It’s All Camarón’s Fault

Photos: Naria Caamaño.

The muse of Anti-Karaoke has gone crazy for Camarón and now no one can rescue her from the well of flamenco. By Maria Junyent.

“Nothing is more conducive to comedy than that which is considered sacred.”

Rachel Arieff is one of those people who can’t help but do incorrect things. That’s just the way she is. Her Anti-Karaoke resulted from her idea to organize a no-holds-barred rock-n-roll karaoke, and Flamenguiri perdía (roughly, “Yankee Lost in Flamenco”) – every Sunday in October at Gipsy Lou – is what happens when a North American loses her fear of flamenco.

“It’s been at least 20 years since any music fascinated me the way Potro de rabia y miel, Camarón’s de la Isla’s last album, did”, she explains. She began to take it seriously and even signed up for classes at the local music school, Taller de Músics, to learn the marvels of the genre. But Rachel has two handicaps: she can’t stop being from Milwaukee, and she can’t stop making jokes.

Flamenguiri perdía is, then, a repertory of original songs que range from buleguiris to aleguiris o tarantiris – emphasis on the guiri (yankee) – in cabaret form. “I always need a little bit of chaos in the show to give it that extra spark: a broken glass, someone that yells insults at me,” she confesses.

She found her inspiration in the Raval neighborhood; especially in what she defines as the masculine working class of that area: latero (beer-can seller), butanero (butane-seller), chatarrero (junk man) o chatarrero bajo coste (low-cost junk man) — the sadder version of the junk man, less blessed in resources. With all these songs she’ll cut an album, Portero de rabia y miel (“Doorman of Rage and Honey”), dedicated to Fouad, the doorman at Gipsy Lou: “The best doorman I’ve met in my life. He has excellent diplomatic skills, which is what anyone in authority needs above all else.”

This is how homages occur to Rachel, and in flamenco, she’s found comic dynamite. “Nothing inspires comedy more than that which is considered sacred. Flamenco is pure reverence, and comedy is irreverence”. And everything about her is comedy. Be that as it may, she reflects: “Flamenco has suffered so much. It’s survived poverty, drugs, and an appalling overdose of reverb on far too many studio recordings. I think it can handle another yankee.”

The Evolution

Anti-Karaoke

She is the creator and mistress of ceremonies of Anti-Karaoke, a wild party that since 2006 that’s the delight of freaks and the shameless with rock in their veins. Every Thursday at Sidecar.

Camarón and de Lucía

“When I listened to them for the first time, I was terrified. The sound overwhelmed me.” She says that she felt the same ragged souls that can be found in rock, but with an intimidating musical complexity.

Milwaukee Gypsy

The working class of the Raval neighborhood inspired Portero de rabia y miel, Rachel Arieff’s first attempt at flamenco. She doesn’t try to hide the fact that calling it “flamenco” would be a sacrilege; what she does is pure “flamenguiri”.