Writings and essays about flamenco

Category — 2014 Seville Bienal Flamenco

Flamenco Expert Manuel Bohórquez Takes On the Seville Bienal – Translated by Brook Zern

From Manuel Bohórquez’s blog “La Gazapera” for today, April 11

Translator’s note:  Here’s how a savvy flamenco authority views the just-announced programming of the 2014 Bienal.  Original url at end…

Seville’s Flamenco Bienal earns the world’s ridicule

The Bienal de Flamenco has made itself ridiculous worldwide, and I don’t know if something will be done about it or not, or if anyone will be compelled to respond.

I’m referring to the fact that the festival is dedicated to Paco de Lucía because he has died, when until now they never dedicated anything to him.  The only relationship between the world’s most important Andalusian guitarist and the world’s most important flamenco festival has always been strictly commercial.  And now, because he has left us, they dedicate to him this latest festival edition that ignores the guitar more than any other, and has less quality than any other.

Could anything be more absurd?  I realize that the death of this genius took the organizers by surprise, as it did all who love his music.  And I realize that the programming was already half closed, with inevitable compromises.  It would have been better to announce that the next edition, for 2016, would revolve around Paco de Lucía’s work, instead of making this bungled arrangement.  Moreover, according to the programming presented so far, there will not be a single night dedicated to the universal artist from Algeciras, except what’s being arranged right now.  I have said before that the Bienal is a dehumanized festival, dedicated to promoting tourism, without personality and without style.  But this year’s version is para mear y no echar gota – just unbelievable, just pathetic.

While there are flamenco festivals worldwide that are growing and showing how it’s done, the Bienal is sinking at an alarming rate, regardless of how many tickets are sold, which seems to be the only important thing.  A quick glance at the program shows that it is done without thought, without any sense of today’s flamenco reality, with the same stuff as always, and again with headliners who are considered necessary.   It even repeats artists who in the past edition pegaron el patinazo [made a blunder], like Carmen Linares.  It seems to have been done to avoid angering anyone, with “world premieres” that will be the same as ever, absolutely descarados [shameless].  Again, it offers a theater to anyone, with all the respect that those who sing or play guitar or dance deserve,  And there are artists who work often because they sell tickets or have good relationships with important people.  However, there are others who don’t get the change.  And all because the programming is based on what’s offered by artist’s agencies.

Programming a festival of this envergadura [dimension, reach]doesn’t mean just accepting proposals, or it shouldn’t be just that.  It should mean creating, proposing, taking charge, using real imagination that offers freshness, new elements, genuine changes.  It means the injustice of dividing flamenco between that which sells and that which doesn’t.  Artists who in festivals abroad are presented in great theaters and treated like great stars are, in the Bienal, presented in inappropriate venues at inappropriate times.  The programming continues with the politicking, without rhyme or reason, just for the sake of making a long Bienal with dozens and dozens of presentations of greater or lesser interest.

Someone may say that there are good artists and that the programming is intended to appeal to all tastes.  Well, in each Bienal the big stars are going to be a factor and things will get repetitive.  But it’s crucial to make room for new voices, new guitarists, new dancers.  Whey aren’t they treated better, given better venues and times?

It’s simply because the stars generate interest and sell tickets, and the rest is just filling, so everyone will leave happy.  Put the commercial above the genuine and, in the end, with some tickets for big spectacles priced beyond the reach of young people or local aficionados in this economic crisis.

Finally, if they’ve asked the artists to reduce their fees to be able to put on this Bienal, there’s something worth noting: That the total cost is 200,000 euros higher than the 2012 edition, while the festival is several days shorter.   Let’s have someone explain this.  If they’ve asked for sacrifice from the regulars, let the stars share the pie.  When all is said and done, it’s pure business.

Amiguismo [“Friendism”], enchufismo {“Connectionism”] and artists who complain in social media

The social media were burning up yesterday over the Bienal, the nonsense about the homage to Paco de Lucia and the complaints of those who were left out of the event. As always.  It’s sad when a dancer as great as Milagros Mengibar, who was also left out of the last two Bienals, says in Facebook that “The Bienal is for the four people who suck the ass of the directors.”  As always, the artists complain only when they’re not invited, and stay quiet when they are.  We don’t say that just about this dancer, but all the others.  And it happens every time.  There is a belief that certain artists work in the Bienal because of their good relationships with the institutions that make up the organization – it’s true, and has always been true.  José Luís Ortiz Nuevo [a former director] had to include certain artists at the orders of the Town Hall, to repay the favors of singers who performed for their election campaign events.   They cite a concert by a famous singer in the Maestranza Theater and was a disaster.  Other artists have complained on the Facebook and Twitter about being omitted, but there are also complaints by aficionados who can’t afford to see certain artists, and others who say the festival is just more of the same.  Despite all this, we will keep working to make the Seville festival bigger and better.

Original is at



April 11, 2014   1 Comment