The sixth edition of the Maspalomas Costa Canaria Soul Festival closed this year having exceeded all initial expectations, both in terms of public attendance during the three days of programming, and artistic performances that have already written a new chapter in the history of this annual musical San Agustín Beach encounter on the famous Maspalomas Costa Canaria. In spite of a two-year hiatus, the festival was an outright success over the three day weekend on the south coast of sub-tropical Gran Canaria.
Dania Dévora, festival director, proclaimed that “the feelings that this edition leaves us with are unbeatable. We started from uncertainty after two years of absence, but also with the conviction that both the programming and the location of the festival would be compelling arguments to trust in the project”. And so it was, “regarding the presence of the public, I think that both on Friday and Saturday the appearances on the beach left no doubt about the success of the event.” To this she added her observation of “an absence of incidents, with exemplary behaviour from those who came to enjoy the music.”
Musically, “we have experienced two nights to remember, with a band, the Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra, which sounds better every year, and soloists who left the best of themselves, as evidence of the affection they took from the public, with heartfelt applause”. Dévora also lauded the performances from the two Canarian bands that this year took to the stage, located on the ‘playa del alma’, “we are very satisfied with their contribution, it is not easy to do, the programming is very demanding, with consolidated musicians and soloists, and they have offered an excellent level” in terms of performance and showmanship.
Dévora expressed her particular gratitude for “the effort made by the cleaning services of the San Bartolomé de Tirajana Town Council, ensuring that the beach and its surroundings could be in conditions for beach users the morning after each concert” and also highlighted the civility of most of the festival attendees, “we continue to advance with our messages of environmental care, so that concerts can continue to be held on the sand”. And also to all the members of the Local Police and the National Police and Civil Protection who contributed with their work during the two days so that “no type of incident occurred and everything went perfectly.”
The Maspalomas Costa Canaria Soul Festival showcased two days of outstanding performances by authentic career soul performers, with a line up including Leon Beal, a veritable gale of classic soul, who gave the best of himself interpreting standards by the likes of James Brown and Otis Redding; and L’il Ernie Johnson, whose performance took in the styles of blues and rhythm ‘n’ blues in an interpretive duel with the driving support of Anthony Paule and his Soul Orchestra.
Saturday night saw some stellar moments, starting once again with featured artist, The King of Boogie Woogie himself, Mitch Woods whose out standing tenure as the master of the New York sound guided the audience through some of the key musical backdrops to which Soul music was first developed, a performer of depth and brilliance his mastery has been earned through a life time on the road, touring the globe and across the united states with his Rocket 88s band, longtime torchbearers of a great American blues story of the 40s and 50s, though on this occasion Maspalomas got to enjoy Mitch’s pure jumpin’n’jivin’, shoutin’n’honkin’, pumpin’n’poundin’ sound that acted as required listening and a necessary introductory lesson to the classic American song book that gave rise to the Jazz & new orleans sounds that mixed with Gospel and led directly to Soul. Mitch has played with the likes of Van Morrison and many of the greats down through the last 40 years or more, and continues to do so at festival dates around the world.
All eyes were, however, on the massive presence of the diminutive Chick Rodgers, who received a standing ovation following her memorable interpretation of (You Make me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, a song written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin for Aretha Franklin in 1967, and later performed by the author herself on her legendary 1971 album Tapestry. Rodgers was unable to contain the emotion of the moment and burst into tears of love and gratitude at the sight of 10,000 soul music fans sending her in no uncertain terms their unabashed adoration as the spirit of soul music was made flesh before their eyes and Maspalomas was enraptured by her extraordinary energy; they raised her above the sands as their Goddess, and she in turn with humility and dignity received the overwhelming tsunami of universal respect for what must have been one of the most important musical moments ever to have landed upon the shores of this little island, off the west coast of Africa.
Soul food entrepreneur and star turn, Larry Springfield, dressed in classic black, followed this rapturous outpouring of emotion to guide us all back from orbit to land back and each stand again on our own two feet, as he held the audience to account with his smooth blues driven classic renditions of the 70s staples Let’s Get It On, by Marvin Gaye, and the driving force of Hard to Handle by Otis Redding, and of course his outstandingly energetic Try a Little Tenderness, reminding bass player Eamonn Flynn of his early days on a certain Dublin soul music film of global renown.
Compered by Italy-based, British Soul aficionado Rick Hutton, and backed by the solid and experienced musicality of Larry Batiste, Nona Brown and Omega Rae this year’s return to the Soul of Maspalomas was further enhanced by the musical selections of local DJs El Especialista Manel Ruiz, Sergio Miró Dj Set and Monterreina; the M&Ms Connection and Midnight Soul Band who helped to complete these three days of concerts and workshops, both on the main stage and at the Petanca Soul street food and beach bar area.
One of the most extraordinary music events to have occurred Gran Canaria, at least since Diana Ross and James Brown played Sioux City back in the 70s. The Maspalomas Costa Canaria Soul Festival is unlike anything you are likely to experience anywhere else on the islands or throughout Spain. A real deal gathering of music lovers and people ready to dance the Maspalomas subtropical night away, right down on the sands of San Agustín, making memories without any of the sense of commerciality you might expect elsewhere from such a celebration, just honest to goodness music, a free festival of warm hearted people and music that continues to speak to your soul long after the lights have gone down.
To round the event off, on Sunday, the street food Petanca Soul zone was treated to an instructive Boogie Woogie & Jump Blues workshop with band leader Anthony Paule and the king himself Mitch Woods. A resounding success all round.