Writings and essays about flamenco

Category — Flamenco Song

“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 Singer Manolo Caracol’s Great Recording “Una Historia del Flamenco” – contents and comment

Twenty years ago, I wrote the following post to a flamenco mailing list. i’m adding it here because the recording is a topic of a recent blog entry on the singer Manolo Caracol.

Subj: Re: Anthology(ies) – Caracol/Melchor
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Ken Parker notes his preference for Manolo Caracol’s 2-LP or 1-CD anthology called “Una Historia del Flamenco” where Caracol is accompanied by Melchor de Marchena.

Since Ken appreciates Melchor’s great toque, notably por siguiriyas, it’s worth noting that before “Una Historia del Flamenco” came out on the Clave label, it was issued stateside on two labels, Washington and Top Rank International (Top Rank had a fuzzy red velveteen jacket). But those early versions included two guitar solos by Melchor — a siguiriya, and a solea. And while Melchor is, as Jacinto notes, probably the exact opposite of a soloist (despite several solo LP’s he recorded), his playing on these “Historia” solos seems pretty impressive.

I am always in awe of Manolo Caracol’s genius. A number of singers can be gripping if you’re attuned to flamenco and looking for that quality. But I think that only Manolo Caracol and Agujetas are obviously electrifying in a palpable way, even when they aren’t at the peak moments of their performances. (This is rarefied company. Terremoto and Chocolate can be equally great, and La Niña de los Peines can overshadow them all if you count vocal chops as part of the equation. But for drop-dead power, the scary kind that made Manuel Torre the greatest Gypsy singer ever, I think Caracol’s best recordings would be a good place to start.)

Here’s the listing for the Historia.

[faf]√ MANOLO CARACOL: UNA HISTORIA DEL CANTE FLAMENCO [HISTORY OF CANTE FLAMENCO]

2 Discos: Hisp HH 10-23, Hisp HH 10-24 [Precio: 710 pts.] 1958
Clave 18.1077, Clave 18.1078 1968
Hisp 0-034
√Vega VAL 19 Hispavox France
CD: Hisp 781362-2

HISTORY OF CANTE FLAMENCO

Washington 713 714 USA
[gs]√Top Rank International RDM 1 USA

Cante: Manolo Caracol
Guitarra: Melchor de Marchena

I. Martinete “En el calabozo”; Martinete “Mis ducas no eran na”; Siguiriyas “El reniego”; Siguiryas de “El Marruro” “Mujer malina”; Siguiriyas (solo de guitarra: M. de M); Siguiriyas de Manuel Torres “De Santiago y Santa Ana”; Siguiriyas;/ Caña “Me pueden mandar”; Solea de Joaquin el de la Paula “Si yo pudiera”; Solea de Enrique el Mellizo “Tiro piedras a la calle”; Solea (solo de guitarra: M. de M.); Solea de Antonio Frijones “Al senor del baratillo”; Malagueña de Enrique El Mellizo “Soy como aquel jilguerillo”; Malagueña de Chacon “Que del nio la cogi”

II. Fandangos “Se la llevo dios”; Fandangos Caracoleras “Viva Madrid”; Fandangos de Huelva.; Taranta y Malagueña “Veneno dejaste”; Tientos “Antes de llegar a tu puerta”; Tientos Caracoleros”Cuando te vayas conmigo”;/ Saeta “Toitas las mares”; Mirabras “Debajito del puente”; Alegrías “La barca de mis amores”; Bulerías “Voz del pueblo”; Bulerías “a gorpe” [a golpe] “No quiero na contigo”; Bulerías Festeras “No quiero caudales”

As good as it gets.

Brook Zern

January 28, 2017   No Comments

Flamenco Singer Manolo Caracol speaks – 1970 Interview by Paco Almazán – translated with comments by Brook Zern

Translator’s introduction: This blog’s many interviews with great flamenco artists of the past are important. They can also be surprisingly relevant, shedding new light on contemporary arguments and issues. They let serious English-speaking aficionados understand the thoughts and feelings of those who shaped the history of the art.

As an example: No singer in my lifetime has been greater than Manolo Caracol. None came from a more illustrious artistic lineage, or more completely embodied the entire known history of the art. None were as prodigious — winning a historic contest at about twelve years old. And I think no recording reveals the emotional power of flamenco song as well as Caracol’s double-LP “Una Historia de Cante Flamenco”, on which he is magnificently accompanied by the guitarist Melchor de Marchena.

This interview by Paco Almazán from Triunfo magazine of August 8, 1970, goes to the very heart of the art. It served as a response to an earlier interview in that publication where Antonio Mairena, the leading singer of that time, had challenged the greatness of the other Gypsy giant, Manolo Caracol. Caracol would die not long after this interview appeared.

The interview can be found in the blog of Andrés Raya Saro called Flamenco en mi Memoria, at this url: http://memoriaflamenca.blogspot.com/2017/01/las-entrevistas-de-paco-almazan-ii.html?spref=fb

(My attempted clarifications appear in brackets.)

Sr. Almazán writes: Manolo Caracol started by weighing in on the casas cantaores – [the few crucial families who were immensely important in the early development of the art.] He claims that in reality, his family is the one and only real deal when it comes to bloodlines or heritage:

Manolo Caracol: The house of the Ortegas [Manolo Caracol is the professional name for Manuel Ortega] is actually the only one we know of. In the rest, there were one or two singers, but not a whole branch of them. I know of no other, because the house of Alcalá [a town that produced notable singers] is not a single family. Los Torres [the family of Manuel Torre, who remains the supreme paradigm of male Gypsy artistry] have produced some artists, and so have the the Pavóns [the family of the La Niña de los Peines, the maximum female Gypsy singer, and her brother Tomás Pavón, one of the four or five most revered male singers]. Pastora, Tomás and Arturo – three siblings, and that’s it. My great grandfather, [the legendary singer] Curro Dulce, who was my father’s grandfather; and on my mother’s side, [the legendary singer] El Planeta who was the inventor of the [important early song] polo, and was the world’s first flamenco singer. Or who created the polo, because I believe that flamenco songs are not made. Furniture is made, clothing is made, but flamenco songs are created. El Planeta was older than El Fillo, and from there on, and the Ortegas emanate from them. El Fillo was an Ortega, and was the first “cantaor” [singer] who was “largo”— who had an extensive repertoire. A great cantaor, a grandiose cantaor – that was El Fillo, and he was from Triana. Before me there were several cantaores. Now, in the Twentieth Century the most famous – well, I think that was me, and for that reason I say that even children know me and me biography. But I’d like to talk about today’s problems.

Interviewer’s note by Paco Almazán: Remember Caracol’s beginnings, after being one of the winners of the 1922 Concurso de Cante Jondo of Granada – he says “when I won the prize” [a stunning achievement for a twelve-year-old boy]. He traveled to Madrid and triumphed on the terrace of the Calderón Theater, reaffirming that Madrid plaza’s importance.

Interviewer: But Manolo, everyone accuses you of just that. Of having taken the cante into theaters, degrading the purity of flamenco! Don’t think that everyone thought it was a good idea!

M.C. It’s not a good idea? Well, what’s good? If right now the inventor of penicillin, Doctor Fleming, hadn’t shared it with the world, the sick would not have been cured. If I don’t take flamenco song to the people who might like it, and understand it, or at least welcome it. You can sing with an orchestra, or with a bagpipe – with anything! Bagpipes, violins, flutes…the man who has real art, real personality, and is a creator in cante gitano… You have my zambras [his rendition of sentimental popular songs with a flamenco aire, which had enormous sales], and my cantes [flamenco songs, which had more limited sales], all with roots of pure flamenco song, not fixed in a cosa pasajera!…But if this business of pure song [cante puro] has become popular now, starting about ten years ago, when the flamencologists decided to speak of flamenco and the purity of flamenco! Es un cuento! It’s a story! [A fairy tale]. This business of the purity of flamenco is a story! Singing flamenco and speaking of whether it’s pure flamenco…and they chew on the idea, and they talk, and talk [a clear reference to Antonio Mairena]. That’s not flamenco singing! That’s a guy giving a sermon. Cante flamenco and cante puro – not even the singer knows what’s what. He’s a cantaor who has been born to sing above him. The rest are just copying. That’s why today there is no creation, when before there was creation.

Paco Almazan’s note: How happy Caracol must have been after these statements! He goes on and on, and when Almazán asks him which artists he liked most or influenced him as a youngster, he gives us this gift:

M.C. There were different aspects. Who moved me the most, whose singing reached me most deeply – that was Manuel Torre. Who was most pleasing to listen to – that was Antonio Chacón. Tomás Pavón was pleasing, and also reached me. And another great artist, La Niña de los Peines [Pastora Pavón, sister of Tomás], the greatest cantaora [female singer] that was ever born. She was a singer who had everything, had altos and bajos [high and low registers]. And any singer who doesn’t have a good low register is worthless. There are many singers from that era who sing de cabeza [using headtones? In a studied way?], sing songs that never existed and that they couldn’t have known, and who call them cantes de Alcalá, or cantes del patatero [songs of the potato seller?] or of Juan Perico. [This again refers to Antonio Mairena, who probably invented certain styles of important song forms and attributed them to other, perhaps fictional, artists.] That’s worthless! It’s as if we dijeramos un aperitivo [served an aperitif?] to cante flamenco. Sing – sing and create – take command the way a great torero does, improvising. That’s real singing!

There are fewer real singers today. Today, as far as I know, among the younger singers I like Camarón [who would become a revolutionary and the most important singer of his generation], and among the veterans I like Pepe Marchena, a creator in his own style [the established master of a pleasing style of singing, with clear tone and a strong vibrato]. Juanito Valderrama [another pleasing singer, in the “cante bonito” or “pretty song” style] is an extraordinary artist [both Marchena and Valderrama, like Chacón before them, were non-Gypsy artists who represented a cultural counterbalance to the great Gypsy artists like Caracol; Caracol himself shows appreciation for both camps, when many others were partisans of one side or the other.] Valderrama doesn’t really reach me, but he’s a great artist and I like listening to him nonetheless. Those girls from Utrera [Fernanda and Bernarda de Utrera] are true cantaoras, and a lot of admired artists today are copying them. The places with the best singing are Triana, Jerez and Cádiz. In Alcalá what there are is bizcotelas. That’s what you’ll find in Alcalá, bizcotelas and dust for the alberos of bullrings. Among the guitarists, there’s Sabicas and this boy [este muchacho] Paco de Lucía, who plays very well, although not on the level of the maestro [Sabicas]. And Mario Escudero, who has come here from America. And among the Gypsy players [in addition to the Gypsy artists Sabicas and Escudero] we have Melchor de Marchena, Niño Ricardo, and that other guy, Habichuela [presumably the great accompanist Juan Habichuela]. Manolo de Huelva is retired now, but is a phenomenon, although he’s eighty. [Many people who saw this guitarist at work say no one was better, or as good.] And in dance, after Carmen Amaya, from this period I don’t know anyone among the dancers, neither in this era nor before [delante de] Carmen Amaya. I don’t know anyone.

Paco Almazán writes: The interview is long. Almost at the end, the newspaperman asks if flamenco loses something with the new verses that some younger singers are using.

M.C. Hombre, if the verses come from the sentiment of the song and the person who’s singing, and if they’re good… You can’t sing a martinete [a tragic deep song form] and tell about a little birdie singing in its nest. Now, anything that touches on pena [grief, misery], of love, of the blacksmith’s forge – all that is worthwhile.

Then the final question:

Paco Almazán:. Can you put the word “airplane” [modern, unpoetic, unexpected and possibly inappropriate to some] into a cante?

M.C. It’s all according to what’s being sung, and how. You can put it into a bulerías [a lighter form], “Ay! I went in an airplane, I went to Havana…” and there you have it. They can create precious new verses as good as the old ones, with more profundity and more poetry.

Comment by Andrés Raya: Remember that in its day, this interview, as well as the earlier one with Mairena, generated a lot of response among the flamenco aficionados of Madrid, giving rise to long arguments and heated discussions. Even beyond Madrid. In its Letters toe the Editor section, Triunfo published letters from many provinces. I’ve got copies of many, and may rescue them from the telerañas.

A press comment [about the Cordoba contest] confirms what Caracol says here. It’s from ABC of Madrid, dated August 9, 1922, and already the Caracol child is named “the king of cante jondo”.

Translator’s comment: Interesting indeed that Caracol singles out Camarón — who would become the ultimate rule breaker — as the most important young singer.

At the time of this interview, aficionados were choosing sides. Manolo Caracol had incredible emotive power, but he broke certain rules — as evidenced by his insistence that flamenco could be sung to bagpipes or anything else. (Today, that inclusive view dominates flamenco to the extent that a flamenco record featuring just a singer and an accompanying guitarist, once the norm, is almost unheard of.) He owned the genre called zambras [not to be confused with the zambras performed mostly in the caves of Granada, that are rhythmic Arabic-sounding songs and dances.]

The opposing view was embodied by Antonio Mairena, who obeyed (and invented) rules — to the extent that if he created a new approach to a known style, he might attribute it to some shadowy name from history to give it validity. Mairena rarely projected the emotional power of Caracol — he was almost scholarly in his renditions, giving what critics sometimes called “a magisterial lesson” in flamenco singing, rather than jumping in headfirst and just letting it all hang out. (In private, though, he could be pretty damn convincing.)

I tend to believe that early flamenco song had a gestation period, a “hermetic” stage when generations of Gypsy families forged the beginnings of the deep-song forms (tonás/martinetes, siguiriyas and soleares, which deal with Gypsy concerns from a Gypsy perspective) outside of public view due to the intense persecution of Gypsies in that era.

Caracol, who ought to know a lot better than I do, says that his great-grandfathers [Curro Dulce, El Planeta] were not just the first known flamenco singers but the first flamenco singers, period: they invented the whole genre. (It’s hard to defend the idea of this “hidden period”, especially since the “proof” is that it by its very nature it would be completely undocumented anywhere. (I’m not so sure that these alleged hidden sessions would have been reported in the Seville Gazette when they were essentially illegal and dangerous.)

For that matter, Caracol, like most authorities today, views the idea of “pure flamenco” as absurd or meaningless, while I kind of like the notion. I never liked the gifted singers like Pepe Marchena and Juanito Valderrama who specialized in the cante bonito or “pretty song”, now back in vogue, while Caracol always admired them.

Oh, well. It’s still a privilege to hear from the man best qualified to talk about flamenco history, and that’s why these interviews are so valuable.

BZ

January 27, 2017   No Comments

Flamenco Singer Joselero de Morón Speaks – 1962 interview – translated with comments by Brook Zern

A 1962 newspaper from the town of Morón de la Frontera carried an interview with the singer Joselero. Here’s the story.

We have before us an artist from Morón de la Frontera: Joselero, Everyone calls him by that name although he is actually Luís Torres Cádiz, names with a pure “calé” [Gypsy] aspect.

Q: Where were you born and why are you called Joselero?

A: I was born in Puebla de Cazalla. But I’ve been in Morón for forty years. My brother was called Joselero [probably a version of José, but an uncommon one] and I inherited the surname. And here you have me, singing since I was eight years old…

Q: How did you win a prize in Jerez?

A: Here it is, the silver catavino [wine pourer], second prize for soleares de Merced la Serneta and eight thousand pesetas [more than a hundred dollars] in hard cash en metálico.

Q: What did you sing to win it?

A: First I got into the finals by singing two siguiriyas. Then in the final I sang a soleares ended with a bulerias.

Q: What are your preferred cantes?

A: All the so-called “cantes buenos”: siguiriyas, soleares, martinetes, deblas [all forms from the so-called cante jondo group, considered especially profound and wrenching] and the malagueñas [a lovely, ornamented evolution of the fandango].

Q: Have you won other prizes?

A: In 1961 at the first Contest run by the Town Hall, also with a siguiriyas.

Q: Have you sung in public [otherwise]?

A: Cante jondo is really more appropriate for private gatherings [reuniones y juergas] I’ve appeared in benefit festivals with Antonio Mairena and Juan Talega [two revered Gypsy singers of the era].

Q: Who are your favorite singers?

A: Those two I just named; as for women, there has never been and will never be born another like Pastora Pavón, “La Niña de los Peines”, the one and only.

Q: Do you make your living as a singer?

A: My trade is vender [selling]. But if I’m offered a chance to sing somewhere, well there I am. I have seven children, all a mis espaldas [on my shoulders]. My specialty is singing for fiestas.

Q: Do you go to many?

A: Well, yes, in Seville with people who understand [entendidos]. Don José Suárez, the late don Gabriel Gallardo, from la Puebla de Cazalla, the previous provincial governor don Antonio Camacho – always accompanied by my brother-in-law Diego del Gastor,

Q: Do you remember some artists from here, from Morón?

A: There’s the Niña de Morón, daughter of Chicorro. Her father sang a lot with me. The live in Seville now. I also remember Quino, may he rest in peache, a great dancer I have a son, Paco Torres “El Adorrano” who won a prize in Cordoba, and a daughter, La Niña Amparo” who performed in [Cortijo] el Guajiro [an important flamenco venue in Seville] – she has a propio sello [her own special stamp] as a singer and dancer but she left the singing business to marry. She could have been a major artist.

Q: You didn’t let her [pursue a flamenco career]?

A: No. Afición for the song is like a poison that gets in your blood and never lets you rest.

Q: Do you prefer the cuadro flamenco situation [a group doing prearranged material in a nightclub setting, with dance as the focus], or a singer working with just a guitarist?

A: Look, flamenco song is above all an art to be listened to. But a cuadro setting when well done can have its merits.

Q: Do you have a project in mind?

A: A trip to Granada, where there’s another contest. I hope I’ll be able to participate. I like Granada a lot because I served there. I spent the war years there and sang a lot to entertain [“distract”] the troops. Then I’d like to visit Madrid, where I haven’t been for a long time.

Reporter: Very good, friend. Lots of luck to you.

End of article. A photo shows Joselero, with lots of hair, showing his trophy to the reporter, M. Naranjo Ríos. The original is at:

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-xlRGV_v57Gw/T9UK_q3knCI/AAAAAAAAFH4/k-v2HMAoMeg/s00/1962+Joselero+entrevista+Arunci.jpg

Translator’s note: In the years when I spent lots of time in Morón – the decade beginning in 1963 – it was Joselero who was the backbone of the countless fiestas where Diego held court. He was a good singer, often a very good singer. I tended to take him for granted, and I wasn’t alone in that regard. The competition was tough: Juan Talega and Manolito de la María and Fernanda de Utrera – three gitanos who have loomed large ever since in flamenco history.

(Manolito was a poor man who lived in a cave in Alcalá de Guadaira, and who along with Talega owned the solea de Alcalá which is one of the core styles of that core form of flamenco. The other core style, of Merced la Serneta, was the personal property of Fernanda.)

But Joselero was – well, if a singer is good enough to take home a silver prize from Jerez, the most chauvinistic city in flamencoland (albeit for good reasons) — well, I never knew that, and I and might’ve been more forthcoming in my admiration for the man. (Jerez also considers itself the spiritual home of the deep and terrifying siguiriyas – and that was precisely what Joselero showed ‘em in qualifying. Wow. He also had a pretty wide repertoire (he was a “long” singer) and stepped up for bulerias, serving meaty stuff to Diego and waiting for the brilliant guitar riposte. Tientos, alegrias, malaguenas, martinetes and a dozen more flamenco forms were at his command. A dynamic duo indeed, Joselero and Diego. And recorded forever for flamenco history, in hundreds of hours of tape recordings, nearly all made by norteamericanos and now seeping onto the internet (see the two recent posts in this blog about tape collections – a total of about a hundred hours right there,

As a person he was absolutely wonderful – warm, welcoming, unpretentious and generous. He was, in return, beloved.

It was nice to see these qualities shimmering through his simple responses to rote questions in this interview.

For the genealogical record, It is possible that Joselero may someday be remembered as much for being the grandfather of a great dancer as for his own artistry. Pepe Torres, who is headlining around the world and winding up a triumphant U.S. tour, is one of the four or five male dancers I most admire. He sings up a storm when he wants to. And worst of all, he can pick up a guitar and conjure up the ghost of Diego himself, something I hope to do for a few minutes though time is running out after a lifetime of trying…

For a sense of what Morón was sort of like when Diego and Joselero were at the peak of their art, just push this button or live link or whatever it’s called: http://www.flamencoexperience.com/blog/?p=463

And to join the Facebook group for Joselero de Morón and family, go to: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Joselero-de-Moron/1564138743875326?notif_t=fbpage_fan_invite

April 2, 2015   1 Comment

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

Flamenco Singer José Mercé Speaks – Article from Diario de Jerez by Fran Pereira – translated by Brook Zern

This article from today’s Diario de Jerez is by the admirable Fran Pereira, a Jerez flamenco expert whom I consider a friend.  My own observations follow:

José Mercé, cantaor:  “I’ve never known an era as bad as this one; today the artist has to present himself on his own”

He has just released “Forty Years of Flamenco Song”, a collection tracing his trajectory.  His next project is to record an anthology “that I don’t want to come from any big multinational label”

by Fran Pereira

His words reveal a certain disillusionment about something he has been defending for many years.  In his day he was criticized for deviating from orthodoxy in flamenco, but it was this path, around 1998, that enabled him – as he himself acknowledges – to break with everything and become known as one of the most significant artists of our country.  He has just released a selection of his recordings, this time to retrace his extensive trajectory as a singer and also serve as an appetizer for what will be coming soon, a new record and an anthology for which he asks for support from those institutions that in his view “give more importance to other musical forms than to flamenco.”

Q:  “Forty Years of Flamenco Song” – what is the hidden message behind that title?

A:  A lot, because in fact I’ve been at this for a lot more than forty years.  I recorded my first record for when I was thirteen and with [the flamenco expert] Manuel Ríos Ruíz, but none of that material is included.  It was long ago, and it had a little of everything, from the first recording in the seventies to the latest.  There’s a little of everything, though not all that I would have liked.

Q:  Is it the anthology you’ve always talked about?

A:  No, it’s a collection that the record company wanted to release in time for Christmas, so people could give it as a gift.  They made the selection, and there are some classic numbers and other done after 1998, when I recorded “Del Amanacer” and my career took off [dio un vuelco].  Three CD’s that show the evolution.  But the anthology is another thing entirely.

Q:  Explain that…

A:  Yes.  I am recording the anthology on my own, using my own recipe, and I don’t want it to come from a multinational.  Since I’m doing it myself, I can do it little by little without anyone’s help; I pay for the studio and everything else.   It’s painful that for all our efforts to defend the purity and orthodoxy of flamenco, which is our culture, more importance is given to every other kind of music, whether it’s rock or pop, than to our own flamenco.  With every passing day I’m more confused about why flamenco was declared an Intangible Patrimony of Humanity [by UNESCO], because at the moment of truth our art is abandoned and rejected.

Q:  Returning to the new disc, the only new number is a song you do with [the brilliant guitarist and sometime fusion advocate] Pepe Habichuela.  Any reason for that?

A:  No, it’s a villancico or Christmas carol that’s done by the Gypsies of Madrid; the music is like a jota [a non-flamenco musical style].

Q:  If you look back at those more than forty years dedicated to flamenco, are you satisfied?

A:  Yes, I’m very content with what I’ve done.  Moreover, the hard part – and I’ll return to this topic – is to maintain oneself and I think I’ve known how to do that.  In any case, I still have a lot to do, like the anthology I’ve mentioned and new projects we’re working on that will come out next October and in the spring of 2016.

Q:  A look at your appearances shows you are one of the privileged artists, and you never stop working.  In all of your long career, have you ever seen a time as bad for culture as this one?

A:  Truthfully, no.  Some years ago there was a decline, but it was minimal; this period is the worst I’ve seen.  It’s incomprehensible that the tax on tickets to cultural events has gone up to 21% — the result has been to kill culture, and a nation without culture is a nation without an identity.  Today nobody presents (expone) anything – the artist has to do it all himself and that’s complicated, at least for those who are just starting out; those of us who’ve been around still have to fight, but the younger artists face a complex challenge.

Q:  Some years ago you said you wanted to record with the greatest guitarists.  We will see that happen someday?

A:  Yes.  In fact, in the anthology I mentioned I want to record with the best of them.  Of course, Morao [Moraíto] and Paco de Lucía have left us, though I’ll include at least some recordings with Morao.

Q:  And is there a concrete date when this anthology may see the light?

A:  Right now, there isn’t .  I haven’t designated a time, and keep working on it when I can.  The sad thing is that the institutions don’t offer the help that the project needs – no one has done it since [the great singer] Antonio Mairena.  That’s what hurts me most.  Not even in my own turf, always known as the cradle of flamenco song, has anyone proposed anything to me along these lines, though always, wherever I’ve been in the world, I have carried the flag for Jerez.

Q:  Today, as we enter 2015, making a recording is not the same, right?

A:  Of course not.  The recording industry has changed a lot.  Today anybody can make a record but then hay que plasmarlo en el directo [you have to do it live].  That’s where you find the true artists, because in the recording process, with today’s technologies, you can do anything.

Q:  From your vantage point, how do you view flamenco’s situation in your home territory?

A:  Look, since the barrios [presumably the Gypsy barrios] disappeared, unfortunately no one has appeared.  We need people who break [rompa], who can wound [hiera], with those ecos [flamenco power and resonance] that flamenco always had, but that is now sleeping.  I believe that since the decade of the fifties, no one has come along who can do this.

Q:  And what’s the problem?

A:  Maybe it’s the ozone layer (laughs).  But seriously, pues que se empieza antes por el tejado que por la base [people begin with the roof instead of the foundation].  You have to begin from a firm foundation, lay the cement, and then [only then] let everyone do whatever they want.

Q: Do you think it’s gone forever?

A:  I hope not.  I hope that there will be a return to flamenco’s root, its origins, and that we will reclaim our rightful place.

Q:  Well, at least your team keeps making fans happy.

A:  Yes, Real Madrid is the only thing that functions in this country.

Q:  Looking at your scheduled appearances and projects, you can’t complain…

A:  No, fortunately I can’t.  I can’t ask more because I have a lot of work, and I’m ending the year with a lot of jaleo [noisy celebration].

End of story — the original is at: http://www.diariodejerez.es/article/jerez/1929404/no/he/conocido/una/epoca/tan/mala/como/esta/ahora/solo/expone/artista.html

Translator’s note:  José Mercé seems to consider himself the last of the truly great flamenco singers – he says that no others have arisen since the 1950’s. when he came along.

He’s right.  At least, that’s one way of expressing my awed admiration for this man’s flamenco singing. Of course, there are dozens of excellent singers of serious flamenco who are younger than he is.  But for me – and apparently for him – the ocean between mere excellence and sheer, magical flamenco magnificence is virtually unbridgeable, and he is alone on the latter shore.

He will be remembered in the same breath as Manuel Agujetas (alive and possibly well, but inevitably past his absolutely fabulous prime), and the vanished El Chocolate, Terremoto, Fernanda de Utrera, and Manolo Caracol as well as the geniuses of prior generations.

In most  Mercé interviews I read (and often translate here), he has a different agenda.  In those, he comes out with both barrels blazing to attack people who, like me but well-known and influential, crankily lament the rise of vaguely flamenco-ish pop fusion.

That kind of music has made Mercé a megastar by Spanish musical standards, and especially by straight flamenco’s feeble-selling  standards.   It’s what he’s referring to when he mentions Del Amanacer, the album that made him a hot seller by including pop-fusion material.

At a New York press conference a decade ago, he insisted that people pay attention to the second half of a next-night concert where he stopped singing glorious flamenco to Moraito’s great guitar and launched into songs like “Mammy Blue” with a bad back-up group.

(To me, that title alone indicates the fundamental misunderstanding of good rock/pop that so often afflicts Spanish artists who wannabe “rockeros” – yet another word that, like the original Spanish term “música ye-ye” somehow reveals their tin-eared miscomprehension of good rock.)

Now he wonders why a multinational won’t give him the money to record the great anthology he envisions.  Well, maybe it’s because he was an important part of a corporate movement to wean people away from real flamenco and into a not-very-good realm of semi-pop.  It led to a guy called Pitingo – a gifted flamenco singer – doing an album called Blueserías that featured his earnest attempt to tackle Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly”.  And to hundreds of other best-selling sellouts, of course.

Of course, I’m thrilled that flamenco’s greatest singer has committed himself to record an anthology of the art’s greatest songs.  I understand his resolve and his need to leave a definitive record of his brilliant voice and the enormous knowledge that comes from the nearly incomparable musical heritage of his family, his grandfather and great-grandfather.

But since he’s not in it for the money, and since these days anyone can make a good recording, I wistfully wonder why he doesn’t just book sixty hours of studio time starting next week, call in the guitarists who would all be honored to join him, and just lay down seventy or eighty tracks of  his many great styles of the siguiriyas, soleares, bulerias, tonás-martinetes, plus any of the other sixty flamenco forms that fit his temperament.

It won’t sell, of course, so just put it up online, as the perfect complement to the many, many superb Mercé recordings we already have.  The perfect gift to flamenco and to posterity.

Thank you in advance, maestro.

Your devoted admirer,

Brook Zern

 

December 28, 2014   No Comments

Flamenco Artists Speak – El País Interview with José Menese, Rancapino and Fernando de la Morena by Iker Seisdedos – Translated by Brook Zern

From El País of June 15, 2014 

Three Roads to Purity in Flamenco Song

-  Past, present and future of flamenco, according to Jose Menese, Rancapino and Fernando de la Morena

-  A unique recital will bring the three together in Madrid at the end of June

 Translator’s note:  When I insist that there is a ruling flamenco establishment in Spain, the claim is often questioned by people whom I consider to be part of that informal cabal. 

If there is such a group, its idol is the late Enrique Morente, that brilliant, courageous and iconoclastic Granada singer who first proved he had total command of a vast part of the great flamenco song tradition and then went on to break old rules with new and daring approaches to the art.   

During the recent years I’ve spent mostly in Jerez, I’ve found that bastion of traditional flamenco was not buying Morente’s act.  But it has also been clear that the town’s alternative attitude,  reasonably termed purity or “purism” before those words became epithets, was falling out of favor nearly everywhere else in Spain. 

(A decade ago, I unintentionally antagonized Enrique Morente’s posse during a New York Flamenco Festival by using the word “controversial” in rewriting/translating program notes – it was an urgent last-minute request, as usual, done without any thought of compensation, as always.  The idea that his radical and daring new work, ridiculed and parodied in Jerez, was somehow “controversial” outraged his people, and admittedly it was not in the original text.  Because I had done the work for someone else, I wrote abject apologies to Morente and several others including a leading “critic” and avid booster who clearly felt that Morente was beyond all criticism.  I don’t think my apologies were ever accepted.)

This article puts three traditionalist artists in the spotlight, or on the firing line, as, among other things, they try to explain their resistance to “morentismo” – and the high price they pay for their apostasy. 

José Menese, who appeared in the sixties as a hugely gifted (and non-Gypsy) follower of the great Gypsy singer Antonio Mairena, has been very outspoken in attacking Morente and other artists who are trying to change the essential nature of flamenco song.  He continues to take real heat and suffer heavy career damage without apologizing.

Rancapino, emerging from Cadiz in that same time-frame, is a greatly admired exponent of traditional flamenco song , now recognized as a national treasure – perhaps it helps that he doesn’t usually seek controversy.  He’s a sweet guy, and I was surprised to see him weigh in against the Granada faction.

Fernando de la Morena is an admired figure from Jerez, part of a revered family tradition – an elegant man I’ve been privileged to hear on many public and private occasions.  He bears witness to the suffering brought upon Jerez by wealthy bankers and other un-indicted co-conspirators

Oh, yeah — the interview:

The appointment is in one of those corrales de vecinos or modest courtyarded multiple dwellings in Seville’s Triana district, from which the Gypsies were expelled in the 1950’s.  The participants come from three magical vertices of flamenco’s dramatic ritual:  the Seville countryside, the ports of Cadiz, and Jerez de la Frontera.  José Menese (La Puebla de Cazalla, 1942), Alonso Núñez “Rancapino” (Chiclana, 1945) and his contemporary Fernando de la Morena, born in Jerez’s barrio de Santiago, on June 27th will converge on the Teatro Español during Madrid’s Suma Flamenca Festival to celebrate “50 Years of Cante”, though in fact they have between them more than two centuries of art if we start at their birthdates.  It will be a sensational gala, supported by the Comunidad de Madrid, where each represents his own:  Menese, the torrential song unleashed by Antonio Mairena and that he still follows, affiliated to orthodoxy, immersed in the quarrels between the old and the modern, and also his adherence to the Communist Party.  Rancapino, with his aphonic [Note:  perhaps "tuneless", a word I'd take issue with] way of honoring beauty.  And De la Morena, cantaor de carrera tardía que se bajó del camion de reparto al compás de una bulería perfecta [whose career began late, but was always marked by the rhythm of a his perfect bulerías].

The chat among these legends of flamenco song, well-known elders, begins with the inevitable moments of mourning (for Paco de Lucía, for the writer and critic Felix Grande, for the Jerez singer El Torta and others) and goes on to the woes of aging, noting the effects of their baipá [a Spanish rendition of the English word “bypasses” which is then rendered in parentheses] and other results of a well-lived life, before going on to subjects that are more or less cabales [a word that refers to true understanding in flamenco.]

Q:  How have things changed in flamenco song during the past 50 years?

José Menese:  Very much.  Not just in the song; there have been changed in humanity, in the human, in the essence.

Q:  For the worse?

José Menese:  Not for the better.  Though I’m not saying anything, because when I do, everybody hits me with everything they’ve got.  I’m the most beat-up guy in history.

Q:  I guess you’re saying that because of your last polemic about Enrique Morente, where you said on TV that “No tiene soniquete el muchacho…” [“The guy doesn’t have the right sound, the character one looks for in a singer, and he knew it, he knew how to sing the soleá as God requires.  And then, he turned his back on it [echó mano de esas cosas].”

José Menese:  I know that they were going to give me an homage in Granada, and that’s off because of what I said.  That’s the leche [milk, usually mala leche or “bad milk”, nastiness].  The power of that family… [still very important, largely thanks to the beautiful singing of Enrique's stunning daughter Estrella]…  The other day on Canal Sur TV I met a singer who confessed to me:   “I’m glad you said that – somebody had to say it.”  But I’m the guy who does it and takes the blows.  If you ask me, “For the better?  [A mejor?]  Well, that’s what I wanted, and what Rancapino and Fernando wanted, but that’s not the way it is.

Rancapino:  I hope you’ll all pardon me for saying this:  In Granada, they’ve never sung flamenco well [no se ha cantado nunca bien].

José Menese:  I say that the idiomas [ways of speaking?  languages] are tremendously important.  Córdoba – what has it given to flamenco?  Nothing, but let’s not exaggerate [pero no lo exageres tampoco].  Malaga?  [Just] the malagueña.  Jaén?  I don’t know. They say it gave us the taranta de Linares.  I don’t know if that’s the case, because the miners were going all over the place.  In my 71 years, I’ve realized that flamenco was really developed  in Seville, Jerez, and Cádiz and its nearby ports.

Rancapino:  And you can stop counting right there.

Menese:  Are we lying, primo [cousin] Fernando?

Fernando de la Morena:  The expression is totalitarian, my friend.  [Note: this seems to indicate agreement.]

Q:  How are these various schools differentiated?

Rancapino:  The song is the song, it’s born with someone or it isn’t.  And that can’t be changed.  The fact that some sing with a prettier voice or a hoarser voice, that’s the least of it.

Fernando de la Morena:  I’ve always sung, but I didn’t start it seriously until I had three kids and was working at the Bimbo bread bakery.  I didn’t record until late, until I was 50; I sing for the public now, but I’ve always sung.

Q:  What have you gained, and lost, with the years?

José Menese: Flamenco has arrived where it has arrived, but there it has remained.  It needs a renovation [not with novelties and fusions but rather] in the people who sing and transmit it, so that it really reaches deep within the listener.

Q:  There’s also the Patrimony of Humanity [a recognition granted to flamenco by UNESCO in 2010] that makes it sound like it belongs among the fossils in a museum.

Fernando de la Morena:  Patrimony of Orphanhood, that’s what flamenco really is.

Rancapino:  Olé tú!  [Hooray for you!  You said it!]

José Menese:  It’s a tremendous paradox that just when it’s named a Patrimony of Whatever of Humanity, that’s when singers stray away from everything that’s expected.  What’s wrong?  Well, like with the bullfight where only five or six matadors duelan.  That’s the way it is with flamenco song.  It has to hurt, and if it doesn’t hurt, well, just go to bed, pal.  [Note: Doler means: to cause pain (dolor) or anguish within the witness – this is considered a crucial virtue in the realms of serious flamenco and toreo.  It is also a crucial distinction between these great Spanish arts and virtually all great non-Spanish arts that usually seek to evoke pleasure even in their pathos.  Go figure.]

Rancapino:  It has to hurt, yes!  Pero con faltas de ortografía!  But with a lack of orthography.  [Note: this refers to another requisite quality -- that of being essentially untrained or instinctive; flamenco should not smell of fancy handwriting or high literacy, but should transmit emotion directly.]

José Menese:  There’s an anecdote that García Lorca tells in [his conference of 1933 – (a note inserted in the article itself)] titled Juego y teoria del duende [Interplay and theoretic of the duende].  Once, in a flamenco fiesta in El Cuervo with Pastora Pavón [La Niña de los Peines – that name inserted into the article], Ignacio Sánchez Mejías [a legendary torero] and the sursuncorda [?] of that moment, she was singing passively, transmitting nothing, when a man [Note: Lorca termed him “one of those genies who materialize out of brandy bottles”] yelled “Viva París!”  And she, always proud, was offended [by the implication of glossy, urbane sophistication rather than raw emotion].  She asked for a pelotazo de machaco [a very stiff drink] and then she got into it.  It rips at the vocal cords.  One has to fight with the song, and then the people went crazy, tearing at their clothing.  Flamenco is just that way, like the bullfight and paintings.  And there you have it.

Q:  And what will the real aficionados do when, like the King, these artists abdicate?

José Menese: [laughter].  I’m not going to retire, as long as I’m okay here, knock wood [points to his throat], I’ll stick it out.  I’m a republicano [opposed to royalty].  I remember this by [the late flamenco expert, poet and author] Fernando Quiñones:  “Porque a rey muerto / rey puesto / bien que lo dice el refrán / y es antiguo ya / solo ha conseguido el absurdo criminal / dejar sin padre a esos hijos / y el mundo sigue igual.”  Things will keep on as they are.

Q:  Although the royals are no longer our fathers?

Fernando Moreno:  Let’s trust in the chaval [the kid, the new King, Felipe VI] whom they have prepared for this.  Yo tengo 69 tacos pero aún así, de política, natimistrati.  [I’m 69, but even so, when it comes to politics, I don’t have a clue [?]

Q:  Not even about the economic crisis – how do you see the crisis?

[Laughter]  Jose Menese:  This crisis has overwhelmed everything.  I’m not a pessimist [but...]  Culture is flat on the floor.  The theater no longer exists, classical music no longer exists.  They’re even taking away the bullfight!  What happened the other day, when all three toreros were gored and the fight couldn’t continue – that’s not normal.

Fernando de la Morena:  Y a las pruebas nos remitiéramos en el pretérito que le perteneciere…Olé, que gitano más fino! [?]

Q:  Do you see hope in Podemos [a new political movement/party, [Yes] We Can]?

José Menese:  I was pleased because the kid [party leader Pablo Iglesias] strikes me as marvelous, but we’ll see.  I began as a militant in the Communist Party in 1968 [when the party was banned under the Franco dictatorship].  I’m still affiliated, though the party doesn’t exist today.  The problem is that we’ve lost our ideals.   A ti te cogen fumándote un canuto, como me pasó a mi el otro día no a mí, sino a una persona que iba conmigo, y se arma la de dios es Cristo.  Nonetheless, they rob millions and millions and absolutely nothing happens.

Fernando de la Morena:  And nothing appears – nothing here, nothing there.

Q:  The case of your hometown of Jerez is one of the worst.

Fernando: What my father taught me is that you have to work.  And now you have to be glad to have a job.  But my kids… and everyone’s kids…

Q:  Do your kids have jobs?

Rancapino:  Fat chance!  [?]

Fernando de la Morena:  It’s the same in flamenco.  We’re like El Brene who sang for tapas at restaurants long ago.  They’d say “Brene, sing a little song.”  “Yeah,” he’d say, “As soon as you give me a little tapa of potatoes.”  And here we are again, we’ve returned to the old days [of begging for food]”.

Rancapino:  There’s no afición for flamenco these days.  Before, a singer would start to sing and forty people would stop and crowd around.  Now, if the greatest singer ever, the Monster Number One who for me was Juan Talega, arose from his grave and started to sing – well, no one would care and he’d just have to go back home.  [Note:  One of Rancapino's uncanny gifts is that he could always evoke the spirit of the great and ancient-sounding Juan Talega, even when he was young.]

José Menese:  It’s like what Don Quixote said to Sancho Panza. With your belly full you don’t create much.  Today they learn flamenco in schools, but singers have to be born.  This business of giving singing classes seems horroroso to me.

Q:  How did you learn about the death of Paco de Lucía?

José Menese:  In La Puebla. And I thought of a photo where I’m singing with him.  Testimony of a time of incredible natural richness.

Rancapino:  Afterwards I went to his funeral.  Because Paco liked me a lot, ever since the years when I went with Camarón to Algeciras and then to Madrid with Paco’s father, who made him study so hard.  And I said to his father [Francisco], “Paco, when will you make a record of my singing?”  And he said, “You?  Tú vas a grabar en un queso!”  [You’d record on a wheel of cheese!” [?]  [Laughter]  Camarón and I went everywhere together.  Hasta lo casé con La Chispa.  [I even married him to La Chispa [his wife].  I went to la Linea because I liked one of La Chispa’s sisters.  The whole family really liked me – except the sister.  Ya que no casé yo, casé a Camarón.  Since I didn’t get married, he did.  [?]

Q:  You didn’t stay a bachelor.  Is it true, Rancapino, that Felipe González [Spain’s first Socialist leader, after Franco's death] is the godfather of one of your children?

Rancapino:  Fortunately or unfortunately, yes.  Look, we were at a fiesta in [with?] El Chato in Cadiz.  And in conversation it came out that I had a lot of kids.  And I said, “I’ve got so many kids that one hasn’t even been baptized.  And he said, “I’ll baptize that one.”  I said, “look, the only thing I can give you in exchange is the kid, because I don’t have anything else.”  [Laughter].

Q:  Is flamenco still more appreciated outside of Spain than here at home?

José Menese:  Yes:  They treat us differently than they do here in Andalucía.

Rancapino:  Just yesterday a young Japanese woman came to Chiclana to be with me.  She had to be pretty brave, because I’m no Robert Redford.  [Laughter].  And she started to sing.  And I said, “How can this be?”  Fernando, how she sang the soleá!

Q:  And is it the same?

Rancapino:  “How could it be the same!  Never!  Once I spent six months in Sapporo singing to a young Japanese woman.  Since I couldn’t remember her name, I called her Maruja.  Then she came to Madrid.  And in six months she learned to cook and to dance.  For me to learn that would’ve taken me six years!

Q:  You must have learned some Japanese…

Rancapino:  Sayonara and arigató.  And chotto matte.  That was to ask them to wait a while longer for me.

Fernando de la Morena:  Musho tomate.

Rancapino:  With potatoes!  [Laughter].

End of interview by Iker Seisdedos.  Corrections are always welcome and will be added.  The original is found at:  http://cultura.elpais.com/cultura/2014/06/14/actualidad/1402757369_102448.html

Translator’s coda:  Why do I devote so much time and effort to translating artist interviews, when just being a flamenco aficionado is masochistic enough?  It’s because I like the art and the artists so much that I need to understand what they are saying to outsiders and to each other.  And while I understand Spanish reasonably well, that’s not the same thing as understanding the Andalú dialect of five a.m. as spoken in the darkest bar in deepest Jerez, rendered by a bunch of gravel-voiced, aguardiente-seared, life-long black-tobacco smokers who have just sung their guts out (amid the inevitable excuses of “mu refriao” — I can’t sing, I have a terrible cold), and who are constantly interrupting or shouting at each other.  It’s a luxury to have someone else do all the work of putting that conversation into recognizable Spanish, and just having to fabricate an English approximation.

– BZ

 

 

 

 

June 16, 2014   2 Comments

The Greatest Flamenco Film Series Now at Your Fingertips – YouTube URL’s for “Rito y Geografía del Flamenco”

NOTE BY BROOK ZERN

BELOW IS A COMPILATION OF EPISODES OF THE “RITO Y GEOGRAFIA DEL FLAMENCO” SERIES, WITH LIVE URL LINKS TO THEIR CURRENT YOUTUBE SITES.

“RITO Y GEOGRAFIA DEL CANTE FLAMENCO” (TO USE ITS FULL NAME) IS STILL THE GREATEST FLAMENCO DOCUMENTARY EVER MADE, AND IT MAY REMAIN SO FOREVER.  IT CONSISTS OF 100 HALF-HOUR BLACK-AND- WHITE PROGRAMS MADE FOR SPANISH NATIONAL TELEVISION BETWEEN 1971 AND 1973 — JUST BEFORE FLAMENCO WAS TRANSFORMED FOREVER BY THE REVOLUTIONARY FIGURES OF CAMARON AND PACO DE LUCIA (BOTH FEATURED IN THEIR OWN AMAZING EPISODES).

THE ENTIRE SERIES WAS FILMED IN THE FIELD — IN BARS AND TAVERNS, IN ARTISTS’ HOMES, IN PRIVATE REUNIONS CALLED JUERGAS OR FIESTAS, AND YES, IN FIELDS.  IT SHOWS THE ART AND THE ARTISTS WITHIN THEIR REAL-LIFE SOCIAL CONTEXT, SOME PERFORMERS AT THEIR DAY JOBS, SOME JUST TALKING WITH FRIENDS.

(THE FABULOUS SINGER LA PAQUERA, FOR EXAMPLE, ARRIVES IN HER NATIVE JEREZ IN A STUNNING WHITE FUR COAT; THE TEMPERATURE IS ABOUT A HUNDRED IN THE SHADE, BUT SHE THINKS IT SHOULD BE SEEN.)

THE PROGRAMS REVEAL A VANISHED SOCIETY, STILL IN THE DEPTHS OF A DYING DICTATORSHIP, STILL ALMOST MEDIEVAL IN ITS POVERTY AND SOCIAL STRUCTURE.

THE GENIUS BEHIND THE FILM TEAM WAS JOSE MARIA VELAZQUEZ GAZTELU, WHO DOES MOST OF THE NARRATION AND ARTIST INTERVIEWS.

STARTING IN 1972, I SPENT FIFTEEN YEARS BEGGING AND BRIBING PEOPLE TO TRY TO ENSURE THE PRESERVATION OF THESE PROGRAMS.  (FOR THE FIRST TEN YEARS, NOBODY ELSE SEEMED INTERESTED.  FOR THE LAST FIVE YEARS, I WAS TOLD THAT THE MATERIAL WAS SO IMPORTANT THAT NO ONE COULD EVER OBTAIN COPIES.)

IN 1987, I WAS FINALLY ALLOWED TO BUY THE FIRST SET OF COPIES AND PAY THE DAUNTING BILL FOR THE INITIAL RESTORATION.  (I DECLINED THE OFFERED RIGHTS TO PROFIT FROM A COMMERCIAL EDITION, WHICH REVERTED TO THE RIGHTFUL CREATIVE PEOPLE.)   IN THE MID-NINETIES, A POOR-QUALITY VIDEOCASSETTE EDITION OF MOST OF THE PROGRAMS WAS ISSUED BY ALGA EDITORES IN SPAIN.

BUT IN 2005, SENOR VELAZQUEZ  CREATED A BEAUTIFULLY RESTORED VERSION WITH THE CD’S CONTAINED IN INFORMATIVE SPANISH-LANGUAGE HARDCOVER BOOKLETS.  IT INCLUDED THE GREAT MAJORITY OF THE PROGRAMS, AND FEATURED ENGLISH-LANGUAGE SUBTITLES FOR MANY OF THE EPISODES.  (THOSE VERSIONS ARE LISTED PREFERENTIALLY HERE; SPANISH-ONLY VERSIONS ARE LISTED ONLY WHEN THE ENGLISH VERSION IS NOT AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE.  THE CD/BOOKLETS ARE BECOMING SCARCE IN SPAIN, AND MANY ARE NOT READILY AVAILABLE.)

I URGE ALL AFICIONADOS TO TRY AND PURCHASE ANY AVAILABLE  CD/BOOKLETS — THE PRICES ARE VERY REASONABLE AND THE MATERIAL IS PRICELESS.

OTHER PROGRAMS WILL BE ADDED WHEN THEY APPEAR.  (I DIDN’T PUT ANY OF THEM UP AT YOUTUBE.)

DETAILED INFORMATION ABOUT THE CONTENT OF MOST PROGRAMS WILL SOON BE AVAILABLE IN A SEPARATE BLOG ENTRY.

RITO Y GEOGRAFIA DEL FLAMENCO – A LIST OF THE PROGRAMS CURRENTLY VIEWABLE ON YOUTUBE (MAY, 2014).

PART ONE:  EPISODES WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES

Agujetas – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xx8IenwJABE

Amós Rodrígues Rey – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atJZPP6mfww

Antonio Mairena – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyR-SO50QuA

Beni de Cadiz – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvKbaysrOg

Bernarda de Utrera – Rito – English Subtitles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=poZ15CtQJTM

Cádiz y los Puertos – Rito – English Subtitles

Camarón – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zs82YSmKtOY

Cante Flamenco Gitano – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTKvcON1FvI

Cantes Flamencos Importados – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7WPi4RQS7Q

Cantes Primitivos Sin Guitarra – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVt_-XntIIQ

Cantes Procedentes del Folklore – Rito – English Subtitles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EAYlERhTUg

Cristobalina Suarez – Rito – English Subtitles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_I1YLle4vM

De Despeñaperros para Arriba – Rito – English Subtitles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWPZ-cCTFSM

De Granada a La Union – Rito – English Subtitles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4YcxfvcPIU

De Ronda a Malaga – Rito – English Subtitles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_owVZbW08AE

De Sanlúcar a La Linea – Rito – English Subtitles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gK-wz72Z_c

Diego del Gastor – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rBWG9nr95E&feature=share

El Barrio de Santiaago – Rito – English Subtitles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvYNo7w7fIw

El Chocolate – Rito –English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQohL_R1OY0

El Lebrijano – Rito – English Subtitles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-d4jDh23eEE

El Pali (Sevillanas) – Rito – English Subtitles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOp5vKT34SU

El Vino y El Flamenco – Rito – English Subtitles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNzwqLfOdVo

Enrique Morente – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pFz6Cal5nc

Evolución del Cante – Rito – English Subtitles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5IQbkWMmko

Extremadura y Portugal – Rito – English Subtitles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5PRlqPtGaY

Fandangos de Huelva – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5nGoXjMd8Y

Fandangos Naturales – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdjKXnL85Ko

Fernanda de Utrera  – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DU1auTmfw_c

Fiesta Gitana [Bulerias] – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNe4viBIL4o

Fiesta Gitana por Bulerias – Rito – English Subtitles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcfl3AguJVE

Fiesta Gitana por Tangos – Rito – English Subtitles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msQGVhuEhCA

Fosforito – Rito – English Subtitles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R80XWvkt3IM

José Menese – Rito – English Subtitles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ck-QTRVoM4w

La Cantaora – Rito – English Subtitles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HsO3xDJCIM

La Casa de los Mairena – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGykopQfD2Y

La Familia Pinini  – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VNdQGgLUMM

La Familia de Los Perrate – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dvq9mdt5z4

La Familia de los Torres – Rito – English Subtitles

La Guitarra Flamenca (1) – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfqYPDFW30U

La Llave de Oro del Cante – Rito – English Subtitles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmvRUIqPFHY

La Paquera de Jerez – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nr5_7cNWdIU

La Perrata – Rito – English Subtitles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTv6NM8ipes

La Saeta – Rito – English Subtitles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6uGzO_sPk8

La Serrania – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkhfQ1L-IwQ

Las Tonas – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=870qmeQ_BLQ

Lorca y el Flamenco – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQohL_R1OY0

Málaga y Levante – Rito – English Subtitles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MhepsLiqEQI

Malagueñas – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLxwvxdL-Ww

Manolo Caracol (I) – Rito –English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8LF4Vo2f40

Manolo Caracol (II) – Rito – English
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6TyPLiqJyk

Manuel Soto “Sordera” – Rito – English Subtitles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfAJOHXkLq

María Vargas – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWeNTQPMrOc

Melchor de Marchena – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAm9XgDBRO0

Navidad Flamenca – Rito – English Subtitles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mogUID68cM0

Niños Cantaores – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXQzCkezezc

Oliver de Triana – Rito – English Subtitles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPqk7URFCwA

Paco de Lucía – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHZsOfdi2M

Pedro Lavado – Rito – English Subtitles|
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8gvZ9XqQfk

Pepe de la Matrona – Rito – English Subtitles

Platero de Alcalá – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLnFPHSnXi0

Romances, Tangos y Tientos – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDl8DOU3U_E

Siguiriyas I – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRhISplyAXA

Siguiriyas II – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njckBzmcIu4

Terremoto – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMZiHKTHns8

Tía Anica la Piriñaca – Rito – English Subtitles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyLsxXaP-dI

Triana – Rito – English Subtitles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDNSPrYXsc4

Viejos Cantaores – Rito – English Subtitles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StzrmFyZuA4

 

PART TWO:  EPISODES WITH NO ENGLISH VERSION  ON YOUTUBE

Diego Clavel – Rito – Spanish
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-TiSs3KQPo

Difusión del Flamenco – Rito – Spanish
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeimfX8YINI

Falla y el Flamenco – Rito – Spanish
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPNZyaEu1Sg

La Guitarra Flamenca (2) – Rito – Spanish
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZaxIJPeOCs

Los Cabales [Aficionados] – Rito – Spanish
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mPB6g0P6Uw

Manuel Torre y Antonio Chacón – Rito – Spanish
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUPmHjtq5SE

Pepe Marchena – Rito – Spanish
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ITnotw2RJo

Pepe Martínez – Rito – Spanish
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCANwYdDU74

Rafael Romero – Rito – Spanish
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meX7eA4-FBE

Soleares 1 – Rito – Spanish
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAA47QPYPzM

Tío Borrico de Jerez – Rito – Spanish
(to 31’ 42” – after the original program ends, this version adds material by Tío Borrico from other programs in the same series)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vkn_0FgZrlc&list=PL59460051DA1E9F70

 

MISSING PROGRAMS:

SOLEA 2

POR SOLEA

POR SIGUIRIYAS

LA MARRURRA  (MOREEN CARNES)

FESTIVAL DEL CANTE

LOS FLAMENCOLOGOS

ENCARNACION LA SALLAGO

ANTONIO DE CANILLAS

PERICON DE CADIZ

CANTE FLAMENCO
This 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 titled CANTE FLAMENCO CON INTERPRETES GITANOS.

NOTE:  THE 100TH AND FINAL PROGRAM WAS PROBABLY TITLED “RITO Y GEOGRAFIA DEL FLAMENCO.”  IT MAY BE ONE OF THE ABOVE PROGRAMS.  [A RUMORED PROGRAM ON SABICAS WAS PROBABLY NEVER MADE.]

May 10, 2014   7 Comments

Hollywood “Goes To” Flamenco – Article by Miquel Jurado in El País of April 24, 2014 – translated by Brook Zern

by Brook Zern

Proyecto estadounidense para rodar un filme ambientado en el mundo del cante

(An American project for a film shot within the world of flamenco song)

Historically, Hollywood has ignored flamenco or, worse yet, used it as an exotic guind in forgettable B movies.  Not even Al Pacino, doing a few steps in a flamenco night club to the sound of the singer Potito and the guitarist Tomatito in “The Devil’s Advocate” with the Devil could go beyond the stereotype; it simply lent some of the exotic spice of a musical form that American cinema seemed unable to understand.

Even before that, Hollywood had squandered talents as enormous as Carmen Amaya in the 1940’s (she would have to return to here native Somorrostro district of Barcelona for Francesc Rovera Beleta to give her the cinematographic vehicle she deserved [in “Los Tarantos”]), and of Antonio Gades in the sixties, though not even Jean Negulesco could do him justice (his film break would come at the hands of Carlos Saura).  Nor would our warmly remembered Paco de Lucía have any luck; it’s best to forget his futile work in a film starring Raquel Welch in the early seventies.

Now the director, choreographer and scriptwriter Daryl Lynn Matthews seems ready to change things by entering more deeply into the world of flamenco.  At least, that’s the basis for his new project, “Caminando”.  Matthews, whose other work includes the script and choreography of Chayanne titled “Baila Conmigo”, has written a story centering on an ex-U.S. Marine pilot of Spanish background who returns to Spain to find out why his father, a professional dancer, fled from his homeland.

From that point on, the hatred and violence of Spain’s past mix with innocent present-day love affairs, within the context of the best of today’s flamenco.

“I began the project soon after writing “Baila Conmigo”, says Daryl Lyn Matthews.  “I knew very little about the real world of flamenco in which I submerged myself but I felt an obligation. Realizing that there really should be an international English-language film with a good story, told through this precious, sexy, intense and unsettling culture.”

To tell the story, which will be filmed in sites like Madrid (the presentation videos were shot in that city’s noted tablao, Casa Patas) as well as in the Canary Islands, the Texan director has been relying on some renowned collaborators including the director of photography Vittorio Storano (with three Oscars, for “Reds”, “The Last Emperor” and “Apocalypse Now”.  Production design is in the hands of Waldemar Kalnowski and the Spanish production is headed by Carlos Saura, Jr. with Chiqui Maya as artistic producer.

An agreement has already been reached with Universal Records who will provide some of its artists (Tomatito, Rosario. Pitingo, and Antonio and Josemi Carmona) for a soundtrack for which seven of the thirteen projected songs have been completed; another number, which was to have featured the guitar of the late Paco de Lucía, can never be finished.

The names mentioned for the cast include “international figures still to be decided”, who will be linked to a flamenco lineup headed by Rafael Amargo, Monica Cruz, Lolita Flores and Joselito Maya.

At present, the team behind “Caminando” has begun the process of crowdfunding [“micromenazgo”] through Indiegogo to reach the initial goal of nine million Euros that will allow the beginning of filming at the end of next spring.

End of El País article.  The original is at http://ccaa.elpais.com/ccaa/2014/04/24/catalunya/1398294823_551859.html

Translator’s note:  It would be nice indeed if this became the English-language film to finally introduce the complex world of flamenco to American and international audiences.  It seems to have some serious backing, though a reliance on crowdfunding can be problematic at best. 

(I know nothing more about the project, but will keep an eye out for any further signs of progress.)

Brook Zern  

 

April 26, 2014   No Comments

Flamenco Singer Manuel Vallejo – A 2 1/2 Year Old Recalls a Very Private Last Recital – translated by Brook Zern

by Brook Zern

Last August, the flamenco expert Manuel Bohórquez wrote an unusual and poignant entry in his excellent blog at http://blogs.elcorreoweb.es/lagazapera/2013/06/27/vallejo-y-el-nino-de-la-casita-de-cristal/

Here’s an approximation of what he said:

“I’ve never told the story I’m recounting today in this blog that already takes more of my time than I’d expected.  But if I have to give my life to stay with you for years, I’ll do that.

When my father died I was just thirty months old.  For some time, he had been in the Seville Central Hospital, but leukemia ended his life when he was just 33.  He died at the end of July, 1960.  By chance, while he was dying I was in the same hospital with anemia that was threatening to send me, too, to the cemetery.

Nonetheless, I withstood the Pale Rider’s charge and while my mother took my father to be buried I was still there, where today stands the Andalusian Parliament in the La Macarena neighborhood.  In the room beside mine, a few days before, they had admitted a true genius of flamenco song, Manuel Vallejo, who my father had admired and whose singing he copied.

While I was still there, on the seventh of August, the singer’s heart gave out.  I didn’t know this story until a few days ago when, as I was listening to a recording of Manuel Vallejo in my house, the woman who brought me into the world saw that I was crying and told it to me.  She told me that my father, on his deathbed, realized that the famous singer was nearby on the same floor.  As best he could, he took my hand and led me to the singer’s room so I might see him.  “I present to you the King of Flamenco Song”, my father said.  I remember nothing of that, of course.  When, a few days after she had buried my father, my mother went to the dispensary, a nun told her that Vallejo had twice visited me in my room, the last time just two days before he died.

And now I know why, when one morning my uncle Antonio played a song of Vallejo’s and showed me a picture of him, I felt an incredibly intense trembling and burst out crying.  I remembered that one night I had dreamed  that the man in that photograph drew near my bed and sang me a beautiful lullaby.  And now I knew it wasn’t a dream at all — that in fact on that evening, the genius of song Manuel Vallejo felt pity for a poor child who had lost his father and who was fighting for his life in a little glass enclosure.

I don’t know if the last part of this story is absolutely true or if it’s just a dream, but I do want to tell about it.  And if perhaps it may not be true. I’m convinced that it deserves to be.  Do you understand that, my friends?”

Thank you for the story, Señor Bohórquez.  There is literal truth, there is indisputable truth, and there is something else that rings even truer.

Brook Zern 

March 27, 2014   1 Comment