Since 1992, Potaje has created and performed a blend of flamenco, Spanish folk, Latin American and jazz music, developing an original style innovative and traditional—respectful of the old musical forms but open to contemporary ways of expression. Potaje is led by Chus Alonso, who composes and arranges most of its repertoire. In the framework of this ensemble, world class Flamenco, Latino-American, jazz and classical musicians as well as dancers have collaborated to build musical bridges, linking Spain with the Americas, among them: guitarists Jorge Liceaga, Mark Taylor, Guillermo Rios, Jason McGuire, and Marcos Teira; violinist Tregar Otton; pianist Paula Dreyer; bassists Steve Senft-Herrera and Mariano Martos; percussionists Sage Baggott, Roberto Borrell, Brian Rice, Omar Ledesma, and Michael Spiro; and dancers La Tania, Clara Rodriguez, Melissa Cruz, and Carola Zertuche.
Potaje has played in a wide variety of venues, including the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, American Festival of San Jose, Performing Arts Center of Monterey, San Jose Jazz Festival, Mosconi Center, Community Music Center and The Fillmore in San Francisco, Julia Morgan Theater in Berkeley, Performing Arts Series of San Jose, and La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley. In addition, Potaje toured Spain in 2001. The ensemble was also involved in educational workshops for children with “Adventures in Music”, an educational program of the San Francisco Symphony, and Young Audiences of the Bay Area, an arts organization that brings artist to schools.
Potaje has published two CDs, one in 1999 entitled Charanga Flamenca, and another one in 2008 entitled Flamenco Cat.
I grew up in Spain and moved to California in my mid-twenties. Having one foot in southern Europe and the other in the Americas, I’m passionate about exploring the historical ties connecting Spain’s flamenco and folkloric music with the musical traditions of the Americas. In 1992, I founded Potaje, an ensemble with the mission of a fostering transatlantic cultural exchange.
In its first decade, Potaje focused on creating and performing new music that would connect flamenco to Cuban and Latin music –exploring the fertile, centuries-long musical exchange between Spain and Latin America. In composing for the ensemble, I sought to create a body of work that, though new, would remain firmly rooted in the musical traditions. Potaje’s core instrumentation included guitar, flute, violin, bass and percussion; with the occasional addition of other instruments as well as flamenco and Cuban folkloric guest dancers. I was attracted to mix the sounds of the flamenco guitar with the grooves and timbre of the charanga. Charanga is a type of traditional Cuban ensemble that combines a strong rhythm section with the sweet sounds of the violins and flute. It is, at the same time, classical sounding, elegant, improvisatorial and dance-provoking. During this period, Potaje collaborated with flamenco and Latin artists of the highest caliber and showcased our new sound in a CD entitled “Charanga Flamenca.” During that time, Potaje’s principal musicians were Guillermo Rios and Jorge Liceaga on guitar, Tregar Otton on the violin, Sage Baggott on percussion and Steve Seft-Herrera on bass, in addition to me on flute.
Around 2002 I became interested in composing for piano in flamenco styles. I added the piano to Potaje’s instrumentation. Since traditional flamenco is mostly played on guitar, my challenge, in part, was to develop piano techniques to mimic flamenco gestures and the percussive sounds of the guitar. I collaborated with pianist Paula Dreyer, who worked on assimilating the new concepts and techniques and offered feedback on pianistic execution of the music. The music matured with the positive feedback of live audiences in Spain, Portugal, and California. The CD “Flamenco Cat”, recorded in 2008, was the product of Potaje’s second period.
In the last years, Potaje has become less of a defined musical group and more of a project-based production company (Potaje Music) that collaborates with a wide range of artists chosen according to the specific project. Potaje’s largest production took place on May 2016 at the Cowell Theater in San Francisco and was called Fandango-Pandanggo, a music, dance and multimedia performance exploring past and present musical connections between the Philippines, Mexico, Cuba and Spain.
I also use the name Potaje Music as the publishing company for my recordings and educational materials.
Tregar Otton, Steve Senft-Herrera, Paula Dreyer, Chus Alonso, Brian Rice, Sage Baggott and Omar Ledesma – Flamenco Cat CD release party, 2008 – Photo by Joanne Connelly
Potaje and La Tania at La Peña in Berkeley – 1999 – Photos by Aengus Mc. Giffin
Chus Alonso and Paula Dreyer – 2006 – Photo by Joanne Connelly
Michael Spiro, Chus Alonso, Tregar Otton and Jorge Liceaga – 1999 – Photo by Dana Davis
Tregar Otton, Mark Taylor and Chus Alonso – 2011 – Photo by Maite Klein
Roberto Borrell, Chus Alonso, Sage Baggott, Melisa Cruz and Greg Kehret – Fandango Pandanggo 2016 – Photo by Maite Klein
La Tania with Potaje – 2001
Chus Alonso, Carlos Caro, Sage Baggott, Clara Rodriguez and Mariano Martos –
Soniquete -Swing 2011 – Photo by Mercedes Romero
Clara Rodriguez and Mariano Martos – Soniquete- Swing 2011 – Photo by Mercedes Romero