Writings and essays about flamenco

Category — Flamenco Documentary Film – Rito y Geografia del Cante

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of list.

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

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

Brook Zern — brookzern@gmail.com

March 30, 2015   1 Comment

17 Complete Programs from the Rito y Geografia del Cante Flamenco Series – Plus Today’s Most Important Radio Shows – Now At Your Fingertips.

I’ve been lucky to know and learn from two of the most knowledgeable authorities and most important figures in the fight to document great flamenco and disseminate crucial information about the art.

José María Velázquez-Gaztelu has for decades presented a great twice-a-week radio program on Spain’s national radio and television network, RTVE.  It can be heard on podcast recordings at http://www.rtve.es/alacarta/audios/nuestro-flamenco/

But Señor Velázquez-Gaztelu had another trick up his sleeve.  Around 1970, he was the key man and on-camera figurehead in the creation of 100 magnificent black-and-white half-hour TV programs of Rito y Geografia del Cante Flamenco that ran weekly for two years.

(Before I met him, I’d spent fifteen years trying and failing to get permission to pay RTVE to protect the films and make a first copy for the Ethnomusicology Department at Columbia University ; it was finally granted in 1987, and for about a decade I apparently had a monopoly on the series.  Then a poorly done and poorly documented commercial cassette version of most shows was released by Alga in Spain; and then, happily, Señor Velázquez-Gaztelu created a gorgeously restored DVD version containing 72 of the shows, each 4-program disc also featuring his newly added commentary and recollections with available English subtitles, and each bound into striking small books giving invaluable information about every cut.)

Yes, all flamenco aficionados have seen some random, confusing moments of often brilliant b&w performances from these programs scattered all over YouTube.  But the true greatness of the series derives from the integrity of the total package, including the scripting, interviews, location selections and establishing scenes that make every program an artistic whole – as well as a window into a vanished Spain just feeling the first breezes from what would soon become a hurricane of cultural, sociopolitical and musical change.)

In recent years that I spent largely in the flamenco epicenter of Jerez, I soon realized that José María Castaño, author of the definitive book “De Jerez y Sus Cantes”, was the go-to guy for flamenco info and insight.  His radio program, Los Caminos del Cante, is a treasury of great talk and great music, and his article on Jerez’s crucial Gypsy/flamenco families is translated in this blog.  (He lets me sit in on some panel discussions; my finest contribution, with momentary lapses, has been keeping my mouth shut and listening to a half-dozen genuine experts argue with each other.  Arguing, or listening to heated, rapid-fire arguments in the region’s mystifying Andalusian dialect, is the true key to flamenco knowledge – or it would be, if I could just understand half of what was being shouted.)

This dynamic documentarian duo comes together, at least virtually, in an article  written by Castaño and translated from the Jerez progam website, www.loscaminosdelcante.com  – which also includes his incisive articles and editorials signed with the program name,  Here it is:

The Rito y Geografía del Cante series is online on the website of RTVE

There is no doubt that this series is the most important ever done for television.  It inherited the mantle of the great Archivo del Cante Flamenco 3-record set created by the noted Jerez writer José Manuel Caballero Bonald.

Soon after those field recordings were made featuring a select group of emblematic artists, the decision was made to go out again, this time with TV cameras, to reveal a truly exceptional artistic generation.  From the singers Antonio Mairena to Manolo Caracol, through Terremoto and Fernanda de Utrera and the guitarist Diego del Gastor, plus a huge list of other artists – all were filmed for national television.

Heading the project were two great professionals, Pedro Turbica and José María Velázquez-Gaztelu who covered a large part of Andalusia’s geography to document an array of spoken and sung testimonies that remain an unequalled primary source and reference point.

The RTVE website has decided to let everyone enjoy every episode of the series, restored to an extraordinary audio and visual level of excellence.  It can be accessed by clicking on the following link:

http://www.rtve.es/television/rito-geografia-cante/

End of article

(Hey, looky the one guitarist named above from a cast that included every major player in Spain — the one we gringos are often unfairly accused of worshipping unduly.  Yes, it’s Diegod el Gastor.)

Again, while the article doesn’t spell it out, there are just 17 of the complete shows on the RTVE website — though they’re among the best.  The artists, in alphabetical order:  Camaron (accompanied by Paco Cepero, not the other Paco), Manolo Caracol (2 shows), Fosforito, Diego del Gastor, Juan el Lebrijano, Paco de Lucia, Antonio Mairena, Jose Menese, Enrique Morente, La Paquera, La Perla de Cadiz, Siguiriyas (2 shows), and Triana.  (An additional show made quite recently features Velázquez-Gaztelu talking about the series with the very knowledgeable José Manuel Gamboa.)

What?  Free is good, but you want more for your money?  Well, if you’re willing to shell out a few bucks per show, you’re in luck.  The excellent commercial version done by Señor Velázquez in 2005 initially had four beautiful slipcases each containing four books-with-DVD’s, each in turn containing four shows — 16 volumes containing 4 shows each equals, um, 64 shows, but two more DVD’s were issued recently — Volumes 17 and 18.  Those 8 additional programs mean a total of 72 of the 100 shows are out there somewhere (just google the series, and you’ll stumble on all of them loose or in groups.  (Hey, if I’ve got unrestored copies of all 100 shows, does that mean I still have a monopoly on the remaining 28 shows?)

Brook Zern

December 29, 2013   1 Comment

Cough Up Your Old Flamenco Tapes Or Else: A Modest Proposal

About fifteen years ago, give or take five years, I was wandering around my old flamenco stomping ground of Morón de la Frontera (flamenco stomping ground, get it?) when I passed the offices of Radio Morón, which in the sixties and seventies always broadcast that town’s annual Gazpacho Festival and other high-profile events.

At the time, I was still under the influence of a Blues Brothers movie, and believed I was on a Mission From God to preserve and protect great music.  (The world’s two greatest musical traditions, of course, are 1) the blues and 2) flamenco song, though not necessarily in that order.)   (I was also convinced that I’d finally helped rescue the fabulous Rito y Geografia de Flamenco TV series; assuredly, I’d been generously allowed to pay a lot for the very first film and tape copies.)

Anyway, I went inside.  A nice-looking woman asked if she could help me.  “Yer darned right you can help me,” I said, albeit in a mangled Spanish equivalent.  “You can release all the tapes I know you have here of great flamenco events by the best artists who ever lived – singers like Fernanda de Utrera and Antonio Mairena and Juan Talega and guitarists like Melchor de Marchena and Diego del Gastor, and then you can…”

Predictably, she yelled for Security, but equally predictably, the station didn’t have any Security.  But a guy came running downstairs, prepared to wrestle me to the ground.  He finally managed to calm me down, and introduced himself as the station manager.  He asked how I knew about their trove of tapes; I told him I didn’t know, but bluffing usually worked.

Astonishingly, he didn’t press charges – in fact, he said he really liked flamenco and asked me to come upstairs.  “Funny you should mention the idea of releasing the tapes”, he said,  “We’re in the process of doing just that.  In fact, I’ve given the tapes – hundreds of them – to a local electronics expert who says he can do a great job of digitizing them, cheap.  We’re going to start with about twelve hours of amazing stuff.  But hey, here’s one example.  This one was originally made in the early fifties on a wire recorder, before magnetic tape had gotten to Spain.  The singer is Pepe Marchena, the most popular flamenco singer ever.  And maybe you’ll recognize the guitarist.”

“Holy smokes,” I said, though the phrase “Santos Fumos” didn’t seem to ring a bell with him.  “That’s Diego del Gastor!  That’s gotta be the earliest recording that exists of him!  And it’s also an unknown recording of Pepe Marchena.  This is great news, and speaking on behalf of all flamenco lovers everywhere, and using the royal we, we humbly thank you for making this great treasure available to humankind for eternity.”

Even as we said it, it occurred to us that in fact that was not going to happen, even assuming that everyone involved had noble intentions.  But he played a bunch of other material from other great artists, and it was tempting to believe that something might work out.

He then hauled out a bunch of scrapbooks and asked if I could name the people in the photographs, and sure enough, they were the usual suspects, the artists and local aficionados I still remembered.  (García Lorca, in his definitive essay on Duende, called such people “the kind of genies who pop out of brandy bottles.”)

He said he was too young to be part of that Morón scene, but he remembered walking along country roads with his friends when a speeding Land Rover careened around a corner and they all dived into ditches to save their own lives.

“Hey,” I said.  “I was in that Land Rover!  Me and eight other gringos, usually.  Don Pohren was either driving us to a fiesta or to a great restaurant that didn’t even have a sign, it was just somebody’s house.  You think you were terrified?  Pohren’s blood level was negligible.  Still, he the best drunk driver I ever knew.  Aside from being the first and best foreign expert, of course.”

Well, a few years later I went back into that studio.  It seemed that some problems had arisen.  I feigned surprise, though I would have been flabbergasted if all of that priceless material had not vaporized.  (In fact, I now realize that my simply inquiring about a rare tape or film can cause it to spontaneously combust.)

Why am I telling you this, whoever you may be?  Because I’d like to know whether any of those tapes have survived and were digitized, and how I can hear them.

I’ve lost the manager’s  business card, but I think he was named Camacho, maybe Antonio Camacho?  And while he seemed to be a nice guy, I’m hoping that some of my real or virtual friends or acquaintances who live in or hang out in Morón will drop into the radio station and start pushing their elegant ceramic awards onto the marble floor until someone promises to do the right thing, or explain exactly what went wrong.

Also, I’d like to urge everyone to bust into all local radio stations they pass in Spain and demand the immediate release of all their good flamenco recordings, copyright issues be damned.

Why not?

(Hey, you want legality, I’ll give you legality.  This week, hundreds of recordings of the Beatles at the Beebe (the BBC) from 1963 were quietly finally made available.  Why now?  Because it seems that copyrights expire after fifty years, in this case on December 31 – unless the material is officially released, in which case the copyright can be extended.  So either cough up those disintegrating flamenco tapes now or lose all rights forever, okay?)

Brook “Property is Theft” Zern

December 17, 2013   1 Comment

Flamenco Documentaries – Rito y Geografia del Cante Flamenco – The Good News, The Great News and the Bad News – by Brook Zern

Flamenco Documentaries – Rito y Geografía del Cante Flamenco The Good News, The Great News and the Bad News – by Brook Zern

You’re a flamenco aficionado, right?  And even in this era when audio and video piracy is considered proper behavior, you still buy some videos and even a few CD’s every year, right?

Well, here’s the Good News.  The greatest flamenco documentary series ever made, or that ever will be made, is called Rito y Geografia del Cante Flamenco.  It consisted of 100 black-and-white filmed programs made for Spain’s national broadcasting network, RTVE, between 1970 and 1973.  It was the work of a team of dedicated visionaries, and the key person was José María Velázquez-Gaztelu  who remains a major presence in the art with his twice-weekly radio program Nuestro Flamenco on Radio Nacional, available as podcasts, and his outstanding presentations and commentary at flamenco conferences and festivals worldwide.

The brilliance of the films was enhanced by the fact that they were filmed in the field, or more specifically in the homes, bars and other haunts where the artists were most comfortable.  In the process, the shows reveal a vanished Andalucía that is barely post-Medieval, and where permanent hunger was a very recent memory.  In other words, these films help us understand the time, place and reality that engendered and nurtured the art of flamenco.

Now, for the first time, you can buy eight of those great shows on two DVD’s bound into two striking hardcover-books, all material beautifully restored and brilliantly documented, for an absurdly low price.  The programs on the first one include:

Terremoto de Jerez – very possibly Jerez’s finest cantaor or male singer in living memory, here rendering his fandangos, soleares, magnificent bulerias and legendary siguiriyas accompanied by his compatriot, the great guitarist Manuel Morao.

Viejos Cantaores – including songs by the immense artist Juan Talega, boss of the crucial style called the Solea de Alcala; Agujetas el Viejo, known as the father of Manuel Agujetas and a great singer in his own right; Diego el Perote, a master of the song of Malaga; Antonio Piñana, the main man for tarantas and its related styles from the Linares/Cartagena/Murcia region of  Eastern Spain; and Pepe de la Matrona, the all-around man from Madrid.

Malaga y Levante – lots of styles of Malaguenas and also of the mining forms of the East or Levante area, including Piñana and Fosforito among others.

Maria Vargas – a brilliant cantaora from Sanlucar, with a rare asset – a voice that is actually pleasant, even beautiful, even when she delivers hard-core flamenco.  She’s accompanied by a hot kid from her home town – yes, the great Manolo Sanlucar.  María Vargas has just re-entered the flamenco scene here in Spain.

Here’s the rundown on the other DVD/booklet:

Manuel Agujetas – not the nicest guy in the world, but the savviest artists in Jerez say that when he’s gone, the game is over.  He’s accompanied by the wonderful Parrilla de Jerez and by Manolo Sanlucar, and his father Agujetas el Viejo is also seen in fine form.

Cante Flamenco Gitano – revealing the song and the way of life of artists including Gaspar de Utrera, Rafael Romero, Santiago Donday, Cristobalina Suarez (wife of Miguel Funi) and El Turronero.  Accompanists include Manuel Morao, Perico del Liunar hijo, Pedro Bacan and Paco Cepero.  For great homestyle flamenco, these are the usual suspects for a really fine lineup.

Fandangos Naturales – a favorite form for artists and Spanish devotees alike, but hard for some of us outsiders to fully appreciate.  A lot depends on the words of the verses that the artists choose – and these are are more melodramatic or histrionic than you’ll find in other styles.  Worse yet, the words can be hard to understand.  Still, with Camarón, Enrique Morente and El Mono de Jerez among other masters of the form, it’s worth your attention.

Beni de Cadiz – another challenge for outsiders, El Beni always charms his Spanish fans with his ebullient personality, his very funny stories and some dynamite dance moves.  At his singing best, he evokes the great Manolo Caracol.

Now the Great News:

Those two new DVDs/Books are actually Volumes 17 and 18 of this wonderful edition of this incomparable documentary – which means that there are 16 more volumes that have already been published over the past few years, for a total of 72 half-hour programs.  Every one is priceless, and every one is for sale cheap.

I don’t know the best way to get them all, and some volumes may be hard to find but should turn up sooner or later.  Maybe you can buy them, or some of them, in the store linked to the excellent website deflamenco.com.  Maybe they’re available from elflamencovive.com in Madrid.  Maybe they’re all over eBay’s English or Spanish incarnations.  Google will reveal all.  Start saving up.

And now the Bad News:

While these two latest publications add eight very fine programs to the previous 64 on the 16 previous DVD’s, my primitive math indicates that – umm, let’s see, 100 minus 72 equals – roughly 28 programs that are not available and might not be for a long time, if ever.

For me personally, that’s actually good news.  I did a lot of begging, bribing and paying to help ensure the survival of this series (and a lot of other RTVE flamenco programs filmed in their studios as well, though my focus was always on the Rito series.)  In 1987, after 15 frustrating years and after giving the first set to the Flamenco Archive or Flamenco Collection I’d established at Columbia University, I finally ended up with the world’s only at-large copy of these programs.

That meant I could show them in those rare instances where cultural organizations and universities would allow me to do that.  And so it was that I ruled — at least in terms of having great VHS cassettes to show for friends and for any interested culturati.

You wanna see it, you gotta go thru me, pal.  Hey, I coulda been a contender, if only anyone had wanted to see it.

Then a lot of the programs were published, albeit in bad shape and with silly documentation by Alga Editorial in Spain, so I lost my monopoly.  Worse yet, some jerk invented YouTube, so that anybody could see good and even great flamenco at the push of a button.  And then this great new edition came out.  The jig was up.

But I still have nearly all of the still-unpublished programs.  Good for me.  But I also have a bad feeling that with these latest eight programs now available in improved fidelity, the remaining stuff is relatively weak.  (Yes, there were some feeble programs, about wine and flamencologists and Lorca and deFalla and whatnot, that I rarely bothered to look at, and that wouldn’t add much to the glory of this achievement.)

But I digress (what else is new, you ask).  Hunt these programs down.  Never mind the fact that you can see lots of them on YouTube — the books alone are worth much more than you’ll pay for the combo.

Get the whole batch.  You’ll sleep better knowing that you have the definitive documentary on flamenco, right up to the moment when Paco and Camarón (both featured, though separately) delivered on Paco’s published threat in Triunfo magazine (you’ll find it on this blog) to rip flamenco from the hands of the men they called old farts, fogies and phonies who controlled it and, with the help of a kid from La Isla, reshape it into the hipper, jazzier, freer, fusionier art form it has become.

And remember, even Paco is on record as saying that if you don’t understand where flamenco came from, you’ll never know where it is or where it’s going.

Brook Zern

March 20, 2012   No Comments