FORMENTERA - PILAR DE LA MOLA - BAR CAN TONI
BAR CAN TONI - THE HEART AND SOUL OF THE REAL FORMENTERA
This place is located in the small village of El Pilar de la Mola, almost opposite the hippie market (which is open on Wednesday and Sundays) and is run by an Italian (like many other places on the island).
They serve food all day.
Bar Can Toni is actually the heart and soul of Formentera. This is where the locals go to eat, drink, chat, play and watch great live flamenco music and dance.
The place is really friendly and ideal for a drink and to eat a few tapas. The tapas are not spectacular but it's not really the food you come here for. An example of some are shown below:
Potatas Bravas €3.50
Lentil soup €4.50
Salad with prosciutto and figs €6
Good wine and cocktails like mojitos are available. These prices are quite reasonable compared to the rest of the Island. Service can be a little confused and uneven, even if you know all the servers and the owners and you even have a number signifying you are known as a local.
Our friend Jonathon Lipsin describes a typical night when they have live music there.
“I got lost in the Spanish night, sucked in and I couldn't find my way home as a swirling dervish led me down an alley that led to the heart of my soul and i didn't really want to go home ever if I was being honest to myself. The bar was an ordinary Spanish bar and the people were ordinary Spanish people and in their faces I could see Spain as if in a Capra movie. The faces of weariness, now that the day's work was over and the faces of simple people who treasured the sea.
It was all ordinary. at least until the music started and some started twitching and showed signs of coming alive and I noticed the people who were complacent just before, started changing almost instantly into wild beasts of passion as the drum beat and the guitars tuned and the singer cleared his throat about to begin.
We stood there transfixed as if we were all puppets in a show and then as the notes lifted in the air and hands started clapping in time and the feet started shuffling we came alive out of the night and fire leapt out of our hearts and we swayed and then we kicked and then we danced as the night wore on, our fingers and bodies akimbo, our passion wore high on our chests as the music played and we knew we were home for the first time in a long time.
I called her " La Passionata " because she was the best dancer and the way she lifted her skirt up to her waist and kicked her bare feet was a sight to behold. Pure paganism as I watched her smouldering fire getting stoked as the music reached it's height and watched the expressions on her face and the shrug of her shoulder and the pain she imagined as her mouth swept into a grimace and she danced as if in a trance and once her strap fell revealing a perfectly shaped breast and erect nipple and her eyes met mine as if daring me to watch further and she just shrugged carelessly and threw her head back and laughed a throaty laugh. The night was hers and she wasn't in the mood for caring. Watching “La Passionata” dance was pure heathen poetry and the paganism that was once Spain before Catholicism came out of the dark dark cave that night.
The music bewitched me and I threw back my drink and said what the hell as I took to the dance floor and let the music take me, even though I was the Americano and this music was not mine but hey, I thought, the music is just waiting to be claimed and I am as good as anybody………….. Ole!
We danced and we sang to Bombaleo and then we danced once more and the night was young and the night was long and we didn't give a damn and it was Spain in the 1930's in my head and I heard the gunfire in the distance as Franco's forces crept closer but for the moment I didn't care because we had the music and we had the passion and we had the moment. Hemingway turned to me and said glibly" You stay here long enough and the wine and the women will kill you." I shrugged and smiled a smile that came from a 1000 nights and kept on dancing. Come over to the dark side she whispered in my ear……. Which way ? I said…….That way She pointed. Follow the music, she murmured…..Right to the heart…..”
Jonathon is back again in 2016. Here are a few of his recent trips to Can Toni...............
"Last night at Can Toni, my favourite cafe /bar that is over a hundred years old listening to the great music of Kelly who left Indiana 6 years ago and never looked back as she relocated to Formentera.
We sang along with her on songs like Brand New Key, Me & Bobby McGhee, Material Girl and Que Sera Sera and then she belted out one of my favourites, 4 Non Blondes doing What's up. I went wild on that one.
It was a fun night with red wine and hierbas liquor, manchego cheese, crusty bread and patatas bravas.
Kelly is the other American on this island and in between sets and her furiously puffing on a joint we had a great visit."
"Last night at the Gypsy Flamenco Bar Can Toni I danced until the early morning…..the Spanish moon was almost full and the stars hung low sparkling in the heavenly firmament.
The room was packed as Paco played his heart out on his guitar and his voice filled the space with a passion that went right through our hearts bespeaking of an old Spain, one that reached across time to the era of the Jews and the Moors.
Some say that the cantos of Flamenco came from the prayers of Jews who could not express their religion so instead sang passionate songs of love thus disguised.
Who knows except I am singing and dancing with a fervour I seldom contact. It is an old wisdom that moves my body and catches in my soul as I raise my hands and move my hips. It comes from another place and time that is not from the West. I leave that behind and give into other voices calling.
The moon as I said was almost full and to my eyes after an hour of wild flamenco dancing I was doing with a passion that must have come from some Spanish ancestor long forgotten I could swear I saw the moon bouncing merrily across the sky. Yes the yierbas liquor (licor de hierbas de Formentera) might have been that good. I had a wild flamenco night dancing until I couldn't dance no more singing Baila Baila and other songs to the music of Paco and the boys.
This is part of my Spanish family here. The musicians all know me and the owner of the bar Alex slips me a Yierbas drink made from wild herbs picked on the island, on the house, because I am a regular. I am the only American Westerner here and I get huge points being a Californian.
I have known these great musicians for a few years now. Paco the guitarist is a gypsy from Andalusia and he is the real deal and I love his music and voice. We are tight. They have all watched the documentary about me and are duly impressed lol.
Paco sings with a throaty voice and you feel everything, even though you don't understand the words. The room goes wild and I declare right here that flamenco is the most sensuous of dances. Tonight we are all one! Ole!!!
Blame it all on the Flamenco - The return of La Passionata !
It's Monday night and Paco and the boys just started playing. It is going to be a hot flamenco night tonight I tell you.
The place is Can Toni in the village of La Mola and this is the oldest bar on the island, over a 100 years old. Back in the day this was a hippie hangout in the 60's and that hasn’t changed except now they sit cheek to jowl with tourists from Italy perhaps.
Paco starts out with a roar and proves that flamenco is about passion !
The women, most of whom I recognise are belly up to the bar exuding that sexuality that I find ubiquitous in Spain. This is a Latin country after all.
They sway, they clap, they raise their skirts in time to the music .They seduce with their smouldering Smokey eyes. Their hips undulate and their feet move expertly across the floor. This is their birthright and this dance is burnt into their souls and they make love right on the bar room floor as they dance. I watch as always until I also cannot watch. I must shake off my Anglo character flaws and start dancing too. The beat is too infectious to ignore. Tonight I am Latin.
All of as sudden I see her walk in. It is Fanny who I dubbed La Passionata last year. The best and most sensual dancer I had ever seen. When she dances everyone stops to watch. She closes her eyes and goes deep into a trance.
La Passionata channels an ancient spirit from deep within her. She becomes Spain in the years when flamenco was born and she is one of the children of Gypsy dance that has access to that. This is what makes her special. Last year I couldn't tear my eyes from her as she danced and embodied Flamenco taking it back to it's pagan origin. The story was published on the internet and when I showed it to her, her eyes gleamed and she told me, "You understood mi corazon." It was then I fell in love with her.
She sees me from across the room and her eyes light up in recognition. As she snaked her way to me, I trembled. "Hola amigo" she whispers in a dusky throaty voice that I remember
"I know you from last year, que tal?” She kisses me on both cheeks and she squeezes my shoulder and then she is gone back in the rowdy crowd. I take a gulp of my beer to jot calm my beating heart. Paco and the boys start furiously belting out an improbable version of Volare and the room goes wild.
The room starts shaking involuntarily as the women raise their skirts and twirl their fingers in the air Moorish style. I can only stand there as I watch La Passionata take to the bar room floor, first dancing with one and then another, seducing each man and daring them to ask for more. She is more, more beautiful and lovelier than ever. I watch, still feeling her wet kiss on my cheek.
She catches my eye and gives me a wink.
Oh the hell with it! Tonight I am going down to the Crossroads to sell my soul to the devil!
I wake up in the morning to the birds chirping in the Spanish garden. The sun is making it's way from up over the sea.
I am alone.
Was it a dream?
Jonathon first came across Formentera in 1973, when arrested by Franco's police for being what looked like a “Commie hippy” and was banished to Formentera, the island he is at present living on 40 odd years later. He is staying with a friend he met all that time ago in a villa metres from where he used to sleep on the beach, eating cans of sardines and chunks of bread. Karma is a bitch :)
Jonathon in 1973!
If you wish to read more about Jonathon's Travels and adventures, please go to his constantly updated blog at
All photos in this article © Bernadette Mundy (apart from first and last one!)
Words © Jonathon Lipsin.
Returning to the Island made Jonathon relive some of his early favourites in music, these mixes have some of them
There is also a mix for Bernadette "The blues lady of Formentera"
BAR CAN TONI - THE HEART AND SOUL OF THE REAL FORMENTERA
Plaza del Pilar 1, Pilar de la Mola, 07871 Formentera
+34 971 32 73 77
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MIXCLOUD MUSIC - Mikeyb