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La Carboneria, Sevilla

La Carboneria in Seville, despite showing only a glossy red door to the narrow back street Calle Levies, is known locally as a bit of a tourist trap. The locals go there, though — there's no mistaking that. A lot of tourists do, too.

La Carboneria presents flamenco music and it is, for any criticism, one of the few reliable flamenco venues in Sevilla that is free of charge. And flamenco is not to be missed.

Entering through that red door, one is in a small, high anteroom with a fireplace in the corner. Further inward is a larger, high room with vaulted stone ceiling, and this room is often used for performances alternative to flamenco — a two-person drama, say, or a small (2-3 piece) band. This area, long picnic-style tables on each side, is often mostly full of locals, except for a pathway through.

Through the back of this room is the main performance area. It is large — 100 by 75 feet, say. It's a modern wooden structure, partly roofed in wood and partly in corrugated fiberglass. The floorspace is divided between concrete below and raised seating area at back, against the stone wall of the older building. The whole of the area is set with tables. The bar is in that room. The flamenco goes on at the windowed wall. A stone courtyard is beyond, which is open during the warmer busy season.

The music, the flamenco — a guitar, maybe two; maybe a flute, a violin, a cello... depending on the evening, and the dancers' feet are the percussion — the musicians often watching them for timekeeping. And, importantly, the music includes "las palmas," the crowd's hand-clapping. "Las palmas" will spontaneously separate into countertime beats, where the net effect will be as of a crowd clapping very quickly in perfect time.

Sometimes during a break in the set, a group of young Spanish men will sit in a circle in the back of the room, one with guitar, and they will sing traditional songs. The place appears to be quite popular with the locals, no matter that it is also a well-known tourist attraction.

  • I lived in Seville from December 2000 until June of 2001.