The following post is part of an ongoing series entitled HIGH LIFE. Each week ELEVATION will present a multimedia profile of an inspiring individual who is achieving great things and working hard toward a better future. In this series, we will explore fascinating vocations, passions, and ways of life in diverse places around the globe.
A FLAMENCO COUPLE IN SEVILLE
Flamenco is a style of music and dance that has roots dating as far back as the 8th Century. Over a period of 600 years the Roma people (also known as Gypsies) migrated from Rajasthan in northwestern India to southern Spain. The region they settled in, known as Andalusia, features the ancient cities of Seville, Málaga, and Córdoba. There, the musical migrants – equipped with festive instruments such as tambourines and castanets – encountered Moorish and Sephardic Jewish cultural influences. The product is the rich, rhythmic expression of sensuality and profound emotion that we know as flamenco.
Seville is regarded by many as the world capital of flamenco. During its “golden age” from the 1860s to 1910s, the art form flourished in particular in Seville’s Roma quarter known as Triana. Today, there is no escaping the cultural reach of flamenco in Seville. Throughout the city, it is performed in taverns, theaters, and tablaos, which are special venues built specifically for flamenco shows, and at parties, festivals, and weddings.
Dancer (bailaora) Kati “La Zíngara” Vyyryläinen and guitarist (tocaor) and singer (cantaor) David Manzano live and breathe flamenco. The Seville-based couple have been inextricably linked both romantically and musically since 2017. However, very different paths brought them together.
David comes from a long line of flamenco performers. He was born and raised in Cordóba, about 87 miles to the northeast of Seville. Both sides of his family have gitano (Spanish Roma) roots. “I am gitano by the grace of God,” he says. David’s parents and aunts and uncles were well known in their communities both for their musical abilities and for the raucous parties they would throw.
David picked up guitar at the age of three and has never looked back. He has devoted his life to performing and composing, and has collaborated with flamenco luminaries including El Pele, José el Frances, La Negra, Lin Cortés, and Raimundo Amador to name just a few. David has performed in many exotic locales – from Bolivia to Morocco – but his most memorable flamenco experience was on a private yacht in the Gulf of Cadíz.
Hear from David in his own words and watch him compose at home in the video below.
Kati “La Zíngara” Vyyryläinen
Kati was born some 2600 miles north of David, on the southern coast of Finland. She was raised in the Saimaa lake region of the country then studied at the University of Helsinki. She spent time in Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, and Venezuela before settling in Seville around the turn of the century. Oddly enough, Kati was well on her way to becoming a flamenco dancer when she learned that estranged relatives on her mother’s side, too, were talented musicians. They play gypsy music from a variety of European countries including Russia, Moldova, and France. She discovered this early in her career when she randomly encountered an aunt in a flamenco class.
Flamenco has taken Kati all over the world. She has taught and performed in fifteen countries, and has wowed audiences in fascinating venues including a palace in Marrakech, the Spanish embassy in Costa Rica, the European Parliament, and even a flamenco festival in the polar circle. She has worked with big stars such as El Tomasito, Jorge Pardo, Paco Iglesias, and Diego Carrazco.
Hear from Kati in her own words and watch her dance in studio in the video below.
Connecting with Kati and David
In normal times, Kati and David are very active in the Seville flamenco scene, performing almost every night during tourist season. They are also co-owners of a small flamenco project based in a tavern in Triana. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has brought much of Spain’s nightlife, especially tourist hotspots, to a standstill. Nonetheless, Kati and David are using this time to continue to hone their crafts, and are offering online shows, classes, and private lessons. ELEVATION readers are encouraged to explore these options. And, when travel starts to normalize, make sure to book a trip to Seville for one of Kati’s popular tapas and flamenco walking tours.
The best way to get in touch with Kati and David is via Kati’s website: La Zíngara Flamenco Y Danza. There you can also see more photos and video of Kati in action.
Watch Kati and David perform together at a festival in Faro, Portugal below.