Writings and essays about flamenco

Category — A Flamenco Knight’s Flamenco Nights – Brook Zern’s Quest

“Rito y Geografía del Flamenco” — Notes on the 1996 first commercial release

The following describes the great flamenco documentary series “Rito y Geografía de Flamenco” when most of the films were released in a commercial videocassette version by Alga Editores in Spain in 1996. It was a poor version — the images were often fuzzy, and an accompanying hardcover book used many of those images with weak text. A quarter of the original 100 programs were not included. A later release on DVD’s was far superior, with exellent images and excellent booklets of additional commentary by the key man on the project, José María Velásquez and English subtitles — though that version, too, omitted a batch of programs, most relatively weak but some quite good. (Five years earlier, I had managed to rescue and purchase the first copies of these and other films from the series; I had hoped this first commercial version from Alga would add valuable documentation and sharper images, but no such luck.

Here’s that earlier description, headlined “A Collection of Incunables” — while it logically means “indispensables” or somesuch, I can’t find a fitting translation — maybe the word exists in English as well, but I’ve never heard it:

“A collection of ‘incunables’ in images that depict unforgettable scenes of flamenco song, showing the greatest artists of the past and the present. 26 videocassettes (VHS) with more than 38 hours of material and a sumptuous book of 272 pages containing more than 100 photographs of the people and places appearing in the series, with text by eminent present-day flamencologists, historians, anthropologists and musicians.

Enjoy the experience of these unrepeatable images of the great masters, many of them now gone, both professional and aficionados, who knew how to maintain the purest essences of flamenco cante: See Antonio Mairena, Caracol, Beni de Cadiz, Pericon de Cadiz, Pepe de la Matrona, Joselero de Moron, El Gallina (Rafael Romero), El Perrate, La Piriñaca, El Borrico, Pepe Marchena, Camarón, etc.

“Rito y Geografia del Cante” was created between March of 1971 and October of 1973. 100 programs were made and shown. The team visited 28 locales in Andalucia, Salamanca, Barcelona, Extremadura, Toledo, Murcia and Portugal. They filmed 186 singers, 13 folklore groups, 47 guitarists, 313 palmeros (supporting hand-clappers), dancers and aficionados. There are 117 interviews and get-togethers with flamencologists, musicians, historians, anthropologists and noted aficionados. We are pleased to present the fruit of this search and investigation.”

This was followed by two brief descriptive essays which I’m translating (from a crummy fax, so my general ignorance is occasionally compounded by illegibility):

1. “Criteria for this Edition of Rito y Geografia del Cante.”

“Today, 25 years after the initial broadcasts by Television Espanola of the ‘Rito y Geografia del Cante’ series, some things remain the same in the world of flamenco while others have changed. The best of the new developments is perhaps the wide promulgation of flamenco — a notion touched upon in the programs, and now confirmed to an astonishing degree. The worst, at least from the orthodox point of view, and from the standpoint of the splendid “oldness” (vejez) that distinguishes the series, may be certain present-day mixings and fusions (mestizajes) that don’t make much sense.

Since the films were made, we have seen the disappearance of Camarón, who in the series represented a new and unorthodox approach to the cante; and we’ve seen Enrique Morente — who is asked where he thinks the modernizing movement might take flamenco — do a recent recording of poems by Leonard Cohen while joined by a rock group, without abandoning flamenco. José Menese, another young renovationist of that earlier time, has remained faithful to the roots (“Firme me mantengo” — “I stand firm”, as one of his songs says), and it is through him that we know the political verses of his mentor José Moreno Galván, with their strong social content, which were so avidly listened to during Spain’s transition to democracy.

This documentary series, despite the subsequent appearance of new interpreters and the loss of a large part of those who are shown, or despite the evolution of some of these depicted artists to enter the realm of “new flamenco”, has not aged a bit. On the contrary, like fine wine, it has turned into something special, almost venerable — a relic, an “incunable” (priceless document? Unique object? The word “incunabula” refers to manuscripts created before the age of moveable type…)

Nonetheless, in the intervening time, some of the interpreters originally included, either because they were valued more highly than warranted or because they played a particular role in the original criteria for selection, have been eliminated, since their art would not say very much to a young aficionado today. Those eliminated are not mythical singers of the past, nor have they confirmed themselves as myths of today as did Morente, Camarón or Menese. Nor are they fundamental representatives of a particular geographic or family school of flamenco. Their inclusion would only have expanded this edition unneccessarily, and perhaps disoriented the new aficionado.

2. “A Collection of ‘Incunables’”

“Rito y Geografia del Cante”, broadcast by TVE between 1971 and 1973, is considered by all specialists, and is recognized in the histories of flamenco, as the finest program ever produced for television. In a run covering approximately two years, under the direction of Mario Gómez and with the collaboration and evaluative judgments of the most prestigious flamencologists, the weekly series travelled all of flamenco territory, including the very guts of Andalucia where, over the years, this art — local and universal at the same time — was developed.

The series offered testimony from old singers, many of them anonymous, others celebrated. It was a true blessing, because it was launched at a time when the great flamenco neighborhoods or breeding areas (Triana, Cadiz, Jerez and its Barrio de Santiago) were starting to lose their traditional and Gypsy ways of life due to the changes Spain had started to see in the 1960′s, and due to the influence of new communcations media, changing customs, etc. These documentaries, then, arrived in time to miraculously save the memory of a life already in large part irrevocably lost.

The filming, always guided by intelligent curiosity and by the commentary of José María Velásquez, or through the introduction of expert specialists, traversed all the last locales in which flamenco was being “made”: taverns, family homes, colmaos, and ventas. And it collected the final artistic testimonies of many singers who would be dead shortly afterward — in some cases, even before their particular programs were aired. That was the case with Juan Talega and Manolo Caracol, among others.

But today, 25 years after their broadcast, a large number of those protagonists are no longer with us. We can no longer capture the image of Tia Anica La Piriñaca, El Beni de Cadiz, Diego el del Gastor, Antonio Piñana (padre), Eleuterio — to name just some of those who are gone, but leave their myths behind, and whose images return to us now in these videos, as they sing or speak of their cante.

Thus it is possible today to see Antonio Mairena dancing por bulerias; or Tía Anica giving her advice to some youngsters (who were none other than Manuel Sordera and “that ‘Camirón’, or whatever he’s called…”); or to see Juan Talega in a fight to the death with the form called the toná, perhaps the last one he would sing in his lifetime; or Tomás Torre, speaking about his father Manuel; or Fernanda and Bernarda de Utrera in a fiesta at home, or praying to the Virgin; or the Perrates, uncle and mother of Juan El Lebrijano.

And, also, a young and “parlanchin” (?) Camarón de la Isla; young José Menese in his home town of La Puebla de Cazalla or getting his professional start in Madrid; and a five-year-old La Macanita, singing and dancing for Paula; and Remedios Amaya, barely an adolescent at the time. And, too, monographic (single-topic) episodes dedicated to major thematic issues, such as the relation of Falla and Lorca to flamenco; or the festivales; or women in the realm of cante; or the guitar; or the role of the Gypsies within the art; etc.

With this series, you are presented with a true collection of “incunables” — a true history of images of the old and pure (rancia) mystery of flamenco. The films reveal a history that can never be repeated, and that today is lost forever.

Paco González
Editor

End of material on the series.

I think the general descriptions are pretty good, and while I’d argue about the omission of any material, I think the Alga folks made a defensible choice — some of the omitted programs were very weak, and seemed like filler.

(As for the alleged artist called Eleuterio — never heard of the guy, and would bet he never existed, at least by that name.)

Brook Zern

March 1, 2017   No Comments

Flamenco Guitarist Diego del Gastor – A loving, over-the-top 2008 appraisal by Luís Soler Guevara – translated by Brook Zern

This is a translation of a talk given by Luís Soler Guevara in 2008 to mark the centenary of the birth of Diego del Gastor. Señor Soler is a highly respected flamenco expert whom I knew in Málaga. He clearly loved Diego, as did many others who spent time with him in his home town of Morón de la Frontera. Soler wears his heart on his sleeve here, and one might wonder if his adoration has clouded his judgement or his normally sound critical faculties. (Fortunately, I never lost my objectivity in this matter, although for years I assumed the Flamenco Society of San Diego was a religious organization. Still, I have always maintained strict objectivity regarding Diegod.)

It’s nice to see Sr. Soler’s recognition of my dear friends Steve Kahn and Estela Zatania, and queridos amigos Bill Davidson and the late Don Pohren, who was the first and finest of the American flamencologists. Apologies for some likely mistranslations:

Mi Abrazo a Diego del Gastor — My Embrace ot Diego del Gastor

Flamenco aficionados, those of us who dedicate ourselves to investigating, studying, writing – in other words, to inventing a history of the art – fall short with respect to the guitar. We can reflect upon aspects of the guitarist, or sketch his profile as a person, and possibly situate the guitarist’s position in the history of the art, abandoning ourselves to his capacity to generate deep emotions. It’s this latter aspect that is reflected in the title of this article: My embrace for Diego del Gastor.

Diego has evoked so many perceptions among writers, poets and aficionados the I find it very deifficult to say anything new about him; and since I’m not a musician, the task is even more daunting. Still, the evocative aura of this great guitarist is so extraordinarily rich that these times come to consecrate his expressive capacity, even for those who may not know music but feel touched by his magic.

So let these words serve as a prologue to the marvelous sound that Diego, more than anyone else, institutionalized as the toque de Morón – the Morón guitar style. For that reason, I’ll try to say something about a man who, beyond Andalucía, sowed a unique approach to making the guitar make music.

His name was as singular as his playing. Before him, I know of no other guitarist with his name. It’s as if the history of flamenco reserved it especially for him. It’s enough to say those five letters for everyone to know who we’re talking about; even when a guitarist plays his signature variations or falsetas we can’t help noticing who his name, escapes like a sussuro: A whisper that, beyond admiration, conveys adoration of his music.

Diego didn’t seek interviews, but he didn’t avoid them either, in one, done for Spanish National Television, he said that his baptism lasted for five days. Five letters that on that occasion were given to him as a name. Five letters, like the five continents to which his magical sounds eventually expanded. Five letters that can define and describe his artistic personality.

D Duende
I Impresionante
E Especial
G Grande
O Original

Diego had lots of duende, his playing was impressive, his personage was special and his art was grand and original.

Diego was not a virtuos of the guitar; nonetheless he had many virtues. Among them, the one that stands out to me is the virtue of making us fall in love. In love with his profound and majestic toque festero – the lighter styles that were the pulse of so many fiestas or flamenco jam sessions. Diego’s guitar exists in the realm of the sacred.

His art, though born in this world, belongs to the sacred. He created his music as oysters create their own beautiful works: some irritating agent, though barely noticed, slowly, without any hurry, but inexorably. His dream, a living legend from an earlier time that refuses to die with the dawn of a new millennium, remains vital, and stands out in the desert of phantasms that arise in the flamenco galaxy of opportunism and glitz.

For Diego, flamenco was never just a spectacle or a commodity; when this happens, it is actually devalued. For Diego, flamenco is a culture steeped in centuries. It is a way of thinking and feeling while confronting life. A way of expressing one’s totality of life experiences and of communicating them to others through a lyrical art.

I’d like to pursue this intimate concept of flamenco whose greatest power is the most authentic expression of lives and traditions through music. I’d like to keep hauling this cart full of diverse passions that awaken and feed this Andalusian culture. I want to continue embracing Diego del Gastor – his wizardry and his imperishable enchantment. His unique way of feeling flamenco. I want to follow this flag, although I don’t like the abanderados.

I don’t want to become distracted by criticizing the consumerism that devours so many musics that flow from the heart of human beings. Still, I’ll say, paraphrasing a poem by Georges Brassens: “People don’t like it when someone has his own faith.” That’s an issue I don’t want to get into right now, one that generates attitudes and actions with respect to how one also understands flamenco.

Diego is more essence (fondo) than form. I love that essence and the ethic of things, more than their forms and aesthetics. But I can’t ignore the latter. Perhaps for this reason, those words, although situated on the border of passion, do not imply the abandonment of the merely rational.

While other Diego de Gastors may keep arising in this Andalusian landscape, my heart will keep navigating toward the paths that seek the road leading to the majestic in the art of flamenco. His providential figure, more than a song to life, was a song to love, a challenge to the impossible, a challenge to what we call art, and despite the fact that my soul is aflame, I will continue to embrace that sound.

Diego del Gastor was also Diego of Arriate, Diego de Ronda, Diego de Moron, de Utrera – Diego of a thousand different flamenco geographies, because he came from all of them. All those places where in a night of profound emotions we would discover his musical talent and his deeply personal way of caressing the guitar.

Diego, despite the fact that he rarely left his home – when he did, Utrera and the countryside were his preferred pilgrimages – generated afición in hundreds of people who, even if they were born abroad, decided to live their lives enveloped in this culture. In this – more than a task, a devotional sense of a sensibility that was so impressive – I believe he was unsurpassed. For him, it was all just natural. He was a teacher of many who never asked to be his students. Those who would be inculcated and impregnated with the simple maxim: There is no better university than life itself. And in this, Diego had the real doctorate.

Diego has been a great ambassador, especially in the U.S.: Surprisingly, he was almost as well known in California as in Andalucía. People of note in worlds as diverse as Bergamín, García Ulecia, Don Pohren, Steve Kahn, Roger Klein, William Davidson, Estela Zatania, etc., discovered the warmth of a man whose spell would captivate them forever.

It all happened without Diego traveling to the other stages of the world that are so crucial to the reputation and projection of so many other artists. For this reason, the singularity and the figure of Diego del Gastor in the flamenco world can not only be found in his artistic qualities, but also in his role as the ambassador of a unique and very intimate concept of flamenco.

His gigs, almost always marked by restricted appearances and hundreds of encounters in the flamenco world of Morón, were shared with the likes of artists like Juan Talega, Manolito de la Maria, Perrate, Joselero, Fernandillo, Curro Mairena, Bernarda de Utrera, Enrique Mendez and just a few others, but above all his muse, Fernanda de Utrera.

The Morón-born historian Juan J. García López offers us this information: “In Japan, his style is pedagogically systematized in conservatories; in New York, there exists a school of guitar that studies his musical forms and artistic modes. That school carries his name: The School of Diego del Gastor.”

Yes, Diego created a school, albeit limited in terms of repertoire, but very distinctive and intensely real and current. His falsetas and variations, somehow terrifying as well as tremendously demanding, constructed and expressed with an enchantment that is deeply profound, have not passed unnoticed for many, including some who may not acknowledge their source. Those who have questioned not the flamenco essence of his art but his framework and technical prowess.

Moreover, what gives value to an artist’s work, regardless of what he creates, is how he does it. Diego, as well as having enormous talent, had an intuition and a special heart that generated music. He captured the essences of old popular and folk songs and choruses, even from classical pieces, where he incorporated those fragments into his repertoire, giving them a rare flamenco aspect. He did his his way – that is, differently from anyone else.

Perhaps his trademarks created a certain envy in other artists, those who fall of their own weight while Diego never chased a professional career or competed with the famous guitarists of his time. He only tried to express himself within his singular sensibility, and at that he succeeded.

We hear his impressive sting in the flamenco form called the soleares, in his interrupted silences in the realm of the siguiriyas, in his musical resolutions based on the malagueñas that Ramón Montoya recorded in 1910 while accompanying the singer Niño de la Isla. And in the arrangements and combinations that he enployed to give a flamenco flair to one of the most beautiful of all classical pieces, Beethoven’s Fur Elise.

Diego put his soul into everything he played. Without soul, art cannot be sublime. Art is a mixture of the expressive qualities of the artist and the domination and knowledge of technique. For that reason, when some aficionados wish to diminish the importance of the Morón style of guitar, they focus o its technical deficiencies, defending the well executed, placing value almost exclusively on technical perfection, and forgetting the essential quality of the elements of flamenco substance that the artist must generate to create truth.

Diego was very delicate. He had, and felt, a profound respect for flamenco. He liked silence and quietude, not the applause of the public or the voices of those whose shouted encouragements were simply showing off, and revealed no understanding of the art’s rhythmic essence; his performances were preceded with enormous elegance, and his mastery of the crucial quality of saber estar – of “knowing how to be” – were almost religious.

For him, that was the rule of conduct to follow when exercising the ritual of flamenco song and guitar. If a fly bothered him, it wasn’t because he was fussy, though in some measure he was, but because of his high regard for the art.

Diego loved the flamenco song so much that at times, he buscaba arropes in the family tradition to interpret some styles of soleares. Among them were those sung by his father, and those that he, along with his brother, the singer Joselero, called “flamenco songs (cantes) of the Sierra de Grazalema”.

Some will know that Grazalema is a town in the province of Cadiz whose mountains surround Arriate, Ronda and El Gastor, where Diego was born, baptized and spent his early years.

He showed those songs to Joselero, and later they entered the repertoire of the great artist Juan Peña el Lebrijano. Diego, aside from being a guitarist, was thus a transmitter of songs.

We can’t be sure, but it seems that those old variants of the soleares, possibly originating in that area, were incorporated into the soleares of Anilla de Ronda, a singer and guitarist, who was related to Diego. Anilla, also surnamed Amaya, and a Gypsy as was Diego, was widely admired as a singer of soleares.

One possible interpretation of all this leads us to say that the songs brought to light by Diego dated back almost a century and a half, and the family tradition brings it to us today.

This is one revelation among hundreds, among thousands of sounds, that leads me to say with some justification that the evolution of time has conserved and polished through the years the manifest grandeur of this musical culture of southern Spain, unprecedented in the history of civilization. Diego Flores Amaya is one more link in a chain whose reach offers us a perspective of centuries.

Photo caption – Diego, with Curro Vera and neighbors from the Barrio de Santa Maria in Morón

Having said this, it seems proper to note that Diego was a great aficionado of flamenco song, a quality that is not often seen among the new figures that have arisen in flamenco guitar, where technique dominates their approach, but where the heart, that motor of deep emotions, remains firmly in second place.

To this last thread, let me offer some reflections that underline the contrast between the guitar of Diego del Gastor and the new conception of flamenco shared by most of the great flamenco guitarists, whose prestige I won’t question, much less criticize.

To illustrate, I will describe some qualities that apply to guitar playing. First, the tendency to accelerate the rhythm. Then the sheer velocity in the production of notes. Today there are excellent guitarists who, in a common phrase, eat up the guitar – but who may not digest or assimilate it. They can play ten notes per second, but are incapable of generating a silence that captivates the soul.

Silences are not the negation of music, but the most exquisite of its contrasts. Music is the organization of elements which expresses the combination of sounds and silences, Silences are the space which fills our sense of reflection. Without those silences there are fewer moments for reflection and that therefore one cannot fully relish the sublime moments in guitar playing. Diego took the distance with respect to that conception or current of understanding the marvelous world of music.

Diego felt the necessity of transmitting his art. For that he had to interpret and above all digest what he wished in order to call forth the rest, In every artist’s mind there is something deeply present: the communication of his world, his work and his art.

To digest and absorb is also to meditate very carefully upon something in order to understand it. No one would drink boiling coffee because, aside from burning you, it would not have real flavor. In other words, the act of drinking coffee requires spaces for reflection in order to appreciate what you’re doing. When we speak of harmonic sounds, and although the human ear, as a receiver of sound, is scientifically prepared to instantaneously connect to its production, its storehouse of associations and its understanding demand a temporal space to enjoy the process.

Taking that theory to extremes: If a guitarist could produce all his sounds at once, we would achieve the complete negation of harmony and of music itself. We could only perceive one single noise.

When the rhythm accelerates, the silences become shorter. Almost imperceptible, one might say. And the less silence, the less sosiego and the fewer reflections. I think it’s fair to say that allowing oneself to be captivated by the notes of a flamenco guitar requires a great calmness. Without that predisposition it’s impossible to perceive all its distinctive aroma.

Let’s take as an example a sung soleares. The interpretation of the sound does not rise at the peak, but at the conclusion, in the transit toward the end, when the song is reaching its close. Raising the voice is relatively easy. What’s really difficult is maintaining its descending scale, the sostenido (sharp). In those spaces, in those silences, we find the best flavors, the best moments. The guitar also seeks this catharsis. Sustaining a note is much harder than elevating it. And I believe that here we find the world of Diego.

Another current today is the construction of very extended falsetas (guitar variations) together with the singing action: the tendency toward concertism. In this situation the accompanying guitar per se should not take over the mission of the principal subject in a flamenco oration – that is, of the singer – but should instead complement the work of the singer. That’s done by offering dialogues, and indicating paths so the song can be manifested in its fullest dimension.

Photo caption: Steve Kahn and Diego del Gastor in Morón, 1967. Photo by Chris Carnes

The act of singing, or of playing in the guitarist’s case, is necessarily the product of the register of the artist. This register stores a treasury of dialogues that the singer as much as the guitarist transform in establishing through the principal aspect, the song. I say the song, not the singer.

Remember what Fernanda de Utrera said in an interview: “Diego and I were the pair that most perfectly complemented one another (se ha compenetrado] in flamenco. Each of us in love with the art of the other. I was the strings of his guitar, and he was the urgent lament (queja) of my voice.” And she concluded: “No one knew how to draw out what I carry within myself like Diego del Gastor.”

Francisco Ayala also offered a lucid analysis of the figure of Diego, affirming: “The playing of Diego del Gastor contains more soul, more duende, than the playing of any other flamenco guitarist today. Diego doesn’t adhere to the modern trend for speed and for personal showing off (lucimiento), admittedly necessary for those who must compete in today’s commercial atmosphere of flamenco. On the contrary, he tenaciously retains the simplicity of times gone by, before the flamenco guitar was turned into a virtuoso instrument, when it was still fundamentally a genuine and primitive medium for expressing the depth of flamenco.”

In some way, he exaggerates the great aficionado/artist of Morón. Diego is just that way, neither competing nor feeling like a competitor. He just expresses way of being, a form of feeling, of living, a way of making flamenco; his way, neither better nor worse than another way, but different. And that difference, fundamentally, is located in the soul that he puts into everything he plays.

Perhaps this phrase could increase the level of confusion in some not very initiated aficionados, since they may think that every artist puts his soul into whatever he does. That may be true, as certain as the fact that every athlete wants to win, but it’s just as certain that only one person can actually succeed. Allow me this metaphor: This is Diego. From him we see from the beginning the great virtue of falling in love with his art.

Diego’s playing is like a river,: mysterious and enigmatic, such that we will never be able to verify how its waters flow to so many seas and so many oceans.

Also allow me the following reflection: There are some who approach a flower just to see its colors. Others, however, may also appreciate its smell. There are those who approach the sea to look at it and only see its surface. Then there are others who also want to know its depths. Diego is like the flower that only reveals its true profile and its true aroma when we get to the bottom.

At the root of this consideration I ask this question: Why should we stop with the appearances of things, in their forms; why not penetrate right to the essence? Diego’s guitar is like that deep and warm sea whose flavors and pleasures can only be paladear and felt by submerging oneself in its waters, by abandoning oneself to its notes.

My embrace of Diego del Gastor must necessarily take note of these aspects. Now, from the perspecitive of years gone by, though it’s difficult not to submerge oneself in this well where time gives rise to a nostalgia that idealizes those yesterdays, I feel that my heart remembers – perhaps aided by the many celebrations that are marking the centenary of his birth – with more urgency than ever. Diego left us thirty-five years ago. For me, more than an enormous void, he left a world of magias that I have been discovering, slowly, the same way that oysters perform their beautiful work.

My embrace of Diego del Gastor is just one more. One more embrace among the many shared with hundreds of aficionados, whose sensibilities recognize the singular fact of an artist born asido the belly of a guitar, who knew how to use its six strings to evoke emotions that were as fascinating as they were insolitas unexpected.

My embrace of Diego del Gastor is not a farewell but an encounter. A long-lasting encounter with an artist whose greatest treasure was captivating me. Captivating me forever with that extraordinarily rich music extracted from the people, from the essence of centuries past.

My embrace of Diego del Gastor also signifies my most sincere recognition of this Andalusian culture that you have given me. My embrace of Diego is my embrace of an art that sows passions, that spills emotions, and that is the envy of the whole world.

Thank you for your attention.

Conference for the Pablo Olavide University in Carmona, July 3, 2008 by Luís Soler Guevara

Translator’s note: The many flamenco people who never bought Diego’s act will no doubt find this laughable. Well, maybe it’s a bit overwrought, but I think it sheds light on the character and the genuinely mysterious art of Diego del Gastor. It has been my imagined privilege to carry his music in my fingers for more than half a century, and as I struggle to do it justice and recapture his unique air (aire) and his unmistakeable creations, I sometimes think of a line from a flamenco song, probably a malagueña: “Perlas a millares” which must mean “pearls by the thousands.”

Last week in New York, it was my real privilege to reminisce about Diego with one of the few people who actually did capture his essence, the great aficionado and noted photographer Steve Kahn, who created an important show of photographs by himself and others capturing the essence of those years we squandered at the figurative feet of this giant. The original article appears, with photos of Diego, Steve and others, at this url:

http://www.agenda-atalaya.com/mi-abrazo-a-diego-del-gastor/

P.S. I like the notion, mentioned above and widely believed in Spain, that in New York there was/is a school devoted to the preservation of the upkeep and preservation of the guitar style of Diego del Gastor. Of course, there never was such a thing. But for decades I was playing his stuff for any willing or unwilling listeners, usually alone but joined for one recent decade by Steve and then by Ian Banks, another fine interpreter of the style, who is still presenting this living tradition at cafés and other venues in the Big Apple.

Come to think of it, I guess maybe it could be called a school. A bit understaffed, admittedly, but yeah, why not?

To see this man at work, go to YouTube, add “flamenco”, “rito”, “Diego del Gastor” and “English”. Yep, that was the first of the 100 programs in this great Rito y Geografia de Flamenco documentary series that I liberated starting in 1972 (I bought it on 16 mm film), and it made my year; fifteen exhausting years later I finally got the rest. And by the way, when it was time to choose the introductory theme music for every damn episode, from a dozen worthy guitarists who are now legndary, who do you think the team of experts chose to give maximum flamenco-ness to the proceedings. You guessed it.

Abrazos a todos, as they say in Spain.

Brook Zern

February 16, 2017   No Comments

Rito y Geografía del Flamenco – A list of 100 programs in order of broadcast – Oct. 23, 1971 to Oct. 29, 1973 – including some 20 never-available shows that may come to light

The nearly 100 programs from the now legendary series “Rito y Geografía del Flamenco” were broadcast on Television Española’s Second Channel (for the region of Andalusia) over two years beginning in October of 1971. (I saw at least one — the remarkable show on Agujetas — being broadcast in Madrid, possibly on the First or main channel.)

As of today, about eighty of them have been released in the three commercial versions of the series and can be seen on YouTube. (A compilation of those programs appears on this website in alphabetical order at: http://www.flamencoexperience.com/blog/?p=1621 — just click on the extracted photograph from any program and you enter another, vanished world.)

Note: Between 1972 and 1987, I was trying to assure the preservation of the programs in this series, and acquire a copy if possible. At one point I received the computerized list of titles and original broadcast dates you’ll see below. It includes about 20 programs that apparently were not included in any of the three commercial editions — including the latest and best commercial version of the series (on shiny DVD’s, each with four of the half-hour programs with enhanced picture and sound, bound into elegant hardcover booklets giving extensive information about the artists and song forms in each program.)

I have nearly all of those missing programs among the (unimproved) videotapes I was finally allowed to buy in 1987 (after paying the agreed-upon price plus the conversion costs from film to video). I hope to make them viewable on YouTube in the months to come. (Note — If any of those programs can currently be seen on YouTube. please let me know.)

Here’s the rundown, in alphabetical order with running times and the arbitrary number of the 1987 cassette as they were received:

ANTONIO DE CANILLAS – 27:20 – 87/19/C
CANTE FLAMENCO [CON INTERPRETES GITANOS] – 24:25 – 87/22/C
CANTE GITANO [CON INTERPRETES GITANOS] – 27:59 – 87/21/C
ENCARNACION LA SALLAGO – 25:20 – 87/17C
FANDANGO – 27:00 – 87/3/C
FESTIVAL DEL CANTE – 26;30 – 87/11/C
LA MARRURRA [MOREEN CARNES] – 28:41 – 87/23/C
JOSELERO DE MORON – 30:20 – 87/18/C
LOS FLAMENCOLOGOS – 28;00 – 87/16/C
LUIS CABALLERO – 34:40 – 87/13/C
PANSEQUITO – 29:35 – 87/23/C
PERICON DE CADIZ – 28:36 – 87/21/C
PERRATE DE UTRERA – 30:20 – 87/13/C
POR SIGUIRIYAS – 26:00 – 87/9/C
POR SOLEA – 24:00 – 87/9/C
CANTE FLAMENCO Note: This may not be missing – it may be the same as the above-mentioned CANTE FLAMENCO GITANO (with English subtitles) — The program evidently features Gypsy singers performing songs that are not seen as Gypsy songs, and may have been also been titled CANTE FLAMENCO CON INTERPRETES GITANOS.

Note: The 100th and final program was evidently titled “Rito y Geografía del Flamenco”, like the series itself. It could be one of the above programs, or a compilation of highlights from the series, possibly running longer than the usual programs, in which case I don’t have it.

NOTE: Program 41 — SABICAS (790814) [720814] (26:20) 14 AUG 79 [72] PP03847 — probably was not broadcast and may never have been completed.

Note: The program on guitarist Diego del Gastor was rebroadcast (with one change) to commemorate his death. Such rebroadcasting may have happened following the deaths of other artists during the two-year run, sometimes possibly indicated by weeks with no broadcast listed.

Here’s the original list. The Spanish heading says that original format of these programs in TVE’s archives [filmoteca] was 16 millimeter film (or laboratory negatives of 16 millimeter film), with a separate magnetic sound track (as opposed to optical sound, which I think is inferior).

RITO Y GEOGRAFIA [FROM RTVE COMPUTER RUN, IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER]
16 MM BN SEPMAG, LAB NEG EN FILMOTECA TVE

1. LAS TONAS (711023) (30:50) 23 OCT 71 PP03857
2. ROMANCES, TANGOS Y TIENTOS (711030) (33:30) 30 OCT 71 PP03858
3. SEGUIRIYAS 1 PARTE (711106) (32:55) 6 NOV 71 PP03859
4. SEGUIRIYAS 2 PARTE (711113) (28:40) 13 NOV 71 PP03860
5. CADIZ Y LOS PUERTOS (711120) (32:40) 20 NOV 71 PP03861
6. SOLEARES 1 PARTE (711127) (31:55) 27 NOV 71 PPO3862
7. SOLEARES 2 PARTE (711204) (30:55) 4 DEC 71 PP03863
8. EL FANDANGO (711211) (26:15) 11 DEC 71 PP03864
9. DE RONDA A MALAGA (711218) (28:50) 18 DEC 71 PP03865
10. NAVIDAD FLAMENCA (711225) 25 DEC 71 PP03866
11. MALAGUENAS (720101) 1 JAN 72 PP03867
12. DE GRANADA A LA UNION (720108) 8 JAN 72 PP03868
13. CANTES PROCEDENTES DEL FOLKLORE (720122) (26:20) 15 JAN 72 PP03869
14. FIESTA GITANA (720129) (33:15) 29 JAN 72 PP03870
15. LAS TONAS [2] (720205) (31:15) 5 FEB 72 PPO3871
16. LA LLAVE DE ORO DEL CANTE (720212) 12 FEB 72 PP03872
17. TRIANA (720219) (29:25) 19 FEB 72 PP03873
18. EL BARRIO DE SANTIAGO (720226) (25:50) 26 FEB 72 PP03874
19. LA FAMILIA PININI (720304) (31:15) 4 MAR 72 PP03875
20. LA FAMILIA DE LOS PERRATE (720311) (22:45) 11 MAR 72 PP03876
21. LA CASA DE LOS MAIRENA (720312) (31:50) 18 MAR 72 PP03877
22. MANUEL TORRE Y ANTONIO CHACON (720325) (30:10) 25 MAR 72 PP03878
23. LA SAETA (720401) (27:10) 1 APR 72 PP03879
24. LA CA[N]TAORA (720410) (26:05) 10* APR 72 PP03880
25. LA GUITARRA (720317) (27:05) 17 MAR [APR] 72 PP03881
26. VIEJOS CANTAORES (720424) (24:20) 24 APR 72 PP03832*
27. CANTE FLAMENCO INTERPRETES GITANOS] (720501) (26:25) 1 MAY 72 PP03833
28. DEL CAFE CANTANTE AL TABLAO (720508) (25:50) 8 MAY 72 PP03834
29. CANTE GITANO CON INTERPRETES GITANOS (720515) (28:30) 15 MAY 72 PP03835
30. LA GUITARRA FLAMENCA (2-PARTE) (720522) (27:35) 22 MAY 72 PP03836
31. FESTIVAL DEL CANTE (720529) (28:00) 29 MAY 72 PP03837
32. EVOLUCION DEL CANTE (720605) (28:30) 5 JUN 72 PP03838
33. FANDANGO DE HUELVA (720612) (25:00) 12 JUN 72 PP03839
34. MALAGA Y LEVANTE (720619) (27:35) 19 JUN 72 PP03840
35. FALLA Y FLAMENCO (720626) (26:05) 26 JUN 72 PP03841
36. LA SERRANIA (720703) (29:15) 3 JUL 72 PP03842
37. FANDANGOS NATURALES (720710) 10 JUL 72 PP03843
38. POR SOLEA (26:00) (720717) 17 JUL 72 PP03844
39. POR SEGUIRIYAS (27:55) (720724) 24 JUL 22 PP03845
40. FIESTA GITANA – BULERIAS (720807) (29:05) 7* AUG 72 PP03846
41. SABICAS (790814) [720814] (26:20) 14 AUG 79 [72] PP03847
42. MARIA VARGAS (720821) (26:00) 21 AUG 72 PP03848
43. FIESTA GITANA – TANGOS (720831) (22:06) 31* AUG 72 PP03849
44. JUAN PENA EL LEBRIJANO (720911) (31:00) 11 SEP 72 PP03850
45. AGUJETAS (720918) (34:25) 18 SEP 72 PP03851
46. JOSE MENESES (720925) (31:30) 25 SEP 72 PP03852
47. LA PERLA DE CADIZ (721002) (33:05) 2 OCT 72 PP03853
48. FERNANDO TERREMOTO (721009) (32:45) 9 OCT 72 PP03854
49. LUIS CABALLERO (721016) (26:00) 16 OCT 72 PP03855
50. DIEGO DEL GASTOR (721023) (31:45) 25 OCT 72 PP03855
51. CRISTOBALINA SUAREZ (721106) (30:40) 6 NOV 72* PP03807*
52. FOSFORITO (721113) (26:30) 13 NOV 72 PP03808
53. MANOLO CARACOL (1-PARTE) (721120) 20 NOV 72 PP03809
54. MANOLO CARACOL (2-PARTE) (721127) 27 NOV 72 PP03810
55. CHOCOLATE (721204) (29:10) 4 DEC 72 PP03811
56. BENI DE CADIZ (721211) (26:00) 11 DEC 72 PP03812
57. OLIVER DE TRIANA (721218) (30:10) 18 DEC 72 PP03813
58. AMOS RODRIGUEZ (721225) (26:30) 25 DEC 72 PP03814
59. PERRATE DE UTRERA (730101) (30:40) 1 JAN 73 PP03815
60. PEDRO LAVADO (730108) (26:55) 8 JAN 73 PP03816
61. PLATERO DE ALCALA (730115) (28:20) 15 JAN 73 PP03817
62. EL BORRICO (730122) (32:30) 22 JAN 73 PP03818
63. MELCHOR DE MARCHENA (730129) (29:40) 29 JAN 73 PP03819
64. FERNANDA DE UTRERA (730205) (34:30) 5 FEB 73 PP03820
65. BERNARDA DE UTRERA (730212) (30:45) 12 FEB 73 PP03821
66. ANTONIO DE CANILLAS (730219) (28:20) 19 FEB 73 PP03822
67. ENRIQUE MORENTE (730305) (28:00) 5 MAR 73* PP03823
68. JOSELERO DE MORON (730312) (30:20) 12 MAR 73 PP03824
69. MANUEL SOTO SORDERA (730319) (25:00) 19 MAR 73 PP03825
70. RAFAEL ROMERO (730326) (29:30) 26 MAR 73 PP03826
71. DIEGO CLAVEL (730402) (28:20) 2 APR 73 PP03827
72. ENCARNACION DE SALLAGO (730409) 9 APR 73 PP03828
73. LA SAETA (730416) (29:35) 16 APR 73 PP03829
74. CAMARON DE LA ISLA (730423) 23 APR 73 PP03830
75. EL PALI (730430) (30:20) 30 APR 73 PP03831
76. MANUEL RODRIGUEZ – PIES DE PLOMO (730507) (30:35) 7 MAY 73 PP03782*
77. LA PAQUERA DE JEREZ (730514) (30:55) 14 MAY 73 PP03783
78. PACO DE LUCIA (730521) (32:15) 21 MAY 74 PP03784
79. PERICON DE CADIZ (730528) (28:55) 28 MAY 74 PP03785
80. TIA UNICA [ANICA] LA PIRINACA (730604) (31:15) 11 JUN 73 PP03786
81. PANSEQUITO (730611) (30:30) 11 JUN 73 PPO3787
82. PEPE EL DE LA MATRONA (730618) (31:45) 18 JUN 73 PP03788
83. LA PERRATA (730625) (29:45) 25 JUN 73 PP03789
84. ANTONIO MAIRENA (730702) (38:10) 2 JUL 73 PP03790
85. MARIA LA MARRORRA [MARRURRA] (730716) (30:45) 16 JUL 73* PP03791
86. PEPE MARTINEZ (730723) (32:55) 23 JUL 73 PP03792
87. PEPE MARCHENA (730730) (32:50) 30 JUL 73 PP03793
88. LOS TORRE (730806) (26:05) 6 AUG 73 PP03794
89. CANTOS [CANTES] PRIMITIVOS SIN GUITARRA (730813) (30:10) 13 AUG 73 PP03795
90. DE SANLUCAR A LA LINEA (730820) (25:00) 20 AUG 73 PP03796
91. CANTES FLAMENCOS IMPORTADOS (730827) (27:40) 27 AUG 73 PP03797
92. EXTREMADURA Y PORTUGAL (730903) (29:15) 3 SEP 73 PP03798
93. LOS CABALES (730910) (30:55) 10 SEP 73 PP03799
94. DE DESPENAPERROS HASTA ARRIBA (730917) (27:15) 17 SEP 73 PP03800
95. LORCA Y EL FLAMENCO (730924) (26:40) 24 SEP 73 PP03801
96. DIFUSION DEL FLAMENCO (731001) (30:35) 1 OCT 73 PP03802
97. EL VINO Y EL FLAMENCO (731008) (35:15) 8 OCT 73 PP03803
98. LOS FLAMENCOLOGOS (731015) (28:35) 15 OCT 73 PP03804
99. NINOS CANTAORES (731022) (28:30) 22 OCT 73 PP03805
100. RITO Y GEOGRAFIA DEL CANTE Y EL FLAMENCO (731029) 29 OCT 73 PP03806

End of list.

Note: At one point in 1975 I was allowed to purchase three of the programs on 16 millimeter film but with optical soundtrack. Then the door slammed — I was abruptly told that I couldn’t buy any more, and it had been an error to send me the first three. I was dismayed — and relieved, since they cost about five hundred bucks apiece, the equivalent of at least five grand today, and I couldn’t have bought many more regardless. But I had three programs, and at last I could show people what “real” flamenco looked and sounded like in its social context. The programs: The legendary singer Fernanda de Utrera, her sister, the wonderful Bernarda de Utrera, and the guitarist Diego del Gastor. And a curiosity: The film of Diego del Gastor shows him mostly playing solos, and accompanying just one artist — the terrific dancer/singer Miguel Funi who’s still alive and kicking. But when I finally managed to buy the first videocassette version of the programs, Diego was shown accompanying his beloved brother-in-law, Luís Torres “Joselero”. Why? I finally figured it out. The first version was shown before Diego’s death in the summer of 1973 — though it doesn’t appear on the list below. The second version was subsequently shown to commemorate the recent death of Diego, and someone evidently decided it would be more appropriate to redo the segment to include his true compañero, Joselero. A nice touch indeed. Diego was one of just four guitarists given their own episodes; two other episodes are devoted to the instrument and feature various guitarists.

And finally: Once again, I urge aficionados to seek the DVD version on the internet where many of the booklets can be found and purchased.

Brook Zern — brookzern@gmail.com

March 30, 2015   1 Comment

The DeGypsification of Flamenco – 2011 Article by Producer Ricardo Pachón – translated with comments by Brook Zern

The important flamenco authority and record producer Ricardo Pachón– he was behind Camarón’s crucial tradition-breaking late-career releases — describes a major movement which is changing the malleable history of the art and the economic distribution patterns among the artists. Reprinted yesterday on a very interesting Facebook page, Puente Genil con el Flamenco, it drew a furious reception, including the chilling comments of Pachón’s extremely influential now-former friend Faustino Núñez, whose response to this communication might be termed excommunication. My two cents’ worth follow.

The DeGypsification of Flamenco
By Ricardo Pachón, 2011

You could see it coming for a long time: the Gypsy Tsunami. The revolt of angry Gypsy artists against Andalusia’s cultural administration that is marginalizing them ever since the region’s Statute of Autonomy claimed “exclusive competency in the matter of competency in flamenco as a singular element in the cultural patrimony of Andalusia” (Point 1 of Article 68).

The Gypsies have been settled for five centuries in Spain, and have been persecuted from the reign of the Catholic Kings (the Pragmatic of Medina del Campo, of 1492) to the most recent Laws on Wanderers and Malfeasants of the Franco era. A nomadic people who became sedentary in Atlantic Andalusia and created one of the world’s richest musical genres. We are speaking a flamenco territory: the Gypsy sections of Triana, Alcalá, Utrera, Morón, Jerez, Arcos, Los Puertos and Cádiz. (The Gypsy sector of Triana was eradicated and destroyed in 1957 by order of the Civil Governor< Hermenegildo Altozano y Moraled, a distinguished member of the Opus Dei.) We are speaking of certain musical styles that employ an alternating rhythm within a twelve-beat cycle combining binary and ternary rhythms: the tonás, martinetes, livianas, seguiriyas, corridos, cantiñas, soleares and bulerías. And we’re speaking of the large number of Gypsy creators of these styles, from El Fillo to Camarón and passing through Manuel Cagancho, Juan el Pelao, Tío José de Paula, Enrique el Mellizo, Manuel Torre, Tomás Pavón, La Niña de los Peines, Juan Talega, Antonio Mairena… Supported by the above-mentioned Statute, the next move by the politicians was the creation of an Agency of Flamenco through which have passed the most diverse ["variopintas“] people, unfamiliar with this musical world but holding the power to decide what is and what is not flamenco. Since the flamenco territory we’ve described is far too small for their electoral ambitions and proposals, they had to seek voters in all eight of Andalusia’s provinces – and thus arose the idea of the “café for everyone”.

The Gypsy movement, that is taking shape and growing stronger with every passing day, doesn’t just focus on economic exclusion; the problem is greater than that. It goes to the Formulario (proposal) presented to UNESCO by the communities of Andalusia, Murcia and Extremadura that launches a crusade to deGypsify flamenco. On page 2, they call flamenco a mode of “popular expression”, as if to say the entire populace sings and dances the soleares and the bulerías [two complex flamenco styles that require either extensive study or early immersion in a setting where they are performed frequently and naturally – a situation that is very rare, even unknown, outside of certain Gypsy families in Andalusia.]

On page 3, we find an enumeration of the “musical forms of flamenco” among which are included the sevillanas, the fandangos, the verdiales, etc… all modalities of Andalusian folklore [rather than actual flamenco], in a readily danceable 3/4 rhythm that has nothing whatever to do with the complicated metric of flamenco. And here we have the core of the problem for the indignant Gypsies: The politicians have decided that all Andalusian folklore is flamenco.

UNESCO’s consideration of flamenco to be declared an Intangible Patrimony of Humanity – along with [relatively minor or seemingly inappropriate] things such as the mountain whistlers or the Mediterranean diet only underlines the “danger of extinction” [that is one requirement for inclusion].

What’s lamentable is that flamenco does not exist as a “musical genre” on the servers and portals of the Internet. We are still bunched with Latin Music or World Music. And it’s the Internet where the economic and commercial future of the art will be determined. And it’s here where the professionals in the field of flamenco (artists, critics, investigators, producers, etc.) will have to define, once and for all, what is and what is not flamenco. Now, diverse categories can exist within a musical genre, as is the case with blues or rock. For example, Flamenco (the forms mentioned above), Flamenco-folk (i.e. Andalusian folklore that has been flamenco-ized); Latin-flamenco (styles like the rumba); flamenco fusion (for all the recent blinding with jazz, blues, rock and more). It’s just a matter of getting to work.

It is unacceptable that the Junta de Andalucía should say to UNESCO (page 27 of the Formulario) “At this time, our Cultural Consejería are seeking the inclusion of different manifestations of flamenco such as the sevillanas school of dance, the bolero school of dance, the verdiales [a very folky form and fandangos], the trovos [ballads] of the Alpujarra mountains…”
What!?!?”

Now we have the “First International Congress of Flamenco”, November 2011. A strange matter, given the fact that the “First International Congress of Flamenco” was organized by UNESCO in Madrid in June of 1969. The second, also organized by UNESCO, was held in 1971. The records of both were published by the Institute of Hispanic Culture. The Scientific Committee of the 2011 Congress consisted of 81 members, and naturally, not a single Gypsy. While in those earlier UNESCO Congresses, authorities including Fernando Quiñones and Caballero Bonald were joined by three eminent Gypsy experts and artists: the singer and author Antonio Mairena, the singer Juan Talegas, and the guitarist Melchor de Marchena.

And that is the affront that the Junta de Andalucía has thrown at the Gypsy community and that is confronting Gypsy anthropologists and musicologists as well as regional Gypsy associations, which have turned to the Institute of Gypsy Culture within the Ministry of Culture, which has responded with the publication of the manifesto “Somos gitanos, somos flamenco.” (We are Gypsies, We are Flamenco.)

End of 2011 article by Ricardo Pachón.

Translator’s note: Sr. Pachón makes a serious case against what he sees as an organized effort to strip Andalusia’s Gypsies of their claim to a crucial element — maybe the crucial element — in the creation, preservation and interpretation of flamenco.

He has been around the block, as we say in English. I remember seeing him at flamenco sessions in Morón and Seville in the sixties — sometimes singing a bit.

I don’t agree that the term flamenco should only apply to the eight forms he names, beginning with the martinetes. I think it’s more logical to call most so-called flamenco forms “flamenco” – including the various forms of alegrias, the sometimes vapid but often charming Latin-American forms like the flamenco guajiras and flamenco milongas, and the many highly developed variants of fandangos including the malagueñas and tarantas. For me, the only logical candidates for expulsion are the sevillanas and the rhythmic forms of fandangos. All of these styles have a folkloric aspect that others don’t – they are performed by large numbers of ordinary folks, just like the jotas and the sardanas in other regions of Spain.

Also, I know that the alternating rhythmic cycle Sr. Pachón refers to and that underpins most allegedly Gypsy flamenco styles, was a pre-existing musical tradition on the Iberian peninsula and not a gitano invention as may be implied.

But I share his concern over the deGypsification movement — the term seems fair enough — that has come to dominate the field in the last decade. Suffice it to say that Spain’s most important authority on flamenco, Faustino Núñez, begins his educational talks by banning any use of the “G-word” in his presence and no, I am not making that up. The intention may be excusable or even laudable — in an ideal world, no one group should be singled out for alleged special contributions to an Andalusian (or Spanish) art form that incorporates so many influences. The real-world effect, however, is to further marginalize a group that deserves recognition for its indispensable creative role in taking flamenco from the realm of remarkable regional folklore to that of high art.

I was at that 2011 “First International Flamenco Congress” that Pachón mentions — not invited, but I snuck in. I noted one interesting thing right away, when the Mexican architect who represented UNESCO stood up and said that the designation of flamenco as a patrimony of humanity was in danger of being withdrawn because the petitioning authorities had misrepresented their willingness to provide essential support to the art and artists. (I wrote the long American contribution to that petition, at the behest of a noted Spanish authority, José Luís Ortiz Nuevo, who had once been — well, a sort of “gitanista” and “purista”, like so many others, before the pendulum swung away from that position. He knew I wasn’t on board with the revised history, but asked me anyway. I was glad to do it, though I never envisioned the declaration’s complex ramifications, both positive and negative.)

The other thing I noticed — only after the conference was over — was the total lack of Gypsies as speakers (or, it seemed, as attendees).

To bring such matters up today risks one being branded a “racist” — a twisted meaning that, nominally in a noble effort to be fair to all, forbids special recognition of any group. (Note for any Spanish readers: In the U.S., the traditional definition of a racist is one who tries to make things even worse for members of a minority group, especially a distrusted or despised minority group. Those who try to make things better for a minority group are not called racists but “progressives”. For an American, at least, it seems strange to be branded a racist for any pro-minority stance, even including the sin of “gitanismo”.)

Historical note: In the early or mid 1970′s, after I spoke at an event sponsored by the New York Society of the Classical Guitar (I was the Flamenco Editor of their elegant publication Guitar Review), a guy came up to me, smiled, and said in a Spanish accent, “I notice that you hold the racist position regarding flamenco.” I asked him what he meant and he explained that I singled out one race or group as deserving special respect and recognition. He said that he was a classical guitar teacher at the State University of New York (SUNY) and had studied with Segovia. I didn’t argue with him, didn’t think to ask where he was from, and didn’t face the same accusation directly for decades. When I went to Jerez to live, around 2005, I often saw his fliers for lessons — “José Franco, discípulo de Segovia, diplomado en New York.” By that time, the charge had resurfaced again in flamenco circles as more and more authorities — without the smiles — forcefully rejected the notion of a Gypsy-centric perspective on flamenco. Call it the New Anathema.

The astounding irony, of course, was that I had come to Jerez because of my — umm, bias? Preference? Ethnic imbalance? Okay, okay — I had come because my racist taste in flamenco dictated that I should live for years in the town that most powerfully reflected the Gypsy aspect of flamenco, the home of the legendary Gypsy families whose names resonate through two centuries of the art as the most important creators and interpreters of the most important forms of flamenco song.

I was now officially a racist. And it was Señor Franco of Jerez — Jerez! — who first nailed me on that poisonous charge, more than three decades earlier. (Did I mention that Antonio Chacón, by any measure one of the two or three greatest singers in the history of flamenco, high falsetto voice and all, was also from my adopted city and was not a member of the G-word faction? Or that he was a devoted admirer of Manuel Torre, also one of the two or three greatest singers ever, and as G as they come? I even think it was mutual.)

Flamenco is sometimes compared to the blues (an early attempt is my 1972 article reprinted in this blog – search for “Vallecillo”.) I am happy to report that there is no parallel movement to strip African-Americans of their central role in the creation story of that other great cultural masterpiece. Yet.

Brook Zern

P.S. Unlike so many of the experts, including my friend Estela Zatania of Jerez, I can’t buy the notion that reference to ethnicity is never, ever, proper or productive.

But for the record, I do not think there is a racial or genetic DNA component that makes one embryo grow up to be a great flamenco artist, or a great cook or criminal or blues guitarist — rather, as Hank Williams Junior once sang, “If I get drunk and sing all night/ it’s a family tradition”. And there are many fine flamenco artists whom I and many others initially assumed to be Gypsy but were not, and vice versa. Any difference is strictly environmental, of course. Though sometimes at the flamenco peñas of Jerez at two a.m., surrounded by loud flamenco music and little kids running around or suckling at their mother’s breasts, I’ll see a pregnant woman leaning back and beating out the complex rhythms of flamenco on her belly. And somehow I can’t help wondering whether such lessons taken in utero in Jerez will give the occupant a special edge that I never quite got before my own birth in Philadelphia while the radio was broadcasting “Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye”.

P.S. Family tradition? My father started studying and playing flamenco guitar in the mid-1940′s and kept it up for two decades, very possibly the first American to take that challenge seriously. I grew up with that sound in my ears, especially when I just wanted to get some sleep. And predictably enough, I grew up to become a flamenco guitarist. For fifty years I’ve been learning great stuff from great players. But sadly, I tend to play like a guiri — the Spanish word for an outsider who’ll never really get the hang of it. But that’s another family tradition. In fact, guiri was my father’s middle name — literally. Yes, my father was named Edward Geary Zern. And in Spain, there are gitanistas and andalucistas, but there are no guiristas. Thanks a lot, pop.

BZ

March 28, 2015   7 Comments

The Episodes of Rito y Geografia that can’t be seen on the internet — and a plan to remedy that situation

It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it.

Many of the 100 half-hour programs from the great Rito y Geografía del Flamenco documentary series (broadcast on RadioTelevison Española’s Second Channel for Andalusia between October of 1971 and October of 1973) were missing from the three commercial editions that were issued years later, and many of them can’t be seen on YouTube. Specifically, I have found __ of the programs on YouTube. __ can be seen with English translations, all from the last and best commercial edition that came in booklet form with a four-program DVD in each booklet, and with improved picture and sound. Another __ programs are seen in Spanish-only versions, some probably from that same edition, others from earlier commercial editions. I have listed those 78 programs with their links to YouTube at:

http://www.flamencoexperience.com/blog/?p=1334

That leaves __ programs currently unseeable. I have some of them, and hope to make them available on YouTube. Some of my copies are okay, while others are pretty bad. I hope someone has better copies and will put them up. If not, I’ll try to figure out the launch process myself.

Below is a list I made from a primitive computer printout that RadioTelevision Española sent me when I was negotiating to buy the first videocassette copy of the series in 1987.

Here are the __ otherwise missing programs that I have: 7 (SOLEARES 2); 8 (El FANDANGO); 27 (CANTE FLAMENCO E INTERPRETE GITANOS); 28 (DEL CAFÉ CANTANTE AL TABLAO); 29 (CANTE GITANO CON INTERPRETES NO GITANOS); 31 (FESTIVAL DEL CANTE); 38 (POR SOLEA); 39 (POR SIGUIRIYAS); 66 (ANTONIO DE CANILLAS); 68 (JOSELERO DE MORON); 72 (ENCARNACION LA SALLAGO); 79 (PERICON DE CADIZ); 85 (MARIA LA MARRURA); 98 (LOS FLAMENCOLOGOS).

I never received program 100 (RITO Y GEOGRAFIA DEL CANTE Y EL FLAMENCO) — possibly a one-hour wrap-up for the series. I also never received program 76 (MANUEL RODRIGUEZ – PIES DE PLOMO)

I’ve been told that program 41 (SABICAS) never ran and possibly was never made. That leaves perhaps just one or two programs that I can’t quite pin down.

Here’s that original list:

RITO Y GEOGRAFIA [FROM RTVE COMPUTER RUN, IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER]
16 MM BN SEPMAG, LAB NEG EN FILMOTECA TVE

1. LAS TONAS (711023) (30:50) 23 OCT 71 PP03857
2. ROMANCES, TANGOS Y TIENTOS (711030) (33:30) 30 OCT 71 PP03858
3. SEGUIRIYAS 1 PARTE (711106) (32:55) 6 NOV 71 PP03859
4. SEGUIRIYAS 2 PARTE (711113) (28:40) 13 NOV 71 PP03860
5. CADIZ Y LOS PUERTOS (711120) (32:40) 20 NOV 71 PP03861
6. SOLEARES 1 PARTE (711127) (31:55) 27 NOV 71 PPO3862
7. SOLEARES 2 PARTE (711204) (30:55) 4 DEC 71 PP03863
8. EL FANDANGO (711211) (26:15) 11 DEC 71 PP03864
9. DE RONDA A MALAGA (711218) (28:50) 18 DEC 71 PP03865
10. NAVIDAD FLAMENCA (711225) 25 DEC 71 PP03866
11. MALAGUENAS (720101) 1 JAN 72 PP03867
12. DE GRANADA A LA UNION (720108) 8 JAN 72 PP03868
13. CANTES PROCEDENTES DEL FOLKLORE (720122) (26:20) 15 JAN 72 PP03869
14. FIESTA GITANA (720129) (33:15) 29 JAN 72 PP03870
15. LAS TONAS [2] (720205) (31:15) 5 FEB 72 PPO3871
16. LA LLAVE DE ORO DEL CANTE (720212) 12 FEB 72 PP03872
17. TRIANA (720219) (29:25) 19 FEB 72 PP03873
18. EL BARRIO DE SANTIAGO (720226) (25:50) 26 FEB 72 PP03874
19. LA FAMILIA PININI (720304) (31:15) 4 MAR 72 PP03875
20. LA FAMILIA DE LOS PERRATE (720311) (22:45) 11 MAR 72 PP03876
21. LA CASA DE LOS MAIRENA (720312) (31:50) 18 MAR 72 PP03877
22. MANUEL TORRE Y ANTONIO CHACON (720325) (30:10) 25 MAR 72 PP03878
23. LA SAETA (720401) (27:10) 1 APR 72 PP03879
24. LA CA[N]TAORA (720410) (26:05) 10* APR 72 PP03880
25. LA GUITARRA (720317) (27:05) 17 MAR [APR] 72 PP03881
26. VIEJOS CANTAORES (720424) (24:20) 24 APR 72 PP03832*
27. CANTE FLAMENCO CON INTERPRETES GITANOS (720501) (26:25) 1 MAY 72 PP03833
28. DEL CAFE CANTANTE AL TABLAO (720508) (25:50) 8 MAY 72 PP03834
29. CANTE GITANO CON INTERPRETES GITANOS (720515) (28:30) 15 MAY 72 PP03835
30. LA GUITARRA FLAMENCA (2-PARTE) (720522) (27:35) 22 MAY 72 PP03836
31. FESTIVAL DEL CANTE (720529) (28:00) 29 MAY 72 PP03837
32. EVOLUCION DEL CANTE (720605) (28:30) 5 JUN 72 PP03838
33. FANDANGO DE HUELVA (720612) (25:00) 12 JUN 72 PP03839
34. MALAGA Y LEVANTE (720619) (27:35) 19 JUN 72 PP03840
35. FALLA Y FLAMENCO (720626) (26:05) 26 JUN 72 PP03841
36. LA SERRANIA (720703) (29:15) 3 JUL 72 PP03842
37. FANDANGOS NATURALES (720710) 10 JUL 72 PP03843
38. POR SOLEA (26:00) (720717) 17 JUL 72 PP03844
39. POR SEGUIRIYAS (27:55) (720724) 24 JUL 22 PP03845
40. FIESTA GITANA – BULERIAS (720807) (29:05) 7* AUG 72 PP03846
41. SABICAS (790814) [720814] (26:20) 14 AUG 79 [72] PP03847
42. MARIA VARGAS (720821) (26:00) 21 AUG 72 PP03848
43. FIESTA GITANA – TANGOS (720831) (22:06) 31* AUG 72 PP03849
44. JUAN PENA EL LEBRIJANO (720911) (31:00) 11 SEP 72 PP03850
45. AGUJETAS (720918) (34:25) 18 SEP 72 PP03851
46. JOSE MENESES (720925) (31:30) 25 SEP 72 PP03852
47. LA PERLA DE CADIZ (721002) (33:05) 2 OCT 72 PP03853
48. FERNANDO TERREMOTO (721009) (32:45) 9 OCT 72 PP03854
49. LUIS CABALLERO (721016) (26:00) 16 OCT 72 PP03855
50. DIEGO DEL GASTOR (721023) (31:45) 25 OCT 72 PP03855
51. CRISTOBALINA SUAREZ (721106) (30:40) 6 NOV 72* PP03807*
52. FOSFORITO (721113) (26:30) 13 NOV 72 PP03808
53. MANOLO CARACOL (1-PARTE) (721120) 20 NOV 72 PP03809
54. MANOLO CARACOL (2-PARTE) (721127) 27 NOV 72 PP03810
55. CHOCOLATE (721204) (29:10) 4 DEC 72 PP03811
56. BENI DE CADIZ (721211) (26:00) 11 DEC 72 PP03812
57. OLIVER DE TRIANA (721218) (30:10) 18 DEC 72 PP03813
58. AMOS RODRIGUEZ (721225) (26:30) 25 DEC 72 PP03814
59. PERRATE DE UTRERA (730101) (30:40) 1 JAN 73 PP03815
60. PEDRO LAVADO (730108) (26:55) 8 JAN 73 PP03816
61. PLATERO DE ALCALA (730115) (28:20) 15 JAN 73 PP03817
62. EL BORRICO (730122) (32:30) 22 JAN 73 PP03818
63. MELCHOR DE MARCHENA (730129) (29:40) 29 JAN 73 PP03819
64. FERNANDA DE UTRERA (730205) (34:30) 5 FEB 73 PP03820
65. BERNARDA DE UTRERA (730212) (30:45) 12 FEB 73 PP03821
66. ANTONIO DE CANILLAS (730219) (28:20) 19 FEB 73 PP03822
67. ENRIQUE MORENTE (730305) (28:00) 5 MAR 73* PP03823
68. JOSELERO DE MORON (730312) (30:20) 12 MAR 73 PP03824
69. MANUEL SOTO SORDERA (730319) (25:00) 19 MAR 73 PP03825
70. RAFAEL ROMERO (730326) (29:30) 26 MAR 73 PP03826
71. DIEGO CLAVEL (730402) (28:20) 2 APR 73 PP03827
72. ENCARNACION DE SALLAGO (730409) 9 APR 73 PP03828
73. LA SAETA (730416) (29:35) 16 APR 73 PP03829
74. CAMARON DE LA ISLA (730423) 23 APR 73 PP03830
75. EL PALI (730430) (30:20) 30 APR 73 PP03831
76. MANUEL RODRIGUEZ – PIES DE PLOMO (730507) (30:35) 7 MAY 73 PP03782*
77. LA PAQUERA DE JEREZ (730514) (30:55) 14 MAY 73 PP03783
78. PACO DE LUCIA (730521) (32:15) 21 MAY 74 PP03784
79. PERICON DE CADIZ (730528) (28:55) 28 MAY 74 PP03785
80. TIA UNICA [ANICA] LA PIRINACA (730604) (31:15) 11 JUN 73 PP03786
81. PANSEQUITO (730611) (30:30) 11 JUN 73 PPO3787
82. PEPE EL DE LA MATRONA (730618) (31:45) 18 JUN 73 PP03788
83. LA PERRATA (730625) (29:45) 25 JUN 73 PP03789
84. ANTONIO MAIRENA (730702) (38:10) 2 JUL 73 PP03790
85. MARIA LA MARRORRA [MARRURRA] (730716) (30:45) 16 JUL 73* PP03791
86. PEPE MARTINEZ (730723) (32:55) 23 JUL 73 PP03792
87. PEPE MARCHENA (730730) (32:50) 30 JUL 73 PP03793
88. LOS TORRE (730806) (26:05) 6 AUG 73 PP03794
89. CANTOS [CANTES] PRIMITIVOS SIN GUITARRA (730813) (30:10) 13 AUG 73 PP03795
90. DE SAN LUCAR A LA LINEA (730820) (25:00) 20 AUG 73 PP03796
91. CANTES FLAMENCOS IMPORTADOS (730827) (27:40) 27 AUG 73 PP03797
92. EXTREMADURA Y PORTUGAL (730903) (29:15) 3 SEP 73 PP03798
93. LOS CABALES (730910) (30:55) 10 SEP 73 PP03799
94. DE DESPENAPERROS HASTA ARRIBA (730917) (27:15) 17 SEP 73 PP03800
95. LORCA Y EL FLAMENCO (730924) (26:40) 24 SEP 73 PP03801
96. DIFUSION DEL FLAMENCO (731001) (30:35) 1 OCT 73 PP03802
97. EL VINO Y EL FLAMENCO (731008) (35:15) 8 OCT 73 PP03803
98. LOS FLAMENCOLOGOS (731015) (28:35) 15 OCT 73 PP03804
99. NINOS CANTAORES (731022) (28:30) 22 OCT 73 PP03805
100. RITO Y GEOGRAFIA DEL CANTE Y EL FLAMENCO (731029) 29 OCT 73 PP03806

March 26, 2015   No Comments

Yet Another Major Collection of Flamenco – Nearly All From Don Pohren’s Finca Espartero

Frontstory: If the 46 hours of great homespun sixties flamenco mentioned yesterday in this blog (at http://soundcloud.com/quinfolk/sets/the-flamenco-tapes-recorded-by-david-k-loughran-1964-1965) isn’t enough for you, here’s a website with another 46 hours worth:

www.flamencogitano.com

No kidding. The casts of the two collections are very similar. The Loughran material may partly predate this batch from the Finca Espartero, Don Pohren’s flamenco dude ranch where anyone could get immersed in heavy-duty music without spending years learning the ropes and paying dues. This Finca material seems to pick up where the ’64-’65 Loughran material leaves off, starting in 1966 and evidently continuing to beyond 1973. Guitarists on each collection include Diego del Gastor and and some of his gifted nephews; shared singers may include the Utrera sisters plus Perrate de Utrera, Joselero, Juan Talega, Curro Mairena, Ansonini, Manolito de la María…

Backstory: A few years ago, I found this flamencogitano.com website and later met and thanked the aficionado who made it. But I’d had the material for several years before that.

When this stuff was recorded I was often in Morón, sometimes living at town’s no-star hotel and sometimes staying at the Finca. I had tried to record some of those sessions with my new-fangled portable Norelco cassette recorder, a high-tech but lo-fi wonder of the era. Fortunately, a dedicated expert with a good open-reel machine did that invaluable work properly. About four decades later, I learned that someone else had obtained those recordings and was selling them as CD’s. I was thrilled to buy the 51 CD’s for five hundred bucks — hey, a bargain at twice the price, though not an ideal situation.

(In 1972 I wrote about the Finca for the New York Times, trying to capture the aura of the era — it’s here at http://www.flamencoexperience.com/blog/?p=463 )

I know there are serious issues surrounding the ownership and distribution of other people’s music in general, and privately-made flamenco recordings in particular. There are too many stories involving distrust, suspicion and anger. But a half-century is a long time to try and suppress great music; a lot of people who would have loved to hear this stuff have died over that period.

It never rains but it pours. Now anyone can listen to this extraordinary music for four days and nights, or even longer if one has to sleep. (And you might have to sleep — it’s an understatement to say that this music is repetitive. While Paco de Lucía often took many years to create enough guitar material for a new LP or work out a new record with Camarón, these recordings involve the same folks doing the same traditional stuff on good nights and bad nights and occasional great nights. Predictably, the sound quality varies from barely mediocre to surprisingly good.)

Note to the visually inclined: As a complement to this audio material from that amazing epoch, go to YouTube and see the scads of half-hour films in the great Rito y Geografía del Flamenco TV series of the early seventies. (I bought the first 16-millimeter film copies of a few programs in 1973, at five hundred bucks a pop, before the network vetoed further transactions. After fifteen years of begging and scheming I was allowed to pay a lot for the transfer of all the programs from film to videotape. I gave the first set to Columbia University, grabbed the second set for myself, and declined the commercial rights. My stash includes some programs that were never marketed in any of the three Spanish editions: not the poorly done Alga Editores cassette version, not the better TVE cassette version, not even the marvelous CD edition in beautiful hardcover booklets with English subtitles, enhanced video and sound and terrific commentary from the guiding light of the project, José María Velázquez-Gaztelu. I suppose my unseen programs should be put up on YouTube if it doesn’t antagonize any human beings or lawyers…)

Brook Zern

March 25, 2015   1 Comment

An Important Collection of Private Flamenco Recordings Brought to Light at Last – How to Hear Them On SoundCloud

In the 1960′s and 70′s a few foreigners, mostly Americans, were so struck by the quality of flamenco in several towns near Seville that they resolved to save those magnificent sounds forever.

They succeeded beyond measure. Today, Spain owes most of its understanding of the music of that time and place to the crucial efforts of people including Chris Carnes, Moreen Carnes, Steve Kahn, Carol Whitney and a few others — some who choose to remain nameless and others to be named later. (I never had a good tape recorder in Spain, but I helped some of those people by buying tape and paying to ship their Uher recorders to Germany for repairs.)

This is very different from commercial or official recordings. This is flamenco “de uso” — as it was used in everyday life, sometimes with the hope that someone would hire the artists for actual money, but usually because the artists loved to make and share this music with their friends and fellow artists. In a world where “pure” is mocked by scholars as meaningless and “authentic” is applied to just about everything anyone wants to sell more of, well, as noted below, this is the real deal.

Yesterday, in response to a post on this blog about Diego del Gastor, I learned that another intrepid gringo had been adding to the historic effort. I remember the name, and here is information from his son-in-law, David Quinn, with explanations in brackets and more comments at the end. You can see his brief note as a reply to the post:

“My wife’s father, David K. Loughran, who died recently, hauled around a reel-to-reel tape machine to Flamenco parties in and around Morón de la Frontera, Spain in 1964 and 1965.

“The musicians he was recording are known as flamenco masters, “mythical figures” of flamenco. The town is the epicenter of Gypsy flamenco. These players were the real deal – actual Gypsies – the real source of this music.

“They include:
Diego del Gastor, La Fernanda de Utrera [one of the greatest singers in flamenco history], Manolito de la Maria [ditto], [the American] Chris Carnes, Fernandillo de Moron, Antonio Amaya Flores “El Mellizo” [the guitarist and older brother of Diego del Gastor] and others.

“There are 46 hours of recordings, made at house parties and in cafés,
some with just the musicians and recorder present, some at crowded fiestas. The quality varies, but considering the circumstances, I think it is remarkable.

“I know there are musicians reading this; if you know someone who might be interested in hearing these please share this post, and/or the link below.
We’re trying to gather as much information as we can, with the goal of a more accurate track list.

“At the very least, they make excellent fiesta music!

“They can be heard at https://soundcloud.com/quinfolk/sets/the-flamenco-tapes-recorded-by-david-k-loughran-1964-1965

“These notes on content are unedited and transcribed From the hand written notes on the reel boxes:

*Reels 1 through 4:
- Diego, solo, December 1964
- Diego, Fernando, Manolito, Jselero, at a juerga at Venta El Calero
- Diego, Fernando & Manolito at a juerga at Club Mercantil
- Diego, Mellizo & Manolito at Diego’s house, a juerga for Pepe Rios

*Reel 4 Side B through Reel 6 Side A
- First juerga in Morón after cante jondo contest in Cordoba, with Diego, Paco del Gastor [the brilliant nephew of Diego], Manolito, Fernando, and Enrique [son of the legendary Joaquin el de la Paula]
- Juan and Dieguito del Gastor [the two other nephews of Diego, both fine guitarists] in Chris’s room at the hospedaje
- Easter Sunday juerga at El Calero with Diego and Manolito
- Andres Cabrera, Vicenta
- Juerga at El Calero

*Reel 6 Side B through Reel 9 Side A
- Antonio Amaya Flores (El Mellizo) at home
- Saetas in Utrera (Hermandad de los gitanos – Semana Santa 1965)
- Saetas at la Campana, Seville, with Lebrijano [a superb singer], Manolo Mairena [an excellent singer, younger brother of the great Antonio Mairena].
- Short Juerga at Casa Pepe with Dieguito del Gastor [now called Dieguito or Diego de Morón], Joselero [Diego del Gastor's brother-in-law, a fine local singer], Fernando [Fernandillo de Morón, a good singer and festero], Bob Haynes [a fine American guitarist], Church [?], etc.
- La Sallago [an excellent singer who sounded terrific until her very recent death], Terremoto [one of the greatest singers in flamenco's history].
- Terremoto, La Paquera [a great Jerez singer]; bautizo [baptism] in lower barrio with Diego, Paco, Perrate[an excellent singer] & La Fernanda
- Juerga at Tailor’s (El Escribano) house with Paco (solo), Diego (solo) & Niño Rosa
- Diego, Manolito and Fernando at Bob Fletcher’s in Seville.

*Reel 9 Side B through Reel 11 Side A
- Diego at Chimenea’s with Pohren
- Paco at Casa Pepe
- Paco – juerga at Pepe Chino’s house with Diego, Nino Rosa, Juan and his padre
- guitar solo by student

*Reel 11 side B through Reel 14 Side A
-Part of Fletcher’s fiesta with Diego, Manolito, Fernando
-Mellizo, solo at hospedaje
-From Pohren’s tapes of Paco, Diego, Juan Talegas, Manolito, Nina de los Peines
-Esteban de Sanlucar, La Perla, Miguel Valencia at Pohren’s club
-Chris and Fernando, and others
-Bautizo at Andre’s and Fernando’s with Diego, Perrate and La Fernanda
-Solo by Diego

*Reel 14 Side B through Reel 17 Side A
-Fiesta, Casa Villa Clara
-Antonio Cruz
-Iglesias and company

*Reel 17 Side B through Reel 19 Side A
-Unidentified

*Reel 19 Side B through Reel 22
-Selections from Don Pohren’s collection
-Selections from Don Pohren juergas – Antonio & Paco [Francisco] Mairena, Eduardo de la Malena
-Richardo Pachon [later the producer of Camaron’s historic recordings, Luis Maravilla [possibly the dancer Luisa Maravilla, Pohren's wife]
-Fiesta with Pohren
-Flamenco: Diego del Gastor, La Fernanda de Utrera, Manolito de la Maria, Chris Carnes, Fernandillo de Moron, Don Pohren, David K. Loughran

End of explanations and notations by the son-in-law of recordist David K. Loughran.

Okay. I am grateful to the late David K. Loughran for his selfless dedication, and to his son-in-law Dennis Quinn for allowing — better yet, insisting — that this material finds a deserving audience.

It is often said that Diego del Gastor was an unrecorded guitarist, and in fact he assiduously avoided efforts by Spain’s most prestigious record label — at the time their only other guitarist was a young man named Paco de Lucía — to entice him to record by building a high-tech studio near his home. (Diego just skipped town until they tore it down.)

On the human scale, Diego may have been the most recorded flamenco guitarist in history. I have many hundreds of hours of his playing, both alone and for the singers named above and dozens of others. (And I still don’t have most of the material in the largest stash, recorded by the late Chris Carnes and now residing at the University of Washington where it probably doesn’t get the tiniest fraction of the attention and audience it deserves.)

Not surprisingly, I already have a lot of the same material that Mr. Loughran recorded — clearly from tapes made by Chris and others. But a lot of the other material listed above was originally recorded by Mr. Loughran, and has enormous historical importance. I hope other addicts will join me in the effort to add more detail and information to the sparse notes seen above.

I haven’t listened to the material yet, and rarely use or trust sites that normal humans feel comfortable signing onto. I assume SoundCloud is a logical place to have archived this music, and that it will remain accessible there indefinitely.

Aproveche.

Brook Zern

March 24, 2015   2 Comments

Introducing… Brook Zern – From Guitar Review #37, Fall, 1972

Guitar Review #37 of Fall, 1972, carried my first column, devoted to the flamenco methods available at the time.  As usual with new writers, they included an introduction:

BROOK ZERN lived in Andalusia for many years.  He has played and talked about flamenco music on many New York radio programs (including his own WBAI series, “Flamenco”), on National Educational Television, at the Society of the Classic Guitar, and at schools and colleges.  He is currently teaching a university course in the music and culture of flamenco at the New School for Social Research in New York City, where he also teaches guitar privately.

“I was born in 1941, the son a a Pennsylvania Dutch advertising copywriter who had a Mittyesque delusion that he was actually a flamenco guitarist.  I don’t know what he did in the offce, but at home he played flamenco guitar incessantly for the first twenty years of my life,  He got pretty good, but the music drove me nuts.  Maybe it was overexposure — it’s hard to sleep during a thundering zapateado — or maybe I sensed that he wanted me to learn flamenco, and felt honor-bound never to do what my parents wanted.

“Anyway, I finally left home for college and the absence of flamenco music drove me nuts.  I snuck back home, took my father’s Velázquez guitar and headed for his teacher’s apartment.  I learned a lot from Fidel Zabal — about flamenco and much more.  After graduating from Columbia College, I went to Spain with my wife and started studying guitar in Seville and the outlying towns.  I studied with all the good guitarists I could find, asked dumb questions, and read the existing literature — mostly worthless — on flamenco.

“Now I am an advertising copywriter with a Mittyesque delusion that I am a flamenco guitarist.  I consider this to be a rare form of genetic defect.”

February 9, 2015   2 Comments

A truly historic 6-CD recording plus DVD finally reveals the art of the guitar genius Manolo de Huelva (plus film of dancers La Argentinita and Pilar López)

Manolo de Huelva may have been the greatest flamenco guitarist of all time.

Okay, okay — we all know that title belongs to Paco de Lucía for perfecting the pre-existing virtuoso tradition around 1970 with stunning imagination and unprecedented technique, and then reconceiving the guitar concert with a jazzier ensemble sound for a broader audience. And the runner-up would be Ramón Montoya, the giant who around 1900 turned an inchoate mixture of styles and ideas into a coherent art form worthy of the name. And third place would go to Sabicas, for being the greatest flamenco virtuoso for a half-century before Paco dethroned him.  And if none of those perfectionists were the best exponents of raw power and funky punch — by one measure the central challenge of great flamenco guitar — the title would default to Melchor de Marchena, the preferred accompanist for the greatest singers in flamenco’s recorded history, or to Juan Habichuela who around 1970 took over Melchor’s role as the best backup man.  Or to the endlessly inventive Niño Ricardo, the main influence on Paco de Lucía and most other flamenco players in Spain.

Manolo de Huelva?  Well, he was determined to become the most revered flamenco player in Spain — and that’s what he did.  Between 1920 and 1975, if you mentioned his name in Spain, you would get no response.  Unless you happened to be talking to the artists at the absolute pinnacle of the tradition, the people who knew more than anyone else.  They had heard him, and that was all it took.  They spoke of him with awe, and of his playing as a thing apart and above.

Others just didn’t know, and that was how Manolo de Huelva wanted it.  He was determined to conceal his art from others, particularly other guitarists, and he did this with stunning success.  Only on rare occasions did he give other players a glimpse of his majestic accompaniment and musical creativity.

In 1963, after an astounding night of flamenco in the legendary Zambra (or was it the Villa Rosa?) in Madrid, I was generously invited to go see Manolo accompany some of that venue’s great singers, including Pepe de la Matrona.  As I was getting into one of the taxis, a guy asked to look at my hands.  He noticed my right-hand nails were longer than my left, and said I wasn’t allowed to join the group.  I started to argue, and said — not in jest — that I’d bite the long nails off.  He looked at my left hand fingertips, saw the tell-tale calluses that only come from serious practicing, and told me to scram.  He said that Manolo often inspected strangers’ hands, and might refuse to play at all if he suspected a guitarist was in or outside the roadside Venta Manzanilla where he reigned supreme.  I was just a kid, and couldn’t have retained thirty seconds of his music if he’d wanted me to, but I was still frozen out.

Ever since, I have been dreaming and scheming, hoping to hear Manolo playing at his best — as did my friend Don Pohren, the leading foreign authority on flamenco, who realized that he would never hear anyone better.  (Don also shared my admiration for the guitarist Diego del Gastor, who unlike Manolo refused to make any commercial recordings but generously allowed us devotees to make hundreds of hours of tape recordings of his solos and accompaniment.)

Manolo made a batch of 78′s before 1950, accompanying some noted singers, but it was clear that he was concealing his real art.  In the mid-seventies, I went to the Seville home of Virginia de Zayas, an American woman whose Spanish husband, Marius, had recorded the Ramón Montoya’s historic Paris sessions around 1937.  Manolo lived in her house, and she agreed to write about the man and his art for Guitar Review, the elegant New York publication of which I was the Flamenco Editor.  (You can find those three long articles in this blog by searching for “Zayas”.)  She also told me that she would arrange for me to meet Manolo the next time I was in Spain, and possibly be allowed to transcribe some of his variations or falsetas — in any event, Manolo died before that could happen.  (A double LP was later issued by de Zayas, one with Ramón’s old material and the other with some confusing snippets of Manolo de Huelva’s playing that failed to do justice to his art.)

This blog also contains a Guitar Review interview with Andrés Segovia, who — contrary to prevailing opinion — had enormous respect for what he called “true flamenco”, citing the art’s greatest female singer, La Niña de los Peines, and its greatest male singer (okay, male Gypsy singer), Manuel Torre, and heaping high praise on just one guitarist — yes, Manolo de Huelva.

Years ago, I gave up hope of ever hearing the man at his best, or learning his crucial music beyond the few fragments that were allegedly from his hand.

Earlier today, I got an email from my friend Estela Zatania, author and critic for deflamenco.com, relaying news from the noted French authority Pierre LeFranc that the important Spanish label Pasarela had published a massive 6-CD set-plus-DVD titled “Manolo de Huelva acompaña…”

And the singers he backs are formidable.  The great surprise is a batch of stuff by Aurelio de Cádiz, whose first recordings with Ramón Montoya date back to the twenties or thereabouts.  (I inherited some of those 78′s from my father, who also taught me my first flamenco licks.)   These “new” songs are a priceless addition to Aurelio’s sparsely-documented art — he always promised to make a worthy anthology but never did.  (A translation of a long interview of Aurelio appears in this blog — search for the author’s name Climent.) Other singers include Luís Caballero, an elegant singer who worked as a bellhop in the Hotel Alfonso XIII, which recently reclaimed its stature as the city’s best.  La Pompi, an important early singer and sister of the great Niño Gloria, is heard, as is the still-admired but otherwise unrecorded Rafael Pareja; finally, there’s the very significant Pepe de la Matrona with his immense knowledge — an early inspiration for Enrique Morente who as a very young artist appeared along with Pepe at La Zambra.

As for the DVD, it finally brings to light a film I’d seen long, long ago at the Museum of Modern Art and have been trying to find ever since. It shows Manolo de Huelva — or rather, it shows glimpses of his hands as he remains in shadow — as he accompanies the legendary dancers La Argentinita and Pilar López. (I actually saw it once again, at the Andalusian Center for Flamenco Documentation — then the CAF, now the CADF — around the corner from my apartment in Jerez. I even managed to sneakily record the soundtrack on my iTunes player (I had a separate mike for it). But now here it is, glorious picture and all — a true treasure for dance historians and all lovers of flamenco dance.

Decades ago, after hearing a theorbo or vihuela concert by de Zayas’s son Rodrigo, I approached him to plead and whimper that he had a duty to reveal Manolo’s music — something I had also done to Pepe Romero, the flamenco and classical guitarist whose family was evidently close to Manolo, also to no apparent avail.

Or so I thought.  Today the often fractious flamenco community is forever indebted (I presume) to Rodrigo de Zayas and that eminent family, which must be the source of those recordings that span a period from about 1940 to the mid-seventies.

Before I list the contents, let me add more backup to the claims about this man. And if a rave from Spain’s greatest classical guitarist isn’t enough, how about a rave from her greatest poet?

In his wonderful 1964 book “Lives and Legends of Flamenco” Don Pohren quoted Federico García Lorca’s appraisal of Manolo in “Obras Completas”:

“The guitar, in the cante jondo, must limit itself to keeping the rhythm and following the singer; the guitar is a base for the voice, and must be strictly subjected to the will of the singer.

“But as the personality of the guitarist is often as strong as that of the cantaor, the guitarist must also sing, and thus falsetas are born (the commentaries of the strings), when sincere of extraordinary beauty, but in many cases false, foolish and full of pretentious prettiness when expressed by one of those virtuosos…

“The falseta is now traditional, and some guitarists, like the magnificent Niño de Huelva, let themselves be swept along by the voice of their surging blood, but without for a moment leaving the pure line or, although they are maximum virtuosos, displaying their virtuosity.”

Thanks, Federico. As for Pohren’s personal opinion — and he had heard Manolo in top form — here’s his opening salvo:

“How does one begin to talk of the wondrous Manolo de Huelva? Perhaps by stating that he has quietly, semi-secretly, reigned as flamenco’s supreme guitarist for half a century? Or by stating that in the eyes of many knowledgeable aficionados and artists he has been the outstanding flamenco guitarist of all times? Truthfully, a separate volume, accompanied by tapes or records demonstrating Manolo’s evolution as a guitarist, which could only be played by Manolo himself, would be perhaps the only way to begin giving Manolo his due. This, I fear, cannot be accomplished; Manolo himself has seen to this by his elaborate, unbending covertness, his lifelong refusal to play anything that he considered to be of true value in the presence of any type of machine, often including the human.”

Pohren continues:

“Manolo especially dislikes playing when other guitarists are present. How many professional guitarists have actually heard Manolo cut loose? Very, very few, but those who have consider the occasion as having been sacred. Andrés Segovia has, and has called Manolo the greatest living flamenco guitarist. Segovia became so inspired, in fact, that he devoted a major part of a thesis to Manolo de Huelva. Melchor de Marchena has, and proclaims Manolo the greatest guitarist he has ever heard, This covers some ground, including Ramón Montoya, Javier Molina, today’s virtuosos and Melchor himself. Many singers and aficionados have, and they unanimously agree that in the accompaniment of the cante, and in the transmission of pure flamenco expression, Manolo is far off by himself.

“Just what makes Manolo’s playing so exceptional? To start with, he has the best thumb and left hand in the business. He is flamenco’s most original a prolific creator. He has a vast knowledge of flamenco in general and the cante in particular, which causes his toque to be unceasingly knowledgeable and flamenco. He is blessed with the same genius and duende that separated Manuel Torre from the pack; as was the case with Torre, when Manolo de Huelva becomes inspired he drives aficionados to near-frenzy, striking the deepest human chords with overwhelmingly direct force.

“As is so rarely the case, Manolo’s playing, when he is truly fired up, is truly spontaneous; he plays from the heart, not the head. His toque is full of surprises, of the unexpected. His manipulations of the compás are fabulous, his lightning starts and stops at once profound and delightful. His is a guitarist (this is important) impossible to anticipate – his genius flows so spontaneously that often not even Manolo knows what is coming next…

“By the time he reached his twenties, his toque was mentioned with awe in the flamenco world. He had everything: a naturally flawless compás that was equaled by no one, a driving, extremely flamenco way of playing, great duende, and the sixth sense that permitted him to anticipate the singers, without which an accompanist is lost. Cantaores began calling Manolo first, before Javier or Ramón or any of the others. Soon Manolo was known as the top man…

“Sabicas once invited him to join in a record of guitar duets. Manolo felt highly insulted, firstly because Sabicas should consider himself in the same class, and secondly that he should be propositioned to play such nonsense as guitar duets, On the other hand, upon asking Manolo whom he liked best of the modern guitar virtuosos, he instantly replied that Sabicas has the best compás in the business (next to his own). This is as far as he would commit himself.

“Technically, Manolo relies on his blindingly fast and accurate thumb and left hand for most of the astounding effects he achieves. His entire right-hand technique is subordinate to his thumb: that is to say, his right hand is held in such a a posture as to give he thumb complete freedom of movement. When he wishes, his picado is unexcelled and his arpeggios are sound, though he uses them sparingly. Little is known of his tremolo, as he holds this flowery technique in great contempt.

“The Gypsies like to believe that flamenco surges exclusively through their veins. It is impossible to explain that environment is what counts (were it not, someone would long ago have begun selling pints of Gypsy blood to payo [non-Gypsy] aspirants.)…Generally speaking, Manolo is above being included in the eternal rivalry. Knowledgeable Gypsies and non-Gypsies alike hold him supreme.”

End of Pohren’s appraisal. And now, without further ado, here’s what you’ll find in this new revelation. And no, I haven’t heard it yet — but I’ve ordered it. I know it may be just another perversely elaborate tease, where this strange man again conceals his true art.

But I prefer to believe that we will hear the real Manolo de Huelva — finally, and at long, long. last.

Note from a few days later: But wait!! I suspected there might be some glitches or problems with this project, but assumed it would be with Manolo’s customary refusal to reveal his best playing. Instead, the first problems are with the attributions of songs to singers. According to the expert Antonio Barberán, there are only a few songs by the great Aurelio (though some are very important). Some stuff attributed to him is by Manuel Centeno, another noted singer, while he may not do any of the many saetas or sevillanas attributed to him. (It had surprised me that Aurelio would record these songs — the sevillanas seems too trivial, and the religious saetas just don’t seem to be his thing.) So ignore those glitches — I’ll fix the notes when the experts have had their say. Here are those problematic attributions, most correct but many just plain wrong:

Note from a few weeks later: But wait!!! I have received my copy and changed the entries below to reflect my notions of who is singing — followed by the original attributions in brackets and quotation marks. Fire fights have broken out on some insider websites such as Puente Genil con el Flamenco, but the dust is settling.

Here is the latest version — a few more attributions might be revised in the future. And again: minor glitches aside, this is a wonderful contribution to the world’s treasury of flamenco, made possible thanks to Sr. de Zayas and the de Zayas family.

CD 1:

Siguiriyas “Mi ropa tengo en venta”
Luisa Ramos Antúnez “La Pompi” con Manolo de Huelva  4:29

Bulerias “Cuando me daba” (truncada) 0:47
Luisa Ramos Antúnez “La Pompi” con Manolo de Huelva  4:29

Bulerías “Cuando me daba” (entera) 3:45
Luisa Ramos Antúnez “La Pompi” con Manolo de Huelva  3:45

Bulerías “A mi me duele”
Luisa Ramos Antúnez “La Pompi” con Manolo de Huelva  1:52

Bulerías “A mi me sigue”
La Gitanilla con Manolo de Huelva  2:01

Bulerías “Que cosita mas rara”
La Gitanilla con Manolo de Huelva  2:55

Bulerías
Manolo de Huelva, guitarra; La Gitanilla, palmas  1:29

Siguiriyas falseta  0:37
Manolo de Huelva, guitarra

Malagueñas “Que te quise y que te quiero”  2:12
Manuel Centeno con Manolo de Huelva

Malagueñas “Que te pueda perdonar”  2:42
Manuel Centeno con Manolo de Huelva

Malagueñas “A que tanto me consientes”  4:53
Manuel Centeno con Manolo de Huelva

Soleá  3:53
Manolo de Huelva, guitarra

La Caña  3:22
Manolo de Huelva, guitarra

Soleá  3:58
Manolo de Huelva, guitarra

CD 2

Malagueñas “Más bien te agradecería” 7”14 [empieza con afinación de guitarra]
Luís Caballero con Manolo de Huelva

Malagueñas “A veces me ponía”  2:56
Luís Caballero con Manolo de Huelva

Malagueñas “Allí fueron mis quebrantos”  3:28
Luís Caballero con Manolo de Huelva

Tarantas “Viva Madrid que es la corte”  6:36
Luís Caballero con Manolo de Huelva

Alegrías “A mí que me importa”  5:32
Luís Caballero [?] con Manolo de Huelva

Soleá “Hay pérdidas que son ganancias” 7:40
Luís Caballero [?] con Manolo de Huelva

Siguiriyas “Morena tienes la cara”  8:13
Luís Caballero [?] con Manolo de Huelva

CD 3

Alegrías “Ya te llaman la buena moza”  4:29
Aurelio de Cádiz con Manolo de Huelva

Fandangos “Llévame pronto su puerta”  3:56
Aurelio de Cádiz con Manolo de Huelva

Saeta “En el patrocinio”  1:56
Unknown ["Aurelio de Cádiz"] con Manolo de Huelva

Fandangos “La que me lavó el pañuelo”  1:41
Aurelio de Cádiz con Manolo de Huelva

Saeta “Con paso firme”  1:41
Unknown ["Aurelio de Cádiz"] con Manolo de Huelva

Fandangos “Al cielo que es mi morada” (a duo)
Unknown ["Aurelio de Cádiz"] con Manolo de Huelva

Saeta “Silencio, pueblo cristiano”
Unknown ["Aurelio de Cádiz"] con Manolo de Huelva

Fandangos “Ay, sereno!”
Unknown ["Aurelio de Cádiz"] con Manolo de Huelva

Saeta “Dios te salve, María”
Unknown ["Aurelio de Cádiz"] con Manolo de Huelva

Malagueñas “Bien sabe Dios que lo hiciera”
Unknown ["Aurelio de Cádiz"] con Manolo de Huelva

Saeta “No vale tanto martirio”
Unknown ["Aurelio de Cádiz"] con Manolo de Huelva

Malagueñas “Ni que a la puerta te asomes”
Unknown ["Aurelio de Cádiz"] con Manolo de Huelva

Saeta “Pare mío esclareció”
Unknown ["Aurelio de Cádiz"] con Manolo de Huelva

Malagueñas “Y a visitarte he venío”
Unknown ["Aurelio de Cádiz"] con Manolo de Huelva

Bulerías “A mí no me hables”
Aurelio de Cádiz con Manolo de Huelva

Malagueñas “La torrente”
Aurelio de Cádiz con Manolo de Huelva

Solea “A Dios le pido clemencia
Aurelio de Cádiz con Manolo de Huelva

Tangos “De cal y canto y arena”
Aurelio de Cádiz con Manolo de Huelva

Solea “Las campanas del olvío”
Aurelio de Cádiz con Manolo de Huelva

Tangos “Yo te tengo que querer”
Aurelio de Cádiz con Manolo de Huelva

Sevillanas “Seré por verte”
Unknown ["Aurelio de Cádiz"] con Manolo de Huelva

Sevillanas “Es tanto lo que te quiero”
Unknown ["Aurelio de Cádiz"] con Manolo de Huelva

Sevillanas “Mi moreno me engañó”
Unknown ["Aurelio de Cádiz"] con Manolo de Huelva

Tanguillos “Yo tengo una bicicleta”
Aurelio de Cádiz [?] con Manolo de Huelva

CD 4

Bulerías “Al campo me voy a vivir”  3:52
Felipe de Triana con Manolo de Huelva

Siguiriyas “Que no me mande cartas”  9:18
Felipe de Triana con Manolo de Huelva

Soleá “Que tenga mi cuerpo”  5:43
Felipe de Triana con Manolo de Huelva

Siguiriyas “Contemplarme a mi mare, que no llore más”  8:12
Felipe de Triana con Manolo de Huelva

Soleá con Polo “Eres el Diablo”  5:36
Rafael Pareja con Manolo de Huelva

Malagueñas “Cuando yo esperaba” 3:17
Rafael Pareja con Manolo de Huelva

Soleá “Porque faltó el cimiento”  3:22
Rafael Pareja con Manolo de Huelva

Soleá “Que te salvó la vida”  4:05
Rafael Pareja con Manolo de Huelva

Soleá con Polo “Eres el Diablo”  6:18
Rafael Pareja con Manolo de Huelva

Siguiriyas “Como hiciste tú conmigo”  1:39
Rafael Pareja con Manolo de Huelva

CD 5

Solea “En feria de Ronda”  12:06
Pepe de la Matrona con Manolo de Huelva

Soleá “Que bonita era”  4:55
Pepe de la Matrona con Manolo de Huelva

Soleá “Redoblaron”  2:48
Pepe de la Matrona con Manolo de Huelva

Siguiriyas “Ventanas a la calle”  8:21
Pepe de la Matrona con Manolo de Huelva

Tangos “Estabas cuando te vi”  6:58
Pepe de la Matrona con Manolo de Huelva

Peteneras “Compañera de mi alma”  9:52
Pepe de la Matrona con Manolo de Huelva

Siguiriyas “A la Virgen de Regla”  6:45
Pepe de la Matrona con Manolo de Huelva

CD 6

Soleá “La Babilonia” 1:32
Manolo de Huelva, guitarra, anuncia y acompaña

Soleá Petenera  1:29
Manolo de Huelva, guitarra, anuncia y acompaña

Soleá Apolá  2:16
Manolo de Huelva, guitarra, anuncia y acompaña

Polo Natural  2:22
Manolo de Huelva, guitarra, anuncia y acompaña

Soleá “Le dijo el tiempo el querer”  1:54
Manolo de Huelva, guitarra, anuncia y acompaña

Soleá “A una montaña”  1:32
Manolo de Huelva, guitarra, anuncia y acompaña

Soleá “Una rosa que fue mía”  1:34
Manolo de Huelva, guitarra, anuncia y acompaña

El Polo de Tobalo  2:30
Manolo de Huelva, guitarra, anuncia y acompaña

Solea “No todavía” 1:20
Manolo de Huelva, guitarra, anuncia y acompaña

Soleá “Los pájaros son clarines”  1:32
Manolo de Huelva, guitarra, anuncia y acompaña

Soleá “Toquen a rebato las campanas del olvío”  1:53
Manolo de Huelva, guitarra, anuncia y acompaña

Soleá “Con mirarte solamente, comprenderás que te quiero”  2:14
Manolo de Huelva, guitarra, anuncia y acompaña

La Caña  4:14
Manolo de Huelva, guitarra, anuncia y acompaña

Siguiriyas “Mi ropa tengo en venta 2:42
Manolo de Huelva, guitarra, anuncia y acompaña

Macho de la Serrana 3:20
Manolo de Huelva, guitarra, anuncia y acompaña

Bulerías “Cante corto de Jerez” 2:32
Manolo de Huelva, guitarra, anuncia y acompaña

Siguiriyas “Mi ropa tengo en venta 2:42
Manolo de Huelva, guitarra, anuncia y acompaña

Macho de la Serrana 3:20
Manolo de Huelva, guitarra, anuncia y acompaña

Bulerías “Cante corto de Jerez” 2:32
Manolo de Huelva, guitarra, anuncia y acompaña

DVD

Sevillanas – introducción
Argentinita y Pilar López, baile; Manolo de Huelva, guitarra

Bulerías
Argentinita, baile; Manolo de Huelva, guitarra

Sevillanas
Argentinita y Pilar López, baile; Manolo de Huelva, guitarra

Tangos de Cadiz “Dos Tangos de Cadiz”
Argentinita, baile; Manolo de Huelva, guitarra

“Canción” [?] “Hermanito de mi corazón” o “Tango del escribano”
“Cádiz, tacita de plata, es un verdadero encanto”
Manolo de Huelva, guitarra [?]

Alegrías – alternando ralentí sincronizado
Argentinita, baile. Manolo de Huelva, guitarra

Siguiriyas
Manolo de Huelva, guitarra, con palmas y pitos

La Caña “A mí me pueden mandar”
Argentinita, baile; Manolo de Huelva, guitarra

Here’s the Pasarela url with buying info:

http://tiendadiscograficapasarela.com/shop/article_CMF5-501/MANOLO-DE-HUELVA-ACOMPAÑA.html?pse=apq

Brook Zern

January 5, 2015   5 Comments

Brook Zern — Biographical Data

A few decades ago, a music magazine asked me for a bio.  I submitted the following, which for some reason they did not publish:

Brook Zern — Biographical Data:

Manuel Amaya Cortés Heredia “El Morucho”, the youngest of that legendary clan’s eleven children, was born to a life of freedom, wandering by day and sleeping beneath the stars.  As a carefree youth, he quickly acquired great fame among his people for his prodigious mastery of deep flamenco song, as well as his astounding guitar playing and his electrifying flamenco dancing.

Yet deep within him, there lay an unquiet and questing soul which could not rest content.

“One day our caravan happened to pass through the suburbs,” he recalls, “and I saw an advertising copywriter getting off the commuter train with a briefcase in his hand.  At that instant, I knew at last what I had always wanted to be.

“During the night, I stole away from the campfire and ran back to that same neighborhood.  Of course, you can imagine the suspicion and mistrust with which I was greeted.  After all, I knew nothing of the strange laws and secretive customs of these exotic people.  I only knew that in my heart of hearts, this was where I truly belonged.

“I won’t bore you with the details of my long struggle for acceptance — those difficult days of rebuff and rejection.  Many times I almost gave up, convinced that the mysterious quality I sought so desperately was something that these people carried in the blood, something that could never be fully apprehended by an outsider.

“But gradually I began to gain their respect, and finally their acceptance.  And I’ll never forget the day when, after undergoing the rite of “interview”, I actually became a copywriter myself!

“On that same day, they even gave me my own ‘name’ in their unique dialect: Brook Zern.

“All that was long ago, of course.  But even today, as I sit at my desk from nine to five typing jingles and commercials and writing my mortgage checks, I often stop to reflect upon my good fortune and the singular chain of events that brought me such fulfillment.  And sometimes, I can’t help wondering — what would have become of me if I hadn’t happened to see that commuter so long ago…”

June 25, 2014   No Comments