Bi Flamenko is a biennial international flamenco festival hosted and produced by Cankarjev dom, Cultural and Congress Centre in Ljubljana. It was held for the first time in February 2018, with the second edition following in February 2020. Since its inception, the festival has worked closely with Flamenco Biënnale Nederland, which takes place in the alternate years.
Concept and begginings
Bi Flamenko arose from discussions between Bogdan Benigar, the programme head director for jazz and world music at Cankarjev dom, Cultural and Congress Centre, and Ernestina van de Noort, director of Flamenco Biënnale Nederland. Both festivals exist to present another side to an art form that perhaps suffers more than most from cultural assumptions, preconceptions and misunderstanding.
While both festivals do devote a portion of their programmes to more traditional flamenco artists and patterns, they share an artistic vision of flamenco as a contemporary and future art form, and as a platform for connecting different styles of music, theatre and dance.
In line with this vision, and despite its relatively small scale, Bi Flamenko has presented a wide range of crossover projects in its two editions so far. The biggest draw for flamenco fans of whatever persuasion in the 2020 edition was perhaps the appearance by Rafael Riqueni, one of the art form’s greatest-ever guitarists, although even here we are talking about an artist who melds traditional flamenco aesthetics with other musical forms.
Other highlights of the 2020 edition, with perhaps a heavier nod to the contemporary contexts in which flamenco can operate, included Los Voluble and their Flamenco is Not a Crime project, which uses live DJ mixing to interrogate what flamenco has to say about various electronic music genres (and vice versa); rising star Vanesa Aibar, for whom flamenco provides the basis for an exploration of modern and Spanish classical dance; ¡Kick-Pluck-Planta-Tacón-Tap-Clap-Clack!, a collaboration between dancer Eduardo Guerrero and Dutch percussion group Slagwerk Den Haag; and Nairuz, a project led by Bosnian guitarist Mirza Redžepagić, who brings flamenco face-to-face with devotional Turkish Sufi music.
The 2018 edition saw a mix of traditional flamenco and the avant-garde in the form of Rocío Molina’s Fallen from Heaven; dancer Ana Morales’s Bagatelles project, which featured electronics and interactive installations; pianist Alfonso Aroca’s jazz-flamenco conversations; Qasida, an encounter between the young composer and singer Rosario “La Tremendita” and Iranian classical musician Mohammad Motamedi; and Firebird, the debut collaboration between Slovenian flamenco dancer/performance artist Ana Pandur Predin and Giani Poposki of the Slovenian death metal/industrial band Noctiferia.
In keeping with the open, dialogic nature of flamenco, many of the performances in both editions of the festival have featured post-show artists’ talks. Workshops and films are also an integral part of the festival.