The Barcelona of the beginning of the present century had become the meeting point of many international street musicians who saw the Catalan capital as an excellent opportunity to make a living doing what the body asked them. Every corner of the Gothic seemed to be a good stage and the public, every day changing, was willing to reward them with the good moment lived with a few coins or buying their self-published disc. The city became the reference of the street music of Europe, a space with very little regulation, little police pressure and great tourist influx. In that context, those with more talent met and began musical projects of great attractiveness, some of them incorporating local musicians, less accustomed to step on the street with their instrument but with more academic studies. “In 2004 I studied at Conservatori Liceu and started doing street work with a band of dixieland, Los Krokodillos, in which all were foreigners but me. This experience gave me resistance, we played with cold or hot weather. But the street is very hard”, recalls Martí Elías, drummer Bernat Font Trio and soon to record disc with the Canadian pianist based in New York Gordon Webster. In the field of blues, ragtime, swing and manouche, the 2000 ‘street jazz’ generation was forged, the members of which were severely affected by changes in the rules for street musicians. Ciutat Vella and the Civic Ordinance, which came into force in 2006.
It was then that a few passionate jazz decided to stay in Catalonia and promote self-managed musical projects, drawing money from the bowls that came out in the rooms they programmed. Iván Kovacevic, bass player of Mambo Jambo and Bernat Font Trio, among others, the russian Mikha Violin, leader of Los Krokodillos, or the argentine Hernán Senra, better known as ‘Chino’, founder of groups such as “Down Home”, “Shine” or “Chino & The Big Bet”. “Before on the street in two hours you could get 20,000 pesetas. It was the golden age of street music in Barcelona, but that’s over”, Senra laments. To date, the schedules and spaces are regulated, including the number of musicians who can act in a formation. “After the regulation one no longer knows how to make a living by playing in the street so we have looked for other ways to get ahead. I am now in five different bands and that’s why I have more concerts”, explains Violin.
The internationalization of these musicians who were forged in the open is not new, but it should be noted that in the last two years the activity has intensified. One of the most graphic cases is that of Kovacevic, who during 2012 has been working in countries like Colombia, Mexico or South Korea. The serbian bassist came to Catalonia in 2001 and one of his dreams was to travel with his instrument and meet new cultures. “I was surprised by the presence of the European and American blues in South Korea and in Mexico, in Colombia it is harder to find”, Kovacevic reflects after a year of intercontinental flights. Speaking of scenes of active blues, the Barcelona has nothing to envy most European capitals. As explained Miriam Aparicio, president of the Barcelona Blues Society, every night in the Catalan capital can be found two, three or four concerts and jams of blues. “Now there are more smaller venues that program than 10 years ago, more musicians playing blues. Another thing is the labor situation of these, which has stagnated or worsened, like everything”, analyzes Aparicio.
As a symbol of the consolidation of the export of blues and swing born in the streets of Barcelona, Chino & The Big Bet musical project has been selected to represent Spain in the European Blues Challenge to be held in Toulouse (France) in March. The training led by Hernán Senra, voice and guitar, and argentinean Rod Deville on the double bass and young Granger drummer Giggs Nother (all of them settled in the Catalan capital for years) will take their cool rhythm and thug to a stage that is presents as a unique opportunity to reach programmers and festival organizers from all over the continent. “Music is not just playing, it’s not just the technique of the instrument. It is about being authentic up on stage without imitating anyone. That’s what the greats have done and it’s what we want to do in Toulouse and any of our concerts”, says Senra, who organizes the blues jam at the Harlem Jazz Club in Barcelona every Tuesday for seven years. If they win in Toulouse, they will go to the International Blues Challenge that is organized annually in Memphis (United States). Precisely this week are participating in the contest of Memphis the Suitecase Brothers, duo formed by the Catalan brothers Víctor and Pere Puert