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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Live Music on La Gomera: Soon a thing of the past ? Updated


 When I first came to La Gomera many years ago all the buses on the island were displaying the motto 'La Gomera es musica', which doesn't need any translation. There was a vibrant live music scene and music of all kinds was freely played and enjoyed by locals and visitors. 


Over the past few years this was more and more curtailed by the authorities and a lot of spontaneity and 'joie de vivre' was lost. Occasionally music sessions and live gigs happened in phases when all seemed to start up again, but over the past few weeks  the quietest music was banned and even paying customers who had a bit of a music session were told by police to stop the music. Owners of bars and restaurants were threatened with huge fines and/or closure, even though they kept the volume down and stopped the music strictly at 11pm ! In most tourism-dependent communities around the world live entertainment is just getting into full swing at that time. 

Paradoxically the salsa bands that frequently play outdoors at extremely loud levels all over the island are allowed to continue at full blast until daybreak, while tax-paying publicans and restaurant owners are finding it hard to attract customers to their premises without live music. A campaign for live music has begun and posters in three languages with slogans like 'Everybody loves music' have appeared in many locations.
There is also an important economic factor attached, as La Gomera was attracting more and more holidaying professional musicians who were looking for an inspiring and interesting place to travel to, and they were also known to be good spenders. They don't necessarily need and/or want to play music during their holidays, but they do want to be entertained and want to have at least the possibility to join in some fun. 'Music tourism' could be a major new source of revenue for La Gomera.
Every day I get asked by tourists where there is live music to be found, and daily I have to listen to complaints by regular visitors that La Gomera and particularly Valle Gran Rey used to have a much better atmosphere and ambience a few years back. The 'Valle Luna' festival did not receive any funding nor logistical support this year while thousands were spent on glossy, but ill-translated brochures.  Does La Gomera really want to loose its diversity and appeal ? 
At the moment it doesn't look too good but I urge the authorities to allow people to have some small measure of live entertainment in these grim times of crisis and to interpret some repressive laws a little bit more leniently ! This is done in tourist destinations all over the world - some just a short hop away.
There won't be any messing by the musicians on La Gomera anyway...
I just hope the following clip and images will not be the last I took of music sessions and events here:
video
Musicians leaving  La Gomera on
Armas Ferry for another Canary Island






Local music and tradition needs
to be alive and not in a museum !

The fascination of music


Added 27-04-13:
Lately a few (very few) pub gigs were allowed again, but some of the conditions were just ridiculous. Some had to be held on the pavement outside and in front of the premises ! In one case the venue was given a short strip of pavement to a width of just 3 feet on which the musician(s) were allowed to play just outside the door, as the image below proves:
Red arrow points to white demarcation line on the pavement within which the musician(s)
must remain outdoors. Not only the two tourists behind the guitarist find this rule ridiculous.
Good News 16-05-13:
It has been confirmed that the Valle Luna Festival will take place again in 2014. See:VALLE LUNA FESTIVAL 2014

Update summer '13:
Things are gradually improving and some live music is still happening here and more is promised for the autumn/winter season. The photo below was taken in July showing former resident Claus Vaith playing live with his friend Malte during a short visit to La Gomera. Claus used to play regularly during his many years on La Gomera and now plays professionally in Germany. 
Claus Vaith and Malte live on La Gomera July 2013
Update autumn '13:
Things are improving bit by bit while some of the crazy interpretations of the law are still hampering progress. On October 5th a Rock Festival in aid of the Valle Luna Festival will take place and generally there is more of varied international live music to be heard again to somewhat counterbalance the frequent and extremely loud all-night barrage of the ever-same salsa-pop music (aka 'the tourist's headache') that seems to be a law onto itself.
Recently rocking  La Gomera: 'So What!' from Tenerife.  Nomen est omen!
...See post with latest updates on Valle Luna Festival 2014

31 comments :

Anonymous said...

I´ve been to La Gomera already 6 times and shortly again i´ll be there! And I like music and especially life music in val de rey!!! And it doesn´t mean, that I only want to hear the house band of Casa Maria each and every night!! Multicultural is the word.... so, let the other bands play as well ...like Wisdom Weed, Poisened Folk and others....
Otherwise I will stay at home!!

skazztenor said...

Sad.....The Valle and all of Gomera need to keep the music going, its very important for tourism and people on holiday always like entertainment:) when they are out of the apartment and enjoying an evening out, they will invariably stay for "one more", and all restaurants and bars need this business. By the way...does Casa Maria also come under this music ban? and if not, why not? ?

Willie said...

etter if you keep coming and support the drive for a return to normality and 'musica en vivo de todo tipo' :-)

Anonymous said...

Don't really know, but they were hit the same as everybody else. The worst is that 'you never know', i.e. what's allowed tonight might be illegal tomorrow and vice versa. We've been there before not so long ago - all dead, and bit by bit the music came back. They'll NEVER kill the will to live - or as Damien Dempsey sang: 'You'll never kill our will to be free, to be free....'

Anonymous said...

Yeahhh, keep the music alive, keep on coming - BUT do make the point that visitors don't need glossy bullshit and stalls at tourism fairs. We want reliable and affordable transport (that includes a ferry to VGR) and we love La Gomera for its nature - and international LIVE MUSIC IS PART OF NATURE + A HUMAN RIGHT!!!

Anonymous said...

Tourists want a choice of entertainment at night, not just one event every now and then. We like to take a stroll around the many quirky little bars restaurants and listen, watch and have a drink. When that choice isn't there we cook in our apartment and won't go out at all.

Marlies Dalman said...

I "ve been to La Gomera already 15 times and I don't understand the policy about live music at all.Especially not the idea that some bands are alowed to play very loud almost every evening!!!I do mean the house band of Casa Maria.
Why are the other live music playing bands not alowed to play anymore!!!
It is pure discrimination!!!
I don't want to listen to the house band of Casa Maria ever!!!
Mainly because of this reason!!!
An other point the Casa Maria House Band exists of only locals!!!
So it is double discrimination!!!
The third reason is I don't like the idea that other restaurants/pub will have less visitors because of consumers falsification!!!And that's a crime!!!
So stop being a criminal and give others (bands,pubs,restaurants)a HONEST chance.

Anonymous said...

That's the point. When we were there last the place was like a ghost town @ 10pm. Sad :-(

Anonymous said...

We can't plan our Gran Rey holiday for next year because the Vale Luna festival looks doubtful. What a shame, it was a great event and a holiday highlight.

Anonymous said...

Gomera is still my favourite place, but needs to wake up or will loose out to the competition that has entertainment.

Anonymous said...

These restrictions seem very short-sighted given the cultural profile and history of the tourists who visit VGR. My first vist was in the early 1980s and I've been coming back on and off ever since. In recent years I have done two one month trips and one three month trip. I want to be able to play music on the street and listen to and meet with other musicians. For me it is what VGR has always been about. I know that is true for lots of other visitors too. But, if I can't do that, I will have to spend my money somewhere else. The history of tourism in VGR has always had a strong 'alternative', 'bohemian' dimension. Destroy that and you destroy what brings a lot of people back year after year.

Anonymous said...

Private initiatives are stifled and there's no money for a
multi-cultural festival - but plenty of funding for white elephants and well-meant but useless activities. People aren't going out at night because there's nothing on anymore. Makes for a cheaper holiday if they don't get you into the mood for spending, though. ;-)

tom glück said...

You#re fuckin whrigt, Will... it was once so funny to have all that sessions everywhere..

Willie said...

Thanks Tom, it'll all be back soon, I hope. If not La Gomera will be lost.
I've just met a British top class musician and his partner who've come here regularly and are thinking of going elsewhere in the future - but I hope to have convinced them to give Gomera another chance.

Dr. Dö. said...

... I agree to your comment completely. I am not a musician but: enjoying different kinds of music and activities embedded in a liberal bohemian culture (La Gomera Street Band f.e.) always was a main motive for visiting VGR. Since the 90th I visited VGR about 10 times and I always spent about 2.000 EUR each time (without flight) - good for the local economy. But during my last visits I recognized some unpleasant developments: spending millions of European money for cement (and the local cement mafia) instead of making green investments, arbitrarily police actions (in the non-democratic tradition of the Guardia Civil), stupid investment policies (right opposite of Maria) and now these restrictions. Sorry, Miguel Angel Hernández, you are going to loose me ...

Jean-Paul Steenmans-Lieve Desplenter Belgium said...

La Gomera, Valley Gran Rey, will shine in all her beauty, nature, the lovely atmosphere, and with music played by all musicians from all over the world. That is her future!That is one of the reasons that we come there, so this is necessary to continue! You get all my support from our hearts!

Anonymous said...

...and giving a permit every now and again for live music OUTSIDE (i.e. on the road in front of a premises) is just unbelievable - and every single gig has to be applied for separately !
The bureaucracy should just give licenses for music during certain hours for a full season or year to the bars that want it, and charge a fee for that. It could be an additional source of income for them.

Marlies Dalman said...

Time for action.We have to make a new petition in answer to musica o platanos!!!Where can we sign for it inclusif e-mail adresses and passportnumbers!!!

Anonymous said...

very good, willie!!
thomas kagermann
www.kagermann.com

leolyons said...

Just want to add my voice to those criticising the short sighted policies of the authorities in La Gomera regarding the playing of live music. Whilst I don't always enjoy the types of music I hear in VGR and also confessing to enjoying the Bar Maria house band (though they are somewhat humourless)I absolutely support the continuance of all types of live music in the town. It is the eclectic somewhat Bohemian atmosphere of the place that has kept us coming back for nearly 25 years now. O f course there have to be some rules but effectively eradicating music is just plain stupid and self-defeating. In the UK we have had too harsh regulation of live music in bars and pubs for many years but recently this restriction s have been dropped and I think that is the only thing keeping many bars and pubs open. We have a slogan here:
Support LIVE music wherever you find it!

Anonymous said...

Some few live music gigs are allowed again, but each and every single mini-gig has to be applied for individually and in writing, and if allowed must be held OUTSIDE in front of the premises. RIDICULOUS !

Anonymous said...

Edited version:
i was a driving force of the music in gomera - i had three bands . the final straw was when we set up a show at 'X': that night 5 guardia civil came in . i saw them and waited and watched them from around the corner , we were to start at nine but i waited and at 9.30 they finally came in to stop the music before playing . taking pictures. etc.
like they were trying to catch us… the patrons were absolutely shocked.
i told a guard in a hard way . ''couldn't you come earlier so i didn't have to set up all this shit ?'' He was actually surprised . like no one ever had the balls to yell at him..
me and 'X' played more shows than anyone last year in gomera , thats a fact .!!! all over the island.......
say what you want about 'Y' but he was always saying . f..k the cops, play the music.
some respect .for him. at least.
music is finished in gomera .
and so am i .
F.

(Editor's note: Dear F., I've had to edit your comment substantially as it
A) exposed and named musicians and bar owners who are still living here and struggling to keep the music going,
B) contained some very strong language,
C) was too long to fit the format.
Sorry for the (necessary) editing, and let's not forget that the music died here once or twice before and came back all the stronger a while later. We hope to hear your music some day again on La Gomera.)

Anonymous said...

The editor is right. You can't expose other people for your own means - and he left enough bad language in F.'s comment.
But F. is very understandable. That's the modern world we live in: The ruling clique wants total control, and we're supposed to just stick our heads in the sand and bear even the most stupid regulations like those concerning music on La Gomera. Viva la musica en vivo !

Chad Bennett said...

I am from the U.S., Ive been looking into moving to La Gomera for some time now and The music/bohemian scene is what attracts me to it. would I be foolish to move there now ? La Gomera is very unique and until I read this report, seemed like my utopia. Is it gone forever ? Also, is there a good recording studio on the Island ?

Chad Bennett said...

Hello, I'm from the USA and Ive been looking for REALl freedom. I have been a musician for 25 ears now. I have a Hippie/ Bohemian bone and Ive been looking into moving my wife, my son and I to La Gomera to meet and enjoy life with like minded and kind people. This report comes as a huge disappointment to us. Is it really all over and gone. Are the people still making music somewhere? If not here, then where else in the world do such good people exist? I swear, if its not dirt bag criminals and thugs making life unbearable then its these governments. or maybe there the same.

Willie said...

Hi Chad,
in short: NO, it isn't over yet and probably never will be over. It is just a phase and already some live music is happening again. The bohemian atmosphere you mentioned is still here.
However one question remains to be answered: Does REAL freedom exist anywhere these days ???
Life's what you make it.

Chad Bennett said...

Hey Willie, thanks for your response. Is there a recording studio on the island? I would like to possibly work at one or create one. As far as freedom goes, I agree with you. My country tells us we are the freest in the world and more people are starting to understand what is the real reality. So that was kind of a joke.

Willie said...

Hi Chad, there's a studio being planned (see my post: http://lagomera1.blogspot.com.es/2012/12/major-recording-studio-for-la-gomera.html ), but there's a real market for a smaller, more affordable recording facility here. ' Sound & Sun' (I think I should get a copyright for that in a hurry... :-)

Chad Bennett said...

Yes that's a good name. Or sound of the sea. I have been playing the guitar for some twenty odd years I also play world percussion and the mandolin. Is there a Celtic vibe in La Gomera?

Anonymous said...

well at this point i can write the book on gigs bars and owners extensivly around the canaries. me and my partner spent the summer in fuertaventura. there is live music everywhere and the cops come in for a drink! and a listen to the music there,i eas shocked . i thougt the gig was over . thats what gomera put in my brain, cops equal ..stop music currently we are in la palma in mid sept and just had 6 gigs in 5 days in real bars with stages.and good money., so good luck in gomera playing on the sidewalk with all the dirt on your equipment and the cockroaches crawling on your feet , we play next saturday at the festival.plaza san francisco , santa cruz de la palma . main stage . and they pay us alot . i miss gomera ,especially the benches on baby beach,,, but you cant make a living from music anymore, francis

Anonymous said...

You're right.The problem on Gomera is the crazy interpretation of the law, not the law itself. Any tourist destination worldwide has live entertainment - no matter what the local laws are. Where there's a will, there's a way. On Gomera they're just too timid to find one. The law could shut down all the fiestas if they didn't bend the rules a bit. Why punish tax-paying bars and restaurants ?