In need of a little Christmas spirit? Look no further than the Spanish city of Jerez. In the sherry capital of the world we discovered the unbridled spirit of Christmas at a traditional zambomba.
It was like a rallying cry – a shout across the dimly lit patio of the city’s Damajuana Cafe Bar. We pricked up our ears and moved en-masse towards the source. Drawing ever closer the cry became a guttural warble, a rhythmic chorus of voices punctuated by determined claps, a dancing drum beat and melodious guitars. The air-filled with heart-in-the-mouth excitement and a fiery Andaluz passion for life, love and all things flamenco.
And there was joy! Not that clichéd ‘Joy of Christmas’ but that that can only be created by 200 or so people who love the same thing.
We’d been taken to see El Grupo Soniquete in the last of Jerez’s popular zambombas by Nuria from Arcos Gardens, our home for the week. A Jerez girl and flamenco fan, she tried to imbue us with the passion of flamenco in one easy dance move. Performing an air grab of which any X Factor contestant could be proud she purred: “You take the apple, you eat the apple, you throw it away!” Emphatically tossing the imaginary fruit aside, and we instantly understood the charged atmosphere around us.
But as much as this is flamenco-driven, zambombas are all about Christmas – like super-charged, spirited carol concerts. Picture if you will Away in a Manger to a determined Spanish beat. Instead of the boys’ choir, in Jerez families, couples and friends clap in time to the beat in a patio bedecked in poinsettia.
A zambomba is actually a type of drum but the popular gathering their intoxicating rhythm has given birth to has seen the pre-Christmas events named after their percussion section. We didn’t actually see a zambomba at our zambomba, instead the beat was delivered by a tambour, another small drum while Spanish guitars created the gypsy sound.
As we left the zambomba we didn’t head home with We Wish You A Merry Christmas ringing in our ears, but we had a rhythm to our stride, a renewed excitement for the festive season and a definite joie de vivre.
We visited one of Jerez’s zambombas while staying at Arcos Gardens.