Writings and essays about flamenco

Category — Flamenco in France

Singer José Valencia and Dancer Pepe Torres at the 2014 Nimes Flamenco Festival – deflamenco.com report by Estela Zatania – translated by Brook Zern

Flamenco’s Geographic and Human “Interior”

Thursday’s flamenco schedule at the Nimes Festival began with a noontime conference by our friend José Manuel Gamboa about France’s contribution to flamenco, a history of French fascination with the art in the Nineteenth Century when it was rejected within Spain.  As Gamboa explained, and as is verified every year in Nimes, those early links have never been broken.

At night in the theater, it was the turn of the best of Morón de la Frontera and Lebrija, two indispensable elements in the flamenco axis centered on Seville, each town with its special and unmistakable perspective.  If the Morón scene was dominated by the relaxed aire of Diego del Gastor’s “cuerda pelá” or stripped-down guitar, Lebrija was propelled by the intensity and urgency of the flamenco of Jerez and Cádiz.  That’s the source of the musical personality of singer José Valencia.  A still-young yet mature singer, who is striving to open a professional path as headline in the art after decades singing as part of the finest dance companies, unwavering in his defense of classic flamenco song.  No ditties, no bouncy pop.  (Ni temitas ni temitas.)

The winner of the Giraldillo al Cante prize at Seville’s last flamenco Bienal as well as on two earlier wins for cante accompaniment of dancers and as the Revelation prize for new talent, he was accompanied by the Malaga guitarist Juan Requena, who received the Giraldillos prize for Song Accompaniment.  With his first recording now two years old, and another in preparation, and with the admiration of his colleagues as well as aficionados, Manuel Valencia is now at his finest professional phase.

His appearance onstage was met with clamorous applause. And soon that big, round and flamenco voice filled the air with cantiñas with the distinctive flavor of Lebrija.  In the soleá, he started well, but suddenly something went wrong with his throat that resisted an easy resolution.   With great musical expertise, Valencia sought out less brilliant tones and less demanding song styles, saving the situation thanks to his knowledge and professionalism.  The free-rhythm malagueñas leading into the rhythmic or abandolao version went well.  In the siguiriyas, the instability of his  throat gave an added touch of warmth to José’s normally Pavarottian singing.  He then decided to take a real chance [cortar por lo sano] with a marathon round of bulerías, out front and alone before the possible danger, with no other accompaniment than the discreet handclaps of Juan Diego Valencia and Manuel Valencia, and the muted knocking of Requena on his guitar.  The singer loosened his necktie and spoke into the mike: “I don’t want to defraud you.  I’m going to die right here!”  He then launched into a series of classic bulerías with great taste and gusto, and some semi-danced touches; even his vocal chords obeyed, and with those bulerías all the rest would have been too much.  Animated, José Valencia rounded off this difficult recital with a martinete in the style of Antonio Mairena.

After a rest, we returned to our seats to receive a outburst of Moronism though the art of Pepe Torres and his group.

Morón de la Frontera has produced a surprising number of dancers, of whom the maximum present-day example is Pepe Torres.  His work is held in high esteem by aficionados because despite his youth, he conserves the art of the older generation, not as a museum-bound relic but by giving new life and validity to the approaches of El Farruco, Rafael el Negro, Pepe Ríos, Paco Valdepeñas, Antonio el Marsellés and even el Gineto de Cádiz, all reflected in his dance.

Pepe, polyfaceted as he is, added the beautiful touch of opening with his rendition of siguiriyas on guitar, an homage to his granduncle Diego del Gastor.  He then danced to the tonás and the siguiriyas, with an interlude for a vocal and guitar rendition of the tarantas.

His danced alegrías is one of the high points of the recital, done to the song of Luís Moneo, Moi de Morón, Guillermo Manzano and David el Galli, and the immense guitars of Paco Iglesias and Antonio Moya.

A solo rendition of the sung tientos tangos, and afterwards the soleá, the form most closely identified with the Morón locale, and a long and tasty finale por bulerías.  Pepe then called José Valencia and his group, and it all ended up in a classical fin de fiesta to the delight of the audience.

End of article by Estela Zatania in deflamenco.com  The original is seen at:


January 17, 2014   1 Comment

Flamenco Singer José Valencia says that the French like “Rancio” (Solidly Traditional) Flamenco – article from elEconomista.es translated by Brook Zern

José Valencia is a very good singer whom I’ve often heard in Jerez and at festivals in various Andalusian towns.  This article by Luís Miguel Pascual, from the Spanish online publication elEconomista.es of February 22, 2013, touches on several important aspects of flamenco today.

Flamenco Singer José Valencia Says that the French Like Rancio (Solidly Traditional) Flamenco

The flamenco singer José Valencia has arrived in Paris with his pure art, his flamenco song without artifice, his flamenco añejo. (Here the word is meant to be complimentary, implying solidly traditional, or aged like fine wine, or venerable — but it can also mean stale, or musty; another Spanish word, “rancio” is also usually positive when applied to flamenco; it can mean “steeped in tradition”, or reeking of authenticity, but it can also mean outmoded or maybe even rancid.)  ”This is the kind of flamenco the French like best,” says the singer who will be heard tomorrow in the Cité de la Musique, a temple of sound that focuses primarily on música racial.  (“Racial” has no pejorative meaning here, simply indicating a connection to a particular ethnic group.)

The singer, who comes from Lebrija and was born in Barcelona, noted the weight of his responsibility when he walked beneath a poster next to the venue where he’ll be singing, advertising an exhibition devoted to Kjango Reinhardt, “the father of Gypsy jazz.”

“It’s an honor to sing here, and a serious additional responsibility, but also a chance to do what I most like to do,” the Lebrijan told EFE (Spain’s national news agency).

It’s a way of feeding his appetite for the idyllic time he has spent in France, which he calls his second country, because he began traveling its pathways when he was barely 20, accompanied by the malogrado (ill-fated) Lebrijan guitarist Pedro Bacán (who died young in an auto accident while going to a recital), and where he has subsequently sung in such elite venues as the Opera Garnier.

Valencia appreciates the affection of the French public, which is attracted to flamenco in its purest form, “simply to feel what it transmits,” a “racial” [in quotes] flamenco song that does not renounce the vanguards (who seek radical modernization) but that always “seeks the fondo (foundation, fundamental aspect, bottom)”.

“They come in search of a feeling, they let themselves be carried away by what they hear, they are emotionally moved by the aesthetics of it.  They like to profundizar en las cosas (go deeply into things); they ask why something is done the way it is, or where it comes from,” the singer says as his recital approaches.

In Spain, Valencia notes a certain dejadez (carelessness, neglect), “because it’s something one has, and it’s no big deal”, so that at times one forgets that flamenco is Spain’s best musical ambassador, “the one that opens the doors of the world’s most prestigious theaters.”

“We should be more appreciative of what we have, the singer says, determined to “divulge” his art but “not presenting it as a ‘show’, but with an instructive (didáctica) intent.”

“For people to understand flamenco, they must understand its history, its culture.  Flamenco should be taught to kids,” says this musician who did not leave school despite his early professional involvement with the music.

Valencia will participate in a conference for children as part of the three-day cycle called “Memory in the present: The Andalucía of the Gypsy in Paris” that will be presented in the City of Music.

But the singer explains, “there’s no need to renounce the vanguard,” because “the world changes, and music also must change,” although “to do that, it is imperative to know your roots, to know where you come from.”

He has not trouble on that score, saying “I was suckled on classic flamenco, that of the bulerías, the siguiriyas, the malagueñas.  I like to sing in that manner, with simplicity, with just a guitar and a chair, and perhaps some palmas (skilled hand-clapping) to help me follow the rhythm.”

Realizing that “flamenco is for a minority,” but that “this minority can become much larger if people are educated about flamenco”, Valencia proposes that people let themselves be carried along, approaching the art “with sensibility, without demanding to understand it all at once.”

But it’s also necessary that “they don’t close the doors of the theaters to people, adding that it’s “shameful” that the tax on theater tickets and other cultural events has been raised.

“With measures like that, the day will come when only the well-off will be able to participate in cultural life.  I think we’re going backward toward the Middle Ages, to obscurantisim.  He urges Spain to follow the lead of France, “the first country to appoint a Minister of Culture”.

“My French friends throw up their hands when I tell them that Spain is the country with the highest tax (IVA) on culture.  They just don’t understand how, it a time of crisis, instead of facilitating access to culture, they make it more difficult.”

End of article.  A solid case for recognizing the importance of educating the public in Spain and other countries about this complicated and difficult art.  And a nice recognition of France’s taste for hard-core rancid, dusty, musty, old flamenco.

February 23, 2013   No Comments