INVITAD@ – YOTA BARON – Flamenco teacher, singer and event organizer Yota Baron lives in Amsterdam. When she flew to her native Greece to visit her son the beginning of March 2020, she packed light. Never could she imagine this short trip would turn into such a long stay. Locked-down far away from where she operates she remembered the power of improvisation and built an online platform for enjoying and making flamenco from home: iamflamenco.
“Only four days after arriving in Athens, March 14th, the first full lock-down came into effect in Greece. I felt losing the ground under my feet. All of my performances, classes, festivals have been cancelled just in few days. I am trapped in Athens, with nothing to do and soon with zero income. … Think Yota, think….
There is something that works for me when I am facing difficulties: bringing people together. So I immediately decided to start some free online classes about the Copla Española. The reactions were really impressive and very encouraging: it clearly wasn’t only me feeling trapped.”
After I tested many online platforms, I chose Zoom and started making this class regular for people who wanted to have some fun with other flamenco lovers from all around the globe while learning about a different side of the music of Andalusia, the Copla.
Slowly but surely, I gathered my students from Amsterdam and Athens and I organized again my classes online. I spent hours in search of different tools that would help me to improve the teaching procedure and this, helped me allot to build a completely new mentality about the online classes.
Tribute to Amsterdam
I managed to bring together people from everywhere: Hong Kong, Canada, South Africa, Mexico, Greece, Melbourne. Then one day, some students asked me if I can teach flamenco vocal technique. I answered, that even though I study and practice everyday for myself, I am not able to guide someone to this direction. That is why I immediately thought of the number one flamenco vocal teacher from Huelva who currently lives in Barcelona: Alba Guerrero. Alba created her own innovative teaching system about vocal technique and everything else related to flamenco singing, online! So I contacted her and we decided to work together.
Then I started thinking of other artists, friends, that might want to participate, in what later, I named ‘iam-flamenco online school’. Most of the artists accepted my invitations and we had a great fun during their workshops, we also learned a lot.
The reason why I named my project ‘iam-flamenco’ was because I really feel that I am flamenco and that flamenco defines many aspects of my life. But I also wanted to pay tribute to my second home, to the city that opened its doors and gave me a second chance: Amsterdam.” (iamsterdam is the marketing slogan of Holland’s capital city – red.).
Small community of flamenco lovers
So this is how we started. My need to be with people, to learn more, to investigate, in order to be able to transmit my knowledge and share it with others, that was my motivation and that is what it kept me awake during the first and most shocking lockdown. It was like I created a ‘nest’ around me where I could feel protected and in safe waters.
Over the year that followed, we enjoyed around 40 different classes and workshops with prestigious flamenco singers and musicians and we have become a small community. We interact through our classroom boards, we stay in contact, we share our old and new knowledge with free classes about flamenco in all its forms, not only singing.
Twice a month we tackle flamenco singing, palo a palo every Tuesday, there are personalized classes for dancers and people who want to work individually and we offer high quality workshops for everyone with translation in English and extra material to study after the classes.
Virtual flamenco choir
We also started our experimental Virtual Choir where we aim to record one song per time with professional musicians from different kinds of music in collaboration with professional music studios. This way we can practice all together, create. Other musicians are given the opportunity to work and create with us something new. We all share the recording experience and most importantly: we have fun!
Online classes and rehearsals are not easy. They cannot replace physical classes, no way. But it is an option in these times that we so need some kind of connection as it is also a way for people who don’t have access to flamenco physical classes.
Online flamenco classes are harder work than physical classes because students don’t have their teacher next to them, to explain and transmit the energy needed. For me as a teacher it is also super difficult, as I have to talk on my own, as the students have to be muted because of the delay we have on timing. I have to invent ways to make classes interesting, I don’t want people to feel bored, I want them to have fun!
So, yes, after this year, after all this searching, the sleepless nights, the studying, the contact with people from everywhere, after this endless hard work, I do not regret for the time I spent on that. Because it kept me alive and I know that even if everything gets back to normal, I will never give up from this effort to bring people together and enjoy our little moments singing.
Because, ‘iam-flamenco’ and I will always be. Just like my virtual friends!
February 21: El movimiento del Cante / Alicia Acuña
March 13: Flamenco Vocal Recourses and Ornaments / Alba Guerrero
March 15: Alfredo Lagos / Guitar Masterclass
Text: Yota Baron, flamenco teacher, singer and event organizer.