‘Geraakt’ in the last Anda magazine

Anda, the flamenco magazine for German-speaking aficionado’s, published in their latest (and last, more on that later) issue an English translation of one of the stories in ‘Geraakt’ the book by Dutch flamenco guitarist Tino van der Sman. Take this opportunity to read the story in English as published in Anda. Image above: Tino van der Sman at book presentation ‘Geraakt’ – by Annemiek Rooymans

About the book ‘Geraakt’
‘Geraakt’ (‘Touched’) is a collection of stories by Tino van der Sman on his life as a foreigner in the flamenco scene of Andalucia. Tino has made Sevilla his home 2 decades ago and plays with the greatest artists in flamenco. His journey has been one of adaptation and getting used to a new culture. The stories are as much about flamenco as they are about cultural differences. Read the article as it was published in Anda below.

The last Anda
Anda, the magazine for the German speaking flamenco world, was founded in 1994 bij Oliver Farke who tragically died in 2015. This week issue number 142 was published and this will be the very last Anda. As announced by editor-in-chief Susanne Zellinger, the editoral team will continue with a yearbook that will have the most important stories on flamenco. Flamencoagenda will contribute to this yearbook via flamenco journalist Ginette Lavell. News, interviews and reviews in German language can be found at Zellinger’s own website www.flamenco-divino.at

El Abrazo

By Tino van der Sman
Photo: Ginette Lavell

It seems simple enough: lean in, position your right arm above your left arm and slightly
bow the body to the left, put your head on the shoulder of the person in front of you, close
your arms and finish with optional friendly taps on the back. Easy as A-B-C. Except when
you, like I, have never learned this maneuver as a child.
The Dutch don’t hug. Every now and then I run into fellow countrymen that even feel
distinctly uncomfortable with the physical contact that comes with the friendly hug. Like
that time that I was about to hug a Dutch colleague who instantly replied with sticking out a
panicky straight arm saying “let’s make it a handshake”, his face a tad pale.

Conquering the male hug

In Spain I learned how to hug and I am Spain and flamenco thankful for that. It wasn’t easy
though. It took me some time to get the hang of it: where does the head go? Should there
be a kiss on the cheek? The whole thing proved to be quite a challenge.
While I was still learning to master the art of the male hug, there was a period that I
approached Spanish men with an outstretched arm and the upper body slightly bent
backwards so to make it quite clear that a handshake was all I had to offer.
Eventually I did learn to hug and actually started to enjoy this way of saying hello. I even
decided to introduce this Spanish phenomenon in my Dutch social circle. Friends, uncles,
cousins: sooner or later they all fell into the trap of my opened arms.
In the beginning it did result in some awkward moments, but slowly but surely the friendly
hug became part of social interaction with my nearest and dearest. My cousin admitted to
being a bit apprehensive in the beginning, but now thoroughly enjoying the experience. All
of my friends have now added the ‘abrazo’ to their body language repertoire.
My father proved a hard nut to crack. The poor guy had the extra challenge of receiving,
apart from a hug, a couple of kisses on the cheek from me. The whole thing overwhelmed
him a bit at first. He underwent the well-meant ordeal standing totally motionless with his
arms straight down and tightly stuck to his body. But I was on a mission, a crusade and I
was not going to give up quickly. After some time he managed to relax a bit and one day
he returned the kiss on the cheek. This was great progress of course, but to properly hug
back was a bridge too far for him, he still forgets to close his arms.
When I told all this to my good friend Joselillo, it made him laugh out loud. We always hug
and I add a fatherly kiss on the top of his head since I am a lot taller than he is. One day
José was about to meet my dad and he asked me if he could hug him. “Give it a try” I said.
So José hugged my dad as upon meeting him. Since they neither of the same height, he
gently laid his head on my dad’s chest. And my dad? Arms stayed as ever straight down
and firmly stuck to his body, but his face showed a big smile. “That’s fine as well” I thought and José walked out on the scene laughing out loud.

Arms straight down

There was, however, one man that I dare not hug at all. My grandfather. He was 91 years
old and out of respect I only offered him a handshake as it was our family’s tradition. One
beautiful day he surprised me by coming to our flamenco show ‘Cristina, Maria, Sevilla’ in
The Hague. After intensive hours of sound checking and light testing and other pre-show
preparations, I ran into him at the bar of the venue. I had no idea that he was going to
come to watch the show and by the looks of it he came alone all the way from Zoetermeer,
where he lived.
I was so pleasantly surprised that I forgot all about family conventions and gave him a
spontaneous great big hug. The second I realized what I had done, I let go of the hug.
“Cup of coffee, grandpa?” I heard myself utter in a shaky voice. “Don’t mind if I do” he
answered with his beautiful aged voice. I sighed with relief and went to get the coffee.
“Thank God, he didn’t notice” I thought to myself.
The performance went very well. I had invested a lot of energy in it and it is always great to notice that your efforts pay off and the audience supports you. There was a lot of happy
chatting with acquaintances at the venue bar afterwards and at some point I was patted on
the shoulder. It was my grandfather. He was standing behind me with his coat and hat on,
ready to go home. “I liked the show very much, Tino” he said and opened his arms, tilted
the body slightly to the left and gently placed his shoulder in my neck like a seasoned
hugger would do.
My grandfather had learned how to hug at the age of 91, thanks to flamenco. And I? I
stood there flabbergasted and some time later I realized that during my granddad’s hug I
had my arms straight down and tightly stuck to my body.

Translation: Ginette Lavell
The first edition of the book ‘Geraakt’ is in Dutch, but translations are in progress. Contact for more information: geraakt@flamencoagenda.nl.
Check here to order the book in Dutch: