Writings and essays about flamenco

Category — Flamenco dancer La Farruca

Flamenco dancer La Farruca speaks – a truncated interview from Spain’s ABC – translated with free scolding by Brook Zern

“Today you can count on the fingers of one hand the flamenco that’s made with sweat and soul,” insists the dancer Rosario Montoya “La Farruca”, daughter of the mythical Farruco.  She asks for “respect” for flamenco, amid all the “paparruchas” we see that are not worthy of the name.

“Someone should put a stop to this,” says “La Farruca” in an interview…

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Well, I’m too cheap or too ideological to buy an online subscription to ABC – in the Spain of the mid-sixties, it seemed more Catholic than the Pope and more fascist than Franco and even worse than the other national sources of disinformation.

Anyway, this twitter-sized December 25th excerpt tells you everything you need to know.  It’s La Farruca’s Christmas present to the dwindling Taliband, and her ton of coal for the swelling chorus who chant that hey, it’s all good, and it’s all flamenco, as long as we call it that.

So far, so good.  What puzzles me is the army of professionals who insist they adore La Farruca and respect her, and who then spice up their acts with so much sax and violins that they should get an X rating from my new Flamenco Review Board.  (You heard the lady: “Someone should put a stop to this.”)

Now, I don’t know what “paparruchas” means.  Maybe it means “noble attempts”.  More likely, though, she is directly insulting everyone who has ever said, “What the heck, a little jazzification will pep things up and bring more folks in, and if we do it just right, it won’t make it less flamenco.  Hey, maybe it’ll make it more flamenco.  Yeah, that’s it, so call the timbale guy and that flamenco cellist, what was her name again?”

It’s time to choose sides.  If you think La Farruca is nuts and should be shoved aside for stubbornly obstructing the improvements flamenco desperately needs, feel free to continue carving your brave path to progress.

But if you suspect she might be talking sense, you have several choices.   You can proceed as usual, but stop using the word flamenco for your art; or label any actual flamenco segments of your program as such, and label the rest as non-flamenco or as something else.

I wouldn’t advise confronting La Farruca directly, though. During her recent stint with some of the family in New York, I saw her nearly incinerate the hard-bitten hotel staffers who tried to explain logically why they couldn’t provide three additional rooms in their full hotel at five a.m. on no notice.  (Oh, yeah, and the petite prodigy Carpeta danced up a bigger storm than usual, onstage and off.  Oh yeah – and they’d brought over some terrific Jerez artists I knew who, to my astonishment, dropped their localist chauvinism and threw a protective cordon around the young sevillano Carpeta that was truly touching.)

Long ago, I first heard a young flamenco guitarist in Spain who was somehow mixing or blending other musical styles into his playing.  I asked him why he did it.  He said he liked it, and that the more different styles he added, the more other people liked it.

“Where is this going?” I asked with unfeigned innocence.

“I don’t know,” he said.  ”You know, if I added everything to it, maybe everyone would like it.”

“Not everyone,” I said, and I walked away.

Today, an art called flamenco is triumphing around the world.  Flamenco itself is an endangered species.

Okay, okay, I’m being a crank again.  You can respect La Farruca and understand her attitude and still decide to do non-traditional stuff — stuff that reflects a broader worldview, and reflects contemporary tastes and trends.  In fact, just a rare few of us types could even begin to attempt what those Farruco-family types can do every day and long into the night.

When I was a slip of a lad, we tried to mimic, or more daringly to reshuffle, what the great flamenco artists were doing.  With rare and gifted exceptions, we settled for creating a pale-pink imitation, a sort of homage to those other people.

As junior flamenco guitarists, we figuratively fell on our knees, waddled up to our potential masters, and begged them to give us their priceless music and advice for a few measly bucks.  But not much later, when a hipper bunch of Americans showed up in Andalusia, the great native guitarists figuratively fell on their knees, and said, O young masters, please show us the great suspensions, sustains and flatted-fifths of your jazz giants and fusion pioneers.

I was shocked, shocked, but those Spanish artists were just following their leader, Paco de Lucía. He had decided that flamenco needed fresh ideas and new rhythmic pulses and, above all, a rich new harmonic pallet that used our Western approach instead of the very limited traditional harmonies.

I was also jealous, since I didn’t understand anything about jazz or harmony; in fact, I hardly understand music at all, and envy everyone who does.  If only I had the musical aptitude to join the merry bands of my countrymen creating salable new mashups with a subtle hint of flamenco, I’d be out having fun every night instead of sitting here in my dark, lonely, freezing room and…

Come to think of it, though, I’d rather keep running this one-man Complaint Department.  It’s an easy job, and no one has to do it.

Brook Zern

December 25, 2013   4 Comments