Onda Passadena
(un bar de copas)

A cozy bar/tavern with a small stage, located on Calle Gómez Pallete, 9, in Málaga, Spain, just around the corner from the Plaza de la Merced. Doors usually open at around 9 PM, and close between 4 and 6 AM. The listed telephone number for Onda Passadena is (+34) 952 60 09 84.

At Onda Passadena, there's usually no cover charge. The dress code is casual, and performances begin at around 11:30 PM. Drink prices are not notably different from any other establishment; 5 for a liquor drink, 1 or €2 for a beer or glass of wine.

It's dimly lit and smoky, like every other place to go at night in Spain. Spaniards like to smoke; ya can't fight it. The decor is actually quite nice, and the staff was exceptionally friendly, in my experience. The capacity for the place is around 40 people—maybe 50 if everyone has recently showered.

The rough schedule of performances is as follows:

My only experience with this place is the flamenco performance. It's every Thursday, and if you ever find yourself in Málaga on a Thursday night, you must stop by.

That's because genuine, well-performed, Spanish flamenco displays are next to impossible for someone foreign to Spain to find in Andalucía, flamenco's birthplace. Authentic flamenco, known as flamenco puro, can techincally only be performed by someone descended from a gitano ('gypsy') flamenco-performing family. But a mere two or three generations of flamenco ancestors is nowadays considered sufficient to render a performer legitimate.

Visiting Málaga in the summer of 2004, I spent several weeks trying to track down an authentic flamenco performance. Finally, days before my departure, I found it. It was only a few hundred meters from my flat, just around the corner from Málaga's famous Plaza de la Merced. And the performance was free, at a place called "Onda" (or officially, "Onda Passadena").

Onda means "wave." That is, the sort of which light and electricity are composed, not hand-waving.

The suggestion of electricity is appropriate; the passion and dedication of the flamenco family that performed the night I was there was awesome. Nearly electrical. The mother and father were in their 50's, and the son was about 18, his sister 20. They might as well all have been 20; they were all in top shape, confident, beautiful, and athletic in their dancing. Sweat dripped down the forehead of each one as their shoes powerfully and yet precisely pounded the wooden floor of the stage. Their raiment was impeccable, and they changed their outfits several times throughout the show. There is little justice that words can do to describe the way the performance enveloped me. The fast, alternating hand-clapping, the declarative shouts, and the way the dancers commanded the audience's attention, all made it impossible to ignore it, even though Onda Passadena can be full of distractingly good-looking twentysomethings.

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