 people the Carnaval in Cadiz is quite an amazing thing in itself, but if we told you it’s one of the biggest carnivals in the world, second to Rio de Janeiro, it sounds almost impossible. It takes place in the small old town, on the plazas and in the narrow streets, and it goes on for more than 2 weeks! In Cadiz the carnival is a small industry in itself, and for many of the inhabitants it’s a full time obsession. We’re amazed at the talent, flair and wit that exists in this small 3000 year old city.

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A FEAST OF WIT AND SATIRE

The Cadiz carnival dates back to 1591. The Religious authorities already forbade students and priests join the feast on the streets. During the golden ages of trade with the Americas, Noblemen and rich merchants didn’t want to join the fun, maybe because the lyrics had already developed into a witty commentary towards the rulers and the powerful. Nowadays it is still famous for its musicality. The satirical Chirigotas take the city, they sing and play with amazing humour and expression, parody and word-plays. Some of them have simple costumes, while others are amazingly detailed. The Coros (choruses) who parade the Plazas on the first Sunday. We started taking pictures in La Viña, along with our student.

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THE CHALLENGE OF CROWD PHOTOGRAPHY

Shooting in crowds is difficult, and you have to be fast, because someone’s going to walk into the frame in a millisecond. So that would be the first tip:

1. Always be ready!

2. Eye contact
In crowds you look for compositional patterns (it’s always a question of where to crop) or details, facial expressions, moments of communication between people, and often people relating to you.

3. Get high!
One of the things you should do in a crowd is try to get high up (or sometimes low, if there’s space). Fortunately, one of the Luzia courses tutor – Ignacio Fando – knows people and places, and we were invited to shoot from a friend’s balcony in the most perfect location on Plaza Mina (Gracias Mer!). Shooting tops of heads can be a problem from above, so you don’t want to get too high. First or second floor is perfect. You also want to try to get people to look up, getting a ‘connection’ in a massive crowd. The reward for having flirted and dwelled a bit with the players while they were on the ground came as they recognised us up on the balcony. You don’t want too much waving or recognition, but the guy looking straight at the camera leads you into the image with more engagement.

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THE BIG CONTEST AT EL GRAN TEATRO FALLA

The official Carnaval contest takes place at Gran Teatro Falla, and we at LUZIA were fortunate enough to follow the Chirigota winners ‘Esto si que es una chirigota’ in their final preparations before the final – which they won!!! This Chirigota perform a satire on politicians and the Spanish authorities, and it’s extremely funny, even if you don’t understand the language. Make no mistake, this is not a performance cobbled together at the last minute. We really recommend having a look at their stage performance on video because it’s a finely honed act and while it’s responsive to the feisty audience, it’s no amateur act, and it really shows the best of the Cadiz spirit and humour. Some of our shots are from the ‘dressing room’ in a local Peña where we were invited to hang out on the big night, and accompany the Chirigota winners to be through the streets to the El Falla theatre.

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If this inspires you to come, we run themed photography courses in Cadiz.  Part of what we do is enable people to shoot in great locations and gain access where a visitor would never have a chance. As you can see, this year we backed a winner!



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Baptism of Fire

 

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One of our students from last year had created a book of the images she took here in Cadiz. We love it, so well done Helena. You have lots of talent, so keep up the good work.

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Helena’s contribution had us reflecting on Luzia’s first year and especially the Sogndal Folkehøyskole course. We were running the courses in our first season with a small number of participants, spoiling them rotten with our attention, and gearing up for the full courses. The idea was to grow gradually, to fill up the 6 places on the themed courses. But life always happens when you’re busy making other plans, and when we got a request from a school in Norway to run a week’s course for their 10 students plus 2 staff, with accommodation, food, transport and everything, we knew it was going to be the big test.

The Devil is in the detail, so we planned it to the max. While Nacho took care of the logistics and most of the detail, Gry worked on a course content to suit the level of the students, who were on their first semester of the photography course. It was shaping up to be really good.

10 days before the course was to start, disaster struck. Gry took a dive from the top of a step-ladder which gave way, and landed on her back, resulting in a multi-fractured shoulder. It was like the curtain went down before the show even had started, but at no point did we consider calling it off. We adjusted our roles a bit to allow more ’mental and mentoring’ from Gry, and more physical demonstration from Nacho. We counted the days and hoped for progress…

The day came, and all 12 arrived safely and in time at Malaga airport, where Nacho waited with the hired bus. That evening, we guided everyone to their 4 flats/apartments, and had a quiet outdoor dinner at Plaza Mentidero.

We discovered very soon that our young friends from Norway were a very mixed bunch, mainly because so many of them were extremely quiet. Living in the culture of Spain, speaking one by one is unusual, let alone silence. Sivelin, the teacher, had indeed said that we would meet a very mixed group, who hadn’t yet had the time to get to know each other and ‘gel’ together. We knew that was one of our biggest challenges, to enliven the group, to bring on some communication.


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We started with breakfast in the sun at HQ, getting to know everyone in a mix of English and Norwegian, before heading off to Torre Tavira, where the group had their first assignment with a birds eye view of Cadiz, and the experience of being inside the camera in the famous Camera Obscura. We then leisurely headed off through the streets to Plaza Caterdal and into El Populo where an abundant spanish lunch was served. We discovered very soon that for this group of 19-year olds from Norway, fish and seafood did not exactly fit the bill, and we realised that a quick revision of the dietary plan was necessary. Our final destination that first day was La Caleta beach and San Sebastian castle, and our Norwegian friends got their feet wet immediately and with great pleasure.

One of the highlights of the week was a trip to Bolonia Beach and Roman Ruins, and Vejer. Some students found their favourite subject in the old Roman city, whilst others climbed towards the top of the huge dune, with great joy. The rest took a swim. It was a great day out, even for Gry, who took the role of slow sweeper and theory instructor. Meanwhile, Nacho was helping the students compose evocative images and use ’photography goggles’ to discover interesting compositions. In the streets of Vejer we explored the whites, colors and bright highlight, something quite different from the Norwegian pine woods and fjords.


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Another highlight was the Flamenco at La Perla, where the staff helped us give the students good placements to shoot in the busy venue. The dancers did not disappoint, and gave a cracking and authentic performance.

At Punta de Boqueron the students had another great day out, shooting movement and portraits in the landscape and seascape, and we got a sense of the group gelling socially and having fun. We had had fine and hot weather up till that day, but suddenly the threat of rain gave more interesting skies, and gave a great ambience to the group shots arranged by Nacho at the colourful ‘shantytown’ fishing village in San Fernando that afternoon.


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The final day was editing and presentation day. We managed fit in all 14 of us without too much trouble at the long table, and projected the final edits from each student, with commentary and feedback. The results from these young beginners showed great promise and loads of variety, and you can see a selection of their images in the gallery. We discovered some great talent and a great time was had, as reflected in the feedback forms, where overall we scored 4 out of 5. Phew – it had been a real baptism of fire, with twice the number of people we would normally have as our max, the age group and some people language issues and some health issues… We learned that although planning is essential, flexibility is what makes it happen. And thankfully it all came together. Hope you appreciate the results here.



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LUZIAs headquarters inauguration party


After a year of hard work, transforming a 100 year old lavadero into an atico, we were ALMOST ready. With great anticipation we prepared Casa Casa-nova for the fiesta that would inaugurate the atico as a home and also Luzia HQ. We scrubbed terraces, gardened, cooked and decorated, in bright sunshine with cooling Poniente, and a background soundtrack cornets playing the authentic marching tunes that inspired Miles’ ’Sketches of Spain’.

At the last minute the electrician connected the WORKING new telefonillo. And then you all arrived… All beautifully dressed and bearing goodies to add to the fiesta… slightly out of breath from the ascent up the stairs!

First came Javier and Gloria, bang on time and sharply dressed, then lovely Simo, beaming face with a huge bunch of flowers, Asier and Juani in fine fettle, Luisa with her cool new haircut and party frock, Ismael with his glorious catching humour, Mer – more fun, Mario, with Maria José and Nico, enjoying the fruit of last year’s labours, Maripi, Paco, Roberto and Germán with great enthusiasm, followed by Inma and Julian, Arantxa and Ignacio, Andrea, Jaime, Marina and Julian, Arsenio, Alex – great to see you all! It took ourselves a moment to adjust into true party mode but once all our friends were in the house, the atmosphere warmed up the terraces like a micro-climate, and everyone mingled with great spirits.

It was one of those parties where people really enjoyed each other’s company. It was a real treat to see our space filled with familiar faces amongst the foliage, enjoying our homemade dishes, funky music, and not least, the projection of the black & white Metropolis movie on the tower next door, wrapping those evocative Fritz Lang scenes around the corner, and the small window of the tower fitting right into the movie as if it was meant to be there. And late… when the time came to turn the music down, the place was still full of people; everyone assembling around the table, telling jokes.

The outgoing photo call was perhaps a little less elegant than the incoming, but considerably more joyous and rowdy.

In the early morning hours… when everyone had left … we looked at each other and our surroundings, laughing and shaking our heads. We had both neglected to dress up, and Nacho had gotten so into the photo call that he had forgotten to put out the delicious tortillas and empanadas he had cooked…. But hey, what was left was the evidence of a fabulous party. It was a fun, spirited and friendly fiesta, completely free of posers and wallflowers, and here is a big thank you to our friends for coming, and making it such a smashing house-warming!


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Check out the short video we managed to produce

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Hello world!


We are happy to communicate you all that we´re here!!

Tutors of the photography courses reflected on one of the students glasses

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Copyright © Luzia 2013