Writings and essays about flamenco

Category — Flamenco Singer Bernarda de Utrera

1996 Potaje Flamenco de Utrera (an homage to female singers) – Report by L.G. Caviedes – Translated by Brook Zern

The Madrid paper, El Mundo, reviewed the 1996 Potaje de Utrera — perhaps the original annual flamenco festival from which all others took their inspiration.  The article by Luís García Caviedes was headlined “All the Essences of Cante Gitano: The ‘Girls’ (Niñas) of Utrera Triumphed in the 40th Edition of the Potaje.”  It said in part (I had trouble with many of his stylish words):

“The brejes (what’s a breje? a wrinkle?) do not erode the cante when it is true.  They may diminish the faculties, but not the worth of the song.  That’s the way it is with Fernanda and Bernarda.  The eternal “Niñas de Utrera” remain a touchstone in the cante gitano andaluz.

The 40th Potaje Gitano de Utrera was conceived as an homage to women singers.  And for the second time — the 18th edition, in 1968, was an homage to the Fernanda and Bernarda — it centered on these geniuses from Utrera.  It was a time to find out just who carries the sceptre, and just what the cante really is.

Bernarda is the compás made into woman.  She can sing the Official Government Regulations on Housing por bulerías.  She interpreted bulerías of every stripe: bulerías cortas, bulerías al golpe, romances por bulerías, fandangos por bulerías, and tarantos por bulerías.

But her genius isn’t limited to this.  She dominates like no one the technique of cante, she knows the secrets of breathing and the exact points to pause.  Moreover, when she knows there’s a problem ahead, she is capable of lowering her cante a full octave (una escala entera) and continuing to sing with full harmony, tone and compás.

Fernanda is the empress of the queen of the cantes: the soleá.  She is the inheritor of the musical conception of Mercedes “La Serneta” and Rosario “La del Colorao”.  She follows their guidelines (pautas) but recreates them as well.  Her cante is now the solea de Fernanda.  Her way of teasing the lines (burlar los tercios), the flavor and insight (sabor y tino) with which she sings, form a majestic, torn (desgarrado) and vital whole.  She is the essence of the cante.

Angelita Vargas opened the event.  She danced por soleá as the Gypsies dance: moving (meciendo — swinging, swaying) her whole body to the compás and with primary emphasis (predominio) on the waistline and above (“de cintura para arriba“), without abusing the legs and feet.  Force and bodily expression are her primary powers.  She put a face on the evening (Puso cara la noche).

In this line continued Inés and Pepa de Utrera.  Inés knows every inch of Utrera, which is something indeed.  The niece of Fernanda and Bernarda, with her own very personal style (sello), she displays elegance (galanura) and knowledge to spare.  In this day of bait-and-switch, of substituting inferior goods for the real thing (“En calendas de tanto gato por liebre” (passing off cats as hares), she does not enjoy the recognition she deserves.  The flavor and prestancia (elegance, prestige, taste, style, grace) of Inés should have more resonance with the public (debería tener otra resonancia para el público).

Pepa de Utrera is the flamenco fiesta itself.  In the opinion of maestro Miguel Acal, she is the finest festera (festive-style performer) in Spain.  She has a clear voice and the force to knock out (sacar) seven or eight other cantaoras.  Manuel Romero “El Divino”, the singer from Las Cabezas, walked out and said that Pepa is cabable of playing dominoes with the bulería.  And she must be quite an artist, to have commanded the stage for twenty minutes with a single palo (the bulerías) without wearing out her welcome (y no hacerse jartible).

Antonia “La Negra” and her daughter Angelita Montoya marked another climactic moment of the night.  “La Negra” is already known for her strength (garra) and expressive force.  She is a maestra in the tangos; terrific (desgarrada) in bulerías, and impressive por soleá.  Working with Angelita Montoya, she had a great success (una noche redonda).  Angelita Montoya was the surprise. She integrates all the wealth (caudal) of her family, which is no small thing.  Loaded with faculties, and with a cannon of a voice, she almost reached the level of her mother.  There are differences between those who assimilate musical experiences and concepts in the true school of flamenco – the family — and those who decide to study recordings and recreate the music by calculation.  The former artists evolve and create; the others never get beyond merely reheating the meal.  (Aquellos evolucionan y crean, estos no pasan del refrito.)

Tomasa “La Macanita” is one of the bright hopes of aficionados.  This Gypsy from Jerez, with the surprising and interesting guitar of Moraíto Chico (hijo), drew the cante (dibujo el cante).  The flavor of Jerez was in her tientos, while her tangos were reminiscent of the Plaza Alta of Badajoz.  Por soleá she scraped (rozo) perfection, and por bulerías, there was the pure aura of the [Jerez] barrio de Santiago and of la Perla de Cadiz.  “La Macanita” and Moraíto Chico almost decided (casi sentenciaron) the night.

End of report.

Translator’s note from 1996:   That’s the poop from the Potaje.  Quite an event.

I’ll close by noting that the female bullfighter Cristina Sánchez is off to an excellent start.  She just started fighting full-sized bulls, and has already proved herself capable.  She did very well in Burgos, cutting an ear (awarded after a good performance, and much harder to earn in major rings like this than in small provincial rings) from a bull that weighed nearly 600 kilos.  No easy task for any 60-kilo person.  Lots of devoted fans and publicity for this revolutionary figure, the first to successfully penetrate this macho domain.  I may disapprove in theory, but she walks it like she talks it.  Olé, torera.

Brook Zern

January 17, 2014   No Comments