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La Carbonería - Seville

La Carbonería was the meeting point for the vanguard of Seville, a space for independent and alternative thought. Its walls have resounded with the voice of Camarón, the music of Antonio Mairena and Frank Zappa. If you’d like to see flamenco in Seville, La Carbonería opens its doors every night for your listening pleasure. Flamenco and poetry have a home in Seville.

By:  Lakshmi I. Aguirre
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EventsFind out what’s on! Check out our events guide for Andalusia.
Meeting point, venue & bar
Birth: 1975
Location: Seville
Stands out for: its constant stream of events and live music
Did you know? It used to be called La Cuadra

“Sitting on the window sill, awaiting the future, the future that never comes”. Verses like these have been heard amongst the hundred-year-old walls of La Carbonería in Seville. The building that once housed a coal warehouse has now become a shelter for flamenco musicians, poets, actors, writers and people who love the bohemian art world. In this tavern you can wait for your future to arrive with a glass of Agua de Sevilla (a cocktail for which this venue is known) in your hand and surrounded by the echo of music and verse.

Located in the Jewish quarter and once the palace of Samuel Leví, in 1975 Paco Lira converted the building into the meeting point and venue it is today. These days its his children that open the huge red door at eight every night. It marks a frontier with the outside world and doesn’t close until the early hours of the morning. “When we started out a vanguard artistic movement began to emerge. La Carbonería became a space for free speech, offering the chance for people to meet in secret and express their political concerts,” explains Emilio Calderón Álvarez (a priest in Polígono Sur in Seville) in Libro Homenaje a Paco Lira when speaking of the founder of what was initially known as La Cuadra.

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“We offer live acoustic music, photographic exhibitions, painting of all kinds and poetry in all shapes and sizes,” explains Francisco, son of founder Paco Lira who at 84 continues to be the heart and soul of La Carbonería. Both father and son understand that the arts are a way of expressing life and for more than three decades they’ve managed to substitute the sacks of coal that used to cover the Jewish quarter with the sound of music and verse. The theatrical company La Cuadra started by Salvador Távora came into being in La Cuadra (the tavern that preceded La Carbonería). Within its walls the Seville-born playwright completed his Quejío, a committed and revolutionary work in keeping with the history of the venue. La Carbonería exudes liberty, inspires dialogue and gives birth to lyrics, painting and song. Thanks to La Carbonería calle Levíes is an intellectual and artistic centre in Seville.

The performances that take place in La Carbonería seem to belong in evocative images by Catalan photographer Colita. Hearing Francisco Lira list the people who have played under its arches, in its stone paved corners, under the canopy of its fireplace or in its Andalusian patio will give you an idea: Camarón, Fernanda and Bernarda from Utrera, Antonio Mairena, Lole Montoya, Chocolate, Farruco, Pepe Habichuela, Miguel Funi… These are just some of the artists who Lira considers to be part of the Carbonería family. They’ve created a space that has later been filled by the likes of Fernando Quiñones, Caballero Bonald, Félix Grande, Carlos Edmundo de Ory, Frank Zappa, Peter Gabriel and Tony Gatlif, who filmed some of the scenes in his film Exils in La Carbonería.

One of the defining features of Seville is the wealth of taverns, tapas bars, restaurants, clubs and music venues. The defining feature of La Carbonería is its ability to distinguish itself from other venues by staying open over the years and constantly evolving to keep up with changes in the city itself. “Many people have idealized La Carbonería,” confesses Lira. “Some say that it’s not what it used to be, but in answer I tell them that we aren’t either. The people who enlightened us with their music in the beginning aren’t alive anymore either”. Travellers and locals of all ages, all with a particular interest in Andalusian culture, come to this legendary venue every night. La Carbonería has kept its doors open, through thick and through thin, thanks to its faithful friends: “all this is thanks to our friends who are everlasting,” highlights Lira with emotion.

“…Nevertheless. In the heart of Seville there is a shady corner sheltered from the sun where great company shines through,” wrote the poet Isabel Escudero about La Carbonería. “We hope to create a sober, discrete and dignified space that always has its door open”. This is the ultimate aim of the founding family of one of the most evocative corners of the city, where Andalusian folklore has found a home and is rejuvenated each and every day, where ghosts of the living and dead sit to listen to flamenco, have some wine and keep in time with the music with a clenched fist beating on the table.


Getting there?

La Carbonería
C/ Levíes, 18

Opening hours: Every day from 20:00 to 03:00.

Price: Free entry.

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