Spain - On Calle Elvira, in Granada's Old Moorish quarter, Cathie and I are lured into a small tapas bar by the sound of drums. What could be better, we think to ourselves, than beer (with free tapas, as usual in Granada) and live music?
The bar is tinier than the others we've explored in the neighbourhood. Drinkers crowd the narrow entrance and compete for elbow room at the bar.
Smoke from cigarettes and joints clouds the air, and we soon see that the drumming we heard is coming from a woman tapping aggressively on an overturned plastic napkin holder. She's quite good at this casual percussion.
Although the people in the bar don't seem to know each other, the atmosphere is communal. Laughs and insults make their way from one end of the room to the other, in part occasioned by the percussionist, who takes her portable drum from party to party.
Cathie and I, not at all conversant in Spanish, feel a little left out of this community, and after finishing our drinks and tapas (a hearty stew of romano beans and ground pork) plan to head out. But the atmosphere is very laid-back in what can only be described as the typical Spanish way, and after ordering another round of Alhambra, a beer named for Granada's main tourist attraction and the last Moorish stronghold in Spain, we settle back into our corner and observe the liveliness around us.
From out of nowhere, a girl sitting near us pulls out an acoustic guitar. The percussionist is there in an instant, and she taps along as the guitarist plays and sings. Soon, someone wearing a string of silver bells around her ankle begins to add her beat to the music.
The songs are sometimes plaintive and sometimes happy, but these singers are incredibly compelling either way. Deep, rich Spanish voices at one point belt out a song I recognize from a Manu Chao album, at another sing a tune from the Buena Vista Social Club's repertoire.
An woman who looks to be in her mid-40s, with a headful of long, perfectly maintained dreads that are swept up and held in place with a green silk scarf, moves from the lower level of the bar to the performance area and, standing, adds her voice to the harmony. She has a commanding presence, and her voice does not disappoint. Everyone in the bar is participating, watching and tapping along, either on tabletops or knees.
A few newcomers enter the bar and head straight for the back. One of them carries what looks like a wok, complete with lid. Momentarily puzzled, we think nothing of it, and continue to enjoy the music.
About 15 minutes later, though, he has pulled up a chair at the edge of the performance circle and is playing his wok, which turns out to be a hang drum. Its top piece has a hole in its centre, and the instrument makes a completely different sound depending on whether or not the hole is plugged with a steel ball the size of a small orange.
The bar gets more and more crowded as the music builds in intensity, and soon a group of American college students studying in Madrid is sitting at a table beside us. A girl from the small town of Orgiva, about an hour and a half away from Granada by bus, weaves from table to table, selling homemade baked treats.
The impromptu jam session has grown to include every one of the bar's remaining patrons. We all tap, sing and wail along, closing the bar with a rousing version of Mi Manera, the Sinatra classic My Way, before making our way out into the cool Spanish night.