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Review: From flamenco to folk: a.ha. Theatre's live CDs

Slovak flamenco guitarist Branislav Krajčo lived for two years in Spain, where he was dubbed Flaco de Nerja. The nickname, under which he now performs, means "The thin one from Nerja". But Nerja's talent is anything but thin.
On a self-titled CD recorded live at Bratislava's a.ha. Theatre - Nerja's only Slovak-released album to date - the 27 year-old guitarist displays remarkable technical dexterity and masterful sense of melody in 10 flamenco songs of varying styles and tempos, all but four of which were composed by the guitarist. The CD was released March 31 with a CD from Slovak folk singer Peter Janků as the fourth and fifth albums taken from a.ha.Theatre's monthly acoustic concert evenings.


Folk singer Peter Janků says musicians enjoy the intimate setting at a.ha. Theatre.
photo: Courtesy a.ha Theatre

Flaco de Nerja and Peter Janků


Spanish and Folk CD's
Flaco de Nerja: 9 out of 10
Peter Janků:5 out of 10
Price:220 crowns
Available at: Divadlo a.ha., Školská 14, Bratislava

Slovak flamenco guitarist Branislav Krajčo lived for two years in Spain, where he was dubbed Flaco de Nerja. The nickname, under which he now performs, means "The thin one from Nerja". But Nerja's talent is anything but thin.

On a self-titled CD recorded live at Bratislava's a.ha. Theatre - Nerja's only Slovak-released album to date - the 27 year-old guitarist displays remarkable technical dexterity and masterful sense of melody in 10 flamenco songs of varying styles and tempos, all but four of which were composed by the guitarist. The CD was released March 31 with a CD from Slovak folk singer Peter Janků as the fourth and fifth albums taken from a.ha.Theatre's monthly acoustic concert evenings.

The 40-minute Nerja concert, the best of the two CDs, is different from most performances at a.ha., where Slovak folk singers usually perform solo: Nerja played exclusively flamenco music and was joined by a second guitarist (Morenito de Triana - the dark one from Triana) and a percussionist.

Track one, A Compas, begins with an explosion of chords and a blazing trail of flamenco licks. Always attentive but usually more subdued, the 60-member a.ha. Theatre audience howls when the piece finishes and continues to applaud as Nerja slides into Nancho, a contemplative number with a subtle rhythm.

Nerja mixes improvisation and composition in the eight tracks that follow. Chupito, track eight, with its whirling arpeggios, bright harmonies, and athletic solos is the album's best song and true finale - the two-song encore that follows is more an afterthought to a virtuoso performance.

While no match for Nerja's technical brilliance, the laid-back, lyric-driven style of Slovak folk singer Peter Janků, as recorded January 27, 2000 is more representative of a.ha Theatre concerts. Janků sings of happiness, love and politics in 17 short folk songs that favour raw emotion over form, rhyme and catchy melody. A competent guitar player with a superb voice, Janků says the music reflects his approach to composition.

"I never sit down to write. I wait till I have an idea, and that is what drives me," he says.

That philosophy gives the album a disorganised, bar-room feel that may have worked better in person; yet the CD has enough exceptions to be a good listen. Track 7, the rollicking Výlet do fínska, keeps verse-chorus form to tell a lively tale of Roma emigrations and European Union repercussions, as do tracks 14 - 17, in which Janků is accompanied by Oľga Mišíková's gentle, airy voice.

Janků says that a.ha., whose 70 seats are arranged in a 'U' with the performer in the centre, draws musicians because of its unique atmosphere. "The contact with the audience is very close, making for a very pleasant mood," he says.

Nerja took time away from a busy schedule in France, Spain and Vienna to play at the theatre. He is recording his first studio-recorded CD, but says that it will probably not be released in Slovakia.

Acoustics at a.ha. are sharp and full, as is the sound of its live CDs. Sold with Xeroxed paper jackets for 220 crowns, the CDs capture the homespun spirit of a.ha.'s acoustic concerts.

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