Starcat 1 by my favourite artist

Monday, 8 October 2012


Little Boy Quique is a Bluesman and a friend of mine. I have known him since he was a teenager, when he used to sit on a bench in the local square. Sometimes we’d talk and share a joint while he played on his guitar.

He is now in his mid-40s and can be seen busking in Seville’sAvenida de la Constitución. Apart from the occasional concert which could be a well-paid gig at a festival or a gig in one of the local bars, this is his only means of sustenance. This daily struggle elevates his music into true Art; he does not merely interpret the words and experiences of others, the words may not be his, but the experiences are most definitely his own.

He knows no other life. He has never had a steady job – such jobs in the private sector in Spain are now as rare as rocking horse teeth – even rarer for an unqualified Bluesman. 

Quique is a product of the Spanish Transition[1] where unrestricted Freedom ruled supreme and any type of limit was regarded as facha – or fascist. Like many others the flame of Little Boy’s naturally Bohemian spirit was fanned by the politicians who swept into power in the new Democracy.

Compared to their British counterparts, left-wing Spanish politicians are a race apart. They still cling to outdated idealism instead of trying to be pragmatic in political terms.

The only real pragmatism demonstrated by Spanish politicians of any hue is when it comes to screwing money out of the system in allowances, free travel, etc. etc. in Spanish it’s called chupar de la teta – suckling at the teat. If in GB we thought the MPs allowances scandal of recent years was immoral, it is nothing compared to Spain with its 17 regional parliaments and a Senate that does nothing except provide the Senators with a large salary, free travel a chauffeur-driven armour-plated Audi A6 or A8, and an office – somewhere comfy to doze after a good lunch paid for out of their excessivley generous expenses.

In the early 80s, the PSOE promised to create 800,000 new jobs[2]. Instead, Spain began to lose jobs. Permissiveness, anti-capitalism and anti-enterprise propaganda were great vote winners. Indeed they still are, but what the politicians ignored, willingly or otherwise, was the fact that there was a whole generation of young, uneducated[3], working-class Spaniards who actually believed what they were told. As a result they became unemployable. However, they remained stalwart voters of the left-wing parties who continued to tell them that they were victims of an evil capitalist plot to deprive them of their rights.

Obligations were, of course, a fascist concept.

People in this situation will unthinkingly parrot half-digested political ideas. However, they have insufficient arguments to back them up, rather like a religious zealot reciting a catechism. However, as these ideas are all that they have to cling to, cling to them they do.

So it is that Quique, a good friend, finds himself busking on a street corner with little prospect of ever improving his lot. His life was blighted for him before he even had the tools to decide for himself. Indeed, he never really had the tools. And there are tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands like him, but without the gift of being able to play an instrument to earn a crust.

Little Boy follows in the true traditions of the original Bluesmen. He is poor, powerless and quasi-disenfranchised. He has never voted – why bother? It won’t change his life a jot and he knows it. To the politicians of all parties people in his situation are as invisible as Afro-Americans were to US whites until relatively recently. They exist only as shocking numbers with which to emabrrass the party opposite.

Even his Art is looked down upon in a city where Flameno dominates all. Furthermore, in the region of Andalusia clientelism has ensured that the same party has been in power for nearly 30 years. Flamenco has been railroaded and is now the régime’s default music. Hence Blues is best ignored, along with all other “non-approved” types of music.[4]

But Little Boy isat his pitch in all seasons – even in the inhuman heat of Seville in August (45ºC+) – playing Blues and on the qui vive for the local police. If they catch him they will confiscate his guitar and amp in lieu of the fine he could never hope to pay, thus condemning him to absolute poverty. I admire Quique. He will never give up; he will play on until he has wrung the last note out of his soul like the true Bluesman he is.

[1] Neither should we forget that all revolutions/transitions/elections are nothing more than a struggle between different sections of the upper and middle classes where ‘The People’ is an abstract concept. Indeed, in Spain’s case it is no real surprise to discover that great numbers of the high-fliers in the Socialist party are the children or grandchildren of high-fliers in Franco’s régime.  The same is also true of the right-wing People’s(?) Party, but this is only to be expected. Perhaps I could argue that to a certain extent, elections notwithstanding, in Spain political power is inherited.
[2] Indeed, they probably did – sinecures for their friends, family and other assorted hangers-on – at the tax-payer’s expense.
[3] Through no fault of their own. Spanish educational standards plummeted and as the economy of the time depended on manual jobs, many youngsters thought – and no-one disabused them – that education was boring and a complete waste of time.
[4] To such an extent that only about once every 18 months will a world-famous group play in one of Seville’s many stadia. Promoters do not seem to be encouraged, even thought the gigs are always sold out.


  1. I knew some very poor people when I was in Spain in the Franco era. I fondly imagined that was now history and I very sad to hear that there are still people like Quique without prospects and, virtually, without a life.

    It seems that in politics, as in the sink when I am doing the washing-up, it is always the scum that rises to the top.

  2. Unfortunately, there still are a lot of people with very little money and prospects, but I sometimes wonder if this is a nature vs. nurture argument. Recently I met a woman who had just lost her job as a wedding-dress sales assistant. She had a degree in Economics, an MBA and another Masters in Marketing and Communication!
    However, she was loth to leave Seville and find work elsewhere.
    Her English was good enough to get her a job in the UK, and surely a better one than shop assistant. I feel that a great many people here are academically ambitious in the sense that they all want to go to university, but when they leave they will put up with any type of job, as if upon graduating they had reached their great goal in life.
    There seems to be a general apathy and complacency, at least in Seville, which prevents people from really making a go of things.