Writings and essays about flamenco

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.


January 27, 2017   No Comments

The Musical Genesis of Flamenco – Book by Guillermo Castro Buendía – Comments by Brook Zern

A new book by Guillermo Castro Buendía reflects the new thinking about flamenco’s history, development and perhaps its essential nature. It is titled “Genesis Musical del Flamenco”, and it’s an impressive contribution to the study of flamenco. I’m not on board with much of the new scholarship, or at least of some of its conclusions, (In my day, we didn’t need no stinkin’ scholarship — we drew our rigorous conclusions from, like, the vibe we got, man.) The book is analyzed in a blog entry by one of the defenders of the revised view, Paco Vargas.

In his introductory comments, Sr. Vargas offers the expected ridicule of the traditional view (“Those people obsess over how many fighting cocks the [great Gypsy singer] Manuel Torre had”), and he pays the requisite obeisance to “the great Faustino Núñez”, the diligent researcher and intellectual leader of their merry band. Skipping to the end, one finds a summation of the most important conclusions of Sr. Castro Buendía’s book:

- Flamenco music derives from Spain’s the varied and mixed musical tradition, and the sources are the following folkloric forms: fandangos, jotas, seguidillas, romances [ballads] and work songs. Forms that were widespread across the entire nation, and that during the Nineteenth Century – not before – were transformed by Spanish musicians (singers and guitarists) into the first flamenco songs. That is to say – in contradiction of the [fictitious] “Great Flamenco Novel” these songs did not materialize out of nothing in some mysterious way, but are the product of an artistic mutation of certain folkloric styles – not yet flamenco – that already existed.

- The most remote musical antecedents of flamenco are found in the music of the Sixteenth Century with the pasacalles, romanescas and folías); in the Seventeenth Century with the jácaras; and in the Eighteenth Century with guitar music, the most important being the special finger-strumming technique called rasgueado that would become the most important precedent in the development of flamenco guitar. That is to say, we’re talking about “musical precedents” and not flamenco forms or songs; thus, the beginning of flamenco will not be found in prehistory, antiquity or middle age. We insist instead: The mid-Nineteenth Century,

- The Arab musical heritage is unclear and still to be determined. Though historical logic dictates that it must have had its quota of influence upon the formation of flamenco song, that data we have now would tend to discredit it [discartarla] as the base or seed of flamenco.

- The Gypsy people did not bring any music to Spain, and so we must forget the theory of Indian music as an origin of flamenco. The expressive forms and musical elements traditionally associated with the Gypsies – sometimes as a racial thing – were already, like it or not, found in Spain’s popular and folkloric music before their arrival on the Iberian Peninsula. Those were: The Phrygian mode; hoarse, rough voices [“voces afillás”; the mixed binary/ternary rhythm pattern [hemiola or amalgamated compás]; intense expressive pathos; and melismatic singing.

- A deep relationship is noted between flamenco music and the musical styles that came to Spain from the Americas, most notably the zarabandas, chaconas, carios and, most signiciantly, the FANDANGOS, Attention! Not the singable fandangos we know today, but some instrumental and danceable forms that we’ll now discuss

- The influence of black music that arrived directly from Africa is indisputable, The black slaves brought to Spain rhythns, dances and musical styles that were important to the formation of flamenco music,

- Regarding the relationship between academic/formal music with flamenco, Guillermo believes that the infkuence was from esta hacia aquella, and not the other way around, as current thinking in flamencology. Nonetheless, it’s clear that flamenco guitarists assimilated and adapted many techniques of classical guitar such as arpeggio, tremolo, etc,

Summing up, dear readers, this book knocks down many of the myths of the “Great Flamenco Novel”, opening up an indispensable new horizon for properly understanding this art that we all love.

End of excerpt. The original is found at:


Translator’s note: While I’m on the other side of the fence, I have no trouble with a lot of those conclusions and some other points used by the serial debunkers of the old thinking. Skipping around a bit:

I agree with the idea that it’s dicey to claim Arabic music as the seed of flamenco, though there were certainly traces of that seven-century occupation that remained in Andalusia’s musical substrate.

Too many of us Western types, including Spaniards, seem to feel that all other non-Western forms sound the same. Jewish people tell me flamenco singing sounds exactly like their music, people from Pakistan and India tell me the same thing. And sometimes they write books allegedly proving their theories.

I agree with many of the non-Arab influences cited above, both Spanish and European. But the crucial element in flamenco song, to my ears and most others, is that it is non-Western.

Okay — wait. Flamenco song is many things. Some of the more than sixty forms sound one way, some sound very different. The sevillanas are catchy, and I could sing them if I could sing. They, and a lot of other flamenco songs, use the “follow the bouncing ball” approach, where each syllable is a beat/note (unless it’s held for two or more beats/notes.)

(Faustino Núñez, the authority cited above, uses the terrific term “cante silábico” or “syllabic singing” for this common approach that we’re all so used to.)

Equally important: the notes that are sung would be found, or implicit, in the chords that musical Westerners (except a few of us ungifted unfortunates) could readily select for proper accompaniment. In other words, our music is harmony-based, whether or not someone is playing the chords.

The other kind, non-Western, derives its direction from melody alone. It uses a line that rises from the tonic or root note, meanders around for a while without being glued to a clunky rhythm and without committing to an exact pitch for each nominal note, and ultimately descends back to the root.

Obvious examples would be the soleares, siguiriyas and martinetes. These are the flamenco songs that drive normal people to distraction or drive them away. (Inevitable intermission talk: “Why is that horrid man shouting and screaming while the pretty lady is trying to dance?”)


January 22, 2017   No Comments

Flamenco Guitarist Mario Escudero Speaks – 1984 Interview with Francisco Vallecillo – Translated with comments by Brook Zern

“Mario Escudero – With the Bienal as Backdrop” by Francisco de la Brecha [Francisco Vallecillo] — originally published in Sevilla Flamenca No.8 [1984?]

“I want flamenco fans to know who I am, starting with Andalusia”

Mario Escudero was born in Alicante in 1928. As a child he was taken to Madrid where he spent most of his youth. He was presented in public for the first time in France by Maurice Chevalier at the age of nine. Then dancer Vicente Escudero presented him in the Teatro Espanol in 1944 together with Ramón Montoya in a program of traditional flamenco that included singer Jacinto Almadén. For a long time, he studied with Ramón Montoya and Niño Ricardo. His career started out in intimate juergas and on the “Opera Flamenca” stages, traveling throughout Spain with artists such as Tomás Pavón, La Niña de los Peines, José Cepero, Antonio Mairena, Juanito Mojama, El Sevillano, Canalejas, Pepe de la Matrona, Pericón de Cádiz and an endless list of other major singers of the era. He has also recorded duo guitar arrangements with Sabicas.

Before he was 25, he had traveled widely as first guitarist with Vicente Escudero, Carmen Amaya and Rosario and Antonio. After his trip to the U.S. with Vicente Escudero, he found a lot of interest in the flamenco guitar in that country and decided to emancipate himself from flamenco troupes and try to establish the flamenco guitar as a solo instrument in concert halls.

In 1956 he began his career as a concert player after long musical study in New York, Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Los Angeles, continuing the studies he had begun with Daniel Fortea in Madrid. When he gave his first concert in Carnegie Hall it was a complete success. Since that auspicious beginning he has recorded more than 30 LPs and played in many Hollywood movies including “Cafe Cantante” with Imperio Argentina, “Brindis a Manolete” and “Jalisco Canta en Sevilla” with Jorge Negrete and Carmen Sevilla. He continues to give concerts around the world, and has just enojoyed another success in New York’s Town Hall.

That’s a brief biography of Mario Escudero, with whom we spent some time listening to his opinions, refreshing some old memories and exploring his profound artistic sensibility. This last item is not difficult, for Mario is an open person, expressive and sincere, even brave in his judgments although he seems rather shy. In our extensive chat one April morning we touched upon some topics that might interest the readers of Sevilla Flamenca in relation to the personality of this maestro of the flamenco guitar…

Q: Mario, we’d like to follow the course of your professional life through the key people you’ve accompanied in your long and brilliant career. We remember meeting you many years ago in Madrid, when you were a kid who had already earned fame as a revolutionary player, in the area of the Plaza Santa Ana and Plaza del Angel, near that legendary flamenco “university” that was called Villa Rosa, around Calle Principe, Echegaray, and Victoria. One afternoon you introduced us to an unforgettable master of Gypsy dance, Francisco Ruiz, whose artistic name was Paco Laberinto. You were accompanying the [flamenco and popular singer] El Principe Gitano, who aspired to be a bullfighter, no less. Going back to that era, let’s talk about Vicente Escudero. Don’t you think his fame was greater than was warranted by the reality of his dancing, in which there were some marked deficiencies?

A: The passage of time and my good memories of Vicente prevent me from openly pursuing the thread you’ve started here. Yes, in fact, perhaps you’re not far from the truth here. But he had a distinctive line and a very personal style, and he was enthralled by the dance and by gypsies. Vicente Escudero was the first to dance siguiriyas. I started out calling him “Señor Escudero” and he vehemently corrected me. “No, I’m not Señor Escudero to you — I’m Tío Vicente [Uncle Vicente]”, and that’s what I ended up calling him.

Q: Your opinion of Carmen?

A: What can I tell you about Carmen Amaya that hasn’t already been said? She was the greatest living genius of dance, the eternal and inextinguishable flame; she represented the glory of pure inspiration, because she never danced anything the same way twice. Her successes were enormous and knew no frontiers. She danced for Toscanini and for Franklin Roosevelt.”

Q: You played with Ramón Montoya and Niño Ricardo. To what extent were these men the roots of flamenco playing? And can you compare them?

A: Ramón was a great innovator of the flamenco guitar; Ricardo, who followed this same line, came later. With Ramón one must also talk of Jerez guitarist Javier Molina, another innovator. And with Ricardo, one must think along the different lines, but always innovative, of Manolo el de Huelva. The very personal style – and so clearly Andalusian, if one can say that – of Ricardo was extremely important. That was also true of the man from Huelva. But Ramón and Javier were the real pioneers in the innovation and perfection of flamenco guitar playing. All of them brought a great deal to the huge process of seeking new forms and to the evolution of the guitar: the evolution of playing toward what I call the three A’s: Aggressive, Accelerated, Arrogant.

Q: You’ve accompanied such exalted singers as Pastora Pavón “La Niña de los Peines”, her brother Tomás Pavón, Antonio Mairena, Juanito Mojama. Who had the most meaning to you when you get right down to it?

A: All of them. To make a comparison between these colossi would be sheer vanity on my part. There is no way to select a favorite. But the deepest and most indelible memories I have are of Tía Pastora [Pavón]: sweet and not cloying…a thousand years could pass, and there will never appear another singer like her.”

Q: What about your compadre, “El Nino de las Habicas” [the Kid of the Beans, Sabicas, who loved his "habas" as a child], Agustín Castellón — do you think he has influenced your playing?”

: A: Of course! He had a great influence on me, and in fact the guitar in general owes this genius from Navarre a wealth of contributions and new ideas.”

Q: Do you think there’s room in Spain for the concert flamenco guitar, for this spruced-up style whose rise you have contributed to?

A: I have no doubt that there is. This concert guitar, whatever clothes it may wear, today represents a kind of music that is unique in the world, and people are enthusiastic in their admiration of flamenco guitar. Why shouldn’t concert guitar have a place in Spain? One thing is certain: Outside Spain it’s valued more highly than in, and followed by multitudes of fans. But it’s gaining ground here, gaining strength, and with good reason, because it’s a genuinely Spanish art, just as Spanish as the instrument upon which it is played.

Q: You were in New York in February, and in April you’ll go back to play concerts in many states of the union. Are you thinking of establishing yourself definitively in Seville?

A: I sure am! What happens is that sometimes man proposes, and circumstance disposes. I have many obligations that must be met. But my decision to reside in Seville is definitive. I want flamenco fans to know who I am, starting with Andalusia. I’d like to do some teaching here,and I wish to live, be and work in Spain, because one’s homeland, that homing instinct, it’s very strong…

Q: Our mutual friend, Brook Zern, said in The New York Times of February 3rd that you are not only a guitar virtuoso, but also one of the players who has most significantly extended the style and range of flamenco music, and who had great influence on the most popular of Spain’s younger guitarists, Paco de Lucía, who included your composition “Impetu” on his first album. What do you think of the fabulous Paco de Lucía?

A: For me, he is a remarkably complete artist, with enormous personality and individuality, who follows the path laid out by Niño Ricardo better than anyone else and who has discovered a way to create an inimitable and unmatched personal style or “aire”; fabulous: imitated by many, equaled by no one.

Sincere thanks to Brook Zern for the transcription and translation of this interview”

Translator’s note. Thanks to Francisco Vallecillo for interviewing my friend Mario after he had gone to live in Sevilla.

I loved Mario — you had to get on line, because so many others did, too. Around this time, I ran into him on my way to my hotel on Calle Sierpes, and he insisted I instead stay at his apartment in the Heliopolis section of the city. (We spent many hours wandering the streets, unsuccessfully looking for the jewelry shop where he had left his diamond ring to be cleaned.)

Years later, in the nineties, he was often at the American Institute of Guitar on 56th Street in New York, where I spent my inexcusably extended lunch hours while allegedly working at Time Incorporated. His compañero Sabicas often joined him there. It was pure joy to share his time, his opinions and his memories.

Not long ago, after I had published yet another article waving the flag for the idea that Spain’s Gypsies are now being shortchanged by contemporary scholars (some of whom call me a racist for stressing the importance of the gitano contribution to flamenco) I received a note from Anita Ramos, Mario’s wife.

She wrote: “Brook — As Sabicas and Mario Escudero both said of you ‘Brook es un payo muy gitano.’ (“Brook is a very Gypsy non-Gypsy.” I don’t know if that contradicted or supported my thesis, but I consider it a very high compliment indeed.

(Vallecillo, incidentally, is still villified for his stance on the issue decades after his demise. He was not only a gitanista, but a devout mairenista — a follower of the great Gypsy singer Antonio Mairena, who insisted that there was something called “razón incorporea” or incorporeal reason — an inherited quintessence of something-or-other that gave them the ability to transcend normal expressive barriers in their flamenco artistry. The term seems idiotic, and the whole notion is beyond problematic — it’s hard enough being suspected of gitanista leanings without seeking a pseudoscientific justification for the failing.)


January 22, 2017   No Comments

Test – Posts – Part 5 – 10/28/96 – 10/10/96

Subj: FL flamenco/religion/Canales/Gypsy creativity
Date: Tue, Oct 29, 1996 5:49 PM EDT

Thanks to Miles Y for his powerful reflection on the ceremonial aspects of
flamenco and possible connections to religious ritual.

He uses the Canales concert as an example of magic not happening onstage (as
it did for Miles when Sole and Martin offered their more modestly-produced
flamenco last summer.)

Wish I could confirm or deny, but I never made it to Canales. (I was
generously offered a free ticket; I was neurotically unable to go through the
process of actually taking it; I was criminally determined to go through my
usual procedure of sneaking in at intermission; I was tragically thwarted in
this when there was no intermission…)

Anyway, I did slip in to see the female singer — probably Montse Cortes –
who performed during the closing applause on Friday, and whose appearance was
cited in Sue Banka’s thoughtful critique as the only part of the show that
reached her heart. (Montse seemed a bit Camaronesque for my taste, though
clearly talented; I thought her pitch was a bit shaky in a way Camaron’s
never was.)

Canales danced a bit during this Friday wrap-up bulerias, enough to reveal
his power and intensity when he’s unscripted (combing his hair, in fact, in
compas). And I did see Canales hanging around outside the theatre on
Saturday night, answering questions and chatting with folks — a nice
gesture, somehow. But overall, it seems I didn’t miss all that much from my
own tunnel-visioned perspective (“Get those dancers outta the way — I can’t
see the singers or the guitarists!”)

Incidentally, I was saddened, or maybe the word is pissed off, to see that
the sponsoring World Music Institute had recycled some claptrap in their
printed notes on flamenco. (I had already bitched about this to Robert
Browning, their leader, some years ago when they bravely brought over Funi
and friends.)

The notes do acknowledge the “significance” of the arrival of the Gypsies in
Spain, and the fact that they were “humiliated and persecuted”. They say
that “In the 19th Century there were two types of singing in Andalucia, the
cante gitano of the Gypsies and the cante andaluz. Silverio Franconetti, an
Andaluz of Italian origin and an exceptional singer of Gypsy styles, was the
first to bring these two styles together.”

So far, so good. Then comes the all-too-frequent zinger:

“Flamenco is not ‘Gypsy music’. Indeed, nothing like it has been found
outside Andalucia, even amongst Gypsies in other parts of Spain; it it
essentially Andalusian…The Gypies were never creators but were rather
interpreters of the local cultures of the places where they stayed, so the
Gypsy song which Franconetti used was a line of development of Andalucian
song over several centuries…”

As I’ve posted before, I consider this denial of a creative role to be a
pernicious attempt to strip the Spanish Gypsies of their supreme cultural
achievement — the creation of high art from racial tragedy. Cante jondo is
theirs, and doesn’t belong to their persecutors, just as surely as the blues
is the creation of America’s blacks, and not of their persecutors. Granted,
both musics involve the use of “found materials” — the language and some
musical characteristics taken from the dominant culture. But that doesn’t
diminish the art, or make it a co-operative effort.

Yes, flamenco today consists of many fundamentally Andalusian forms as well
as those several key Gypsy forms. So technically, flamenco is not (entirely)
Gypsy music. But in Spain’s specific historical case — perhaps unlike the
situation in Hungary or other countries where the Gypsies also have a history
– the Gypsies were creators of a new kind of music as well as interpreters
of music they encountered in the new land.

Saying the Gypsies lack creative capacity is racism pure and simple, and
should not be unchallenged.

(In view of a recent thread — the notes close by saying that the “wail of
the cante hondo (deep song) resembles the mournful chant of the exiled
Sephardic Jews. Its poetry has the existentialist angst and philosophical
questioning common in Arabic poetry. The dance and its musical accompaniment
which evolved slowly, fully blossoming in the 1840′s, suggests both the
trance-inducing rhythms of North Africa, and the melismatic call to prayer of
the Arab muezzin.”)

Brook Zern

Date: Thu, Oct 24, 1996 4:24 PM EDT
Subj: Re: FL A little question…

Diego asks about the meaning of IMO and IMHO.

Diego, around here IMO is the English-language abbreviation for the Spanish TLDY, or “Te Lo Digo Yo”. It means “Anyone who disagrees with me has his or her head up his or her ass.”

IMHO is a nicer way of making the same point. (In My Humble Opinion, of course.)

Brook Zern

Subj: FL List “Nazis”
Date: Tue, Oct 29, 1996 1:50 PM EDT

If I’m not mistaken, Liam called R a “list Nazi” because of R’s
hotheaded and mocking response to an honest query for more information on
guitarist Juan Martin, whom R evidently disdains.

On seeing that R had posted “fuck you” to Liam, my first response was
to be properly offended.

On reflection, and bearing in mind that this curt post was originally
private, I think R’s response to being called a “list Nazi” was
appropriately enraged, and not overstated at all.

Liam has defended his use of the term pretty well — I also thought
Seinfeld’s “soup Nazi” bit was funny, but I think that was hardly the the
same, for many reasons.

No word should be declared out of bounds, of course, but let’s be careful
about casually using the most extreme epithets of all (in my view) — the
terms fascist and Nazi. Granted, a “list Nazi” may not have genocidal
tendencies — but the term still deserves an outraged response, even an
Anglo-Saxon response.

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: FL Arabic music
Date: Tue, Oct 29, 1996 1:48 PM EDT

Murvet calls my bluff, asking me to define the “basically oriental” nature of
flamenco that makes it “inevitably” resemble other musics like some Arabic
and Jewish styles which share that nature.

Murvet, whenever I try to explain this, someone — maybe Bob or Chuck –
hammers me into the ground, just because I don’t know anything at all about
music or music theory. But to me, “oriental” or non-Western music is based
on melody; it derives its character from melody alone, wandering up a bit
from the “home-base” tone, winding around for a while, and then
gravitationally falling back, exhausted.

Western music, on the other hand, has for many centuries been defined by
harmony. Granted, the melody-over-the-harmony is what we hear and remember
first — but that melody derives from the harmony, (so we can sing nice
“harmonies” by just substituting another note from the implied chord at
whatever point of the song we’re in; heck, we can even create a new song,
using the same chords/harmonies, by simply choosing a whole batch of
different but agreeable notes from the respective chords/harmonies.)

This Western approach gives us a whole bunch of goodies that those poor
orientals can only envy — polyphony, Bach, Phil Spector, Metallica, the
Shirelles, the Beach Boys and Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five.

Easterners are still stuck with that simple-minded, one-trick-pony of always
trying to find another really fine melody that cuts right to your heart, or
liver. Ah, but when they succeed…

(I don’t mind that we’re lacking musicologists on this list, since I rarely
understand what they’re talking about. Do I recall some writing by Falla
about flamenco song using “enharmonic modulation” and “apogiatura from above
and below”?)

Incidentally, I try to play the flamenco guitar, which clearly uses chords by
the carload — though until recently the chordal grab-bag was pretty
restricted. But when I’m trying to explain to some lunkhead how flamenco
works musically, I simplify/illustrate the point by playing the
characteristic chordal pattern called the Andalusian Cadence — the fall from
(in the key of E phrygian) A minor to G to F to E. While that’s chordal, it
dramatizes the falling-resolution toward the home base that’s so important to
the song. (Maybe I should instead learn to play the vocal line of a serious flamenco song like the siguiriyas or soleares on the guitar — but for various reasons, that’s a huge challenge, even though it’s a snap to play the melody of the fandango de Huelva and a few other flamenco songs on the guitar.)

(Murvet asks why I call this melodic tendency of oriental music “inevitable”.
Nothing’s inevitable but death and election-time promises of tax cuts, but
perhaps the word applies here because oriental music is generally more
conservative than Western music — at least, it doesn’t seem to race to taste
new treats like organum or counterpoint or Moog synthesizers.)

Brook Zern

Subj: FL Re: Foot-tapping for guitarists
Date: Tue, Oct 29, 1996 9:25 AM EDT

James Powrie asks about foot-tapping. A whole lot of notable players do it,
often in a reasonably systematic way, though it seems that many of them slip
in and out of tapping depending on their mood, or the music, or something.
\It may indeed help them stay with the basic pulse of the proceedings, and
sort-of-improvise without dropping the ball.

I’m not a key source here, since I play mostly for no one (I stopped
listening to myself years ago) but for what it’s worth I seem to be pretty
much on the beat pretty much of the time without ever having done a lot of
foot-tapping. In fact, while it’s easy for me to tap for solea or alegrias
or siguiriyas if I feel the urge, I find it very hard to tap for bulerias –
not just dobles, which can get pretty frenetic, but also the even-beats-only
tapping that is often done. (It seems I still get thrown by the strong beat
on “3″, which is not accented in the foot-tapping systems; to me, it’s like patting your head and rubbing your stomach in compas.) Anyway, I’m living proof that you can fail as a flamenco guitarist without tapping your foot a lot. Now, if
anyone can cite a *successful* player who doesn’t tap, we’ll really be
getting somewhere.

Has anyone published a foot-tapping method?

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: FL Siguiryas baile
Date: Mon, Oct 28, 1996 1:36 PM EDT

Jay wonders if the siguiriyas was first danced in the 1920′s. That would
square well enough with what I’ve always heard — that the form was pretty
much contemporaneous with the Charleston and the Black Bottom, that Vicente
Escudero was the first to dance it, and when people gave him flak for messing
around with tradition by dancing something as profound as the siguiriya, he
said “I could dance in a church without profaning it.” This, of course, was
before churches became concert halls, dance venues and other modern

(Have I mentioned that I represent the atheist/conservative faction in
contemporary theological debate? Bring back the Latin Mass, I say, and cast
out all these silly panderings like flamenco or other masses; oh, and label
the Latin Mass with a disclaimer, in Latin of course, saying that none of the
foregoing is actually true.)

Anyway, the big dictionary/encyclopedia gives as its second definition: “A
dance of the deepest quality, as befits the cante. Sober, emotional and
ceremonial, not suitable for easy adornments. Done in a slow, measured
(pausado) compas. It combines “punteado” steps with desplantes, which in
this case are strong redobles, including the escobilla in the middle section
of the dance. The fundamental step consists of a rhythmic walking, with dry,
sonorous and abbreviated (cortadas) golpes, advancing and retreating toward
the same spot, although the solemnity is now evident in the “arranque” and
the “salida”, which customarily use a long “paseo”.

“Danced by either men or women, as long as they have the requisite great
temperament. The first dancer of siguiriyas, or at least the first to make
it widely known, was Vicente Escudero; he was followed soon by Pilar Lopez
who introduced the castanet-played version.”

There’s much more on the cante and its origins, including small but legible
copies of one-page sheet music of versions by Antonio Mairena, Pepe el Culata
and El Cojo Pavon.

Brook Zern

Subj: FL Re: El Chocolate de Granada
Date: Mon, Oct 28, 1996 1:29 PM EDT

Steve T asks about the other Chocolate — the singer Jose Carmona
Cortes, whose artistic name is El Chocolate de Granada and who appears on
some incarnations of the Gran Festival Flamenco recordings.

The big dictionary says he was born in Santa Fe in Granada province in 1945
and died in 1986. “Learned in his native city, then worked in Malaga with
the dancer Mariquilla. Sang in Paris the the Bataclan hall, then went to
Barcelona’s tablao “Los Tarantos”. Made his first recording, and with the
dancer La Singla toured Germany and other European countries. In 1972,
worked in Madrid’s El Corral de la Pacheca with La Tolea. Days before his
death after a long struggle with cancer, he was given an homage in the Manuel
de Falla theater of Granada. Artists who performed there included Enrique
Morente, Diego Clavel, Carmen Linares, El Cabrero, Pansequito, Rancapino,
Juanito Villar, Antonio Trinidad, Jose Maya, El Colorao, Juan y Jose
Habichuela, Paco Cortes, Francisco M. Diaz, Juan el de La Lucia, Mariquilla,
Pilar Heredia, Luis de Luis and Maite Hernandez. El Chocolate de Granada had
an extensive repertoire, and was an excellent singer for dancing.”

Steve also asks if he had other recordings. Here are the only two I’ve heard
of that were all his — both LP’s from the 70′s, on the obscure Triumph label
that appeared briefly, issued several dozen records including some that were
interesting (and some on which Paco de Lucia accompanied), and then vanished:


1. w/R. de Algeciras, Paquito de Antequera Triumph 2469217 Vol. __ Aleg;
Taranto; Mart; Bul; Zapateado [?]; Sol; Fand; Sig; Tangos; Bul
2. El Cante de El Chocolate de Granada y el Baile de La Tolea w/_____
Triumph S 2496206 Vol. 6 _____

Brook Zern

Subj: FL What we’re lacking, revealed at last
Date: Mon, Oct 28, 1996 1:25 PM EDT

Chuck says that there is something called “takt” that plays a role in
discussions of Indian music but not in discussions of flamenco.

Oh, yeah? Sez who?

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: FL Arabic music
Date: Mon, Oct 28, 1996 1:24 PM EDT

I agree with Murvet that it would be really strange if there were no
cross-influence between flamenco and Arabic music. There is some, somewhere.
Still, it was good to see that Jay and Giovanni and Chuck, like me, find it
hard to hear any meaningful similarities between most Arabic musics and

I occasionally play flamenco song recordings for groups of people. It’s sort
of touching when Jewish folks insist that it sounds just like their
traditional vocal music, and Arabic folks insist it sounds just like their
traditional vocal music.

I think they’re both wrong — that they’re simply recognizing an inevitable,
minimal connection between the basically oriental nature of flamenco and the
basically oriental nature of their respective “homestyle” musics. This view
annoys them no end. But it’s good to see that Jews and Arabs can at least
agree on something — that I’m either crazy as a loon or deaf as a post.

Brook Zern

Subj: FL Carmen Linares – Amor Brujo – translation of post
Date: Thu, Oct 24, 1996 6:04 PM EDT

Silvio Capoferro sent this post from El Pais, by M. Mora, translated here:


In 1922, the “jondo” association of Manuel de Falla and Federico Garcia Lorca
led to the virtually definitive recognition of the flamenco culture. Together, they organized the Concurso Nacional de Cante Jondo in Granada, capturing the attention of a wide public for an art with “pharaohnic roots” (“tronco de faraon”), as Lorca referred to the enigmatic Jerez singer Manuel Torre. Today, many serious flamencos still pay tribute to that effort. One of the women most involved in this effort, which can be termed “difficult yet evocative”, is Carmen Linares, born in 1954. Throughout her demanding career she has lent her voice to these two Andalusian geniuses. Tonight, at 10:30 in the National Auditorium, Linares will offer the Madrid premiere of El Amor Brujo, accompanied by the Orchestra of the City of Granada directed by Josep Pons and consisting of 38 musicians.

“With so many musicians, the fact is that one cannot go far into the branches
(of flamenco), but classical musicians are always condescending toward
flamencos. They realize that we are rather anarchistic, and they let us get
away with things that others wouldn’t be allowed to do,” says the singer.
Gifted with a solid throat and a non-conformist spirit, Linaares doesn’t
think it’s very hard to exchange the flamenco guitar for a large orchestra,
especially when the material has been written by Falla. “Flamenco, too, has
its rules, although they may be less rigid, more relaxed. In classical
music, one must be very attentive to the tempo, to the rhythm, to tonal
accuracy, to entrances and silences — because we don’t read music. But El
Amor Brujo is written for a mezzo-soprano, and this helps; a flamenco
cantaora should have no trouble in this register, even though it’s a bit low
for us sometimes”.

The piece “sounds very flamenco”, Linares adds, “because its is from here,
from the realm of the jondo, that Falla took his inspiration. There are
parts that are recited, parts that are sung, and a lot of sheer enchantment.
The Cancion de Fuego is a pure bulerias.”

The 1915 Version

The version that will be played tonight “is the original for chamber
orchestra, composed in 1915 with the singer Pastora Imperio in mind.”
According to Linarares, “it didn’t have much success when it was premiered
in Paris, and Falla rewrote it for a larger orchestra.”

For tonight’s Madrid appearance, Linares interrupted a tour of southern
France on which she is singing the religious “Cantico de San Juan de la
Cruz”. This year, she has done both versions of El Amor Brujo — the first
in Lincoln Center in New York, and the second in the Teatro Colon of Buenos

Her first performance of the work in tonight’s form was in the Reales
Alcazares of Seville during the Sixth Bienal Flamenco in 1986. Other
present-day singers have undertaken the same challenge, including Esperanza
Fernandez, Rocio Jurado, Lole, Mayte Martin and Ginesa Ortega. In earlier
times, Linares can remember no others. “I think no one has done it earlier
times, and that’s a shame, because La Nina de los Peines could have been
extraordinarily creative in interpreting the work (lo habria bordado).”

End of translation of El Pais article. Thanks to Silvio.

Brook Zern

Subj: FL Bulerias origins
Date: Thu, Oct 24, 1996 2:06 PM EDT

Ole to John M for a real good shot at defining the solea por bulerias
mystery, and the cantinas mystery.

Regarding the bulerias itself: I have always tended to think of the bulerias
as simply a logical outgrowth of the solea — a sped-up version that can
serve as a windup or remate, fundamentally in the same flamenco mode — but
that, like many other remates, would have a sort of natural tendency to leave
the flamenco mode and go into the major key sometimes. (This would imply a
Gypsy origin, in musical terms.)

This doesn’t fit with the idea that the bulerias may have originally been a
major-key thing, just another variant in the major-key cantinas/alegrias
family with its folkloric (even jota-inspired) genesis. (This would imply a
non-Gypsy origin, in musical terms.)

The big dictionary reveals that most of the bigshot authorities lean toward
the former theory. Jose Blas Vega calls the bulerias “the daughter of the
solea” and links them to the “estribillo” that Loco Mateo used to rematar his
solea. J.M. Caballero Bonald says they are “direct inheritors of the solea”,
created primarily to accompany dancing. He adds “the gamut of bulerias
styles is virtually uncontrollable, although one can distinguish two distinct
groups: true “bulerias festeras” or bulerias for dancing, and the “bulerias
al golpe”, or bulerias for singing, whose most defined variant is customarily
called, with good reason, the bulerias por solea. The former group is
especially fertile and flexible (? movedizo), allowing a series of
improvizations and thematic borrowings even from exotically distant musical
styles. The latter group, as its name indicates, is clearly derived from the
solea and its clear role as a song that isn’t danced gives it a hierarchical
position among the noble forms derived from the primitive songs.”

Pedro Camacho writes: “Rhythmically, the buleria is a “cante bolero”, whose
origin is almost certainly the earlier jaleo, or festive song (cancion
jaleada) that accompanied euphoric dancing. In this sense, it is a
“boleria”. When the Gypsies incorporated into this dance the traditional
verses of the solea or soleariya, and arbitrarily accommodated these
melodies, the “buleria gitana” was born, still sometimes called the jaleo.”

Fernando Quinones writes of bulerias “A song descended from the solea …
though more lively — there are even some bulerias a golpe, with much more of
soleares than of bulerias. The original bulerias might have derived from the
old “juguetillos”, and are still sometimes absurdly viewed as throw-away
time-killers; but they are much more. The bulerias as a song has real

Jose Luis Ortiz Nuevo: “This relatively modern song comes to us from Loco
Mateo via El Gloria, a perfect synthesis of deep expression. It is a
condensation of the solea, with the essence of its rhythms and the light of
its echoes and musical form. It flows from the palmas and the dance like a
ceaseless cyclone, a flow of the emotions of the fiesta. Properly heard, it
incites a vertigo of courage and fury. But nowadays, all the “renovations”
are carrying it in the opposite direction — stretching its tercios (verses)
to excessive lengths, unnecessarily sweetening its laments, carelessly
breaking up the precision of its compas. The cuples and coplas (verses based
on popular songs rather than flamenco styles) are today disfiguring its true
character, with the acquiescence of many aficionados.”

As our posters have noted, though, a lot of early versions of this relatively
recent form (first taking shape in the mid or late 1800′s) are in the major,
so maybe the bulerias don’t come directly from the solea after all.

Anyway, John, thanks for concise and the clear-sighted analysis. (I also
liked Sean’s attempt to make a delicate distinction between the rhythm of
solea por bulerias and that of either bulerias or solea — including the
borrowed-from-Bob suggestion that it has a kind of rythmic lightness
associated with the alegrias.)

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: FL Seguidilla
Date: Thu, Oct 24, 1996 1:57 PM EDT

Lori asks why a “Seguidilla” on Potito’s album “is actually a seguiria. Did
someone make a mistake?”

I just saw Jacinto’s short, concise answer but decided to send my long,
convoluted answer anyway:

Even though the seguidilla is the proper name for a folkloric Spanish
song/dance form (there are the “seguidillas manchegas”, and some insist that
the sevillanas are really the “seguidillas sevillanas”) the word is often
applied, or misapplied, to the deep Gypsy song that is better termed the
“siguiriyas” or “seguiriyas” or, as Lori writes it, “siguirias”. The words
are basically the same, with the latter forms reflecting an Andaluz

This is just one of those major mix-ups that plagues flamenco terminology.
Emotionally and aesthetically, the hip-hoppy seguidillas and the tragic
siguiriyas could hardly be more different. The siguiriyas even has a
different structure — not just its distinctive “broken” compas, but its
extended third line. Of course, people who want to defend the notion that
there is a relationship between these different forms note that merely
repeating a few words in the third line of a four-line seguidilla would
produce the characteristic form of the siguiriya. “Dice mi companera/ que no
la quiero/ cuando la miro — la miro a la cara/ el sentido pierdo.”

Tell them to go suck a lamp, or a lamprey eel, or whatever the Spanish phrase

Brook Zern

P.S. Those damn Spanish Gypsies sure would’ve helped us defend the thesis
that they created the key flamenco forms if they’d had the common sense to
give them calo (Gypsy) names instead of borrowing words from those cruel
Spaniards for their intimate, secret cantes.

Hey, maybe its not too late! Solea, evidently borrowed from the Spanish
“soledad” or loneliness could be renamed the “Dikomanro” or some such
evocatively Sanskrit-sounding word; Siguiriyas, instead of evidently referring to the running-on of verses (seguir/seguida/seguidilla, in Spanish) could be called “Poor, Put-Upon Uncle Planeta’s Song That He Thought Up While Being Cruelly Mistreated By the Mean Spaniards”; and the martinetes (from the Spanish word martillo, or blacksmith’s hammer) could be redubbed with the Gypsy word for hammer, while the tonas (Spanish “tunes”) needs a new name and so does the bulerias (from burlar, to joke around) and the tango (from touch, or from “to do the tango”, or something.)

It seems that only Tomas Pavon had the sense, upon making up a new variant of
the tonas and claiming it was an ancient variant of tonas, to name the damn
thing with a Gypsy word, debla, which evidently means goddess in
Calo/Sanskrit. (Just kidding there — maybe it really was an old, old tona
and Tomas was the last person on earth who knew it when he recorded it.
Who knows for sure?)

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: FL Baile por serranas
Date: Thu, Oct 24, 1996 1:48 PM EDT

I assumed that Sean was right, and that the idea of a danced serranas was
fabricated by the group he saw. But the big dictionary gives a surprising
second definition: “A flamenco dance of recent creation, with the same
compas and a similar aire to the siguiriya. It was revealed to theatrical
audiences by the duo of Flora Albaicin and Roberto Iglesias.”

(Just in passing, the long initial definition focused on the song seems to
err outright by concluding “it is accompanied by the guitar in the tone of
“La” (A).” No doubt it could be done in the phrygian-modal A. But in fact, it is virtually always accompanied in the phrygian-modal tone or key of “Mi” (E), not just by custom but because this better fits the form’s specific musical requirements in accompanying the singer’s very different and further-ranging melody.)

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: FL Pickups and Mics (long, ignore if not interested)
Date: Tue, Oct 22, 1996 12:53 PM EDT

Just want to back C’s unpaid endorsement of the Barcus-Berry pickup. I
have an old guitar that doesn’t sound too great, and there’s a nice
Trace-Elliot amp lying around at the AIG, so for about sixty bucks I bought
the little Barcus-Berry pickup and stuck the quarter-sized dot inside my
guitar, beneath the bridge on the bass side (hoping to minimize the sound of
the golpes). I stuck the other part that takes the jack onto the outside of
the guitar, right by the neck-join, and ran it into the amp. Well, it
sounded very good indeed. I’m still getting it wired, so to speak, and my
objective is simply to add the missing volume and sustain or fatness that my
old guitar is lacking. So far, so good. I’m getting a surprisingly natural
guitar sound out of the amp. And when I crank up the volume, people yell at
me to shut up, just like a real guitarist.

Thanks to C for the tip on the low-cost Barcus-Berry.

Brook “wah-wah” Zern

Subj: Re: FL strings n things
Date: Tue, Oct 22, 1996 12:57 PM EDT

Lori pinpoints a key variable about string life when she says “Some people
have killer sweat. I try to keep these away from my guitar when I have new

I don’t sweat at all — I’m too nervous — so my bass strings usually last for
two weeks or so before they get dull or the D-string starts to fray. But
I’ve handed my guitar to certain folks with that killer sweat, and heard the
bass strings die within an hour. That must be quite a handicap — wonder if
it has a name and a foundation and little support ribbons.

After all these years, I still don’t have a fanatical string preference. I
like light, silver basses. I’ve been using La Bella flamencos of different
tensions — thanks to the generosity of Dennis Koster, who works with La
Bella to develop/improve them and slips me some free sets now and then.
They’re real good, and have overcome an earlier tendency to break at the
bridge-bone contact point. I also like Aranjuez pink-card “High Tension”,
and Augustine blue label. I’ve played Hannabach but wasn’t impressed. (All
trebles last for months and months, of course, and I can’t hear much
difference between the new steroid-enhanced ones and the ordinary ones.)

Mostly, it seems that when I’ve got any brand of good, new, live basses I
realize that I’m a marvelous player, tragically unappreciated in my own time.
When the strings get old and thunky, I realize that I’m unfit to live, much
less pick up a guitar. (Of course, there’s also my more intense subjective

Brook Zern

Subj: FL Flamenco Clock -reposted without permission
Date: Tue, Oct 22, 1996 12:41 PM EDT
From: RAHAYNES@aamc.org
Brook Zern’s post regrading the clock is reposted without warning or
permission. Robert/o

There is an Official Compas Clock in a basement in Jerez, half-hidden between
two barrels of ancient sherry. It looks like a very big regular clock face,
except for the fact that the numbers 3, 6, 8, 10 and 12 are much darker and
heavier than the other numbers.

Also, you can reach up and turn this clock face to two other detented
positions. In addition to having the 12 on top, you can also turn it so the
1 is on top, or so the 8 is on top. Also, you can turn down the lights in this
room so that you can’t make out the numbers any more — just see that certain
of them are dark, heavy and emphatic.

Now when the clock is in the regular position, it is called the
Guajiras/Peteneras clock. It reads: “12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11…” But the
lights are down, so you can only distinguish the heavier numbers, so you hear
or feel this as “1 and a 2 and a 3 and 4 and 5 and…”

When you turn the clock so that the 1 is at the top, and then turn the lights
down, it becomes the soleares/alegrias clock: “1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12…” with accents, of course, on 3, 6, 8, 10 and 12.

And when you turn it so the 8 is on top, it becomes the siguiriyas/serranas
clock: 8 9 10 11 12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7…”, which in the semi-darkness becomes:
“1 and 2 and 3 and a 4 and a 5 and…”

When you want it to be a Bulerias clock, you may have to decide whether the
12 is on top, or the 1 is on top.

Of course, nobody in Jerez needs to refer to the Official Compas Clock, since
their DNA incorporates this information. But just like the Official
Yardstick in Washington, its presence is necessary in case everyone gets

Brook Zern

Subj: FL Too many ironies in the fire?
Date: Tue, Oct 22, 1996 12:57 PM EDT

In a recent and utterly off-topic post, I referred to Spanish lakes that were
evidently “man-made or woman-made.” This has generated a private response
urging me to “try not to let correctness suck out your brain.”

The situation reminds me of something written by my father, who for many
years had a column called “Exit Laughing” that ran on the last page of Field
and Stream, the magazine about hunting and fishing.

When D.H. Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” was finally legally published
in the U.S. amid great uproar and moral outrage, my father, assuming the
guise of reviewer, wrote:

“This fictional account of the day-to-day life of an English gamekeeper is
still of considerable interest to outdoorminded readers, as it contains many
passages on pheasant raising, the apprehending of poachers, ways of
controlling vermin, and other chores and duties of the professional
gamekeeper. Unfortunately one is obliged to wade through many pages of
extraneous material in order to discover and savor these sidelights on the
management of a MIdland shooting estate, and in this reviewer’s opinion this
book cannot take the place of J.R. Miller’s “Practical Gamekeeping”.”

My father always said he got a kick out of the many letters to the magazine
which reproached him for “completely missing the point”. But he added that
what pleased him most were the seven earnest letters he received from
Field & Stream readers asking where they could find a copy of J.R. Miller’s
“Practical Gamekeeping”.

Brook Zern

Subj: FL floods in flamencoland
Date: Mon, Oct 21, 1996 6:27 PM EDT

GS, speaking of a false rumor that a Triana-born singer was
shot while looting during a flood, asks rhetorically “How many floods happen
in Andalucia”?

At least one. I distinctly remember the Guadalquivir overflowing its borders
– not flowing into Seville or Triana proper, but submerging what sure looked
like a flood plain in the area just upriver from Triana, across from La
Cartuja where the Expo was held. It sure surprised me thirty years ago, and
perhaps the condition has since been cured by some engineering project.

Incidentally, I once read something amazing to the effect that Spain had no
natural lakes. It didn’t make sense, but since then I’ve noticed that the
sizable lakes I ask about were all man-made or woman-made. (I used to think
lakes were beautiful, until I read John McPhee’s quote from a geologist: “A
lake is just a sign of poor drainage”. Come to think of it, that might apply
to the Pacific as well…)

Brook Zern

Subj: FL Paco’s moving target
Date: Mon, Oct 21, 1996 6:27 PM EDT

Dawn asks/demands:

“MOVE ME!!! Is there a specific selection of PdL that you could recommend
that has that quality?”

Here are some Paco cuts that might have special potential in that rarefied

The rondena titled Doblan Campanas from El Duende Flamenco
The taranta titlepiece on Fuente y Caudal
3 bulerias, titled Cepa Andaluza, El Tempul and Punta del Faro
The solea titled Cuando Canta el Gallo on El Duende Flamenco
The E-minor alegrias from En Vivo
The granainas from En Vivo
The solea dedicated to Nino Ricardo on Siroco

Brook Zern

P.S. Regarding the issue of civility, I just want to say that I completely
agree with everybody.


Subj: FL Huck on Paco and Joe Pass
Date: Fri, Oct 18, 1996 4:12 PM EDT

I liked Huck’s “playmate” post, and his insistence on the value of the solo
guitar as flamenco in its own right. I also suspect he’s right in thinking
that a jazz guitarist like Joe Pass — not his favorite — knows the
fingerboard better that Paco de Lucia ever will.

I vaguely recall Igor el Ruso describing the difficulty of learning Paco de
Lucia’s music while stuck in Russia. I started to sympathize, but it
soon became clear that the hard part for Igor was acquiring a black market
tape of Paco’s music — it took a long time and cost a fortune. He said that
anyway, he finally got the tape, and so he learned the music…

“Wait a minute”, I said. “What do you mean, and so you learned the music?”

Igor seemed puzzled, and said he just learned the music, that’s all. It was
clear that while he understood the challenge of the technique itself,
learning the music didn’t take him long, or pose any real difficulties.

When I still sputtered in amazement, he grasped my problem. “Oh,” he said,
“Well, you see, I already played jazz, and next to jazz, everything else is
just baby talk.”

So while I share the general reverence for Paco’s flamenco, I also revere the
musical knowledge of jazz people (though like Huck, I don’t enjoy much
post-Dixieland jazz). And if it matters, I bet Wes Montgomery could clean
Paco’s clock in a left-handed duel.

As for classical musicians — gee, come to think of it, maybe they don’t
really have to KNOW music at all? I mean, yes, they have to learn to READ
the stuff. But once they do, it’s really just a matter of memorizing all the
composer’s notes in the original order. I mean, sure, they’re supposed to
bring something to the party in terms of interpreting those notes, either as
the composer intended or in a way that fits their own ideas. But you don’t
have to “know” music to sing a song, or to play a song or a sarabande or a
symphony. You only need to know music to do what jazz people must do –
fluently create and/or improvise new music — or to do what flamenco and
other folk artists may choose to do — reshuffle existing music in new ways,
or laboriously create your own new music, or perhaps even freely create and
improvise new music.

Jeez, I shoulda gone into classical music. Nobody ever bugs you about the
importance of creating your own music, or developing your own “propio sello”
or musical signature, so important in flamenco. In classical, I coulda been
a contender, except for the discipline and talent parts, of course.

Brook Zern

Subj: FL Greats
Date: Fri, Oct 18, 1996 4:10 PM EDT

Something in Gary C’s well-considered post about Ottmar greated on my ears,
so to speak. He wrote:

“The way that Paco Pen~a, Sabicas, Paco de Lucia, and Diego del Gastor play
Bulerias, are the excellent ways to play the form; those four Greats show
great representation and dedication to the Art…”

No offense to the talented, conscientious, adept and admirable Sr. Pena, but
great is a serious word, and these are three Greats and one good. (Because
Paco Pena is also humble, or at least deeply respectful of his superiors, as
demonstrated by his moving recognition of Sabicas in the audience of one of
his New York concerts, I think he might understand and even agree.)

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: FL Uncl: Stats…
Date: Thu, Oct 17, 1996 10:32 AM EDT

Manfred is trying to take away my rightful title of Clutter King of the list.
Listen, Manfred, anybody can clutter up the list with short posts, like
Jacinto’s. But it’s quantity of words, not quantity of posts, that really
counts in the clutter department. I demand a recount based on most words
posted to the list, so I may reclaim my number one ranking.

(Otherwise, I loved your analysis; and of course, I look forward to dialing
up your letras website soon — thanks for creating it.)

Brook “Paid by the Word” Zern

Subj: FL The list, opinions of PdeL, etc.
Date: Tue, Oct 15, 1996 10:55 AM EDT

I have a discerning electronic editor, it seems. Every time I write a post
that gets unbearably long, or takes too long to write, a little bomb appears
on my screen with a note saying I made a fatal error and must restart,
thereby erasing (diszerning?) the post.

So to quickly paraphase my latest lost tome, I think the list has fully
recuperated from its recent fainting spell — I particularly enjoyed the
latest exchange about Paco, precipitated by Huck’s post and with good stuff
from Berit, John, Hap, Jacinto, Quijote, et al.

A good example of how a discussion can be heartfelt and even heated or testy,
yet very informative and civil enough for flamenco.

On related threads, I relished the chance to disagree with Jacinto on Paco’s
accompaniment of Camaron — which strikes me as brilliant. Also, I found it
hard to cite many gut-grabbing guitar solo recordings (as Murvet asked about)
despite my embarrassing passion for the guitar by itself, unencumbered by
those mike-hogging singers and show-off dancers. Many of the gutgrabbingest
falsetas I know were stolen from cante records, where the interaction may
have intensified the musical moment. (Naturally, my low-wattage
regurgitations usually lack something compared to those electrifying
originals.) Jacinto mentions Paco del Gastor’s solo CD, but most of those
cuts don’t quite cut it for me — he’s better heard accompanying a singer.
Yes, Ramon Montoya comes across beautifully — but it’s more beautiful than
gut-grabbing. Sabicas makes it sometimes, as does Ricardo, but mostly you
have to want to hear gut-grabbing greatness in a solo guitar record to hear it.

(The trick to great traditional flamenco guitar was always to play something
unexpected and surprising, which bumped up against the edge of the rigidly
established formula but didn’t overflow it and violate it. That aesthetic
objective was easy to describe, though very hard to attain. Today, with the
edges or boundaries of flamenco music greatly extended and much less clearly
defined, it’s a cinch for clever musicians to go way out there and play
something new — maybe too easy, in fact. The tonal center of gravity has
been weakened, and this often seems to diminish the emotive power of the
newer music even when the music itself is endlessly inventive.)

(I better mail this quick, before the bomb reexplodes. Just a quick thanks
to Dwight for superbly translating the Serva interview; of course, Dwight has
an unfair advantage over me, in that he actually knows Spanish. He also
works weekends, and correctly surmised that I’m strictly a workaday poster.
Hey, I’ll do some of the translations that are a) not too baffling; and b)
can be done, say, Monday through Thursday or so. That leaves idiomatic
toughies and/or Fri-Sat-Sun for Dwight, as a very tentative suggestion…)

Brook Zern

Subj: FL The Vargas Family
Date: Mon, Oct 14, 1996 7:52 PM EDT

Lori in Seville gives a lot of interesting information on the Vargas family,
and asks if there are other Vargas fans among us.

Sure. The quality of Angelita’s dancing speaks for itself, and she did just
fine as part of Flamenco Puro, the great traveling show that brought the best
and “purest” artists to the U.S. and elsewhere about ten years ago. I
remember her as a young girl, dancing in a long-gone tablao at the Hotel
Murillo in Santa Cruz — clearly a future star, or is that just hindsight?

When I was living in Seville, before the earth had cooled, her big brother
Isidro was often in my apartment. He sort of gravitated towards Americans,
and was romantically involved with a somewhat unusual U.S. woman. (This
created major problems for an another U.S. woman, an anthropologist who had
gradually gotten close to the Vargas family and was carefully studying their
typical Gypsy ways, so to speak. Suddenly, she found that they were eating
flapjacks for breakfast and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch –
not your standard Gypsy fare, but brought in by the girlfriend from the U.S.
air base; naturally, there were other cultural confusions as the girlfriend turned the family on to other great achievements of the American empire, and the anthropologist finally had to give up her project.)

I found Isidro kind of annoying, because he could pick up my guitar and play
a better bulerias than I could, although he had no idea how to play the
guitar. He just waggled his hands around, and out came these noises which
were in magnificent compas and suggested all kinds of knowledge. Sort of
like what Camaron does, but without knowing those two chords. I assumed
Isidro would become famous as a flamenco, since like Chango he had that
“hard-core flamenco personality”; but while he is known and respected he
hasn’t hit it big, it seems. He was and no doubt is a great dancer, of
course, but his proportions were a little off — he was mostly a dancing

From my apartment in Los Remedios, I could see the Vargas’s house over in the
hilltop town of San Juan de Aznalfarache — though it was quicker to take a
bus for the few-miles ride than to place a phone call and wait for a

(Gualberto Garcia, now a hip figure in the Seville popular music scene, was
also in the house a lot, but he was more interested in learning Beatles songs
than in flamenco — he would soon become a sort of seminal figure, I guess,
in the struggle to create some sort of Spanish rock. Later, he somehow
showed up at my place in New York on his way to Woodstock. He was in several
different groups, among them perhaps the important Smash; the drummer,
Silvio, also practiced with Gualberto on my big terrace.)

(I was renting a “piso atico”, effectively a penthouse though pretty modest
even at a steep fifty bucks a month in 1965, overlooking the cornfields that
are now the Feria fairgrounds. I thought it was pretty clever, scooping up a
penthouse-type rooftop apartment while those silly Spaniards passed on it;
then the weather warmed up, and warmed up, and warmed up, and warmed up…)

New note: I wrote the above but couldn’t mail it Friday, because “for some
reason host failed to respond,”, as happens now and again on AOL. Just
noticed Bob’s reply, which indicates that he, too, was in the Vargas
family orbit, only moreso and perhaps a year earlier. His memory is also
better. Yes, my modern apartment in Los Remedios, like his, quickly became
mildewed during the longish rainy season around October and November, when
that unbearable heat became a warm memory. Yes, Angelita and Changuito were
not as out-there as Isidro — she was shy and he was still a kid, and I never
suspected he could sing as he did for Bob.

Enough already. Thanks for bestirring the fading memories.

Brook Zern

Subj: FL Earn Big Money – Become a Flamencologist!
Date: Fri, Oct 11, 1996 7:13 PM EDT

It contains some tricky words and phrases, but I still wanted to attempt a
translation of Juan Diaz’s post, which he credits to Sevilla Flamenca
magazine #62 of Sept/Oct 1989:


1. Break into every flamenco event you can find, without being invited.
Greet everyone loudly as if you belong there and give them a bear hug.
Smile. Always smile.

2. Heatedly interrupt every gathering. Drop the following words to show
your great wisdom and to astound others: “gitanisimo”; “suena bien”;
“duele”; “que quita el sentio”; and such like.

3. Memorize the names of a few long-gone singers who are still revered,
prefixing all Gypsy names with “tio”. Intermingle other names of unknown or
nonexistent artists as they occur to you: “Curro el del Cortijo”; “Perico el
Daleao”; “Jenaro Malaspulgas”; “Basilio el de las Bestias”; “Canuto el
Capataz”; etc. etc. (If, improbably, someone should doubt the existence of
these fruits of your imagination, simply invent new sources using other
names, vehemently adding their birthplaces: Los Molares, Benacazon, Punta de
Moral, Las Alcantarillas, and so on. If the challenger still does not
concede, threaten to take him to the very house in which the artist was born,
and to play ancient and inaudible 78′s or cylinder recordings of the music –
this will end the resistance.)

4. Don’t ever use intelligible language in your critical appraisals. And be
sure that your chronicle of recitals or festivals does not coincide with the
general opinion of aficionados, since they are always wrong and you are
always right.

5. If your favorite singer has performed badly or horribly, tell everyone
that it was the fault of unforeseeable confluences of events. For example:
say “He never sings well in inclement weather”, even if the local drought has
lasted for six months straight. Done well, the effect can be quite poetic, and
aficionados respond to this regardless of geographic or climatic realities.

6. Shower praise on any singer who can only perform one or two flamenco
styles well. Immediately dismiss and insult any who have mastered 10 or 20
or more songs, calling them show-offs or encyclopedists. Describe their
performances as boring, routine, overlong, cold — there are plenty of

7. Never refuse an invitation to a flamenco seminar. Sit next to the guest
of honor, and stay close for photographs except when you are pocketing the
best sandwiches. If possible, loudly shout something that will call attention to yourself. If this doesn’t work because others are doing the same thing, don’t be discouraged — there’s always tomorrow when television teams might be present.

8. Participate actively in biennials, congresses, contests and other events,
especially those with the best food and drink. Remember the dialogue between
Diogenes and Aristipo. Diogenes said “If you knew how to live on cabbage,
Aristipo, you wouldn’t have to fawn on all these boring bigshots.” To which
Aristipo replied: “If you knew how to fawn on these boring bigshots,
Diogenes, you wouldn’t have to live on cabbage.”

9. Always express your opinions and disagreements aggressively and in a nasty way. Flamenco criticism, as is evident, is not for the timid and well-bred.
Broaden your vocabulary with expletives, curses, ill-considered words and
other injurious phrases, to prove you are a hard, wise and knowledgeable
person. Sprinkle your writing or speeches liberally with neologisms in the
Gypsy’s cale language, or use the Germanisms — the criminal dialect — that distinguishes the true authority: barbi, abelar, esparrabarse, diquelar, nicabar, pincharar,abiyelar, mulchanelar, etc., as needed. If no one understands, they will
still take you for a Ph.D.

10. If you follow these rules to the letter, you will be able to conceal
your ignorance indefinitely. Only you will realize that you — like everyone
else — don’t know beans about flamenco. Others won’t be able to penetrate
your act, and you will acquire such prestige and reverence that it will be
useless to try. As for the rest, you might gradually come to learn something

That’s it. Thanks, Juan. All pretty basic stuff for us Official
Flamencologists, of course, though I admit I hadn’t thought of that nice
touch about inserting Germanisms into my act.

Brook Zern

P.S. That “Subject” heading comes from something I saw at a conference of
historians in New York. Someone with a wry sense of humor was selling
matchbooks that said “Earn Big Money – Become a Historian!” I think the
seller earned more from the matchbooks than any of the historians earned from
their trade.

Subj: Re: FL Alone on the list
Date: Fri, Oct 11, 1996 6:07 PM EDT

D hits the clavo on the cabeza with these words:

“I’ve seen this on so many lists. People “threatening” to quit, instead of
just quietly unsubscribing as soon as they realize they’re in the wrong
place, or they’ve had enough.

“I thought the freedom of an open list meant we were all free –not just me
and my own personal favorites– to lurk, or to post what we choose, to spell,
or misspel, to opine, to rebut, to praise, to preen and posture, to insult,
to rant, to inveigh against, to be pedantic or dumb or playful or helpful, to
make fools of ourselves, to have a bad writing day, to become embroiled (or
not) in sterile arguments, and, most importantly, to ignore, and to delete.

“So what’s the problem? Whose tastes have the exclusive right to prevail

“I hope even Tim doesn’t leave, or even Marie, since they happen to be two of
my favorites.

“But if they do, the flamenco list will go on as before: unevenly.

“How could it be otherwise, and why _should_ it be otherwise?”

Yeah, D.

(As for me, I see it in narrower terms — like dinner. The more people I can
drive away from the table, the more there is for me. And if I can drive
everyone away, I’ll have it all to myself. So scram, ye of little faith.
And if you ever want to come back, don’t be surprised if I’ve instituted a
little membership fee for joining my private list here, a wholly-owned
subsidiary of Zern Enterprises…)

Brook “le list, c’est moi” Zern

January 16, 2017   No Comments

Test – Posts – Part Four – 12/20/96 – 10/30/96

Date: Fri, Dec 20, 1996 3:55 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Instruments

Jay notes that the Gypsies had every chance to use the violin, but chose the guitar. Luke wonders whether the presence in Spain of Arabic ouds might have tipped the balance toward guitar.

I’ve always wondered why the oud was never used in flamenco (prior to around 1970, that is — when American flamenco player Chip Bond, aka Carlos Lomas, did a Spanish recording on which he played oud one one side and guitar on the other.) It seemed the oud should be ideal for flamenco, because it had no fixed frets and so (like the violin) it could hit quarter-tones or microtones or whatever those itty-bitty flamenco intervals are properly called.

But I think the real answer lies in the original role of the guitar as a support to the voice. In this role, the guitar’s potential to render chords (something the oud isn’t well suited for) gives the guitar an edge. With chords, the guitar supports a sung flamenco melody — kind of like rhythm guitar in rock supports melodies of a lead guitar or a singer.

I think that in a traditional flamenco context, the oud becomes a second, competing voice — and that’s why the guitar won out. (Or maybe it’s just because the oud rankled folks in Spain, who saw it as a symbol of the old Moorish occupation.)

Brook Zern

Subj: Juan Diaz on J on Paco (translation)
Date: Fri, Dec 13, 1996 6:11 PM EDT

Juan Diaz — it’s great to see that he’s still with us — takes Julio de los
Reyes to task for those two closing caveats in Julio’s post declaring Paco
the greatest flamenco guitarist ever. He says:

“J wrote:

‘You say Paco has contributed to the mixing and mangling of traditional
flamenco? Agreed. That there’s no reason for Paco to meddle with the
Concierto de Aranjuez when he doesn’t have a classical sound or the
appropriate musical training? Agreed…’

Oh, really, J? I don’t think that Paco has estropeado (mixed, mangled)
traditional flamenco. Everything has evolved. Years ago, you could have
gone into Triana or Granada’s Albaicin or other flamenco sites par excelence,
and heard flamenco song coming from bars and homes. But no longer. These
places, and Jerez, are not what they were. The flamenco barrios have
changed, the cities and people and the flamenco atmosphere has changed — but
not for the worse. Like every art, flamenco evolves, and changes for the
better. Which flamenco is more traditional and authentic — that of a
century ago, or that of 40 years ago?

I think Paco is a flamenco guitarist not only when he wishes to be, and plays
flamenco, but always. His interpretation of the Concierto de Aranjuez is
permeated with his flamenco style, and doesn’t conflict with a classical
interpretation (note that I say interpretation, for each guitarist interprets
a written work according to his formative influences, his state of mind,
etc., which makes the workd totally different in each execution. Maestro
Rodrigo, the composer, said that Paco’s interpretation struck him as “quite

We owe to Paco a vital part of the evolution of the guitar in flamenco — and
even if flutes or other non-customary elements are inserted, it never stops
for a moment being flamenco (in my exotic opinion). What would the long-ago
singer “El Planeta” have thought on hearing Ricardo, or Ramon Montoya, or

J, the rest of your post struck me as quite interesting, and it is a
pleasure to share your experiences and stories.



End of translation of Juan Diaz post. Is it starting to get warm in here?

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: Evolucion o mestizaje (translation of Juan Diaz post)
Date: Mon, Dec 16, 1996 11:13 AM EDT

Juan Diaz, in his post called “Evolution or mixing/diluting”, wrote to J:

“You say: ‘Independent of personal taste, it’s one thing when social and
urban shifts alter flamenco, but quite another thing to deliberately
introduce elements that are totally alien to the art. When I use the term
“estropear” (to mix or mangle) flamenco, I’m not just saying that the change
is unhelpful to the art but that it mixes and dilutes it, altering its

J: Influenced by the dictates of Antonio Mairena, for many the last
great flamenco artist, I agree with you that that some groups who certainly
mix flamenco — Ketama and Pata Negra, for example — should not be called
flamenco. Even though these groups are part of important flamenco families,
where they were raised in the purest and most orthodox tradition. I don’t
know what the older Habichuelas think of
the youngsters’ work, but I suspect they are thrilled with the economic
results and might find sufficient reason to justify this kind of music.

Even Mairena, a studious type who never performed a serious traditional song
publicly until he knew he had dominated it thoroughly, was criticized in his
time. Some asked how much of his own creation permeated his versions of
songs from el Nitri, or Juanelo, or Silverio.

Manolo Caracol was criticized for having his brother-in-law Arturo Pavon
accompany him on the piano — never mind his singing with an orchestra. He
himself just said, “You can sing with anything — bagpipes, violins, flutes,

Camaron? Well, I’ll skip that one — I expect that Jacinto will have an
opinion on his innovations.

In these modern times, when communication is practically instantaneous and
everyone is exposed to the most diverse influences, the “mestizaje” (mixing,
dilution) of flamenco is inevitable. Without such changes, flamenco would
cease to be a truly authentic culture and music. Some who criticize this
tendency to mix and fuse are at the same time trying to uncover flamenco’s
early Jewish, Arabic, Gypsy and Christian roots that led to its creation.

Wasn’t that itself mixing and fusion?


Juan (a faithful admirer of Terremoto de Jerez)

End of Juan’s post.

Brook Zern

Subj: Cabrillero, 2 Canalejases
Date: Mon, Dec 16, 1996 11:45 AM EDT

Thanks to Murvet for testing that new CD by Cabrillero, whose first cassette
impressed me for its quality of cante as well as the singer’s vocal
resemblance to Chocolate, a relative of his.

Sorry it was a disappointment — maybe I was wrong, or maybe he just got

Canalejas de Jerez is not the same guy as Canalejas de Puerto Real — they
were both respected, and lived mostly when it was hard to peddle serious
stuff. Canalejas de Jerez may have spent more time doing serious flamenco
well; the one from Puerto Real was very famous, very popular and might have
recorded more “commercial” material to maintain that popularity.

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: Paquito…que? (engl.)
Date: Tue, Dec 17, 1996 6:10 PM EDT

It was nice to see Berit’s translation of her own post to J,
in which she takes issue with J’s thoughtful defense of “traditional”

She mentioned that she was unaware of an earlier time, mentioned by Julio,
when flamenco also reached mass audiences. J was referring to a key
aspect of the “opera flamenca” period that lasted for most of the first half
of our century. During that time, promoters assembled groups of performers
and often booked them into the biggest venue in most Spanish towns — the
bull ring. There, in the open air and often without amplification of any
kind, the artists performed for thousands or even tens of thousands of people
who filled the seats.

It was a widespread phenomenon. Aside from flamenco artists, there might be
popular singers or even magicians or jugglers. Naturally, the more
accessible flamenco singers had an edge — those with pretty voices, like
Pepe Marchena and La Nina de la Puebla, or those who specialized in the
popular fandangos, like El Sevillano and countless others. But great and
“pure” artists were also frequently booked as part of these events. La Nina
de los Peines, Manuel Torre and many other giants of the art.

I saw a few such shows — the last gasp of Opera Flamenca — in the early
sixties. An awful way to present some fine performers, but they sure were
cheap and you saw a lot of people for your 15 pesetas. (Come to think of it,
the only time I ever saw Rudolph Nureyev live was in the Barcelona bullring
in 1963 — no, he wasn’t part of an Opera Flamenca show.)

Incidentally, I liked Berit’s other recent post (in Spanish, I think) where
she was critical of Vicente Amigo for lacking a certain edge (“rajo”, or
hoarseness, she said) in his guitar playing, while acknowledging his
musicality, creativity and finesse.

(Also incidentally, I haven’t really listened to Paco de Lucia’s version of
Concierto de Aranjuez which J views so negatively; but I remember really
liking his Falla recording of 1978 mentioned by Berit. Back then I wrote
something like: “Falla borrowed from the folk and flamenco tradition, and now
Paco borrows his music right back, giving it real vitality and power that it
all too often lacks in its “proper” classical rendition.”)

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: FL Foam Mystery Solved
Date: Tue, Dec 10, 1996 12:44 PM EDT

I asked my local expert why, when I put foam or a sponge under the guitar
strings to reduce noise, the guitar sounds so much louder and more powerful
after I take it out.

“Oh,” she said, “that’s because the foam soaks up all the sound that the
guitar usually makes, and puts it into the wood. When you remove it, all the
extra sound that got stuck in the wood comes out. Don’t you know anything
about guitars?”

Speaking of sound levels, she was delighted when I told her I was learning a
terrific silencio for alegrias, but seemed disappointed when I offered to
play it for her. I asked why, and she said “Oh, nothing. I just thought a
silencio meant the guitarist would finally shut up for a while.”

Brook Zern

Subj: J responds to Juan (translation)
Date: Tue, Dec 17, 1996 9:03 PM EDT

J responded to Juan Diaz’s post roughly as follows:

“Juan, what can I tell you? Yes, the current mestijaze (mixing, dilution) of
flamenco is inevitable. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. In fact, I
DO believe that as a result “flamenco ceases to be an authentic music and
culture”; though it may perhaps change into something else that is another
authentic music and culture.

Do you like bean fabadas? Well, suppose you ask for it in a restaurant and
they bring you something with spinach or peas or curry or whatever.
Obviously, you tell the waiter “Hey, I asked for fabada!” And now he
replies “Sure, and you got it.”

You: “What kind of stupid fabada is this — do you think I don’t know fabada
when I see it?”

Waiter: “Well, the cook got tired of always making it the same old way, so
he’s been changing it. But try it, it’s delicious…”

You get the idea…

Regarding what you say about Antonio Mairena, I always suspected that the
extraordinary “lost” songs that he revived and attributed to singers from the
pre-gramophone era were actually “Made in Mairena”. I think he just made
them up — and applaud him for it. And I don’t agree with much of what he
said (or: you said?). But he earned himself a place in the H of F (How
fitting — we all use initials these days.)



End of J’s post to Juan.

Brook Zern

Subj: Correcting Richard’s Talega Verse
Date: Wed, Dec 18, 1996 12:12 PM EDT

Richard renders Juan Talegas’ solea as follows:

“Oooahh uh arrugh
oouh o ahum
aoooow uh por gunuf
ajan groo auwee”

I think the third line should actually be:

“awooooo ungh por gunif”

Translation would hardly seem necessary, since this is obviously Juan’s
moving “I never saw a purple cow…” verse from Tomas el Nitri.

Great post, Richard.

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: silk wraps
Date: Fri, Dec 20, 1996 10:53 AM EDT

John M mentions a recurring problem with silk nail wraps — during
flamenco playing, they can separate from the nail tip.

Once again, let me advocate an alternative: Try using super glue, sprinkled
with some kind of powder before it dries to give it thickness and avoid
brittleness. Some use corn starch, but I buy IBD 5-Second Nail Filler (a
poly acrylic polymer powder) for good luck. For durability, repeat the
process once or twice. It may not be perfect for everyone (and some might be
allergic to super glue), but it won’t separate the way silk wrap does after
being beat up by flamenco playing.

Brook Zern

Subj: Really smokin’
Date: Fri, Dec 20, 1996 11:13 AM EDT

Jorge Wojtas mentions the pall of smoke that you’ll encounter along with the
flamenco in Casa Patas and other flamenco venues.

Yes, indeed. It’s hard for gringos to believe, but everyone in Spain still
smokes, and in my mind the habit is almost as closely linked to flamenco as
is drinking (or, lately, drugs). (It seems surprising that lung cancer isn’t
a major cause of death for flamencos — though that may be the official cause
of the tragic loss of Camaron.)

At intimate fiestas, I acquired a pretty good reputatation as a deeply
understanding and empathetic listener because I tended to weep silently
during songs and sometimes even run outside, clearly overcome by emotion.

The real reason, of course, was that my eyes were always tearing up and
stinging painfully because of the black tobacco fumes, and I had to run out
to give them some fresh air.

I never learned to smoke; but when I wanted to pretend I was a real flamenco
guitarist (except for the red hair, freckles and glasses), I’d borrow a lit
cigarette (preferably a Celta or Bisonte) and impale it on the sharp end of
my third string while playing. I thought it was the cat’s pajamas, until
someone tactfully noted that it looked vastly more dashing and authentic when
El Marote did it.

Brook Zern

Re: Falo’s cante por bulerias
Date: Mon, Dec 23, 1996 5:34 PM EDT

James Keenan wonders if El Chalao (my language dictionary defines that word
as “Addle-pated or light-witted”) is also in the flamenco dictionary.

Yes. “Artistic name of Jose Suarez Gallardo, inspired by his tendency toward
fantasy (lo fantosioso). Jerez de la Frontera, 1881-1956. Brother on his
mother’s side to Agujetas el Viejo (Agujetas’ father) and Rubichi, Padre
(Diego Rubichi’s father). Singer and dancer. He created a very personal
style of bulerias that has been maintained by some members of his family and
by La Moreno. His artistic career developed in intimate fiestas.”

I still say that someone (else) should do a family tree of flamenco, since
everyone is apparently related to everyone else.

Reports of my guapeza are greatly exaggerated.

Brook Zern

P.S. I sorta thought guapo meant handsome. Maybe, but the language
dictionary says: “1. Stout, courageous, valiant, bold, enterprising, good,
clever. 2. Spruce, neat, elegant, ostentatious, vain. 3. Gay, sprightly,
fond of courting women.”

Lemme see. I qualify on the stout, ostentatious, and vain parts, and on one
of those multiple choices for 3…

Subj: Re: silk wraps
Date: Fri, Dec 20, 1996 4:17 PM EDT

Mike B says he tried using superglue sprinkled with powder but ended up
with a really thick mess that took lots of sanding down.

Not to belabor the point, but try using too little powder instead of too
much. And when it dries (fairly quickly), repeat the process — another thin
application of glue and a sprinkle of powder. Maybe even do it again. Stop
when it’s just right.

Sorry to harp on this — I know there are alternatives, such as Chuck’s
embarrassingly named “Beauty Secrets” — but superglue-plus-powder works very
well for me. (I don’t sand my whole nail beforehand, so the overlay pops off
after a couple of weeks — or sooner if you make the mistake of taking any
baths or showers — but you can easily make a new one, or super-glue the old
one back on.)

I used to be able to blame my nails for my pathetic flamenco career. This
solution has given me a new challenge — finding something else to blame;
anything other than…

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: FL Foam under strings
Date: Mon, Dec 9, 1996 11:33 AM EDT

Yes, some kind of damper under the strings, jammed up against the bridge, can
be a terrific help in flamenco playing. (Make sure it’s evenly cut and
perpendicular to the strings, so the string length is unchanged for proper

I got into the habit long ago by popular demand (“Shut up! Can’t you play
that thing softly?!”) and it’s neat — though if you keep playing hard,
you’ll still make a strong sound which is even more unpleasant than regular,
unmuffled sound (“Take that damn sponge out! That thunking noise is

Anyway, foam can really help you hear problem areas that are otherwise
masked, as Quijote notes. And the guitar does indeed seem to sound wonderful
when you finally take it out. I always assumed this was like the good
subjective results you get when you stop banging your head against a wall,
but maybe it really does recharge the guitar in some strange way.

Socks work too, in a pinch.

Brook (“Put a sock in it!”) Zern

Subj: FL Translation – Julio de los Reyes on This and That
Date: Fri, Dec 6, 1996 1:02 PM EDT

Yesterday, J posted a lovely thing in Spanish roughly as

“Hello, everyone,

Last night I visited the website address you gave us for flamenco verses,
Rafael Moreno, and you deserve our thanks. I can imagine the hours and days
you spent assembling this enormous collection of letras. I’ll be reading
them each day, and helping you out wherever I can. In the section I opened
first, directing my attention to the name of my friend Manuel Morao, there’s
a siguiriya of Terremoto for which you don’t have the complete letra. It

Morirme quisiera
y escuchar tus dobles,
a ver si dice esta gitanita buena
“Que Dios lo perdone…”

(I’d like to die
just to hear the bells toll
and see if that good Gypsy woman would say
“May God forgive him.”)

I don’t have many records and of course I don’t know every verse that’s been
recorded. But I know that one, because Terremoto sang it often. I remember
a “gira” or tour (“tournee”, we called it then) with the Cabalgata Espanola
(Spanish Cavalcade) group. This must’ve been in ’59. Esteban de Sanlucar
was first guitarist, and Curro Terremoto — the brother of singer Fernando –
was principal dancer. Curro was (is, hoping he’s still living) physically
identical to Fernando and was a bailaor de antologia — a very complete
dancer — in the mold or cut of Farruco. I was second guitarist, and spent
day and night with Esteban and with Curro, listening and learning. Around
that time, Fernando made a recording — a little 45 rpm disc — with
siguiriyas on one side and bulerias on the other, accompanied by Manuel and
Juan Morao. The siguiriya said:

Hermanito mio Curro,
mandame una carta.
Que con saber que te encuentras bueno
me sobra y me basta.

(Curro, my brother,
send me a letter.
Just to know that you are well
would be enough, and more than enough.)

I think I saw the record and bought it, though I can’t remember where we were
at the time. I went back to the hotel and asked someone in the troupe if I
could borrow their little portable record player — a terrible machine — and
then went up to Curro’s room.

I put on the record without saying a word. He heard the guitar and said
“!Eze er Morao!” (“That’s el Morao!”) Then the cante por siguiriya began.
(Here I should mention that the two brothers hadn’t seen each other for many
years, since Curro had gone to Argentina where he had gotten married and
stayed to live.)

“Mi hermano! Mi hermano!”, he exclaimed, and started to cry like a baby.
And I, with my heart in my mouth, joined him.

At that moment, Esteban knocked on the door and came in. He stopped for a
moment, listening…looking at us…and then he, too, started to weep. What
a spectacle! The three of us crying like the Magdalena, and playing the
record over and over again. We were there for hours…

All of this suddenly came rushing back to me. How wise was the person who
said “We are our memories”.

Incidentally, I must note that no singer, living or dead, reached me and
delighted me like Fernando Terremoto. I like so many singers, but he has the
position of honor in my private pantheon, together with Carmen Amaya, Farruco
and Nino Ricardo.

I recall reading a query in the digest about whether Esteban de Sanlucar was
really the composer of “Mantillas de Feria”. Of course he was! And not only
that piece, but “Panaderos” (in various keys), a marvelous Zapateado in D
minor, a Danza Mora, “Castilla de Xauen”, and more that escapes me. He
showed me all of them, and was an extraordinary friend. I learned of his
death in the magazine Sevilla Flamenca last year. In any event…

An abrazo


That’s J’s latest missive to the list. The word he uses for Esteban’s
zapateado is “precioso”. It means precious or priceless or something
in between the two. J’s writing is precioso indeed.

Brook Zern

Subj: FL Caramba, Brook! (Hiya, J!)
Date: Wed, Dec 4, 1996 6:08 PM EDT

Thanks, J. Of course, you could’ve translated those verses quite
eloquently yourself, with the subtle advantage of actually understanding
them. But I agree that translation is usually best done into one’s native
language rather than into a second language.

I’m sorry that you came to the list so recently — your deep knowledge and
“input” could’ve kept things on track when none of us had a clue about
various fine points of flamenco. Also, you missed some very good times and
earnest exchanges.

The list is in a strange phase right now, obviously. “Se esta agonizando”,
perhaps — in its death throes. Like everyone else, I’m pretty shook up.
Unfortunately, I probably did more than my share to precipitate the crisis
by dropping out along with a few other hypersensitive types, after a
sometimes-rude member was abruptly expelled. (At least, our quitting could
have been a factor in the administrator’s decision to leave her post; I hope

The intense internal debate showed that most people will forgo freedom of
expression on this particular list in order to reduce the risk of
unpleasantness or hurtfulness. No one has picked up the list yet (I think),
so we go down to the wire. I feel like an orphan, albeit the kind of orphan
who demands sympathy after killing its parents…

My neuronic meltdown surely exceeds yours, but I think it M. and E whom I’d haunt La Paella (near CCNY?) and Meson El Cid (or was it the Buena Mesa?). Simon Serrano sang (I’ve lost track of him), as did Paco Ortiz and Luis Vargas, who are still with us. I remember filling in for Chip Bond there one night, so he could do something important. The owner had this big chimpanzee — yes, chimpanzee — and I gradually noticed that the chimpanzee had precisely the charisma and sense of showmanship that I clearly lacked.

I missed my big chance for immortality, or at least a little popularity, when
I declined to let the chimpanzee play my new Arcangel Fernandez guitar. The
patrons booed me for spoilsportsmanlike conduct. I do remember playing a
siguiriyas that sounded overwhelmingly tragic to me, and later a really
joyous alegrias. (Chip said the owner later asked him why I played the same
damn song all night, and said that his chimp certainly had a better

You are right to note that often it doesn’t matter what the verse actually
says — delivery is what makes it work or not work. Once Mario Escudero
asked me to introduce him and Luis Vargas for a cante-accompaniment interval
at one of his YMHA concerts. Mario arranged for a table with three chairs
and a bottle of fino, and said I should sit down and listen after the intro
as an audience-surrogate. So I sat, drank a copa, and was merrily clapping
dobles for a hot bulerias with what I viewed as uncanny precision.

Gradually, I focused on what Luis was singing: “Shut up with your stupid
clapping/for God’s sake/How the hell do you expect me to sing/when you’re so
hopelessly fuera de compas).” Anyway, the crowd — heavily Spanish speaking
– thought the verse was just great.

Brook Zern

Subj: FL J’s verses (translation
Date: Tue, Dec 3, 1996 7:34 PM EDT

Here are some translations — always inadequate to the breathtaking concentrated poetry that has sustained these verses over generations and even centuries:


Mira que mala es tu mare
que no te deja salir
ni a la puerta de la calle.

(How bad your mother is;
She doesn’t even let you
go out of your doorway.)

Yo creia que’l querer
era cosita de juguete,
ahora veo que se pasan
las fatiguitas de la muerte.

(I thought that love
was a game to be toyed with;
now I see that it puts you through
the anguish of death itself.)

No digas que m’as querio
sino que ha sido un ensueno (‘n’ con tilde)
que yo contigo he tenio.

(Don’t say you loved me;
just say it was a dream
we shared.)

Aquel que tenga la culpa
de nuestra separacion,
a pea(d)zos se le caigan
las alas del corazon.

(The one who forced
our separation –
may the wings of his heart
fall to pieces on the ground.)

Que cuidaito se me da a mi
que de mi formen historia;
yo estoy comiendo y bebiendo
y estoy viviendo en la gloria.

(What do I care
if they’re telling stories about me;
I’m eating and drinking
and living in Heaven itself.)

Dime (d)onde estas meti(d)a
que yo te llamaba a voces
y tu no me respondias.

(Tell me where you were,
when I was calling you
and you didn’t answer.)

A pesar de tanto tiempo
por tan distintos caminos
en mi corazon presiento
que tu eres mi destino.

(Through all this time,
even on our different roads,
In my heart I can sense
that you are my destiny.)

Tengo que dejar de verte,
y si solucion no encuentro
se que me cuesta la muerte.

(I am compelled to stop seeing you;
and if this is not resolved
I know it will cost me my life.)

Cuando me siento a la mesa
y en ti me pongo a pensar,
tiro el plato y la comi(d)a
de fatiguitas que a mi me dan.

(When I sit at the table
and start to think,
I throw away my plate and the food in it,
from the grief I’m feeling.)

Tu querer y mi querer
aunque se riegue con llanto
nunca pue’(de) prevalecer.

(Our love,
though watered with tears,
can never prevail.)


Si esto que a mi me pasa
le pasara a otro…
Tengo momentos de noche
de volverme loco.

(If what’s happening to me
were happening to another…
At night there are times
when I feel I’m going mad.)

Las manos a mi me duelen
de tanto llamar;
Yo m’e perdi(d)o entre un sueno y otro (‘n’ con tilde)
por la madruga’

(My hands ache
from so much calling;
I find myself lost between to dreams
in the early morning.)

No lo permitais.
Que los franceses qu’estan en La Isla
se metan en Cai (Cadiz)

(Don’t let it happen –
that the French soldiers on La Isla
enter the city of Cadiz)

Dejarmelos ver, dejarmelos ver…
los ojitos de mi nino Curro
por ultima vez.

(Let me see them, let me see them;
the little eyes of my child Curro
for the last time.)

Con que grandes fatigas
yo le pi(d)o a Dios
de que le alivie a mi mare las ducas
de su corazon.

(With vast anguish
I ask God
To take away the suffering
of my mother’s heart.)

Delant’e mi mare no me digas na’(nada)
porque naquera (habla) mu malitas cosas
cuando tu te vas.

(Don’t say anything to me in front of my mother
because she says vicious things about you
when you aren’t here.)

Ayy, Curro de mi alma
mandame una carta.
Que con saber que te encuentras bueno
me sobra y me basta.

(Ayy, Curro de mi alma,
send me a letter;
just knowing you are well
would be enough; no, more than enough.)

Dios mio librame, Dios mio librame.
Como me libras de una malina lengua y
de un mal incurable.

(God, free me — free me
As you free me from an evil tongue
and an incurable illness.)

Que desgracia es la mia hasta en el andar,
que to’os (todos) los pasos que yo daba p’alante
se me van p’atras.

(What misfortune I find, even as I walk;
Each step I take forward
carries my backward.)

Regards to all,

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: FL Question for Brook
Date: Sat, Nov 30, 1996 4:39 AM EDT

Bob you rascal you,

At Money magazine, we hereby refuse to publish your marvelous and interesting
book on flamenco, because it is off our topic, which is boring personal
finance. By the same token, I would not expect any flamenco list
administrator to publish my Top Ten Tax Tips, and would not even view such a
refusal as censorship or a personal insult.

I would suggest that you publish your book in a flamenco forum, such as a
mailing list or your own home page, or else try to find a music publisher
with a good distribution network who might be able to make a profit on it.
(I’m loosely associated with the American Institute of Guitar, which has a
sort of publishing arm, though not a great distribution network, and has
published Dennis Koster’s three methods with some success; I’d be very happy
to take your manuscript right to the top and hope that an agreement can be
reached, but given the size of your manuscript and the initial investment
involved and the AIG’s pathetic finances, I’m not optimistic.)

As for the real issue concerning the list, Bob, I think you know that I’m
uncomfortable with a list that regulates (or polices, or censors) expression
on the topic. Indeed, I think the potential for abuse is considerable by the
regulator — just as I readily admit a potential for abuse by a thoughtless
or nasty poster. You are comfortable assuming that the person in charge will
not abuse the privilege of banning. Yet we’ve already seen a case in which
an administrator who seemed really terrific decided to summarily and (I
think) without warning banish someone who offended her sensibility.

You may think that JD will be more evenhanded and fairer than E
(or you may hope that he will be quicker to ban people, for all I know) –
but don’t be too sure. (I already said, in happier times, that I was one of
those folks whom a teeny weeny bit of power corrupted absolutely; what if
your unelected representative is no better than I am?)

Once again, I suspect there’s a way to have a list that makes room for the
bad and the ugly as well as all the good people. Maybe the administrator
could find all the unpleasant messages and put them in an Unpleasantness
Corner, or tag them as Nasty in the headline/subject so no one who hated
nastiness would have to read them.

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: FL Sticks and Stones
Date: Sat, Nov 30, 1996 4:37 AM EDT

I have just read John Dimick’s very long list of offenses and his exact
definitions of when something is offensive by his standards.

I had hoped Mr. Dimick might be flexible in light of his interesting and
combative initial posts to this group. But his new post has made me rather
pessimistic, and I can’t help wondering if others share this view.

While I agree with him that an administrator should not allow posts which are
irrelevant to the topic, I found the rest of his rules and regulations to be
dismaying. He evidently allows a wide latitude when it comes to the topic at
hand, but promises that if anyone veers into an opinion of another person,
it’s grounds for permanent banning from the list. Personally, I’m not sure
it’s all that easy to disentangle the two: If someone says that Agujetas is
a wonderful singer but not a wonderful guy, is that person kicked off the
list forever?

John Dimick demands brevity, which would of course eliminate such stuff as my
lengthy translations of articles from the flamenco press. But maybe that’s
not an issue, since he also demands that such translations be accompanied by
written permission from the copyright holder.

He then defines “flames” — with perfect precision, in his own eyes. Once
again, it means anything with a personal element. So if I say his post is
asinine, it’s evidently okay, but if I say it was written by an asinine
person, it’s curtains for me.

Ah, but it’s not that simple — because sometimes, a comment about a post
(not a poster) may be judged by John Dimick to have been “flame-bait”.

And as an example of flame bait, he offers “I attended a concert by (World’s
Most Popular Guitarist). What a waste!”

Well, when I learned that Paco de Lucia, the World’s Most Popular Flamenco
Guitarist, was going back on the road with Al and John, I had to back away
from my prior claim that he always followed his own star and never did
anything for commercial reasons. As I recall, I posted that “this whole
thing is a waste of time”. I was upset to have to say that. And evidently
if I had tried to do so in the Dimick regime, I couldn’t have said it at all; I
would have been banned for “flame-baiting”.

In other words, while I was doubtful about becoming part of Mr. Dimick’s
list, I now see that it will hardly be an option even if I choose that

Folks, what can I say? NOW do you understand why I’ve been harping on this
one silly little side-issue of free expression so obsessively?

A new list like the one Mr. Dimick proposes will seemingly be much more
restrictive that the current list. Anyone who doesn’t mind his or her P’s
and Q’s is gonna be history real quick, and without possibility of parole. I
hope that some others will be given pause by Mr. Dimick’s remarkably strict
Rules of Order, and will consider the possibility of alternatives.

Brook Zern

Subj: FL The Podsnap Problem
Date: Wed, Nov 27, 1996 6:15 PM EDT

I just got a private post from a disappointed ex-fan, saying that my recent
post about “enjoying A’s posts now because he probably wouldn’t last
long on a strictly-policed list” was “beneath me”.

I don’t know if this poster was around at the time, but when A came onto
the list it was with a torrent of truly vile insults to Don Pohren, whom I
optimistically consider a friend and who is the greatest American
flamencologist by far — and probably the only one, which is too bad for us

I went out of my way to defend A at that time, though I was embarrassed
by and for him, because he seemed to know a lot about flamenco and because I
felt he had the right to insult anyone, even Pohren, of whom I wrote “this
emperor has clothes on, A.”

A gradually came around to being a civilized member of the list, which
delighted me. (He also became an ardent defender of civility, niceness and
propriety even at the expense of readily expelling people who post insulting
words, which completely amazed me.)

Anyway, that’s why I feel this new post to me was off base. And as I’ve
mentioned, I was fascinated to find that __, in whom so many so
confidently trust, has a nasty streak a mile wide when his ego gets bruised.
(Though it’s good to see that he can certainly take care of himself in an

Brook Zern

Subj: FL D’s defense of free speech
Date: Wed, Nov 27, 1996 5:48 PM EDT

In early October, D posted something I liked a lot. Here’s part of what
he wrote:

“I’ve seen this on so many lists. People “threatening” to quit, instead of
just quietly unsubscribing as soon as they realize they’re in the wrong
place, or they’ve had enough.

“I thought the freedom of an open list meant we were all free –not just me
and my own personal favorites– to lurk, or to post what we choose, to spell,
or misspel, to opine, to rebut, to praise, to preen and posture, to insult,
to rant, to inveigh against, to be pedantic or dumb or playful or helpful, to
make fools of ourselves, to have a bad writing day, to become embroiled (or
not) in sterile arguments, and, most importantly, to ignore, and to delete.

“So what’s the problem? Whose tastes have the exclusive right to prevail

“I hope even T doesn’t leave, or even M, since they happen to be two of
my favorites.

“But if they do, the flamenco list will go on as before: unevenly.

“How could it be otherwise, and why _should_ it be otherwise?”

On October 11, I wrote a post of my own, quoting and seconding D’s views
on the freedom of an open list and its significance.

I was dismayed to see that D subsequently forgot how he used to feel,
and supported instead a closed list where there is no right to insult or to
rant, and where it is the Administrator/Owner alone whose tastes have
the exclusive right to prevail.

I only wish I could change my mind as quickly and completely as D
evidently changed his, so I could be a happy camper on the strictly regulated
list that is sought so avidly by so many.

Brook Zern

Subj: FL Mr. D’s elocutionary approach to Mr. K
Date: Wed, Nov 27, 1996 5:30 PM EDT

Talk about paradoxes. I heartily approve of D’s nasty and
insulting putdowns of my friend K, since I think we should all have the
right to mouth off thoughtlessly when the mood strikes. (Granted, we
shouldn’t feel compelled to actually exercise this right.)

(Somehow, I’m reminded of the great debating technique of Dan Ackroyd on
Saturday Night Live’s version of the typical network political discussion
program, straightening his tie and beginning “Jane, you ignorant slut” — as
if it were a proper form of address because of the formal context in which it
was delivered.)

This is going to be interesting, at least for a while.

Brook Zern

Subj: FL Re: A’s posts
Date: Wed, Nov 27, 1996 5:20 PM EDT

I’m enjoying A’s posts while I can. I have a feeling he won’t last very
long under the watchful eye of the new regime.

Brook Zern

Subj: FL “Human dignity” and freedom of speech
Date: Wed, Nov 27, 1996 3:29 PM EDT

Just read the communique from Mr. S of Dusseldorf, in which he expresses
a strong preference for some undefined thing called “human dignity” (here
apparently meaning the right to not feel insulted) over a readily defined
thing called “freedom of speech”.

As an American, albeit a subversive one, I am wary of the term “human
dignity” when it is used to silence others or prevent them from moving toward
freedom. I recall the emphasis on “human dignity” in Franco’s Spain, where
it was held up as a wonderful alternative to the “dangers of democracy”. It
is currently used in China to justify the emphasis on building prosperity at
the expense of freedom of expression.

I do not necessarily expect those in other countries to share my preference
for freedom over “human dignity”. But I’m surprised that so many of my
countrymen, who shared my indoctrination in Democracy And Its Price in Civics
101, agree with an essentially totalitarian view in the context of our
current debate.

There seems to be a confused notion that democracy encompasses the right of a
majority to prevent a minority from expressing its views as it chooses.

That’s true enough, if the list is seen as what it has evidently been — the
private domain of the administrator (who may, for all I know, also have the
right to exclude people based on race or religion — and why not?).

But it’s not true if the list is seen as I think it should be — a public
forum that essentially belongs to all who want to participate in discussing
the topic.

Anyway, I hope any future list administrator will choose to ignore Mr.
S’s suggestions and “guidance”. His views, though dismayingly close to
those of most on this list, seem better confined to his own bailiwick.

Subj: FL Reopening statement
Date: Wed, Nov 27, 1996 3:18 PM EDT

As I noted in a parting message long ago, I couldn’t remain on the flamenco
list after the decision to expel a member for the ill-tempered nature of
his flamenco-related posts. I’ve just resubscribed after learning that
the current administrator has decided to step down, essentially
mooting that issue. I also feel entitled to see what’s going on regarding
the future of the list.

I’m writing despite D’s posted request that I and my henchpersons who
“murdered” the list maintain a respectful silence during these last few
weeks, and not claim “the right to deliver a funeral oration”.

In fact, I’m not quite convinced it was I and those pathetically few other
“thugs” and “assholes” who “murdered” the list by feeling compelled to sign

(Goodness gracious, I’ve rarely been called a thug before, and certainly not for simply shutting up; is this an example of the new civil discourse?)

In any case, I certainly don’t know why the admin took this step when the list
was evidently running better than ever. I do know that the move is perfectly
consistent with the model of the list that most people evidently preferred:
That it was admio’s list, and admin didn’t owe anyone any explanations.

I don’t know what will happen next, of course. But given the clear
preference for a list that expels people for being argumentative or
insulting, I doubt if I’ll be able to stay long on the successor list.

As everyone here knows, flamenco is a peculiar and unique art form. While
many of its performers value a certain formality, the fact remains that
flamenco has its own rules; it is not cultured or inhibited or uptight, and
there is customarily a lot of “guasa” and “mala leche” that ranges from
good-natured to hurtful. It’s part of the game. I have been hurt many, many
times by flamencos (“You know your problem?”, Pepe Habichuela told me once in
deadly earnest, “Your mouth is too big and your ears are too small”); I’ve
learned to live with that and other insults too painful to relate, because
the rewards far outweigh the grief.

But most people here prefer a list where civility is the paramount virtue,
and failure to observe it properly will lead to expulsion. Well, civility
has its uses, but I’m not convinced that it is necessarily the crucial factor

In any new forum, I hope the tone stays civil even when disagreements
surface. If this code is broken, however, I think it would be possible to
deal with the problem without expelling the offender for the nature of his or
her flamenco posts. Yes, feelings might be bruised. But I’d rather be
called a thug and an asshole in an open forum than be “protected” from such
free speech by essentially arbitrary decisions of a list administrator. (I’d even want the right to reply in kind, though I doubt if I have the temperament to exercise that right.)

Surprisingly, such unbridled freedom of expression within the leading
flamenco Internet forum is a concept which has no real support at all here,
where enforced civility has been the rule.

Personally, I find it paradoxical to “enforce” civility, since compulsory
civility is no longer a voluntary virtue but simply an acquiescence to
compulsion. As for incivility, it’s sort of like pornography — you may know
it when you see it, but it’s pretty hard to define it so precisely that it
can be banned. And while most listers welcomed admin’s willingness to take
responsibility for defining incivility and enforcing civility, it may be
problematic to hand this same power over to anyone else. Certainly not
anyone whose foibles we have discovered.

Which leaves outsiders whose foibles are unknown to us. I see, for example,
that D has offered to take over the flamenco list. D’s platform, which will presumably prove irresistible to most current listers, is his promise to keep the tone polite, presumably by expelling or muzzling anyone whose posts strike him as unpleasant.

This seems very sad to me. I’ve spent plenty of time in the classical guitar
world, and I suppose it has its merits, and Mr. D is undoubtedly very
nice and may know something about flamenco, but jeez. I mean, if
flamenco buffs really want to cast their lot with classicists, maybe they
should just quit the intrinsically scuzzy flamenco scene and learn to read
music, or sing opera, or dance ballet. If this list decides to depend on the
kindness of classical strangers, please remember that it will entail giving
up a lot. Oh, and fellas, don’t forget to wear a tuxedo when you perform.

It also seems strange to entrust an outsider to judge the nature of posts on
a subject which he may not understand — and to give him the right to expel
posters because he decides their tone or content is improper. (As for
judging whether those posts are off the topic — a potential offense which
strikes me as actionable under some circumstances — how would D
know, if this really isn’t his topic?)

Ah, well. I always blithely considered this to be “our” list — everyone’s list — until recent events proved that it was in fact admin’s property. She will do with it what admin chooses, which presumably includes assigning it (and control of the archives of all our posts) to whomever admin chooses. Hey, what can you do?

One more thing: While I may not have the “right to deliver the funeral
oration”, I do recognize a responsibility to express gratitude where it’s
due. I thank admin for superb work in creating the flamenco list and
nurturing it. Admin gave the art its first borderless forum, and that’s a
marvelous achievement. My disagreement with admin over one issue, while it had
critical implications for me, is separate from the fact of admin’s vision and
invaluable effort, which I join so many others in gratefully acknowledging.

Brook Zern

Subj: FL Expulsion of the you-know-whos
Date: Thu, Oct 31, 1996 9:59 PM EDT

It’s Thursday evening here. I had hoped a touchy situation might be quickly
resolved, but no such luck.

This morning, I read our list administrator’s apparent confirmation that
R has been expelled from the list because she feels that he insults
people and contributes nothing.

Right on the first count, wrong on the second.

I don’t doubt that the list administrator can properly remove people in
certain circumstances. I grant this can serve a purpose — if, for example,
somebody decided to bombard the list with advertisements, or messages from
heaven, or just a bunch of stuff that had nothing to do with its topic.

This is not the case with R, whom I don’t know at all, and perhaps
wouldn’t like if I did, but whose personal taste and knowledge where flamenco
is concerned seems to come through in his occasional even-tempered posts and
even in his more frequent insults and rants.

In this case, the decision to remove R veers dangerously close to
censorship — not because of his views, which would be clearly indefensible,
but because of his way of expressing himself and his views.

To me, this is not a sufficient reason to remove someone. I hope that
R will again be offered full access to this cockamamie confabulation of
misfits, if only so he won’t have the satisfaction of having been thwarted by
a “confederacy of dunces” — something that he’d only see as confirmation of
his own “genius”. (At least I think it was R who used that
self-aggrandizing image.)

In the meantime, I’m going to shut up for a while — a sort of sympathy
strike for this possibly unsympathetic character. I’ll be reading, but
trying to hold my tongue until R can waggle his again. If that isn’t
in the cards after passions have cooled, I hope to have the strength of
character to quit the list. (Yes, yes, I know — thereby reducing the
average post length by a factor of about six; kindly restrain your


Subj: FL Umpiring; Gypsies under Francoism
Date: Wed, Oct 30, 1996 2:32 PM EDT

Internecine arguments can be hard to follow, but I’d like to address the
issues Bob raised in his post.

After noting my attempt to try and isolate the words “Nazi” and “fascist” and
related terms so that they aren’t used as shorthand for “ill-tempered poster”
or “silly person”, Bob wonders how I viewed Jacinto’s use of one related
epithet, Gauleiter (district boss, I suppose), which he applied to Bob.

He wonders why I wasn’t outraged, or at least why I didn’t call Jacinto on
the matter. Well, maybe because Jacinto is my friend, or maybe because my
circuitry wasn’t activated at the time. But Bob asks what principle I use to
call these shots. I can only say that if Bob had chosen to express outrage
at being subjected to such an attack, and had lashed back with bitter words
or even an eminently out-of-character “fuck you”, I’m pretty certain that I
would have viewed this as fully justified, and may even have made a point of
saying so.

(Bob, who predictably objected to recent my “Down with civility!” campaign,
notes that I’ve assumed a role here of would-be umpire. Come to think of it,
the only universally acceptable sentiment aimed at exterminating an entire
class of people is “Kill the umpire!” I hereby resign the post.)

On Bob’s general point/query, about the fate of the Gypsies under Franco, I’m
no authority but am convinced that there was no plan by the Spanish fascists
to exterminate the Gypsies — though, as reasonable speculation, a Hitler
victory might well have dictated such a policy on Franco’s part at some
point. Franco, hatred of whom was part of my family legacy, was no Hitler.
His vicious brand of fascism was not genocidal. And his atrocities during
the Spanish Civil War, while truly barbaric, were all too often matched by my
heroes on the Republican (and sometimes Red) side. After the war ended in
1939, though, Franco’s side kept right on murdering for several years. (I’ve
been reading a marvelous book called Blood of Spain, by R. Frazer — just a
collection of oral-history accounts of what happened in Spain during the war,
from folks on both sides.)

While living in Spain under Franco’s dictatorship, I did manage to carefully
ask a number of friends in flamenco circles, including Gypsies, for their
views on the situation. I found that the Gypsies, even those given good
reasons to resent Francoism, rarely revealed any great hatred of fascism in
principle. Many seemed genuinely apolitical — perhaps a valuable Gypsy
survival tactic, or a reflection of their cultural conservatism (“Hey, the
Reds would have banned bullfights,” a Gypsy once told me, probably
correctly), or perhaps a reflection of a group conviction that their
political opinions didn’t really matter a whole lot, especially in a
non-democracy. Others shared a widespread conviction (which annoyed me no
end) to the effect that “Oh, we can’t ever govern ourselves — we need a
strong leader/dictator to prevent us from killing one another.” (I was
convinced that Spain would adjust to democracy quite easily — one of my very
few political predictions that proved essentially correct.) The only current of opposition discernible in flamenco circles was that of the intellectuals who
coalesced around the non-Gypsy singers Jose Menese and Manuel Gerena (I don’t
think Mairena, Menese’s Gypsy mentor, shared this proclivity for resistance

Come to think of it, I wouldn’t be surprised if the mortality rate among
Gypsies during and immediately after the Spanish Civil War was considerably
lower than among non-Gypsies (who were more likely to be killed in combat or
for their political activities or affiliations).

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: FL Uncl: Thumbnailophobia…
Date: Wed, Oct 30, 1996 2:16 PM EDT

Since Mike Rusk is taking a poll…

While I keep my other nails pretty short (barely peeping up into view as I
look into my open hand — except for the pinky nail, which I keep as long as possible to help in rasgueado and to make me look just like those rich
coke-sniffers) the thumb nail needs a certain length to work for me. I keep
it grown out almost a quarter of an inch before it starts to get too long and
slow me down. Of course, this can vary because some guitarists are
double-jointed so their thumb bends way back; mine doesn’t.

Brook Zern

Subj: FL El Falo in Madrid
Date: Tue, Oct 29, 1996 6:27 PM EDT

Madrid’s ABC of Monday has a critique by someone (Manuel Rios Ruiz?) of an
event in a Madrid venue.

Singer was El Falo, and he did just fine. The reviewer began by noting that
sometimes, a singer must pay dues by working behind dancers for a spell
before becoming a headliner in his or her own right. Says that Falo has done
that, and now reveals that he has the stuff to sing up front (p’alante)
instead of behind (p’atras). Falo opened with his Malaguenas del Mellizo –
accompanied by a choir or chorus singing some Byzantine-type chant that went
with it pretty well.

He went on to do plenty more good stuff, including two siguiriyas (the
reviewer cites the “cabal”, or perfect, accompaniment by the guitarist, David
Serva). All in all, a successful concert (there was a violin and maybe a
cajon on hand, but the emphasis was on straight-up serious cante and Falo
passed the test.)

I think that’s keen. I talked to this Gypsy (two points in his favor) from
Asturias (one point against) in New York where he was singing behind dancers
Soledad Barrios and Martin Santangelo. He was excited by the prospect of a
career as a headliner-singer. (He had written to a Byzantine chant expert on
the oft-noted similarities between the Malaguena del Mellizo and some
Gregrorian chant that might have inspired Mellizo, and he was thrilled when
the expert listened to his tape and promised to arrange to take a chorus on
the road just to back Falo during this song.)

Nice to see it’s going well for Falo (and David, too, I hope).

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: FL the bulerias strip
Date: Wed, Oct 30, 1996 2:23 PM EDT

Audrey, whose recent posts have been outstanding, picks up the bait I dropped
in the El Falo post, where I parenthetically awarded that singer two points
for being Gypsy and took away one for his not being from Andalucia.

I didn’t exactly “forget” the smiley, Audrey. And I don’t “feel that people
should be forced to live in regional boundaries.” Like most of us here, I’ve
been out-of-bounds for much of my life, trying to learn the music of another

But I know I can never become a Gypsy, or an Andalusian. (I can legally
become a Spaniard, I suppose. Of course, I’m not sure that would make me a
Spaniard in my heart or soul — though I do believe that immigrants/emigrants
in general can meaningfully become citizens of their adopted countries.)

Whether I or any other outsider can become a “flamenco” is a matter of
opinion, or at least of semantics. I have applied the term to a few who
struggled to earn the honorific. It falls more naturally, perhaps, on those
like the members of the Vargas family of Seville, who — as a recent poster
implied — seem to embody the quality in their every move or thought, whether
or not they wish to.

I wish Falo (and David Serva, his America-born accompanist who is one of my
few culture-heros) all the best. I would knock over certain “born” flamenco
guitarists in a rush to learn more stuff from David — though normally, I
don’t want to take stuff from “inauthentic” sources.

We outsiders have an especially tough row to hoe, trying to authenticate
ourselves as well as learn an alien art form. I respect our fascinating if
not pathological efforts to become something else other than what we are.
But I become concerned when we unilaterally decide that this isn’t a real
problem, and that we can seize the parts of someone else’s cultural heritage
that we like and, by imitating certain manifestations of their identity,
become embodiments of their great and painfully acquired means of expression.

Of course, if a true flamenco artist is anyone who tries real hard or wishes
real hard to be one, then we all make the grade. I sure hope so. In the
meantime, I grudgingly proclaim El Falo and David make the cut despite
what I view as their respective geographic and ethnic handicaps…

Brook Zern

January 16, 2017   No Comments

Test – Posts – Part Three – 1/29/97 to 12/28/98

Subj: Pedro Bacan – Obit – Le Monde
Date: Wed, Jan 29, 1997 10:31 PM EDT

The Tuesday edition of the great French paper Le Monde had the following
obituary of Pedro Bacan, written by Francis Marmande. Please pardon my


“The musician Pedro Pena Pena, called Pedro Bacan, born in 1951 in Lebrija,
province of Seville, Spain, died on Sunday following an automobile accident.

Of Pedro Bacan, one can say this: He was the greatest guitarist in the
flamenco world, the individual who more than any other carried the guitar and
song toward the future. No one who saw his recent recital, last December
19th in Paris, would doubt this caliem. Nor would anyone who attended the
event in Bobigny a year ago, where he performed with the Pinini clan — his
Gypsy family from Lebrija — and his sister, Ines. Those who witnessed this,
and saw the moment when Ines, who had never before sung in public, began to
sing for him, witnessed something new and completely unforeseen.

Pedro Bacan died like a flamenco, that is to say, betement (violently?). On
Saturday, he played for Juan Pena and El Lebrijano, his cousins, at Lora del
Rio, in the land of the fighting bulls. Zahariche, the finca of the fabled
Miura bulls, is there on a hill. In the early morning, Pedro Bacan wanted to
drive the 60 km. to his home. The bullfighter El Cordobes once said “In the
taurine world, the roads are more dangerous than the bulls.”

Son of Bastian Bacan, the nephew of El Pinini born in 1911 in Lebrija, he
took that as a professional name. Until his thirties, he was noted as an
accompanist to the greatest singers. His name on many recordings attests to
this. In 1980, he appeared at the Giraldillo del Cante contest accompanying
Calixto Sanchez. That same year, he was awarded the National Prize for
Flamenco Guitar. Bizarre though it seems, the flamenco world is perhaps the
only world where awards and compensations actually make sense. The
Musicology Department of the University of Washington offered one such
recognition, the first in a long series in North America, inviting him to be
an Associate Professor.

He was as close to Maurice Ohana, and the artists and intellectuals, as to
the Gypsy community of Lebrija. Intelligent, agreeable, genorous with his
person and his playing and his smile and his seriousness, Bacan moved
forward. He did not seek to cross, or mix, or recast, or rock, or reorder
the look of flamenco. He sought to seek out what he carried within himself.
He sought it with the best flamencos and with all the musicians he
encountered. “At the heart of the adventure, there is a spirit which is
neither an intellectual idea nor a concept; something which one cannot
understand, yet which one perfectly recognizes by its presence or its
absence. Curiously, the music is not an end in itself; it is a means, a
vehicle. After emerging from a night of flamenco, one should not be the
same.” Bacan ———- the film of Carole Sierx: “Ines Ma Soeur” (My
Sister Ines).”

End of obituary from Le Monde. My lack of French is clear from that final
reference, originally: “Bacan se faisait une fete de montrer bientot le film
de Carole Sierx: Ines Ma Soeur.”

A shorter obituary in the left-wing French paper Liberation recaps
information already posted.

Brook Zern

Subj: Pedro Bacan – Obituary from El Mundo
Date: Wed, Jan 29, 1997 5:15 AM EDT

The Madrid newspaper El Mundo, on page 45 of Monday’s edition, carried this
obituary for Pedro Bacan, by Alfredo Grimaldos:


“The tocaor Pedro Pena Pena, known in the flamenco world as Pedro Bacan, died
yesterday in a traffic accident at age 45. Born in Lebrija, in the breast of
a family overflowing with artists, he was the great-grandson (biznieto) of
the mythical cantaor Pinini; the son of Bastain Bacan, and a cousin of El
Lebrijano. He was also directly related to Fernanda and Bernarda de Utrera.

Pedro brought together the solid flamenco foundation he had accumulated since
his childhood, plus a rare artistic restlessness and intelligence; he became
a privileged and tenacious defender of the treasures of his own family’s
heritage and the school of his locality — one of the last bastions of the
purest and most traditional flamenco.

A very complete guitarist, his playing as an accompanist and as a soloist
abounded with “solera” (the authentic feel of the region). He began, with
great effect, to direct musical projects to rescue flamenco’s history; these
now constitute invaluable contributions to flamenco’s discography. In 1990,
he fathered and directed the importan recording “Noches Gitanas en Lebrija”,
recorded live and featuring all of his people. In 1994, he recorded another
disc called “De Viva Voz”, which offered the ripe and authentic aroma of the
his family’s flamenco tertulias that he had been part of since childhood. On
the record, he joined his sister Ines in singing. He also participated in
more than 50 recordings, accompanying many of the principal figures of the
cante. Chano Lobato just recently drew upon his talent for the recording
“Nuez Mosca”.

With the production (espectaculo) “Pedro Bacan y Los Pinini”, which played
successfully in many settings, he revealed the true roots of the art to which
he dedicated his life, providing a necessary and much-awaited breath of fresh
air to the confusing (enturbiado) panorama of current flamenco.

In 1980, the Catedra de Flamencologia y Estudios Folkloricos Andaluces
awarded him the Premio Nacional de Guitarra. Three years later, the
Musicology Department of the University of Washington named him a Special
Professor, and he presented solo concerts in various North American
universities, theaters and cultural centers. For some 20 years, he has been
one of the players who most frequently participated in the summer Flamenco
Festivals throughout Andalucia.

Bacan was an intelligent and studious artist, and a conserver of the best
tradition, but he was not anchored blindly to the past. He had a great gift
for creating productions that were simple, direct, imbued with the old flavor
of the tradition, very emotive, and based on a dynastic conception of
flamenco, with no pretention other than showing the art naked, with a
freshness and spontaneity, revealing the truth of the cante, the toque and
the baile as it was presented within his family.”

End of translation of obituary of Pedro Bacan.

I didn’t know Pedro Bacan very well, but on several occasions I was
privileged to spend many hours talking with him, learning how he viewed
flamenco and asking him questions that few others could have answered. He
seemed extremely intelligent, he had a capacity to reflect and to think
before speaking, and he had enormous first-hand knowledge. And of course, he
was a magnificent accompanist as well as an original soloist.

His death as a still-young man is a terrible blow to the art of flamenco.

Brook Zern

Subj: Village Voice Review of Flamenco Latino
Date: Wed, Jan 29, 1997 9:40 PM EDT

Will wonders never cease?; or: When good things happen to good people.
Anyway, a bunch of fine folks just got a really nice review. It’s by
Deborah Jowitt, dance critic for the Village Voice, in the Feb. 4th edition.
I won’t quote it all, though it’s all nice and admiring. Excerpts:

“It used to be that American and British ballet dancers had to adopte Russian
names to be taken seriously by an audience. These days, flamenco dancers not
born and bred in Spain…may still be regarded with suspicion. The members
of “Flamenco Latino” have Spanish names, but their heritage isn’t all
Iberian, and they flaunt in music and dance the accents of Puerto Rico, Cuba,
Africa, North America.

Aurora Reyes begins “Toro y la Luna” slowly, sensuously curling her arms in a
solea. By the end of the solos, the heelwork of a bulerias is overwhelmed by
different percussive accents as congas, timbales and cowbells kick in with
the Latin rhythms of “guaguanco”….

“Se Nota el Acento”, choreographed by (member Liliana) Morales, has a
good-humored, spunky dialogue scene… Whenever they dance in Spain, it
seems, snobs praise their dancing but “notice the accent”. Ha! say the
dancers in effect. We’ve got something else. And they do.

They can cut the classic flamenco numbers, as Morales does in her masterful
Tientos Aplenaos. The wail of the cantaor, the insistent slap of the palmas,
the ripple of the guitar (Arturo Martinez plays a virtuosic solo of his own
composistion) are there to assuage the flamenco enthusiast’s longing for dark
and deep. But the most smoking thing about the evening is the musical
fusion. Martinez, leader-singer-guitarist Basilio Georges, Abigail Caro
(palmas, clave, coro), Sean Kupicz (bass), Santiaguito (timbales, etc.) and
Rex Benincasa (..percussion) build some fine, surprising rhythms.

Reyes and Morales (did most) choreography, with one number and some input
from Reyes’ mentor, La Tati. Concha Vargas and Clara Mora provided Bulerias
Vacilon, which brings on the men, Ricky Santiago and Yloy Ybarra, in a
company dominated by women…

Reyes is small and tough in style, and an excellent singer as well. Morales
– tall, lean and gorgeous, austere in manner — excels in complex, intense
heelwork. Yvonne Gutierrez has the most powerful focus, and her supple,
expansive arms carve richly three-dimensional arcs around her. Charming
guest artist Rene David Chamizo, a Cuban rumbero, stars in a rumba and

This group of New York-based performers drew a typical New York audience. In
addition to the usual stray “Ole”, I swear I heard someone shout “Oy” — or
maybe it was “Yo!” That’d be fine, too.”

End of review excerpts from Village Voice.

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: Paella -Reply
Date: Mon, Jan 27, 1997 12:18 PM EDT

Never having cooked anything at all, I thought I’d stay clear of the great
paella debate. But Robert/o’s post on a Spanish friend who insists on using a famous American brand for best results reminds me of something I read when I was about eight, in a book called “A Treasury of Laughs”. I didn’t understand it for another ten years or so, but I liked it anyway:

“Preacher Ben, despite adversity
Saved a southern university.
Said nephew Willie, “Ain’t that nice?
Uncle Ben’s converted Rice.”

A few years ago, I told it to my father, whose mind was starting to go. He
liked it a lot, but could never remember it, and he’d call me to ask how it went…

Ah, the breadth of flamenco…

Brook Zern

Subj: Translating J: Lo que el aire se llevo
Date: Mon, Jan 20, 1997 2:34 PM EDT

J writes:

Just what is “aire”? I recall that Mario Escudero was bothered by the talk
of aire. “What kind of crap is that — is it something that comes with the
wind? No, there’s no such thing — it’s just stories.”

I’d ask Mario “What is it, then that makes you jump up, or shout Ole, on
hearing certain players?”

“Well, it’s just that they played well, with good sound…”

“Nothing else?”

“Of course not — what more do you want?”

And we’d go ever this for a long time, never arriving at a conclusion.

With Sabicas, it was different. He knew that “aire” existed, but he didn’t
call it that: he’s say that something was “gitanico” (real Gypsy). And
Sabas had his own kind of aire — different from that of Andalucia, but very
guitaristic and beautiful.

Oh, and does a well-made paella have “aire”? You’d have to note that there
are maybe 200 ways to prepare good paella. Of course, some come out so well
you may ask for the secret, but the cook will just say it’s the same as ever.

I don’t think a stupendous paella has “aire”. I think it just blended to
created a fine flavor. And that’s the key word — flavor. Or maybe “gracia”
– not in the “grace as perfectly appropriate or witty” sense, but in the
sense of “graced”.

In flamenco, “aire” is flavor, taste, aroma, and “gracia” in the
perfectly-appropriate flamenco sense, related to “angel”. I think it’s
something personal, although it seems to run in families and even in towns,
which show me its links to “style”. (Hmm — does style determine aire, or is it the other way around?”.)

Flamenco styles (I’ve never liked the term “palos”, which is a relatively
recent invention. It would’ve been gracioso indeed to have seen Manuel
Torre’s face if someone had asked him what “palo” he liked best.) don’t have
an “aire” in themselves. They have structures and modes that conform to the
particular style. The aire is provided by the interpreter, according to
his/her sensibility, with greater or lesser success.

I don’t think there’s an “aire” of Jerez, or Moron, or Utrera. If a certain
artist’s personality is so powerful that it generates a whole school, as in
the case of Diego del Gastor, we inevitably have everyone wanting to play
like Diego, and this gives rise to the toque in the style of Moron. It’s the
same in Jerez. And if another guitarist should emerge with as much
personality as, say, Diego, but different, this could change the “style” of
Moron (though this new guitarist might not have “aire”); if the guitarist
remained there — since if he went off to Madrid, or to tour the world, this
link to the pueblo would be lost. (I don’t know if this sounds confusing…)

In the cante, it’s different when someone creates a new “estilo” of solea, or
siguiriya or whatever, which takes the creator’s name and, by extension, the
name of his/her pueblo, as the Solea de Frijones, Solea de Alcala, etc. Of
course, this doesn’t happen nowadays and it seems it will never happen again
– times change.

Curiously, the “aire” is more evident in artists who are “corto” (of limited
repertoire), as if a broader domination of the art corresponds to a
diminution of “flavor”. (Although I might contradict myself where Pastora
Pavon or Nino Ricardo are concerned — these “complete” artists having strong

I don’t think “aire” is exclusively a flamenco characteristic. Didn’t Louis
Armstrong have it — or Edith Piaf? And many more.

Obviously, this is just my opinion…

Un abrazo,


End of J’s post. Personally, I’d like to think there is no such thing as
aire, since that would be one less flamenco attribute for me to lack. Alas,
no such luck. Aire is as obvious to me as the wind itself — and just as
hard to grasp.

I second J’s notion that the term “palo” is relatively new and therefore
an abomination. What’s the earliest known use of it to mean “a flamenco

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: Ronden~a or Verdiales
Date: Mon, Jan 20, 1997 1:52 PM EDT

Good question from Arthur H, on whether there’s a real difference between
the sung rondena and the well-known verdiales. I think there is, though it
might be hard to decide which was which in a test. The big Diccionario
Enciclopedico Ilustrado says of rondena:

“The name refers to the city of Ronda, or to the custom of “rondar”, to go
serenading young women. A song of four lines, each with eight syllables,
with consonant rhyme — but often sung in practice as five lines because the
second or the fifth line is repeated. Jose Luque Navajas says it is “another
type of Bandola (a strictly-measured fandango), which took shape in the
1800′s as the city began to dominate the countryside. Today’s version is one
of the most elaborate and florid of the bandolas; originally they were slower
and less loaded with melismas.” Antonio Mairena and Ricardo Molina say “The
rondena is the oldest known fandango of Malaga, widely described in the
1800′s. The rondena has no compas, and is sung ad libitum (freely); it is
simply a local fandango, typical of the picturesque town of Ronda. It’s
expansion in the Nineteenth Century must have been enormous. From
Jabalquinto to Aracena and from Almeria to Tarifa, all of Andalucia sang
rondenas. Its themes are wide-ranging, but most letras refer to country
scenes and descriptions, often with a literary inspiration. There were no
individual maestros who specialized in the form. As we said elsewhere –
everyone sang rondenas and no one was a true cantaor of rondenas.” Alfredo
Arrebola says “today, rondenas are danced; but with an aire of the taranto,
called rondena por zambra, like a taranto but more open and florid.”
Notable contemporary singers include Fosforito, Antonio de Canillas,
Alfredo Arrebola, Jacinto Almaden, Juan de la Loma, Enrique Orozco, Antonio
Ranchal, Rafael Romero, Jose Menese and Candido de Malaga. But where the
rondena acquired its best flamenco and artistic quality is as a guitar toque,
whose first version was created by Miguel Borrull, padre. Ramon Montoya was
the first to aggrandize the style, and on one of his recordings we hear an
authentic creation, of a surprising musical richness, setting a standard for
future players among whom Manolo Sanlucar stands out for developing the

That’s the dictionary. Interesting that Molina/Mairena, in their seminal
“Mundo y Formas del Flamenco”, say the rondena has no compas while others
state or imply it has a danceable compas like the bandola (and therefore like
the verdiales). Also interesting that they state or confirm that Borrull
senior invented the guitar version — though if he didn’t use the nifty
special tuning that Ramon uses, it wouldn’t seem to count. I barely remember
Sanlucar’s version, and wonder if it’s as good as Paco’s (or Mario
Escudero’s). Come to think of it, I once had a soft spot for Carlos
Montoya’s rondena — it seemed to cover up his deficiencies and play to his

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: Juan Ramirez -Reply
Date: Fri, Jan 17, 1997 3:29 PM EDT

Understandably enough, Robert/o had a hard time following a parenthetical
aside in my post that was nominally about the dancer called Ramirez.

It referred to a singer who’s just called Dieguito, and is sometimes put in
the category of “Camaron clones” which includes Potito and Duquende. My
Spanish friend/informant said that Dieguito was trying to make a new record
that could move him into the role of being Camaron’s anointed successor. And
he said that Dieguito brought something extra to the party — namely, in
addition to a voice that sounds much like Camaron, he can draw upon a
“rancio” voice that is fuller and should be more “flamenco”.

But he also said that Dieguito was not a real nice fellow, and also that
(like too many other artists) he had serious dependency problems which had
hurt his quest for fame so far.

As in the case of Potito, Dieguito’s forthcoming CD may feature accompaniment
by a batch of fine guitarists to emphasize his special stature…

My discography shows no earlier recordings by Dieguito, who may already be
thirty-something, and the big dictionary doesn’t mention him.

(Incidentally, Julio was right that I was wrong about the money Ramirez
allegedly commanded for a performance at Casa Patas — it was $2,000 U.S.,
not $20,000. Lebrijano, on the other hand, did command some $30,000 for that
recent gig he allegedly walked out on. Oh, and my friend said that Lebrijano
has been seeming a bit peculiar these days, even down on his home turf…)

Brook Zern

Subj: Juan Ramirez
Date: Thu, Jan 16, 1997 6:45 PM EDT

A Spanish friend just got into New York, and said that about the only
exciting thing he’s experienced in the last year in Madrid and points south
is the Gypsy dancer Juan Ramirez, usually just called Ramirez. He says this
guy is the real article, and that Gypsies come from far and wide or at least
from out of town to see him work in Casa Patas. (Says he’s a real decent and
modest guy — unlike the singer called Dieguito, who’s not simply a Camaron imitator but also can draw upon a “rancio” quality (ripe, full) and who might still get his act together to make a bid for Camaron’s vacant cante crown.)

(He also said that Nina Pastori is the flavor of the season, and that she
really puts out for listeners, singing her heart out for two hours or more
when most name singers barely bother to show up. In fact, he said that
Lebrijano refused to go onstage because a promoter wouldn’t give him his
three million pesetas before the show — adding that Ramirez seems content to
work every couple of months in Casa Patas for about a quarter-million, or
twenty grand U.S., without seeking greater glory and responsibility..)

Oh, and he said that audiences often sing along with the “flamenco” of Nina
Pastori, which would seem to be a pretty strong indication that it isn’t
really flamenco but rather popular song or cuple — the catchy popular stuff
that Camaron did so much to inject into flamenco circles.

Anyone have any strong views on this Ramirez, who allegedly can do zapateado
faster with one foot than anyone else can with two, and who sometimes is, or
was, the human rhythm-machine/dancer for the Paco road show?

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: Hunting for a “real” solea
Date: Thu, Jan 16, 1997 5:58 PM EDT

Jay points out that the granaina isn’t proper Gypsy flamenco, so maybe the
guitarist who dismissed it had a point. Hmmm. And Richard says a sightreader
would likely have misread the music of a form like the solea, turning it into
a waltz.

I agree with Chuck that the flamenco guitar can be as precisely notated as
any other instrument. But I also think that if you give a good sightreader a
very well notated solea, it would still be quite a surprise to hear it come
out sounding like a solea with its very specific compas.

Of course, the granaina is probably the flamenco piece that is least
problematic for those guitarists who are unfamiliar with the art. Since
being “perfected” by Ramon Montoya, the guitar granaina has always borrowed
heavily from the classical instrument — it’s very much a “guitar piece” in a
way that no other solo seems to be.

A related factor is that it has virtually no rules and regulations. There is
no compas to screw up, so you can be fooled into thinking a guitarist knows
more than he does. In 1964, the pretty-good English flamenco player David
Spink put on a new record for me in his Greenwich Village guitar shop (this
was before he became David Rubio, guitar maker to the stars.)

He asked what I thought, and I said it sounded fine — fierce, strong and
powerful. Then he put on another recording, a solea. It was pathetic, I
said — there was no coherent compas, and the guitarist was obviously just a
bombastic faker who should take lessons from the artist who’d played the

“Same guy”, said David. And that was my first exposure to Manitas de Plata.
His granaina had fooled me, as David knew it would, but the music went
downhill vertically from there.

Thanks to Richard for reminding me of jazz critic Nat Hentoff’s idiotic paean
to Manitas — showing the dangers of going beyond one’s area of expertise.

Manitas’s records were heavily marketed with a quote from John Steinbeck, who
called him “a great and savage artist.” I sent John Steinbeck a letter which
just said “Jaqueline Suzanne is the greatest living American novelist”, and
signed it “Carlos Montoya”.

I just wanted Steinbeck to wonder, if only for a second, “Hey, what makes
some famous flamenco guitarist think he can tell me who’s the greatest living
American novelist…”

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: Hunting for a “real” solea
Date: Thu, Jan 16, 1997 12:17 PM EDT

Marie raises a broad and interesting question — if Miles Davis wasn’t
playing a “real” solea on “Sketches of Spain”, then what does “real” mean in

I don’t know, exactly. But I remember once, way back in ’59 when I was first
struggling to learn the basics of flamenco guitar (still am, of course), and
I’d dutifully bought Emilio Medina’s Metodo de Guitarra Flamenca, with
complete musical examples, published by Ricordi in Buenos Aires. I couldn’t
read music, of course (and never learned), but I did hand it to a guitarist
who said he could.

He sat down, opened the book, and proceeded to play an absolutely ravishing
piece of music that seemed to conform to granaina in every respect. I just
stood there with my mouth open — it turns out that such gifted sight-readers
are actually pretty rare — till he got to the end.

He tossed me the book, said “Boy, what a boring piece of music”, and left.

I heard a fine granaina — at least the solo guitar version.

He heard a boring piece of music.

Sometimes I suspect that I *heard* a real granaina, because I knew what to
listen for; but he really didn’t *play* a “real” granaina, because he didn’t
have any idea what he was playing.

Oh, well — to me, it was a real granaina. And to me, he was a real jerk.
Or maybe just a human phonograph.

Miles Davis was a true genius. But I doubt if he could feel the idea of the
solea as opposed to the similar-but-different idea of the siguiriya, or the
similar-but-different idea of the bulerias. So I think Miles was just
dabbling in flamenco, as when Paco dabbles in jazz.

(I know a lot of flamenco students who don’t seem to know or care what
constitutes a solea in terms of music, traditional coplas, or historical
experience. I figure they therefore can’t perform a “real” solea, but are
just going through the motions.

It might be better if they knew enough to also go through the emotions.)

Brook Zern

P.S. If this long answer is insufficient, refer to Richard’s concise answer.

Subj: Re: “Aire”
Date: Thu, Jan 16, 1997 12:16 PM EDT

Aplausos for John M for tentatively suggesting an objective underpinning
for flamenco aire — that it might come partly from an extensive knowledge of
the art’s native language and the intonational aspects of that language.

I don’t know if he’s right, of course. (In fact, I don’t know if it’s right
to think in terms of “rightness”, thanks to an interesting private post from
Marie who questions its appropriateness in some of our debates).

But he might be onto something. And a real command of Spanish, or better
yet, “Andalu”, certainly removes a big barrier. By the same token, I’ve
always suspected that my country’s use of what the English call “American
dialect” might color the way we think, feel and see things compared to the
U.K. speakers of “pure” English (sorry, Bob — I know you know there’s really
no such thing).

Of course, John’s reasoning suggests we should all be hitting the
dictionaries as well as the flamenco dives in our quest for the elusive aire.
I’ll check with my new guitar buddy, Steve Kahn, who stopped playing guitar
for a decade or more but recently got back into it. He’s a fellow Moroney,
though I hardly knew him there, and he’s already gotten back more of that
place’s wonderful aire than I can muster on a good day. Son cosas del arte,
I guess…

I agree with John that Sabicas (from Pamplona, a Basque town quite near
France) had an aire that wasn’t quintessentially Andalusian. For that
matter, the madrileno Ramon Montoya’s great aire also seemed recognizably
different from that of the southern players.

Richard asks, rhetorically, if we can label something as a specific palo if
it possesses the recognizable aire of that palo but not every single
formal/quantifiable element of that palo.

My guess is that it would be appropriate. I did opine that the great Miles
Davis’s “solea” doesn’t seem like a “real” solea to me (because it lacks the
particular essence or “aire” of solea even though it may fit the objective
requirements. Oh, and thanks to Jeff Silverstein, who really does know jazz,
for his comprehensive post on that issue)

I can envision a performance which lacks a certain formal requisite but could
still be, for example, a “solea” because it had the “correct” aire.

Now, can anyone give an actual example of such a case for some palo –
without getting into Morente’s controversial alleged siguiriyas again.

Brook Zern

P.S. One of the most audacious tamperings with flamenco I ever saw was
called “Bulerias Minus One” and choreographed by a modern dancer named Fred
Darsow who got into flamenco for a while. I seem to remember people rolling
about on the floor, which isn’t traditional bulerias, to music that was
indeed an eleven-count “bulerias” in which a certain beat — maybe just the
last beat — was omitted. I won’t suggest that this was really a bulerias,
although I kind of liked it.

The most surprising bulerias I ever heard may have been at the Ronda festival
in 1970, when a young Pansequito came on and did some then-shocking
extensions of lines and other then-radical variations in the basic format.
Not cuple or cancion, but a revamp that broke some rules while being very
much a bulerias. This may have been before Camaron took that ball and ran
with it; it sure disturbed the crowd, which divided quickly into boo-ers and
cheerers. (I forget which side I took.)


Subj: Robert/o’s Aire List
Date: Thu, Jan 16, 1997 12:16 PM EDT

What a neat gift Robert/o has given us guitarists — the masters and the best
examples of their “aire”. I looked for flaws, but the only things that I
wondered about were…

1. The “omission” of Melchor de Marchena’s siguiriyas. I think several of
his hard-core falsetas (including the “Chinese” falsetas, which might be more
pentatonic than standard flamenco) are definitive examples of how the form
can be rendered on a guitar.

2. The omission of Ricardo’s siguiriyas and maybe his tientos, solea and
tarantas as well.

3. The omission of some of Paco de Lucia’s masterpieces — not just the
bulerias but perhaps the solea, tangos, rondenas, tarantas and alegrias…

Of course, folks who are younger and/or hipper than Bob and me will want to
suggest more examples from the younger players. (I like Tomatito’s
accompaniment very much, especially in bulerias and tangos; I like Vicente
Amigo’s first recorded bulerias; I like Pepe Habichuela’s solea, with its
great introductory statement, etc…. de gustibus, of course.)

Brook Zern

P.S. Yes, Borrull hijo has one hell of picado on those Manuel Torre records.
In fact, I wonder if anyone could time him at his fastest (was that a
tarantas run?) and compare it to the present 3-minute-milers of guitar.


Subj: Re: poor paco/woodpeckers
Date: Wed, Jan 15, 1997 12:13 PM EDT

I’m always glad to see someone with a narrower view than my own, since it
makes me feel relatively hip and with it. John S’s post, saying that
“Paco style” players should stick to bulerias, may fit that category.

He says they can’t approach the “great players” like Ramon, Ricardo and
Sabicas. Well, I don’t listen all that carefully to “Paco style” players,
though I sometimes like a few of their individual creations in various forms.
However, it often seems very derivative if not essentially stolen –
especially the stuff I like the most.

As for Paco, I think his earlier/seminal flamenco work in general ranks right
up there with those other geniuses. His granadinas, tarantas and rondenas
strike me as brilliant, as does his solea and his alegrias and his fandangos
de Huelva (and zapateado, and guajira, and other stuff, too.)

Don’t know if John would agree about Paco Himself, but I bet he might…

Brook Zern

Subj: (long) re: “Poor Paco” ?! (cast/engl)
Date: Tue, Jan 14, 1997 7:21 PM EDT

Thanks to Berit for her latest post to me and “anti-Paconeros”.

Translating, and arguing a bit: She blames her English as a possible cause
of misunderstanding. (Berit, your English is more than sufficient to the
level of our discourse…). Also…

1. She acknowledges that Paco isn’t the only flamenco player in the world,
just one of the best among the greatest of today and in the history of
flamenco. (Actually, Berit, I think you understate the case. I think Paco
is surely the greatest flamenco guitarist alive today, if not of all time.)

She denies saying Paco has played flamenco every day of his life, but notes
that his work with the trio is not the central aspect of his guitarristic
life. And says his solo work, his sextet work and his work with Camaron and
other flamencos seems “very flamenco, or flamenco-flamenco”. (I’d use that
term for his earlier albums and all his accompaniment, but I have real
trouble viewing his sextet work — or some cuts in later records like Ziryab
– as “flamenco-flamenco”, a very expressive Spanish term, incidentally).

3. She objects to comparisons of the sextet to the pap of ABBA, etc., and to
claims that the sextet cannot withstand comparison to John Coltrane, etc.
She says there’s a big difference — Paco doesn’t play simple cuples, or
jazz, or pop, with his group, but “flamenco nuevo”, which has elements of
jazz but isn’t jazz.

4. Regarding money, she says Paco has enough to do what he wants, so his
tours can’t be done for money. And besides, is it wrong to earn money? Is
it better to live marginally, as Diego evidently did?

5. She says Miles Davis plays a solea in “Sketches of Spain”. At least it
can be termed a solea (she gives the scale and rhythm) though without guitars
or a singer. If Miles had a flamenco sensibility or feeling at the time, who

(Berit, that’s an interesting issue. I think Miles Davis knew music through
a great gift, and understood suffering very well — perhaps as an ethnic
heritage. I don’t know if he was “really” playing a solea on the album, but
I doubt it. I think that simply playing within the scale and rhythm and
maybe even the feeling, without understanding anything of the song and even
the genesis of the song, doesn’t constitute a “real” solea.)

6. Berit dismisses the idea that Paco can’t accompany, as seen on his
records with Camaron. (I share Berit’s high estimation of that unique and
unrepeatable collaboration.)

7. She takes me to task for saying my original post was “joking”. Sorry,
Berit — my post was serious, not a joke; but it was also “tongue-in-cheek”,
which I carelessly restated as “joking” for non-native English speakers. It
doesn’t mean joking, but rather (in this case, anyway), expressed with a
rather ironic or sarcastic tone. I apologize for the confusion.

8. She says that if some of us have an old-time, Moron scale of values, fine
– but she has another one, and so do many modern flamencos. New instruments
in a cuadro don’t frighten her, they “atrapan” her (hmmm. Gotta look it up:
“To overtake, nab, lay hold of one who is running away; impose upon,
deceive”) — well, anyway, I guess she likes novel instrumentation. She says
it’s all the same to her. (Well, not to me.)

9. Berit then has the nerve to challenge my chauvinistic assertion that “my”
American music has taken over the world, saying “The U.S. as the only
inventor of modern music? No influence from Europe or Africa? Hardly. And
pop music isn’t exclusively American, either…”

(I meant what I said, Berit. All the influential music of the last fifty
years at least has come from the United States of America. That includes the
great spectrum of Black music — blues, jazz, rhythm-and-blues, soul, rap –
which is not African but American, despite its evident African roots.

And of course, from the non-black quarter, we gave the world the rest of rock
plus the great popular songs of Gershwin, Porter and others, not to mention
show tunes in general. I love some and hate some, but it’s all mine — all
American music, even if it came out of England for a few brief years. Our
hot-selling artists are treated as kings and cultural icons wherever they go
(and I see more about them in the Spanish press than I see about Spanish

In America, we don’t even cross the street for the great popular artists from
other cultures, because they mean nothing at all to us. Our music goes
everywhere — while no other country produces music that generates
appreciable interest beyond its own borders. (Okay, there’s Jamaican reggae — but that’s it.)

Finally, Berit points out the absurdity of my use of the term “in the blood.”
Yes, it’s just shorthand (and probably dangerous shorthand) for picking up
the music of your own folks from early childhood. One of my favorite “Gypsy”
singers, La Pirinaca, is not a Gypsy, though she spent most of her life in a
Gypsy home.

Of course, I hardly invented the term “in the blood”. Instead, I heard it
constantly applied to me and all other extranjeros by very nice Spaniards who
insisted that we could never play flamenco because we didn’t “carry it in the
blood.” Since being denied that crucial advantage seemed like such a
negative thing, it’s always hard for me to view the opposite idea (that some
fortunate musicians do “carry it in the blood”) as an ugly or negative

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: “Poor Paco” ?! (cast/engl)
Date: Mon, Jan 13, 1997 9:46 PM EDT

Thanks to Jay, Richard and others who’ve made such an interesting (and,
incidentally, pretty civil) argument over the little provocation I posted
before disappearing for the weekend. Jeff Silverstein’s missive was
impressive, too, and hard to disagree with.

Berit made a spirited defense of the notion that everything Paco does is
flamenco. And it’s true, as Chuck perhaps noted, that my post was to some
extent “tongue-in-cheek”, or joking.

But Berit demands to know if I’ve ever heard Paco play anything that was not
flamenco (other than his extensive work with Al, John, Chick, Steve Morse and
Bryan Adams and many others, not to mention his classical stuff and
presumably his soundtrack). She says that everything she hears (except all
that stuff) is identifiably flamenco, and in a specific form.

Well, Berit, I was speaking in broad terms — and therefore I was in fact
referring in large measure to the above work that you yourself (and he
himself, you now say) categorize as non-flamenco.

So I guess I was really stating the obvious and incontrovertible fact that
Paco can and does play non-flamenco music — very often, in fact, and to
hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, as during his current Trio tour…

Evidently, Paco has never asserted that everything he plays is actually
flamenco. Evidently, he only asserts that everything he plays that is
flamenco is flamenco. Well, it’s hard to argue with that.

But I do think he can and does sometimes play non-flamenco with his sextet –
surely someone can find an example, since I listen to that stuff in the car
without knowing the titles. (I sort of like his conceptions clearly based
on, say, bulerias — but some pieces, in some places, seem more like free-form jazz, without a flamenco basis.)

I especially appreciate John Moore’s subjective feeling that Paco left
“flamenco as we know it” (or flamenco as I could readily grasp it) with “Solo
Quiero Caminar”. I can’t prove anything, but that’s the point where his
music changed most abruptly — though the post-Siroco stuff is a deeper
evolution of this stuff. However, I would not claim that Solo Quiero Caminar
is not a flamenco album.

Berit asked what I meant by “my art”. Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that I
was myself an “artist” (though perhaps playing outstanding flamenco material
very diligently for more than forty years without ever becoming an “artist”
is an art in itself.)

By “my art”, I just meant the kind of American-based pop, rock and jazz music
which has, for better or worse, essentially taken over the world. (I include
here the work of the Beatles and Stones, et. al., since they worked from
American rather than English roots.)

Berit, I agree that Paco has a deep sense of music in general– a magnificent
one, in fact — and of flamenco in particular. Yes, I think his sense of
flamenco is far, far greater than mine could ever be. I agree that he knows
what he’s doing, and that he feels a special responsibility toward flamenco
– as an idol of youth, as you say, and also as the most important figure in
the art today (as I’d say).

I didn’t really mean to imply that “he doesn’t know what he’s hearing” when
he hears jazz or rock or pop — but I’ve heard those musics all my life,
Berit; they are “in my blood”, as is the case with most Americans who love
music. I wouldn’t be shocked if, at some fundamental level, I understand
American-based music better than Paco does (though I could never play it
nearly as well as Paco does).

You ask, seriously, if I am bothered by the sound of non-traditional
instruments in flamenco. I’m afraid so, Berit. I just don’t like it — just
as you really love it, only it’s the other side of the coin. Sometimes, I
admit, I go beyond saying it’s just a matter of preference and I try to
imply, or prove, that music with a whole bunch of untraditional instruments
is simply not flamenco.

Well, if I could prove that, everyone would believe me — even you, Berit. I
can’t prove it, of course. It’s just what I think. (And as I’ve said
before, only half in jest, hey, I am old and you are no doubt young, or at
least younger, so pretty soon the argument will be resolved: You’ll be here
defending your side, and I’ll be down there in hell with Diego del Gastor and
Terremoto and Manolo de Huelva and Manuel Torre, not caring what you think.
Of course, I won’t have the dos reales price of admission — that’s what
makes it hell…)

You say you’re sorry, Berit, but that much has happened in the three decades
since my flamenco tastes apparently froze. Yes, Berit, and much has happened
to the pileated woodpecker in those same three decades: It became completely
extinct, replaced by new and improved woodpeckers that know how to cope with
a fast-changing environment generated by human preferences. Sure, there are
still woodpeckers; but they are not pileated woodpeckers. Oh, well, no loss,
I guess — they’re still pecking wood (and faster than ever; Chuck would
estimate about 280 bpm, I suspect).

No, I don’t think Paco was starting to “leave his art behind” with his
magnificent work of the sixties, or with Camaron. He was updating and
profoundly changing flamenco, but not leaving it. At some point, though, he
“left flamenco behind” or at least put it aside, to tour with the
fast-scale-olympics folks. He could have come back to flamenco, of course,
just as he could come back now (and often promises to do).

I liked his Falla interpretation, and don’t have any problem with a flamenco
deciding to play a little classical stuff — they’ve probably all dabbled in
it at one point, except maybe Melchor de Marchena. But since Berit asks if
the end of flamenco history occurred in 1981 — well, I guess that sometime
between ’76 and ’84 Paco became equipped to “go beyond” flamenco and feel
good about it. He’s made a bunch of interesting music since then, but I
don’t think it’s very flamenco.

Hey, if it was very flamenco, I’d like it. But I don’t, so it isn’t. Q.E.D.

Nah, just kidding, Berit. Maybe. I appreciate your posts, even when they
rankle me a bit.

Best regards and thanks for listening,

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: Morente / Ad Hominem Arguments
Date: Fri, Jan 10, 1997 6:39 PM EDT

Why does Paco think he’s playing flamenco — even at times when I know damn
well he isn’t?

Well, I decided to grant him the edge when it comes to recognizing flamenco,
since he seems to have a better command of that art than I do. Then I
decided, what the hell, I’ll grant myself the edge when it comes to
recognizing the arts of the so-called culture I was born into. So I know
better than he does what is jazz, or rock, or pop, when I hear it.

By this reasoning, poor Paco simply can’t recognize that he has actually
succeeded in leaving his art behind and entering the unfamiliar realm of my

Therefore, when I pompously proclaim that this genius is now playing jazz or
fusion instead of flamenco — well, by god, I ought to know better than he
does what he’s doing while he’s on my side of the fence. So I won’t
apologize any more for telling him he has successfully gone beyond the
confines of flamenco — leaving that tightly restricted art behind to enter
the infinitely broader and more kaleidoscopic world of Western music that he
had the misfortune of being born outside of.

Now, if only I could figure out a way to reverse the process so I could enter
the world he was born into…

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: La Nin~a de los Peines
Date: Fri, Jan 10, 1997 5:58 PM EDT

Sean has just posted that he wonders if La Nina de los Peines deserves the apparently unquestioning reverence that she always seems to get; he says he doesn’t necessarily hear this alleged greatness on the recordings he owns.

I admire Sean’s excellent understanding of flamenco, as reflected in
virtually all of his posts. I also respect Bob’s stated conviction that we
should not be afraid to examine assumptions, and that we should draw
conclusions from actual evidence rather than reputations or allegations.

Too bad. In this particular case, it’s La Nina de los Peines of whom we are
speaking. Every artist I’ve ever known shares the view/assumption that there
has never been, nor will there ever be, a greater cantaora. I adopted this
assumption wholesale, as I tend to do, but in this case I would never
apologize. I actually think it would demean the art for us to do our little
“Listen to this” or “You’ll really like that” where this woman is concerned.

She is the paradigm for female singing — though of course her way of
approaching the challenge was only one among many, and other great singers
such as La Fernanda or La Pirinaca could find their own perfect expression
without ever attempting to imitate this inimitable genius. Nobody has to
like her — but I really think that everyone has to realize, even if it means
taking it on faith, that this is greatness at an unapproachable level.

She was the greatest cantaora, not just of bulerias and tangos and peteneras
and other forms where it is glaringly obvious, but also in the solea and the
siguiriyas, where her debt to Manuel Torre (whose reputation we may indeed
have to take on faith for lack of recorded proof) and to her brother Tomas is
evident. In the other forms, she was merely incomparable.

I happen to think that nearly all of her countless recordings (ranging in
sound quality from miserable to excellent) fully justify her stature as the
greatest of all — but yes, Sean, if you don’t happen to hear that, then I
think you should indeed take it on faith.

Incidentally, this woman’s voice was so arresting that her new 78′s were
anxiously awaited by many lovers of vocal art in New York during the 1940′s
– people who knew little or nothing of flamenco, but recognized absolute
vocal majesty when they heard it.


Brook Zern

Subj: Re: Riverdance
Date: Fri, Jan 10, 1997 11:19 AM EDT

A year ago, I saw a bootleg videotape of Riverdance, provided by an Irish pal
who thought it was magnificent. I thought it was ghastly from beginning to
end — and the funny thing is, I don’t know anything at all about Irish dance
and what it should look like. (I think a lot of the performers were
American-born, but certainly have no problem with that.)

I do remember that the one Spanishesque number I saw featured a remarkably
bovine dancer in a red costume, lumbering about to a sort of new-age
flamencoid accompaniment of no particular compas. Since she could not have
been mistaken for pretty, I assume they’ve put in a ringer since then,
perhaps this Maria Pages who must dance flamenco well, and brought in
Riqueni, too.

The step dancing, no doubt competent or excellent, unnerved me — I thought
the dancers had contracted some weird form of paraplegia that didn’t affect
their legs but had paralyzed their upper bodies. They reminded me of puppets
with one of the control strings broken.

When I saw it, I thought it was flashy and trashy enough to command big
public money from public television. Sure enough, it’s now right up there
with Ottmar and the Gipsy Kings and Yanni and other “high culture” acts that
appeal to the Petroleum Broadcasting System. (I don’t recall ever seeing any
actual flamenco on PBS, of course, though I recall their enthusiastic
rejection of my pathetic attempt to start that ball rolling.)

Brook Zern

Subj: Tim Schwalbach article
Date: Thu, Jan 9, 1997 7:06 PM EDT

I don’t know the name of the magazine, but the July/August ’96 issue carried
an article titled “The making of Nouveau Flamenco” by Tim Schwalbach, whose
name I also don’t recognize.

It’s a really nice short piece, subtitled “Is ‘flamenco’ just a marketing
term, or are new artists defiling a sacred music?”.

It starts off with a phone conversation, if that’s the word, with Ottmar
Liebert, who has “jumped on the new commercial bandwagon of a centuries-old
art form simply called flamenco”, talking about his new double-CD, Opium, his
sixth since “Nouveau Flamenco” which “sparks controversy for its moniker and
marketing ‘impropriety’.”

Sales of the first album are “platinum plus” (in this case, over 2 million);
for Solo Para Ti, 466,000; Borrasca, 354,000; The Hours…311,000 — well,
you get the idea. The writer notes the resentment of those who can’t even
make a living from the art.

He also notes that Ottmar claims to be just a beginner, admits he didn’t grow
up with the music, never lived in Spain and never played for singers or
dancers, quoting “I am not part of that tradition, nor have I had the desire
to be a part of that tradition.” He adds that he got all the heat because he
was first and “because of that title…I’m happy with what I did…and if it
pissed off a few people, great.”

After some history, it quotes guitarist David “El Escritor” Easley, a
“prominent flamenco guitarist”, on the controversy. The writer notes there are “flamenco puros, who uphold the high and mighty traditions with every breath of life. And … those labeled modern flamencos, a.k.a. non-traditionalists, who have …chosen not to conform and, as a result, have redefined the art form.” He identifies Easley and the great Paco de Lucia as in that camp, and then notes the “nouveau flamenco” faction, an “ever-growing crop of ‘inspired’ artists in America cashing in on a culture even they admit they know little about.”

He quotes Rene Heredia, who has his own fusion group, and who says the new
version is popular mainly because it’s simple. “Flamenco is a very complex
and intricate music, it’s very old and traditional. Leibert plays his
watered-down version and it’s all very pretty. But there’s no sorrow in it.
There’s no duende. It’s just a fabrication; it’s a very American thing to
do. It’s very Hollywood.”

He again quotes Easley that flamenco “is not something you inherit — Gypsy
or not. It’s not a part of your blood; it’s a part of discipline.” And many
who know how to play and have lots to say “are starving because people aren’t
buying their albums. They’re buying this shit…It’s a very American thing
to do, to take something about which you know nothing and use the words and
try to evoke the feeling on a banal sort of level, and sell it…”

“Can this country handle flamenco?”, Easley asks. “Because real flamenco is
much more passionate and more powerful than anything this country has to
offer. People want superficial music that doesn’t have any inspriation or
intrigue because people can’t handle anything deeper…

“Do these guys deserve a living…capitalizing on the word flamenco? Are we
who believe we know how to play flamenco, are we supposed to license the term

Incidentally, the writer says it’s been reported “through the grapevine” that
“Liebert has received death threats” for releasing that first album.

Gosh, I hope I remembered to use a pay phone…

(Again, I’m sorry the xerox I saw didn’t have the publication’s name. I
tried not to borrow too much too directly — anyway, congratulations to
writer Tim Schwalbach for a smart piece on flamenco, modern/fusion flamenco
and New Age “nouveau flamenco”.)

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: On my resolution phrase.
Date: Thu, Jan 9, 1997 6:55 PM EDT

In the light of the season, I should note that my favorite flamenco
“resolution phrase” is “I’m going to quit this stupid art; I’m going to quit
this stupid art…”

Unfortunately, it has about the same effect as my resolve to lose weight.

Brook Zern

Date: Mon, Jan 6, 1997 5:56 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Chocolate

I enjoyed James’s spirited defense of El Chocolate (who, noting my washed-out appearance and no doubt my bland character as well, once dubbed me El Vainilla).

Chocolate is unquestionably one of the few — I’d say one of four or fewer — true masters of flamenco’s deep end styles. But that doesn’t change the fact that his voice is pretty problematic. I remember a long-ago letter in Spanish from a flamencologo and Mairena devotee, Francisco Vallecillo, telling me that he didn’t like Chocolate’s vocal quality because it was too “twangling” (he used this word, in quotes, like it was an English word, though I knew it couldn’t be.) Well, I could sense what he meant. Chocolate’s voice is highish, thinish, and insignficant. It twangles.

Imagine my surprise when, years later, I actually stumbled across the word twangling — yes, it is a real word; does anybody have the definition? — and it seemed in context to describe just these qualities of nasality and flimsiness.

Of course, Chocolate derives much of his drama from “peleando” — fighting against this limitation.

As for his doing strange things — well, yes. He’s a strange man, and sometimes the confusion is, or at least was, compounded by his serious drinking. His performance at festivales was always a crap shoot — he’d either make everyone else look pathetic, or he’d be pathetic himself, depending on his mood and his alcohol intake.

Along with Agujetas and Fernanda de Utrera (and Terremoto and Curro Mairena, whom I heard only a few times in person), Chocolate had the keys to cante jondo.

A “monstruo” — a gigantic artist. There are some recordings and even some videotapes that help to verify that claim.

Brook Zern

Date: Mon, Jan 6, 1997 5:20 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Bob’s Theory of the Leisure Class, & Purity

Bob wonders if “harsh realities” had anything to do with the creation of flamenco music — or whether in fact it resulted instead from “leisure”.

Bob knows better than that. If he doesn’t, he is hereby assigned to find and post as many cante verses dating from the era of the creation of the central styles flamenco (i.e., tonas/martinetes/carceleras) dealing with the problems of leisure as I can find and post dealing with the sufferings of a persecuted underclass.

The words tell the story. Maybe the numbers will tell whether the story has the weight of truth.

Bob also raises the possibility that the concept of “purity” has no real validity in flamenco, since the music itself stems from a fusion or mixture of cultures.

I don’t know nothin’ ’bout nothin’, but by that reasoning there is no pure French, no pure German, no pure Sanskrit, no pure Latin — just pure Grunt, the original and unfused protolanguage of homo erectus (e.g., “rock”, “impala”, “mammoth”, “person”) as it existed between March 11 and March 12 of three million B.C., before people started to get it all mixed up and add weird new words (e.g., “hard place”, “Camaro”, “humongous”, “endangered species”) on March 13 of three million B.C.

(Hey, did dates go backward in B.C. times — was Wednesday, March 11th followed by Tuesday, March 10th? Or do only years do that trick?)

Brook Zern

Date: Fri, Jan 3, 1997 1:38 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Flamenco name calling

Marie seems to ridicule the notion of calling today’s new music anything other than flamenco.

But there has always been a borderline for flamenco. Thirty years ago, it was occasionally hard to differentiate between flamenco and the cuple or cancion so popular in Spain. Some of Juanito Valderrama’s recordings were clearly flamenco, some were clearly not, and some fell in the fuzzy middle. Same with Pepe Marchena, Pepe Pinto, El Sevillano, Bambino, Enrique Montoya and even the most flamenco character in history, Manolo Caracol, who did whole albums of “zambras” written by Quirioga and Leon, with piano and orchestra.

And the same issue arises incessantly today. I don’t know whether the work of Ketama, or Karaketamba, or Pata Negra, or Paco’s sextet playing a jazz piece, or even Camaron singing a given composed song, is rightly termed flamenco or whether another word would be less misleading and more descriptive.

Placido Domingo is never flamenco. Agujetas is always flamenco. In between, there’s room for plenty of confusion — and maybe even a new name, though I’d agree with Marie that any such name should come from the creators of the new music and not from the likes of us.

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: More on Morente
Date: Thu, Jan 9, 1997 10:44 AM EDT

Marie’s post on the unexpected element in Morente’s cante was so good, I
almost agreed with it…

Brook Zern

Subj: Flamenco’s Baroque Quintessence
Date: Wed, Jan 8, 1997 11:47 AM EDT

As a musical ignoramus and non-fan of both Classical (okay, Mozart was no
slouch — but it was downhill from there) and Romantic music, I liked
Chuck’s audacious linking of flamenco to Baroque music. It sounds right to
me, but maybe that’s just because I happen to love both styles.

I should shut up about here — and won’t try to add to Chuck’s musical
similes that serve to link flamenco with Baroque music. But as for
“classical” and “romantic” — I think both of these conceptions are very much
central-European, and bear on the then-new notion of man as Creator, man as
Master of his Fate and Lord of All He Surveys.

Compare and contrast that with the Protagonist as Helpless Victim that
characterizes the earliest flamenco forms, tonas and siguiriyas. The only
verses that deal with power at all speak of the singer’s lack of same –
“please don’t hit my father”, “please take me from this place” and other such
impotent whining that I love so much. (Hey, I’m Jewish; name another group
whose central monument is devoted exclusively to Wailing, and whose secondary
talent is whining. Yes, I’ve heard the one about the most famous Jewish
wine: “Take me to Miami”…)

Anyway, there’s a vast difference between a great classical or romantic
figure, say Ludwig Van Beethoven or Richard Wagner, and a loveable
loser/flamenco giant like Manolito de la Maria, who was described in the
translation of the Archivo del Flamenco booklet that I posted a couple of
months ago.

Well, now that I’ve proved the wisdom of my initial silence on this topic,
I’ll leave the field to those who know something about music and/or

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: Interview PdL from May 96 (long)
Date: Tue, Jan 7, 1997 3:03 PM EDT

Many thanks to Berit for her excellent work in transcribing this
English-language Paco de Lucia interview. It was very informative and
valuable, and confirmed my admiration for this magnificent flamenco guitar
virtuoso and composer.

Berit anticipates some static from those of us on the purist side of the
chasm. Yes indeed. I haven’t done much serious listening to the sextet, but
some of the work I’ve heard on records and live seems to be pure, free-form
jazz. Granted, it has an unusual flavor which undoubtedly derives from
Paco’s flamenco background.

But I get confused. I mean, if Paco had decided to pursue another kind of
non-Spanish artistry — say, learning the great guitar style of Chuck Berry,
who invented the rock and roll instrument that has influenced all music ever
since — would Paco’s rendition of “Johnny B. Goode” be flamenco merely
because Paco views himself as the living embodiment of flamenco?

No, Paco — you’re good enough to have it both ways, but you can’t have it
all ways at once. And now that you’ve learned to improvise — a courageous
and difficult move which as you’ve said was simply not part of flamenco until
you made it so — it’s time to go on to a new challenge: playing something
that is not flamenco, and that even you will admit is not flamenco.

Seriously — I’ve said that Paco has flamenco flesh and flamenco bones, and
that everything he does is in some essential way flamenco; but gimme a break.
If he’s going to spend most of his time far from flamenco, let’s credit him
with the ability to “go beyond” or “transcend” this boundaried style and to
perform actual non-flamenco.

He’s already got the sax and the hammerklavier or whatever he’s added to his
group lately — now it’s time to go for the gold, make the final crossover,
take the real leap into the abyss, and see if he can combine all these
elements to become a non-flamenco artist.

Or am I just being cranky? Thanks again, Berit.

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: Strings
Date: Tue, Jan 7, 1997 2:22 PM EDT

Jacinto waxes nostalgic about those metal-wound G or 3rd (not D or 4th, which
is always metal-wound) and even B or 2nd strings. Ron confirms that they’re
still made by Savarez (#520P). I used them occassionally some years ago.
They made terrific sound for a few hours before self-destructing. (Predictably, since even D strings don’t last too long and these were much thinner and more fragile.)

They were also hard to play, I recall — maybe the extra tension gave them
more sound — but it would’ve been fun to use them for a concert. But it
wasn’t Jacinto’s guitar frets or bridge that made them break; they were
destined to break quickly. (“I burn my candle at both ends; it will not last
the night; but ah my foes and oh my friends, it makes a lovely light.” –
Dorothy Parker)

Savarez also made plastic-wound 3rd, 2nd and maybe even 1st strings for a
while. Again, they were fun — though less brilliant — but they came
unwound pretty quick.

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: Nature in Flamenco Letras
Date: Tue, Jan 7, 1997 3:36 PM EDT

I’m fuzzy on this, but I recall reading something that cited an Arabic form
of music/poetry, perhaps called a zejel, which simply celebrated nature. It
then cited a flamenco verse which similar to, and perhaps descended from,
this style.

“The songbirds in the marshes
are trumpets
that salute the arrival
of the rising sun”

(Los ____ en las ____ son clarines que ____ el sol que sale)

I thought it was gorgeous — but uncharacteristic of flamenco, which come to
think of it doesn’t often observe/celebrate nature as an end in itself.

Haiku, which shares flamenco’s emphasis on precise syllabifacation, often
observes nature in itself. One of my favorites says, basically, “frog on
lilly pad; sees something; frog-jump-sound”. I love that translation,
“frog-jump-sound”, presumably for the “glug” of a frog going into the water.

(Incidentally, J tactfully mentioned a past blunder of mine.
The famous verse “Los cuatro puntalitos/que sostienen a Triana/ Los
Remedios, San Jacinto/ La O y Santa Ana”) — a verse typically observing not
nature but man’s work — refers not to bridges but to the steeples of four
Triana churches. The diminutive of bridge is “puentecito” (I knew that –
and I even know how to play a catchy cuple by that name, por bulerias, thanks
to Manolo Sanlucar on an early Maria Vargas record — but I got a wire
crossed anyway.)

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: Polos
Date: Thu, Dec 26, 1996 1:11 PM EDT

Jay winkingly demands “What about the solea apola, Brook.”

Well, as usual, I don’t have a clue but I have the big flamenco dictionary
which says: “Solea Apola — That which is customarily sung after the polo to
give it a big finish (con fin de rematarlo). In its last line (tercio) it
accomodates itself to the polo or has lines that are consonant (tercios
afines) with it (in terms of rhyme); but as a separate cante in its own right
(cante autoctono), it has gained considerable diffusion and there are many
singers who interpret it as one more style of solea.”

A subsequent definition of Solea de Cambio notes that one of these musically
distinct “change verses” or remates is the Solea Apola. (Some of those
cambios go into the major key; I don’t remember whether the Solea Apola goes
into the major or not.)

Brook Zern

Subj: Flamenco’s fusion-proof central forms
Date: Fri, Jan 3, 1997 12:48 PM EDT

Marie’s latest post talks of Vicente Soto’s understandable desire to keep
flamenco fresh and relevant, while noting his impeccable flamenco lineage.
In particular, she cites his rendition of three siguiriyas styles on the
Jerez volume of his triptico flamenco set.

Marie’s post got me thinking. I am often struck by the basic intractability
of the central flamenco forms — their resistance to any significant change.
I’m not talking here about the swinging tangos that Camaron patented twenty
years ago, or the major alterations that make the modern bulerias so catchy.
I feel that in both these cases, the real “innovation” has been to inject
the essential elements of Western popular song into their respective
traditional rhythmic frameworks. (Bob Clifton spelled out the nature of the
change, when he carefully differentiated between our Western song and
flamenco cante.)

For some reason, the big flamenco song forms like martinete, siguiriyas and
solea simply will not accommodate this kind of westernization. That’s why
there will never, repeat never, be a hit siguiriyas or a hit soleares or a
hit martinete.

(I’ve heard those forms thousands of times, but still can’t really get them
into my head; yet I can readily recall complete Everly Brothers B-sides
written by Felice and Bodleaux Bryant which I heard perhaps twice, some forty
years ago — e.g., “Maybe Tomorrow” or “I Wonder If I Care As Much”.)

So it seems that for all the meddling and messing around with these big
forms, including the injection of new instrumentation and even some efforts
to do radically different things with the sung melody, they aren’t going

I haven’t yet heard Vicente Soto’s Jerez album with those three siguiriyas
styles, but I bet that they won’t have any appeal to the “crossover crowd” or
the “fusion faction”, no matter what he does with them.

It’s interesting that for all the argument raging about the very real changes
shaking flamenco, none of those changes really go down to the central or root

God knows what the so-called bulerias or tangos or even alegrias of the 22nd
century will sound like — but if anyone is still rendering the siguiriyas or
soleares or martinetes, I bet they’ll sound almost identical to the way they
sound now and the way they sounded a century or two ago.

Someone once compared a hit song to a virus — it goes right around the
planet, drilling into people’s brains and taking over whole sections of
circuitry to replicate itself. Well, I’m not immune to the fascination of
flamenco, but I wish it was easier for a flamenco melody virus to click into
my pop sensibility. Yet I know that if a siguiriyas ever does that, it won’t
be a siguiriyas any more. It will have lost its mystery and magic, in
exchange for mere accessibility.

An easy-listening siguiriyas is oxymoronic — come to think of it, I’m not so
sure about the “oxy”.

Brook Zern

Date: Fri, Dec 20, 1996 3:55 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Instruments

Jay notes that the Gypsies had every chance to use the violin, but chose the guitar. Luke wonders whether the presence in Spain of Arabic ouds might have tipped the balance toward guitar.

I’ve always wondered why the oud was never used in flamenco (prior to around 1970, that is — when American flamenco player Chip Bond, aka Carlos Lomas, did a Spanish recording on which he played oud one one side and guitar on the other.) It seemed the oud should be ideal for flamenco, because it had no fixed frets and so (like the violin) it could hit quarter-tones or microtones or whatever those itty-bitty flamenco intervals are properly called.

But I think the real answer lies in the original role of the guitar as a support to the voice. In this role, the guitar’s potential to render chords (something the oud isn’t well suited for) gives the guitar an edge. With chords, the guitar supports a sung flamenco melody — kind of like rhythm guitar in rock supports melodies of a lead guitar or a singer.

I think that in a traditional flamenco context, the oud becomes a second, competing voice — and that’s why the guitar won out. (Or maybe it’s just because the oud rankled folks in Spain, who saw it as a symbol of the old Moorish occupation.)

Brook Zern

Subj: Juan Diaz on Julio on Paco (translation)
Date: Fri, Dec 13, 1996 6:11 PM EDT

Juan Diaz — it’s great to see that he’s still with us — takes J to task for those two closing caveats in J’s post declaring Paco the greatest flamenco guitarist ever. He says:

“J wrote:

‘You say Paco has contributed to the mixing and mangling of traditional
flamenco? Agreed. That there’s no reason for Paco to meddle with the
Concierto de Aranjuez when he doesn’t have a classical sound or the
appropriate musical training? Agreed…’

Oh, really, J? I don’t think that Paco has estropeado (mixed, mangled)
traditional flamenco. Everything has evolved. Years ago, you could have
gone into Triana or Granada’s Albaicin or other flamenco sites par excelence,
and heard flamenco song coming from bars and homes. But no longer. These
places, and Jerez, are not what they were. The flamenco barrios have
changed, the cities and people and the flamenco atmosphere has changed — but
not for the worse. Like every art, flamenco evolves, and changes for the
better. Which flamenco is more traditional and authentic — that of a
century ago, or that of 40 years ago?

I think Paco is a flamenco guitarist not only when he wishes to be, and plays
flamenco, but always. His interpretation of the Concierto de Aranjuez is
permeated with his flamenco style, and doesn’t conflict with a classical
interpretation (note that I say interpretation, for each guitarist interprets
a written work according to his formative influences, his state of mind,
etc., which makes the workd totally different in each execution. Maestro
Rodrigo, the composer, said that Paco’s interpretation struck him as “quite

We owe to Paco a vital part of the evolution of the guitar in flamenco — and
even if flutes or other non-customary elements are inserted, it never stops
for a moment being flamenco (in my exotic opinion). What would the long-ago
singer “El Planeta” have thought on hearing Ricardo, or Ramon Montoya, or

J, the rest of your post struck me as quite interesting, and it is a
pleasure to share your experiences and stories.



End of translation of Juan Diaz post. Is it starting to get warm in here?

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: Evolucion o mestizaje (translation of Juan Diaz post)
Date: Mon, Dec 16, 1996 11:13 AM EDT

Juan Diaz, in his post called “Evolution or mixing/diluting”, wrote to Julio:

“You say: ‘Independent of personal taste, it’s one thing when social and
urban shifts alter flamenco, but quite another thing to deliberately
introduce elements that are totally alien to the art. When I use the term
“estropear” (to mix or mangle) flamenco, I’m not just saying that the change
is unhelpful to the art but that it mixes and dilutes it, altering its

Julio: Influenced by the dictates of Antonio Mairena, for many the last
great flamenco artist, I agree with you that that some groups who certainly
mix flamenco — Ketama and Pata Negra, for example — should not be called
flamenco. Even though these groups are part of important flamenco families,
where they were raised in the purest and most orthodox tradition. I don’t
know what the older Habichuelas think of
the youngsters’ work, but I suspect they are thrilled with the economic
results and might find sufficient reason to justify this kind of music.

Even Mairena, a studious type who never performed a serious traditional song
publicly until he knew he had dominated it thoroughly, was criticized in his
time. Some asked how much of his own creation permeated his versions of
songs from el Nitri, or Juanelo, or Silverio.

Manolo Caracol was criticized for having his brother-in-law Arturo Pavon
accompany him on the piano — never mind his singing with an orchestra. He
himself just said, “You can sing with anything — bagpipes, violins, flutes,

Camaron? Well, I’ll skip that one — I expect that Jacinto will have an
opinion on his innovations.

In these modern times, when communication is practically instantaneous and
everyone is exposed to the most diverse influences, the “mestizaje” (mixing,
dilution) of flamenco is inevitable. Without such changes, flamenco would
cease to be a truly authentic culture and music. Some who criticize this
tendency to mix and fuse are at the same time trying to uncover flamenco’s
early Jewish, Arabic, Gypsy and Christian roots that led to its creation.

Wasn’t that itself mixing and fusion?


Juan (a faithful admirer of Terremoto de Jerez)

End of Juan’s post.

Brook Zern

Subj: Cabrillero, 2 Canalejases
Date: Mon, Dec 16, 1996 11:45 AM EDT

Thanks to Murvet for testing that new CD by Cabrillero, whose first cassette
impressed me for its quality of cante as well as the singer’s vocal
resemblance to Chocolate, a relative of his.

Sorry it was a disappointment — maybe I was wrong, or maybe he just got

Canalejas de Jerez is not the same guy as Canalejas de Puerto Real — they
were both respected, and lived mostly when it was hard to peddle serious
stuff. Canalejas de Jerez may have spent more time doing serious flamenco
well; the one from Puerto Real was very famous, very popular and might have
recorded more “commercial” material to maintain that popularity.

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: Paquito…que? (engl.)
Date: Tue, Dec 17, 1996 6:10 PM EDT

It was nice to see Berit’s translation of her own post to Julio de los Reyes,
in which she takes issue with Julio’s thoughtful defense of “traditional”

She mentioned that she was unaware of an earlier time, mentioned by Julio,
when flamenco also reached mass audiences. Julio was referring to a key
aspect of the “opera flamenca” period that lasted for most of the first half
of our century. During that time, promoters assembled groups of performers
and often booked them into the biggest venue in most Spanish towns — the
bull ring. There, in the open air and often without amplification of any
kind, the artists performed for thousands or even tens of thousands of people
who filled the seats.

It was a widespread phenomenon. Aside from flamenco artists, there might be
popular singers or even magicians or jugglers. Naturally, the more
accessible flamenco singers had an edge — those with pretty voices, like
Pepe Marchena and La Nina de la Puebla, or those who specialized in the
popular fandangos, like El Sevillano and countless others. But great and
“pure” artists were also frequently booked as part of these events. La Nina
de los Peines, Manuel Torre and many other giants of the art.

I saw a few such shows — the last gasp of Opera Flamenca — in the early
sixties. An awful way to present some fine performers, but they sure were
cheap and you saw a lot of people for your 15 pesetas. (Come to think of it,
the only time I ever saw Rudolph Nureyev live was in the Barcelona bullring
in 1963 — no, he wasn’t part of an Opera Flamenca show.)

Incidentally, I liked Berit’s other recent post (in Spanish, I think) where
she was critical of Vicente Amigo for lacking a certain edge (“rajo”, or
hoarseness, she said) in his guitar playing, while acknowledging his
musicality, creativity and finesse.

(Also incidentally, I haven’t really listened to Paco de Lucia’s version of
Concierto de Aranjuez which Julio views so negatively; but I remember really
liking his Falla recording of 1978 mentioned by Berit. Back then I wrote
something like: “Falla borrowed from the folk and flamenco tradition, and now
Paco borrows his music right back, giving it real vitality and power that it
all too often lacks in its “proper” classical rendition.”)

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: FL Foam Mystery Solved
Date: Tue, Dec 10, 1996 12:44 PM EDT

I asked my local expert why, when I put foam or a sponge under the guitar
strings to reduce noise, the guitar sounds so much louder and more powerful
after I take it out.

“Oh,” she said, “that’s because the foam soaks up all the sound that the
guitar usually makes, and puts it into the wood. When you remove it, all the
extra sound that got stuck in the wood comes out. Don’t you know anything
about guitars?”

Speaking of sound levels, she was delighted when I told her I was learning a
terrific silencio for alegrias, but seemed disappointed when I offered to
play it for her. I asked why, and she said “Oh, nothing. I just thought a
silencio meant the guitarist would finally shut up for a while.”

Brook Zern

Subj: Julio responds to Juan (translation)
Date: Tue, Dec 17, 1996 9:03 PM EDT

Julio responded to Juan D’s post roughly as follows:

“Juan, what can I tell you? Yes, the current mestijaze (mixing, dilution) of
flamenco is inevitable. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. In fact, I
DO believe that as a result “flamenco ceases to be an authentic music and
culture”; though it may perhaps change into something else that is another
authentic music and culture.

Do you like bean fabadas? Well, suppose you ask for it in a restaurant and
they bring you something with spinach or peas or curry or whatever.
Obviously, you tell the waiter “Hey, I asked for fabada!” And now he
replies “Sure, and you got it.”

You: “What kind of stupid fabada is this — do you think I don’t know fabada
when I see it?”

Waiter: “Well, the cook got tired of always making it the same old way, so
he’s been changing it. But try it, it’s delicious…”

You get the idea…

Regarding what you say about Antonio Mairena, I always suspected that the
extraordinary “lost” songs that he revived and attributed to singers from the
pre-gramophone era were actually “Made in Mairena”. I think he just made
them up — and applaud him for it. And I don’t agree with much of what he
said (or: you said?). But he earned himself a place in the H of F (How
fitting — we all use initials these days.)



End of Julio’s post to Juan.

Brook Zern

Subj: Correcting Richard’s Talega Verse
Date: Wed, Dec 18, 1996 12:12 PM EDT

Richard renders Juan Talegas’ solea as follows:

“Oooahh uh arrugh
oouh o ahum
aoooow uh por gunuf
ajan groo auwee”

I think the third line should actually be:

“awooooo ungh por gunif”

Translation would hardly seem necessary, since this is obviously Juan’s
moving “I never saw a purple cow…” verse from Tomas el Nitri.

Great post, Richard.

Brook Zern

Subj: Really smokin’
Date: Fri, Dec 20, 1996 11:13 AM EDT

Jorge Wojtas mentions the pall of smoke that you’ll encounter along with the
flamenco in Casa Patas and other flamenco venues.

Yes, indeed. It’s hard for gringos to believe, but everyone in Spain still
smokes, and in my mind the habit is almost as closely linked to flamenco as
is drinking (or, lately, drugs). (It seems surprising that lung cancer isn’t
a major cause of death for flamencos — though that may be the official cause
of the tragic loss of Camaron.)

At intimate fiestas, I acquired a pretty good reputatation as a deeply
understanding and empathetic listener because I tended to weep silently
during songs and sometimes even run outside, clearly overcome by emotion.

The real reason, of course, was that my eyes were always tearing up and
stinging painfully because of the black tobacco fumes, and I had to run out
to give them some fresh air.

I never learned to smoke; but when I wanted to pretend I was a real flamenco
guitarist (except for the red hair, freckles and glasses), I’d borrow a lit
cigarette (preferably a Celta or Bisonte) and impale it on the sharp end of
my third string while playing. I thought it was the cat’s pajamas, until
someone tactfully noted that it looked vastly more dashing and authentic when
El Marote did it.

Brook Zern

January 16, 2017   No Comments

Test – Posts – 10/2/97 to 6/24/97

Date: Thu, Oct 2, 1997 2:46 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Re: Solos
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Thanks to Julio for his defense of the solo flamenco guitar as played by its great interpreters. I think it’s the best kind of guitar there is. I love blues guitar, and folk and rock guitar, but flamenco guitar seems even better. Solo flamenco is the perfect art for the (non-electric) guitar, using the instrument’s full range of capabilities. When I try to play, even all alone, I feel I’m being allowed to enter the realm of flamenco. It isn’t the heart and soul of flamenco, of course, but I like to believe that somehow it’s flamenco nonetheless and I feel privileged to do it at all.

Estela restates her objection for Julio, but concedes that the flamenco guitar is beautiful and teases that it makes great mood music for dinner. Like a lot of players, my objective has never been to make “beautiful” music, even if I could. (As for its alleged soothing qualities, I think raucous flamenco guitar was, along with calliope and bagpipe selections, prominently featured on a wonderful old LP titled “Music to Speed the Parting Guest.”)

Veronica wonders how many guitarists can play whole solos of their own composition, and John explains that nearly everyone steals a lot of stuff from others. I think he’s right that “Composing is a realm best left to geniuses and lunatics”. When I meet a guitarist, foreign or Spanish, who says he only plays his own material, I do not automatically respect this “I gotta be me” approach. While it might indicate that he’s just as great as he apparently thinks, it usually means that he either hasn’t heard or hasn’t understood the great flamenco creations of legendary players. It often means that his ego is bigger than his talent. In fact, a lot of very fine guitarists do indeed just string together stuff from others. This may show that they aren’t major players in the cosmic scheme, but it may also indicate that in the best sense of the phrase, they know their place. Fewer than a dozen guitarists have created much material that lasted, entering the tradition and receiving the rare piropo (compliment) of being lovingly interpreted by others who followed. The odds against anyone joining that elite group are long indeed.

John adds that “It’s not what you play, it’s how you play that is important.” True, but as long as you’re going to play something, it might as well be musically wonderful in the flamenco sense.

The best thing about solo flamenco guitar is also the worst thing: namely, hardly anyone is prepared to judge the quality of the performance. That’s good news for a guitarist who wants to show off, but it creates a hefty responsibility for those players who really care about flamenco music.

Brook Zern

Date: Thu, Oct 2, 1997 2:15 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: konfused???
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Alex, since your friends are too unnerved to say or ask anything, I hope you will do it on their behalf.

You note that young artists in Spain generally like newer and older approaches. Yes, and I think that’s fine. We talk a lot about both. I think the majority of people on the list, like you, enjoy and appreciate the new currents in flamenco.

(On the other hand, if Ketama is representative of anyone’s taste in flamenco, I think it’s reasonable to note that despite the great flamenco background of some or all of the members, their music — never exactly flamenco to begin with — has looked increasingly afield over the years. I read a recent Spanish review of Konfusion which said it was okay but had no evident connection to flamenco. So Ketama might merit serious discussion in forums on world music, but probably not here. But their records usually show up in big U.S. stores like Tower and HMV within six months of release, and might be available sooner from Catalina’s or Flamenco Connection.)

Brook Zern

Subj: Guillermo on Philip’s analysis
Date: Tue, Sep 30, 1997 1:04 PM EDT

A smart post from Guillermo. Yes, Pohren was often harshly critical of
artists, and shouldn’t be immune from criticism himself.

Of course, Pohren towers over American and other foreign flamencologists
almost like Paco de Lucia towers over other guitarists. He deserves respect
if not outright reverence, regardless of the individual issues and quibbles
of the moment. Choose your words carefully when you step up to raise grave
questions about their motives and character. I don’t think Paco chose his
creative path for the money, and I don’t agree with Guillermo’s previous
assertion that Pohren did that, either.

By the way, Guillermo wrote: “Back in the days of the Viet Nam war, a guy
asked me: Aren’t you on the side of peace? I told him: Peace doesn’t have
sides. Tricky stuff indeed.”

Reminds me of a political button in my collection. I think it quotes a
progressive leftist named A.J. Muste. It says: “There is no way to peace.
Peace is the way.”

Brook Zern

P.S. Back in the days of the Viet Nam war, I was at a big anti-war
demonstration in New York. The political focus was intense, but then a bunch
of Hare Krishna people showed up, chanting. I got mad because it seemed they
were muddling the issue, and yelled something nasty at one of them. He
looked at me rather disappointedly, and said quietly, “Perhaps you should go
into a dark room and take a good look at yourself.”

I think he came out ahead in that particular exchange.


Date: Tue, Sep 30, 1997 12:03 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Re: This and that
To: FLAMENCO@vm.temple.edu

Fortunately, I see through Estela’s cunning ploy. By declaring her unconditional love and respect for me, she hopes to make the few remaining folks on My Side suspect me of having a weakness for Her Side. She hopes they will now turn on me for disloyalty, thereby fragmenting My Side so Her Side can triumph. All by a cheap appeal to my ego.

Yeah, that’ll work.


Subj: This and that
Date: Mon, Sep 29, 1997 1:14 PM EDT

I think this flamenco mailing list is great.

I just caught up with nearly a month’s worth of posts. It should’ve been an
overdose, but with so many terrific posts it was more like a fix. I even saw
some outbursts of good behavior and at least one effort to understand
opposing views — are we getting old?

Since I can’t play catch-up, I’ll pick up by citing Richard Black’s
perceptive 9/27 post “Re: Jazz/flamenco fusion ignored”. Yes, there is a
line somewhere Juan Talegas’ ghostly martinetes and the jazzy rumbas now
heard at Kansas State frat parties — a line beyond which it just ain’t
flamenco any more. A lot of our efforts are devoted to defining that line,
and that’s fine. It’s guaranteed to create tension and controversy, but
heck, universal agreement is almost as boring as everybody says the flamenco
guitar solo is.

Me, I love the solo flamenco guitar. This puts me in a camp that’s opposed
by Bob and Estela and maybe Jacinto and even Chuck, and virtually everyone
else, it seems. Personally, I’d love to hear a Paco de Lucia concert of just
guitar solos. Or to hear a solo concert by any of the hot modern players.
And of course, I’d love to hear the same by any interesting older-style

I think it’s terrible that, per one recent account, great guitarists now
don’t even play falsetas while accompanying singers unless the singer wanders
off to get a drink (almost).

There. I said it and I’m glad. No evidence to support my “case” for solo
flamenco guitar, of course. Estela’s good-natured slur — that solo flamenco
guitar is an oxymoron — made me a little sad.

Speaking of Estela, whose honesty and integrity are evident even on those
rare occasions when she’s wrong, let me quote her recent appraisal of the
whole enchilada:

“We all have to face the fact that the general public just isn’t interested
in flamenco anymore. Great for the purists but bad news for working

I sure don’t disagree with this. And she’s talking about the general public
in the heartland of flamenco — never mind the man on the street in Peoria.
It’s just another way of saying that flamenco is a “minoritory” art, whose
truest expression will not be widely understood. But this fact tends to make
all efforts to broaden flamenco rather suspect. Because whether or not it’s
the primary intent, these efforts are aimed at reaching a bigger paying
public by diluting or changing flamenco. That’s no crime, but it isn’t
necessarily a service to flamenco, either.

So I’m pretty comfortable being accused of retroism. “People” don’t like
flamenco. I do, and so do the other folks in the Moron faction. So does
Estela, of course, and Bob and a lot of others who think the Moronies are
hopeless jerks. Yeah, but at least we like the stuff.

Bob dumped on me for listening to Vicente Amigo’s orchestral suite “Poeta”
just to dump on it. No, I listened to it — as Bob should — because Andrew
and many others consider it an important piece of music. I respect those
people. I really hoped to hear a major work — albeit in a “fused”
flamenco/orchestral form that I am hardly inclined to like. I didn’t hear a
major work, despite all the great talents involved.

But I’m not confident of my judgment, to say the least. I expected someone
who speaks music fluently to challenge me — to say that he or she detected
some significant musical architecture or serious compositional artistry,
rather that the muddle of good and bad aspects I cited.

Hey, I’m easy. I have a huge weakness for modern flamenco guitar, despite a
psychic committment to the work of past artists. (By the way, I was bowled
over by Paco de Lucia’s recording of de Falla’s music — the best rendition
of de Falla I’ve ever heard, though serious classical-music people just laugh
when I say that. I was less impressed by Paco’s version of Concierto de
Aranjuez, for some reason.)

Apropos of nothing at all, a company called Container Corporation of America
once did a series of corporate image ads called “Great Ideas of Western Man”.
(This is before there were women.) They’d show a great work of art, and
underneath they’d quote a great thought from a great thinker-man like Plato
or Einstein. (Hey, it was tax deductible.)

Anyway, a satirical magazine (I think it was called Trump, and aspired to be
a slightly grown-up version of Mad) did a takeoff. Beneath the headline
“Great Ideas of Western Man” it showed a Picasso painting that looked just
like a cowboy, hat and all. The caption: “Why wait for the law? Let’s
string him up now!”

Brook Zern

Subj: Liliana Morales/Missouri
Date: Fri, Sep 26, 1997 5:37 PM EDT

Let me second Jacinto’s comment on Liliana Morales, who will be teaching at the University of Missouri.

Liliana is a wonderful dancer and a terrific teacher. Also, of all the
flamencos I know around here, she is the one who has given the most to
flamenco. In addition to her dedication to teaching and her professional
commitment to performing, she’s constantly helping visiting artists, sharing
her limited resources with a generosity that amazes me.

We’re lucky to have our beloved Liliana Morales, and the “Show Me” state is lucky to borrow her for that Master Class.

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: Pohren, Paco, and Guillermo
Date: Fri, Sep 26, 1997 10:39 AM EDT

I think Guillermo has invented a new misdemeanor when he writes:

“Pohren, a known Paco detractor…”

As they used to say in those Senate investigations, “Are you now, or have you
ever been…”

Brook Zern

Subj: Vicente Amigo’s “Poeta”
Date: Thu, Sep 25, 1997 11:02 AM EDT

I’ve finally heard “Poeta”. I was prepared to like it for what it was,
because a lot of discerning listers found it impressive. (I’ve already
admitted I don’t like the core idea of flamenco-cum-orchestra music, but a
lot of talent was behind this work: Vicente’s, and Leo Brouwer’s, and singer Jose Parra’s.)

I was disappointed.

It opened with a lush sort of thing that seemed to recall the second movement
of Concierto de Aranjuez — maybe in its instrumentation or dynamics. It
went to some falling-cadence riffs that seemed cliched to me. It had some
sort of rumba-esque cajon solos (okay, percussive sections.)

The recitativo (always wanted to use that word) was in the usual breathy,
melodramatic style — by Miguel Bose, I think.

Then there was some good singing (nicely accompanied in Amigo’s modern
style), but it didn’t seem to be very seamlessly integrated into the oeuvre,
so to speak. Spliced on would be more like it. Then there was a nice guitar
solo, except that it was mixed with sweet, soppy strings — with the same
disastrous results that polluted several songs on Paco’s “Duende” album; no
imagination or counter-theming, just plodding echoes of the guitar music.

Why am I complaining about a record that seems pleasant enough? Because I
had thought, perhaps naively, that with Leo Brouwer in his pocket, Vicente
Amigo would create something that was, or aspired to be, important in the
musical sense. Instead, it seems to alternate between Vicente’s very adept
playing (often marred by that orchestral overlay) and formal composed music
that is never daring or challenging or difficult.

I’ve heard Brouwer’s compositions. I may not like all of them, but at least
one hears a serious musician/composer at work. There is nothing musically
innovative on this album — I’d be surprised if Brouwer wants to be
remembered for his association with any of this stuff.

I also don’t know much of Alberti’s poetry — and I sometimes suspect he is
overrated in Spain, though I’m not sure why. Maybe if I concentrated on the
words, it would all come together.

In my original blind criticism, I said flamenco guitar (or guitar and cante)
would be better off without an orchestra. But I really expected Amigo, who
is a genius, to somehow resolve or finesse the basic incompatibilities.

To the fans of this album: Do you also like the guitar/orchestra mix that
seems so flat and sappy to me on several cuts of Paco’s “Duende” album? Do
you think this music — composed nearly in the 21st Century — will hold up?
To me it sounds — and is orchestrated — more like mellow movie music.

In other words, I think that in this recording there’s a pretty good modern
flamenco album trying to get out. But it’s usually buried in the mix. I am
disappointed, and I’m honestly surprised that this seems so far from a major

Maybe we should take a new look at Sabicas’s weird old “Concierto Flamenco”
album, done with the noted Federico Moreno Torroba. It sounded like he
mailed in some flamenco tapes, and a confused Torroba tried to work with the
few parts he thought he grasped, adding cliched orchestral cadences wherever
he could. It was obviously weak. But it didn’t strike me as terribly
inferior to “Poeta”.

Sorry, I could be wrong (that happened back in ’74, I think it was) and I
know it’s all a matter of taste. I have very limited musical knowledge, and
no compositional intuition at all. But this album seemed to commit the sin
of martialling a lot of powerful resources, and then not being ambitious
enough to find the fullest, most effective use of them.

(Andrew, the person who taped it for me added cuts from Vicente’s two solo
discs, and in contrast some of that stuff sounds pretty good.)

Brook Zern

Subj: Re: Pohren/Paco
Date: Thu, Sep 25, 1997 10:53 AM EDT

Back in the ring, but obviously more out of shape than usual, let me consider
G’s attack (below) on one facet of Donn Pohren, the dean of
non-Spanish flamencologists.

G says that Donn originally disliked Paco’s music, and resisted the
idea of taking his charges to see Paco de Lucia in 1971. Hey — in 1972,
when I was teaching a course in flamenco at The New School in New York (I
hope Meira’s slated dance/history course there gets the go-ahead), my class
of nine rebelled one Tuesday evening and dragged me, kicking and screaming,
to see the young Paco in Carnegie Hall. I had insisted, like an idiot, that
this concert was not important enough to bother with. (Oh, well, at least
somebody got educated that semester.)

Now, I had known something of Paco’s music for at least three years by then.
(Agustin Rios, Diego’s gifted nephew who’s now in California, loved it and
showed me a lot of it in early 1969 when he was crashing at my apartment in
NYC for a few difficult weeks.)

I knew Paco was, and would continue to be, very important. I even liked some
of his stuff. But I considered his art to be a bit off to one side of
flamenco as I understood it. It was also, by the standard of the time,
reliant on outside ideas and a torrent of notes. (He himself will now say
that, like most young guitarists, he was then a “runner” — he played fast
for the sake of playing fast, just because he could.)

I have no excuse at all, except that I was simply unprepared to absorb the
magnitude of Paco’s talent and its implications. (Who could know that one
guitarist — collaborating with one singer, Camaron — would quickly
transform every aspect of this venerable art, so that it would never be the
same again.)

Unlike me, Pohren wasn’t ignorant. Pohren had undoubtedly seen Paco many
times. He may even have sensed that this young man would be the
catalyst/genius who would virtually terminate the art as we knew and loved

And later, because his self-inflicted job is to document flamenco for those
of us who need expert insight, Pohren chose to write about the family
history, music and impact of Paco de Lucia. For him to ignore this aspect of
flamenco would be silly — and no doubt, folks would take it as proof that
Pohren preferred to keep looking blindly toward the past.

As for me, I heard Paco’s obvious talent, but underestimated the scope of his
genius and the magnitude of his impact. I may not be proud of that, but I’m
not ashamed, either. Over the years, I have blown hot and cold about Paco,
but facts is facts and he’s the man. If I tried to write a book on him,
instead of an equally great artist that no one cares much about like Manolito
de la Maria or La Pirinaca, I’d know it was destined to end up in the hands
of his admirers.

I’d try to be objective, and it’s not hard to say positive things about the
most adept and influential-for-change guitarist in flamenco history. I sure
wouldn’t use the whole thing as a hobby-horse to restate my early theoretical
objections to his art. And this approach wouldn’t necessarily make me
cynical, or show I did it just for the money (though writers shouldn’t be
ashamed of hoping to make some dough from their work.)

In other words, I consider G’s post uncharacteristically intemperate
and off-base. (Thanks, G, for those other recent informative posts
– including those radio-station URL’s that let me hear Spanish stations.)

Regards to all,

Brook Zern

(G posted to Jacinto, in part:

“Here’s a question for you: Back in 71, Pohren was so against Paco de
Lucia. He suggested that we not go see him at a festival in Alcala’. His
book states that Paco spews out an “oil slick of notes”. Now after
Pohren’s negative statements and actions, how could he then sit down and
write a book about Paco de Lucia and his family?

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY. The same thing that he accuses Juan Serrano of in
Lives and Legends. He brown noses up to Paco in the back cover photo.
What hypocrisy!

Is there a different explanation? One that gets Pohren off the hook?”

Date: Mon, Sep 29, 1997 12:11 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Jamon Serrano
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Jerry, whose concise post on Tony Rice was great, wonders who buys that hundred-dollar-a-pound Serrano ham.

In the sixties, when Spain was cheap, ham was expensive. I couldn’t really afford jamon York (regular-type ham), much less jamon serrano (prosciutto style, only better) that cost several times as much.

But I’d hang around in stores, and little widows would shuffle in, order a pound or two, and shuffle out. I was baffled. Maybe they were living on relatively good pensions (especially if their husbands had fought on the bad-guys side); or maybe it was their annual purchase. But as an ugly American, I was offended that these people could afford something I couldn’t.

Of course, Americans have always been spoiled by relatively cheap food. Maybe that was part of my confusion.

Brook Zern

Date: Fri, Aug 29, 1997 10:50 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Taking a break
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

I’ll be offline for the next three weeks. Hope everything will be sweetness and light on the list. (Failing that, I hope total meltdown can be averted.)

My best to all, and I do mean all.

Brook Zern

Date: August 29, 1997
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Luis Caballero?
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Bob brings up an interesting man. I knew Luis Caballero in Seville, where he worked as a porter or somesuch at the Hotel Alfonso XIII, so fancy I never managed to get anywhere near it. Luis was a sort-of-professional/sort-of-aficionado singer; nothing to write home about, but he knew a lot and could sing pretty well. He writes for the flamenco magazines (but he’s kind of florid and kind of vague, so I rarely translate his stuff.)

Anyway, turning to the big Cinterco Dictionary:

Luis Caballero Polo, born Aznalcollar (Seville province) 1919. Singer and writer. Won first prize in 1950 in a radio contest, and then dedicated himself to offering recitals of cante and lectures (conferencias) about the art, which he illustrated himself. In 1954, he was in the (major league) Festival Internacional de Musica y Danza de Granada, and in the sixties he built a following with appearances in other festivales and the recording “Misa Flamenca”, together with Antonio Mairena, as well as other recordings. As a member of the Tertulia (Discussion Group) Flamenca of Radio Sevilla, he carried out excellent work in divulgacion (revealing) of the art, working with writer Manuel Barrios. He was on TV programs, and went to America. He published the book “Somos o no somos andaluces”, and worked on the magazines Flamenco, Candil and Sevilla Flamenca. The Catedra de Flamencologia y Estudios Folkloricos Andaluces named him a member in 1986. Francisco Vallecillo (a flamencologist) described him as follows: “A voice that is flamenco, redonda (round) and melodic, a rich voice that faithfully follows the orthodox line of the songs with a complete commitment (entrega), great sensibility and a sense of vocation for the oficio (office, position) of canator, with vast aficion at the service of continuous learning, and a very personal stamp (sello personalisimo) that is majestic.”

End of dictionary entry. Here’s the discographic story (all LP’s — he’s not really an important singer, so it’s unlikely he’d appear on any CD reissues.)


[faf]1. Coleccion Flamenco Vol. 5 w/M. de Marchena, Enrique de Marchena
Movieplay S 21.297 1971
Sig con Cabales; Tonas; Tarantos; Bul por Sol; Serrana-Livianas;
Mal; “Romance-Reyerta” Fand de Lucena
[faf]2. w/_____ Movieplay S 21547 1973
Aleg; Sig; Tarantos; Tientos; Fand Naturales; Tangos Malaguenos [Tangos de Malaga]; Mal
[faf]3. w/_____ _____

That’s it.

Brook Zern

Date: Thu, Aug 28, 1997 5:25 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Sort of Major Key Fandangos
To: FLAMENCO@vm.temple.edu

Estela’s post was welcome. Glad to know there are some fandangos that use the odd E7 to A major thing I was shown. They’d have to, as Estela says, so my choice of the word “alternative” was misleading. No choice is involved.

By the way, it wasn’t me who made the latest mention of El Pali that Estela was glad to see. Could it have been…nah.

Elsewhere, I was delighted to see Estela come down hard on the great dancer Mario Maya for his politically themed productions. I hate that stuff myself — it’s painful to see a bunch of excellent flamenco dancers onstage, having to pantomime things like tote dat barge, lift dat bale instead of dancing. But then I go farther (too far, perhaps) in pre-disliking any “flamenco dance” production that is themed — to Lorca, or Medea, or anything. I just think flamenco dance is essentially abstract (if that’s the word) or at any rate does not ever tell a “story” and should never be used to that end.

(I’ll pretend that’s just a preference, but I actually consider it a factual dictum. Hope I never have to see a big blues production where everything’s choregraphed synchronously and chorally and with extensive instrumentation. It would be a big production all right, but I promise it wouldn’t be the blues any more — and neither are these themed flamenco spectacles still flamenco.)

(I know, I know. I’ll get some flak from dancers who have invested a lot of tears and talent into themed productions — possibly because they realized that it was the best or only way to appeal to a broader public, or possibly because they were just bored with putting together the kind of flamenco shows that I like — a mishmash of the same old numbers, without any overarching concept and with maximum spontaneity. Oh, well.)

Brook Zern

Date: Thu, Aug 28, 1997 4:57 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Alfonso Eduardo’s post
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Thanks to Alfonso Eduardo for his info, including the fact that the fandango de “Rajer” on that record is actually the fandango de Rengel (Antonio Rengel, a noted singer).

He also confirms Manolo de Huelva’s locura by telling that in a public situation, he insisted on playing from behind a “biombo” (my dictionary says ‘screen – Chinese word’). Not because he was embarrassed, but because he didn’t want any guitarists learning his stuff by watching his hands.

I think he also played for a film that was made of La Argentinita — but playing offstage (or behind a screen, perhaps). I’d heard the film was owned by the Museum of Modern Art but it’s not in their listings — does anyone know about it?

Alfonso Eduardo also notes that the big-selling campanilleros wasn’t Manuel Torres’, but that of La Nina de la Puebla, who’s now flamenco’s oldest active cantaora (she was born in 1909).

He also sort of says that Manuel Gerena wasn’t much of a singer, and was valued largely for his political courage — his public was not the flamenco public. He takes issue with Estela on putting Gerena in the company of other singers like Jose de la Tomasa, Luis de Cordoba and Calixto Sanchez, saying these folks are actually first-rank flamencos who may not sell any more records than blues singers sell here in the U.S., but whose recitals keep them in white Mercedes and gold chains.

Returning to Toronjo — yes, my discography shows that the “Rengel” change/correction had already been made on the later edition I copied for the discography:

Brook Zern

Date: Thu, Aug 28, 1997 10:41 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Sort of Major Key Fandangos
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Estela is right in noting that standard fandango chords are essentially major-key chords. That is, the whole thing works using standard major-key chords for the key of C (C, F and G7) until the very end where the sixth line falls from F to the nominal tonic, E.

But like Robert/o, I was long ago shown an alternative accompaniment for certain styles that went between E7 and A major for quite a while before ending with the F-to-E descent. This seems more like what Paco Toronjo might be referring to. I’m not a worthy accompanist, but in the past somebody certainly thought this was a valid approach for some styles.

Brook Zern

Date: Wed, Aug 27, 1997 2:59 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Re: I have bad taste.
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Hi, Raul –

I’m glad you liked Andrew’s post, which I haven’t yet received. I am one of those “North American 1960′s holiday makers” Andrew talked about (mine lasted for nearly three years straight, and I keep going back). However, I don’t think that you (or Andrew) have bad taste.

Mostly, Andrew has newer taste than mine. I think it’s pretty good, though different. You probably have the same general taste. Of course, Vicente Amigo is a wildly talented flamenco guitarist. I first heard about him very long ago, from a Cordoba newspaperman who was drunk and kept telling me that Vicente was the next great figura on the guitar. Ten years later, his point was proven.

Of course, we old folks wish Vicente didn’t have to spend so much time worrying what would help build sales for his next CD (as you point out), so he could devote himself to some more traditional approaches to flamenco. I know that CD’s of guitarists playing only recognizable forms of flamenco are rare — but that may change, since a recent post noted that the addition of cante means death in the international marketplace. Perhaps “pure” toque CD’s will come back someday.

But Amigo is brilliant, whatever he does. (Do you think his album with orchestra is as good as Tauromagia?) La Tati is brilliant, too, and so are Tomatito and Rancapino (and Carmen Linares and El Guito as well, though they’re not my taste).

You are very fortunate to be able to hear artist of that caliber frequently. Wish I could, too — and so do the other 1960′s North Americans, I assure you.

By the way, I am very interested in the program called “Tesoro de Flamenco” done by Andujar TV that’s mentioned in your post. I would really love to get some idea of what artists appear on that program. Perhaps you could post some details to the list, or to me. (Since it’s black-and-white at some points, I suspect it’s not very new or modern material. I’m glad you like it anyway, and suspect that we would all agree on it.)

Again, I am sorry that it sometimes seems that many of us are only interested in old flamenco. It’s not quite true, though we can be slow to appreciate modern stuff. We certainly appreciate information from Andrew and others on new flamenco, and I hope you will tell us more of what you are enjoying these days.

Brook Zern

Date: Wed, Aug 27, 1997 2:27 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Accompaniment / LMC Hat
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Richard B’s latest right-on post mentions Antonio Duran (Terry Toney). The last time I saw Antonio, he was onstage playing for someone at a big festival — probably the Gazpacho de Moron of 1967. He was already terrific, basing his approach on Paco del Gastor’s and just playing the hell out of the guitar. He’s still high in my tiny pantheon of brilliant extranjeros, and I hope he is well. (I’ve got a poor-quality recording of his fine playing of three decades ago that shows me he was for real.)

Brook Zern

Date: Tue, Aug 26, 1997 9:51 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Footnote
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu.

Estela says that the first screening of the Diego films from the Rito y Geografia series was done under the auspices of the Flamenco Information Service Library, a wonderful entity that she and her husband Morre ran here in New York.

I think she errs, and that she showed something equally remarkable and even rarer. I think that the film of Diego showed by the FISL was a treasure that has been lost for decades. It was a film possibly titled “Flamencologia”, and made by a very talented young filmmaker named Danny Seymour, who may have worked with the famous Robert Frank on a great documentary on the Rolling Stones which we’ll call, in deference to our younger member, “C——–r Blues”. (Yes, member is the operative concept in the title word, too.)

I missed this rare (single?) late-60′s public showing of “Flamencologia”. I was told that it was a rather short black-and-white film, showing Diego (wearing an improvised turban??) in good form, maybe accompanying as well as playing solo stuff.

Along with other New York accolytes, I’ve been seeking a print of that film for many, many years. Danny Seymour died young, lost off a ship. I heard rumors that drug runners may have been involved. (I wrote an awkward letter to his parents, saying I was sorry he died, but did they have a print of the film, please?) I’ve called Robert Frank and some likely places, but no one knows if any prints of that film survive.

(Regarding the Rito films, I am under the impression that I was the first to get a copy. In 1972 or 73, I wrote to Television Espanola using my involvement with the New York Society of Classic Guitar, and they sent me 16 mm copies of the programs showing Diego as guitarist, Fernanda with Diego, and Bernarda with Diego. After that, they slammed the door on me, saying they shouldn’t have let anything out, and it was another 15 years before, abusing Columbia’s name, I got the first complete set of Rito y Geografia, this time on the new-fangled and somewhat cheaper videotape.

Now, I could be wrong and perhaps forgot that the FISL showed “my” Rito films (or someone else’s, though I don’t think anyone else had them back then). I did show them in numerous places beside Columbia. But I think FISL premiered the lamented, missing “Flamencologia” — as noted briefly in an issue of the FISL Newsletter, the terrific pioneering flamenco publication also done by Estela and Morre. (It was virtually the first flamenco periodical, and it was pretty good, too.)

Incidentally, the films I got way back then tend to go drastically out of synch at certain points, and often stay that way throughout. It’s just a half-beat fast, so to speak, but it is terribly distracting — the sound comes before the string is struck or the mouth opens. Some of the videos circulating here may be based on those old films and have this same defect. (I don’t know if it happens in Catalina’s Diego compilation. It did not recur in Columbia’s videos, and presumably isn’t in the new commercial version of the Rito y Geografia.)

Anyway, a belated thanks to Estela and Morre for showing that film and paying the costs. We were all even broker then than we are today.

Brook Zern

Date: Mon, Aug 25, 1997 6:22 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Documented proof of Jay’s lies
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

It has been called to my attention that, despite our general topic, certain people around here are insisting they do not lie.

That includes two people I’ve liked and admired for nigh onto thirty years, always forgiving their evidently shared character flaw of always telling the truth. (Jeez, didn’t they learn anything at all from the flamencos?)

Now, I happen to lie all the time. Not just in my professional and personal life, mind you, but also in talking about flamenco. Of course, I only lie when it makes me look better than I am, or when it bolsters an opinion I’m trying to pass off as a fact, or when it makes a story better. In other words, when it’s absolutely necessary.

But I try not to hold truthfulness against anyone, even if I don’t understand it myself. (Boy, it must be a cinch for them to remember what they’ve said, since they don’t have to first remember who they said it to.)

Anyway, I know it’s hard to let it go, but maybe we can demote the latest conflagration to the realm of a rewarmed debate. Or perhaps, since most points have been forcefully made, we can even let it cool off. That doesn’t mean that nobody should talk about the general topic, but if it comes up, maybe it could be done a little more circumspectly until the dust settles.

Just a thought, in the interest of free and better speech. (By the way, there is a vintage car dealer up in Bob Clifton’s area of the country named Bob LeFlufy, who bills himself as “Fairly Honest Bob”. He is, too, and it sets him head and shoulders above his competitors. I don’t know what the moral is, though.)

Brook Zern

P.S. My father was a fisherman, and he taught me how to lie pretty darn well. I once asked why it was so important, and he said, “Son, if you are a fisherman everyone assumes that you will lie, so they always mentally deduct twenty percent from the weight or length of any fish you describe. Therefore, in order to have them understand the actual size or weight, you have to add that twenty percent before giving the figure…”

Well, it made sense at the time…


Date: Mon, Aug 25, 1997 5:24 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Diego by Evan Harrar
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

I don’t know if I’ve heard the two particular fiesta tapes apparently offered by the devoted Evan Harrar, but assuming they are sold separately I’d recommend them to the curious.

Despite the thorny copyright issue, they offer some documentation of what the fuss is about. (Hoping Evan picked representative or outstanding material.)

Evan’s written compilation of Diego del Gastor’s music — a separate thing — is remarkable for its depth. It seems pretty accurate, too. The problem is that when Evan plays each falseta, he doesn’t give the full picture, flavor-wise. Only a few people could do that. Still, he plays the stuff correctly enough, and the collection is worthwhile for anyone who decides to go into this style in any depth.

Brook Zern

Date: Fri, Aug 22, 1997 10:04 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: What guitar? (if money is no object)
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

With due respect to the many admirable guitarreros who pop up now and then, create some fine instruments and a hot buzz but don’t hold up too firmly, my top-two list hasn’t changed in three decades. Like John Flanigan, I’d choose Reyes of Cordoba. I would also choose Arcangel Fernandez of Madrid. If I had to name a third, it might be Gerundino Fernandez, as John and the other John note — I just wish he’d made more instruments during the 20 years or less that I was aware of his work.

Look forward to seeing which makers are mentioned as favorites of other listers.

Brook Zern

Date: Thu, Aug 21, 1997 2:27 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: DdG hyperbole
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Speaking of hyperbole, as thousands of us have been doing recently on this list, I am reminded of a comment that Fernanda de Utrera made about one of her accompanists, Diego del Gastor. No, not the routine “Viva el rey de la guitarra” which I think is on the Rito film. I didn’t hear this other one, and maybe the person who wrote it down in a Spanish flamenco publication made it up, but it went like this:

“Ni Beethoven, ni sus muertos”.

I will not try to translate this. Perhaps Julio can do that for us. But once again, even assuming singers occasionally do say nice things about their accompanists in the heat of their public communion, this particular remark seems to go somewhat beyond the call of duty. I certainly don’t recall her saying that to me when I tried to accompany her.

In fact, I think she just asked very politely if I was deaf. Hey, maybe that’s what she meant by that remark to Diego — I mean, Beethoven was deaf, so perhaps it was a gentle way of noting that her accompanist must be deaf, too…nah.

Brook Zern

Date: Thu, Aug 21, 1997 1:09 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: poema
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Thanks, Guillermo, for that pointed poema. I agree that we all see flamenco through different lenses or mirrors. I regret that your fine Sabicas and Escudero material was mocked, perhaps by a foolish Moronie. (Nowadays, I sometimes hear that same unfortunate response from non-Spanish players who’ve adopted the latest styles.) When I think of the marvelous guitarist and often wonderful man that is the Mario Escudero we remember, I often think of you as one who appreciated him most fully.

Your parable mentioned Diego’s B minor bulerias. I know you are calling for greater understanding, and hope no one will take it amiss if I suggest that this little bit of music, maybe less than four minutes, is one reason why I find it hard to understand the disdain with which many people view Diego del Gastor’s playing and creativity. (I’m sorry to say that, like most of this man’s music, it isn’t commercially available on any recording. The only transcription I’ve seen is the tablature in Chuck Keyser’s Bulerias collection from 1974.)

I like it a very much. While my favorite Diego material seems deeper and more cutting, this little B minor “suitelet” is a wonderful example of gentle yet powerful and lovely music (in a most unusual key, of course, from before that kind of originality became popular.)

Or maybe it’s just typical crap from a guitarist who remains the laughingstock of the professional set. What do I know?

Brook Zern

Date: Wed, Aug 20, 1997 10:28 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Categorification
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

David Story, perhaps noting my lament that Paco de Lucia sometimes sounds more like a jazz artist than a flamenco artist, writes:

“Poor Paco:

Creative artist create, categories be dammed.
Re-creative artists recreate, categories please.”

David makes a serious point, and makes it well. (Yeah, I know, concisely, too.) I often feel ridiculous, complaining about the direction taken by a great genius like Paco, whose quest for expression takes him into musical realms that may not happen to interest me very much. Or may not be perfectly matched to his abilities. (Paco has made it very clear that he resents this kind of second-guessing by us grandstanders who know vastly less than he does about music, flamenco and the guitar.)

But I’ll quibble with David’s sub-text, that a truly creative artist should create without regard to categories and boundaries. I know of many examples in flamenco, and in many other arts, where truly creative and even questing artists work within firmly established parameters. This should not automatically demote them to the interesting lesser category of “re-creative artists”. Some flamencos might deserve that opprobium (and I’d delighted if my strictly re-creative efforts on the guitar someday qualified me to be called an “artist” of any kind.) But lots of revered flamencos have essentially respected existing rules and still been acknowledged as creative artists.

Brook Zern

P.S. In an effort of almost divine silliness, I once made a list of all the 20th-Century musicians worldwide — except Western classical musicians — who were… well, to avoid adjectives, let’s just say they belonged in one another’s company. The list wasn’t based on my dubious musical taste — I relied on all kinds of authoritative sources — but the effort certainly implied that some musicians were better than others, and that this was in some sense an objective fact rather than a matter of mere taste, and that certain people were capable of knowing who these better musicians were. Anyway, the point is, virtually all these artists happened to fit into a “category”, though some were clearly in the dead center while others were certainly out on the edges. Out of a total of almost a thousand names, just a couple didn’t seem to fit anywhere. One was a guy named Larry Adler who just played the harmonica, but did so magnificently (I was repeatedly assured). He played jazz, and he played pop, and he played just about anything (even classical, which didn’t count for my purposes). So there he was, owning the “harmonica” category perhaps, but not fitting into any musical style category. (Another hard-to-fit artist was someone named Master Sergeant Mastrolio, an army bugler. I would’ve assumed they all sounded pretty much alike, but when President Kennedy was being buried at Arlington, everyone knew that only this Mastrolio fellow was the man who should play “taps”. Hard to find a “category” for him, though.) Of course, back when I started compiling the list, there wasn’t nearly as much inter-cultural fusion and musical mixing as there is now. Today, difficulties in categorizing important artists would undoubtedly arise more frequently.


Date: Tue, Aug 19, 1997 5:47 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Paco de Lucia in the Jazz section
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Hi again, Estela –

You think I gave a flip dismissal of a brilliant musician, eh?

You know, I think you and I are the only people around here so hopelessly naive that we actually believe Paco’s musical development had nothing to do with the fact that all the money happened to be in the direction he chose to go.

Yes, I think he plays what he damn well wants. And these days, what he wants to play often sounds a whole lot like jazz, which is a much broader and (by consensus) more interesting music than flamenco, and one that he views as absolutely fascinating and worthy of his energy and talent.

Personally, I’d feel much better if some evil, cynical managers working behind the scenes in Madrid’s Tin Pan Alley were forcing him to sell out in this commercial direction. Unfortunately, I think it is instead an unfortunate but purely artistic choice.

When I see him with Al and John, he seems to be a third wheel, adding a little salsa to the mix as these masters of fusion set down the rules. When I saw him go head to head with a good non-fusion guitarist, Steve Morse of the Dixie Dregs, I thought Morse cleaned his clock — because Morse had a better command of the Western rock idiom in which they were duelling. When I see him trying to work a sax into his stage act, I feel embarrassed — partly because I’m pretty resistant to change, but also because I honestly think the result is not very good music. For all I know, he’d be thrilled and honored to know that his records can be found in the jazz section.

But I don’t ever dismiss him, Estela, because he is more than brilliant — he’s the finest flamenco guitarist ever to go before the public. He might be the finest guitarist of any kind who ever lived. My preferences aside, he’s almost certainly the finest flamenco guitarist who ever lived, and he’s even one of my three favorites.

I just wish he’d make me his business manager, so he could die in poverty like flamenco greats are supposed to.


Date: Tue, Aug 19, 1997 11:44 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Paco de Lucia in the Jazz section
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

A thoughtful post from Ross Ramos bemoans the difficulty of finding flamenco in San Francisco (where I would’ve thought it was easy, since so many U.S. flamencos live there). He adds:

“When you ask “Do you have any Paco de Lucia?”, you get taken to the Jazz section. Serious holes in peoples education.”

Actually, assuming these record stores would mostly have Paco’s latest releases, especially Zyryab, it’s hard to blame anyone for putting it in the jazz section. To me, it often sounds more like jazz than like flamenco as I understand the term, even broadly.

Paco de Lucia has made this bed for himself. It’s not surprising that he’s asked to lie in it.

Brook Zern

Date: Tue, Aug 19, 1997 4:18 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Re: Juan Ramirez, bailaor
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Hi, Estela — no such luck. He is Juan Navas Salguero, and maybe more a neighbour of your other homebase — the encyclopedia says he’s a natural of Benidorm (doesn’t mean he’s a natural, folks, though he probably is — just means ‘native’) and got the Bulerias Prize in the Concurso Nacional de Arte Flamenco de Cordoba in ’86. Appears in theatres and tablaos, and in 1986 was part of the Cumbre Flamenca de Madrid, as part of Paco de Lucia’s group.

I think I’ve seen him with Paco, but there he’s sort of a human boombox or rhythm machine — it’s hard to judge him fairly as a dancer in that context, even though he says he talks with his feet.

Nice to talk to you on neutral ground, Estela. Sorry you weren’t having any fun during our little Holy War. Regards to Morre and to the little ones, who can’t be quite as little as I remember them as you carried both in ’72…


Date: Tue, Aug 19, 1997 11:24 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Juan Ramirez, bailaor
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Last winter, I posted that a friend from Spain told me about a dancer usually just called Ramirez. He said this guy was the real deal, the only dancer he sought out. (My friend is a filmmaker and a bit of a visionary. I think he’d arranged to film a performance by Ramirez for TV, but explained that he would set the camera sideways so that the picture would capture the full vertical nature of flamenco dance… and then, before the broadcast, he would simply tell all viewers to please turn their TV sets on their side so they could enjoy the vertical framing… anyway, this plan fell through, which didn’t exactly surprise me, but I was impressed nonetheless.)

Today’s El Pais writes in advance of his appearance in Madrid tonight, underlining the qualities that make him different.

He’s almost 40, he started as a singer, and “Ramirez is considered one of the most flamenco of all dancers. He says that thought there are a lot of talented dancers, they tend to lack personalities that really project the soul and heart that sets one apart.” The writer, M. Mora, says Ramirez is seen as part of a disappearing aspect of flamenco culture, with his genuine and truly flamenco approach that is not from the academies and that reminds us of Carmen Amaya or El Farruco.”

He “rejects the influence of classical Spanish dancing and contemporary dance. To those who look for graceful play of the arms, he says “that’s for the bailarines (the formal dancers); there are just four or five bailaores (non-formal flamenco dancers) left. I use my feet, I communicate with the percussion of my feet.”

He’ll be known to listers for taking part in Camaron’s last recording, Potro de Rabia y Miel, and also Paco de Lucia’s Siroco. In addition to the expected bailes, he’ll do an adaptation of Falla’s Fire Dance as a tango, and Camaron’s nana.

I hope to see this guy someday, preferably right side up.

Brook Zern

Date: Mon, Aug 18, 1997 10:27 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: strings and tuning
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Amost on this topic… My Arcangel Fernandez guitar is changing as it ages, and I noticed that some of the bass strings were starting to buzz pretty badly. That usually means a big-deal neck and fret job. But somebody — maybe it was the AIG repair expert Allen Watsky — suggested an interesting measure.

Instead of anchoring the strings with the usual loop, he said I should try tying a knot in one end to anchor the string. In effect, this creates a “ball-end” string, as are sometimes used by the steel-string crowd.

I did this, and to my surprise the buzzing virtually disappeared. Evidently, this is because the usual loop method pulls upward on the string as it leaves the bridge-hole, straightening its path over the bone. By using the knot instead, the string takes a sharper angle up to the bone, and the result is reduced buzzing — as if you had heightened the bone, or fixed the fretboard.

Maybe this worked especially well on my guitar because over the years, the holes drilled through the bridge have widened appreciably. Bigger holes would tend to reduce the angle over the bone, of course.

Anyway, it has worked for me. If John Shelton doesn’t see a negative side to the idea, I can recommend it. Even if you don’t have a buzzing problem, it’s an interesting way to change string angles and tension and perhaps change the sound of a guitar for better (or, maybe in some cases, for worse.)

Brook Zern

Date: Mon, Aug 18, 1997 6:19 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Re: Variados
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Julio wins. He’s got family in Arriate, where (to my surprise) the encyclopedia said that Diego del Gastor was born. (His family moved to El Gastor shortly afterwards.) Also, I said that Picasso’s parents lived in Moron before moving to Malaga and you could look it up. So I took my own advice and looked it up — in the first of a four-volume bio of the artist — and it turns out that those momentary Moronies were Picasso’s grandparents or was it great-grandparents, on his father’s side, I think. Oh, well.

Brook Zern

Date: Mon, Aug 18, 1997 6:18 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Black, Brown and White
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

I think Bob’s post on this topic committed the sin — rare for him — of being somewhat hard to understand. One clear point was that he caught me in several contradictions, though I was relieved to find that he didn’t mention the countless other contradictions in so many of my posts.

Bob says that sometime last year when I should’ve been castigating my friend Jay for using the term “Gauleiter” I was instead saying that this place should be a Hyde Park where all kinds of speech is allowed and welcomed.

Yes, that was my priority at the time. I think, though I’m not sure, that I wrote something to Bob saying that I thought he was certainly entitled to be offended, and right to express his objection, though I had failed to join him in upbraiding Jay. I don’t like it when anyone uses terminology that refers to Nazi stuff. It’s a fairly common problem on the net, I’m told, and there’s even a saying, “First one who uses the word Nazi loses”, which perhaps we should take to heart here.

To me, though, the priority is free speech (just a shorthand term here for allowing the widest possible realm of expression without penalizing people). And when I don’t like the particular free speech going on — as when the term Black Shirt unfortunately came up — I feel free to criticize the speech or even the speaker. That’s what has been going on lately. (I noted that I don’t hold all those on one “side” of a disagreement responsible for poor choice of words of anyone else who happens to be on that “side”. Hope the same courtesy will be extended to all of us.)

I wasn’t criticizing Estela’s use of “silent majority” as a lapse of “netiquette”, incidentally. I was criticizing it just because I wanted to take issue with it. I don’t put much stock in “netiquette”, or I’d do short posts like we’re supposed to.

As long as we’re picking at scabs, Bob, was our European friend really “smeared for weeks as a Nazi sympathizer” for working at Siemens? I don’t remember it that way. I seem to recall a strong reference to his company, Siemens, as one with Nazi links. This seemed to upset or offend our European friend, who may have denied it or, quite understandably, may not have been aware of it. Maybe he was hurt to learn of the charge, or hurt to discover that he worked for a company with such a disgraceful criminal past. If anyone drew the absurd conclusion that he was a Nazi sympathizer, I certainly should have challenged it or ridiculed it. (I didn’t know the company’s story back then, but it turns out that Siemens was indeed a company with very extensive Nazi links — no direct reflection on current employees, of course.) Anyway, he’s done some terrific posts lately on his personal experiences, as I’ve noted publicly, and I’d rather think of him in this light.

In essence, Bob wonders if I don’t have a double standard. Of course I do. I stick up for my beliefs, and for folks who share them. I question the sanity or good character of other folks who disagree with my beliefs.

I do listen to people who question my view, and then I usually disagree with them. Kind of like all those TV debate shows, with nutballs from both sides taking an understandable issue and making it totally incomprehensible just for the sake of rhetoric and argument. I use the guise of apparently being fair-minded or even-handed to try and skewer my opponents, while Bob prefers the technique of apparently objective analysis and looking at the record.

Sometimes, though, I do get nervous. Sue Banka recently requested that we all cool it, and while I really wanted to comply with her request — out of respect and appreciation for her outstanding work and the exemplary spirit in which she does it — I decided instead to continue my imaginary mission as self-appointed defender of the Dieguista faith. But I’m always afraid that our heated arguments will cause the list administrator to pull the plug on some of us or all of us, even though Sue has not given us any particular cause to worry about this. In fact, I’ll even try to let the matter rest.

But first, I’ll close with one of those cheesy rhetorical challenges that keep popping up around here — you know, those “If my pedophiliac friend will do X, I will do Y”. Lemme see… How about this: “If those nice folks on the silent majority side will agree to oppose the eviction of anybody from the list for things they say about flamenco and flamencos, I’ll try to be more evenhanded in squawking at all those whose behavior is patently offensive, even though I’m not convinced it’s my true calling.”

Brook Zern

Date: Mon, Aug 18, 1997 11:13 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Learning compas in the boonies.
To: Flamenco@vm.temple.edu

New York wasn’t exactly the boonies, and I heard my father playing hobbyist-level flamenco guitar from early childhood, but compas was certainly a struggle for me when, too late, I decided to learn the guitar myself.

I remember trying to learn how some of Sabicas’s more complicated bulerias falsetas fit into the compas — but it was hard to hear and count. So, in frustration, I drew a lot of lines on a piece of paper and then made each line into twelve separate boxes going across the page.

I then placed the paper on the rug. And I took a sharp pencil, and poked one hole in one box for each beat. But I hit harder, and poked a bigger hole, for each beat that Sabicas accented.

Then I could look at the paper and see exactly where the accents were. The paper, with its different size holes, became a graphic representation of where the accents fell. It worked well, especially for long falsetas and for those few oddballs that seemed to come in on beat four or somesuch. And it made straight compas and standard falsetas immediately obvious.

Of course, it didn’t do the rug any good.

Brook Zern

Date: Mon, Aug 18, 1997 10:46 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Carol Whitney
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

I’m pretty sure that Carol Whitney was doing her research in conjunction with Wesleyan University in Connecticut, which has a solid ethnomusicology department. I am sure her dissertation would be valuable, and hope someone will tell the list how it might be obtained. As the flamenco editor of Guitar Review, I ran something by Carol many years ago — it was close musical analysis, maybe of different kinds of solea. I couldn’t read the music or understand the subtleties, but I was pretty sure she knew what she was talking about. She sure was in Moron a lot for a while — often when I was there. She appears as a spectator in some of the Rito y Geografia programs, and is even seen being taught a cante by Joselero in his segment.

She knew a lot, and no doubt still does. Readers of the old Jaleo, to which she contributed a lot of excellent articles, might remember that we were sometimes in conflict over certain issues where she felt my behavior was unethical or was harmful to flamenco or both. I think she had a Fulbright Scholarship — she certainly deserved one on the basis of her interest and knowledge.

Brook Zern

Date: Mon, Aug 18, 1997 10:02 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Defining flamenco
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Estela notes the very broad parameters that are sometimes applied to flamenco, and in the process she cites Lola Flores. Some say that La Lola could render lighter flamenco styles very well, while others seem to think that her talent stopped at the border of cancion. I don’t have a clue, though her amazing performing talent might have made flamenco seem easy for her. Could Lola Flores do much worthwhile stuff from the flamenco repertoire?

Brook Zern

Date: Mon, Aug 18, 1997 10:27 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: strings and tuning
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Amost on this topic… My Arcangel Fernandez guitar is changing as it ages, and I noticed that some of the bass strings were starting to buzz pretty badly. That usually means a big-deal neck and fret job. But somebody — maybe it was the AIG repair expert Allen Watsky — suggested an interesting measure.

Instead of anchoring the strings with the usual loop, he said I should try tying a knot in one end to anchor the string. In effect, this creates a “ball-end” string, as are sometimes used by the steel-string crowd.

I did this, and to my surprise the buzzing virtually disappeared. Evidently, this is because the usual loop method pulls upward on the string as it leaves the bridge-hole, straightening its path over the bone. By using the knot instead, the string takes a sharper angle up to the bone, and the result is reduced buzzing — as if you had heightened the bone, or fixed the fretboard.

Maybe this worked especially well on my guitar because over the years, the holes drilled through the bridge have widened appreciably. Bigger holes would tend to reduce the angle over the bone, of course.

Anyway, it has worked for me. If John Shelton doesn’t see a negative side to the idea, I can recommend it. Even if you don’t have a buzzing problem, it’s an interesting way to change string angles and tension and perhaps change the sound of a guitar for better (or, maybe in some cases, for worse.)

Brook Zern

Date: Fri, Aug 15, 1997 6:06 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Black, Brown and White
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Someone asks what the “white” meant in my post about Black Shirts and Brown Shirts. Nothing, exactly. But Black, Brown and White is the title of a song by the great bluesman Big Bill Broonzy, who had a keen sense of some related issues. It goes like this:

This little song that I’m singin’ about,
You know it’s true.
If you’re black and got to work for a livin’,
this is what they say to you, they say…

If you’re white,
it’s all right.
If you’re brown,
Stick aroun’,
But if you’re black, oh brother,
Get back, get back, get back.

Me and the boys was in a place one night,
We was all havin’ fun,
They was all drinkin’ beer and wine,
But they would not give me none, they said…

Me and a man was workin’ side by side
This is what it meant:
They was payin’ him a dollar an hour,
They was payin’ me fifty cents, they said…

Anyway, you probably get the idea. Big Bill certainly did. And this is one of the relatively few overt “protest” songs in the blues repertoire. As is the case with flamenco, protest in blues was rarely explicit.

Brook Zern

P.S. At least I think it was Mussolini who used the Brown Shirts — but in rare color pictures from Germany (I’ve seen none comparable from Italy) it seems the Nazi S.A. bully-boys were usually wearing brown shirts, not black ones. Black became associated with the SS, of course, but that was maybe a bit later. Maybe Franco’s Falangists had them, too.

Anyway, I liked the insult that Robert Rios used just before his unfortunate sartorial slander. He referred to certain opponents as “the three stooges.” Now, that’s the kind of put-down we need more of. Not nearly as good as Julio at his wicked best, of course, but serviceable nonetheless. I’m only sure of the identity of two of those alleged stooges, but flatter myself that I might make the cut. (There seems to be a big “Three Stooges” cinematic revival these days, but somehow I still fail to perceive the brilliant humor that so many folks insist they see in their films. Guess it’s just a matter of taste, just like most things around here.)

Incidentally, before Roberto Rios posted his thing, Estela had said: “I just wish it weren’t unethical to reprint private posts so you could see how other people feel about this issue. People who are too intimidated by what one of them called the ‘Black Shirts’ to post anything at all to the list.”

I greatly appreciate Roberto’s action in subsequently posting this message to the list, despite my problem with the content. I didn’t like the tone of Estela’s comment — though I was absolutely sure she was being truthful. Still, it sort of disturbs me when I hear “blind” claims that people are speaking for bunches of terrified lurkers who are too scared to stick their heads up. I think Roberto, at least, has in fact posted to the list on numerous occasions. I can’t remember the outcome, but doubt if he was shouted down and insulted each time.

Come to think of it, how come nobody ever posts me privately that they’re really on my side but don’t dare to say anything? Maybe Estela’s comment about representing a “silent majority” is right. (Or maybe there’s yet another bigger majority, so completely silent that they never say anything at all, that supports me one hundred percent in absolutely everything. Who knows?)

And finally (at last!) please remember that there’s a five-post limit, which changes the tenor of the list. When we want to say that somebody’s post was great, some of us hesitate to do it publicly because something more urgent might come up. That reduces clutter, of course, but it may make the list seem less supportive than it really is.


Date: Fri, Aug 15, 1997 1:58 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Black, Brown and White
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Sorry to have mistakenly given Roberto Rios the benefit of a doubt in his use of the term Black Shirt. I said it was the emblem of Mussolini’s brutal thugs. I’d forgotten the actual term, Brown Shirts. In fact, Black Shirt is the emblem of Hitler’s murderous Nazi thugs. This was the ugly slur Roberto casually applied to people who, in print, heatedly defend the memory of Diego del Gastor. I’m proud to count myself among these people, but would prefer to choose my own attire, thanks.

Brook Zern

P.S. Please note that I don’t hold Roberto’s unseemly behavior against any others who happen to be on his particular side in this argument.

Date: Fri, Aug 15, 1997 4:21 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: (obtaining) Carmen Amaya – Meira Goldberg’s dissertation
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

A lot of folks have already asked for more info on getting Meira Goldberg’s (La Meira’s) dissertation on Carmen Amaya.

First, she’s given me permission to put her e-mail address on the list, so here it is:


Also, she notes that it can be purchased from:

UMI (I think this stands for University Manuscripts International) 800
521-0600 x 3780 or write the dissertations dept. at 300 North Zeeb Road,
Ann Arbor MI 48106. It costs about $36 for a soft cover copy.

That’s the deal.

Brook Zern

Date: Fri, Aug 15, 1997 1:06 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Fwd: Facts (and standards) about Diego del Gastor
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Roberto Rios has posted a strong note he originally wrote to Estela, supporting her and Julio against “the three stooges and their Black Shirt followers” who make “asinine assertions”.

An interesting use of the term “Black Shirt”. It avoids the epithet “Nazi” but has the same general effect, since these were the thugs who supported Mussolini’s Fascist party with outright threats and vicious violence. If I knew and respected Roberto Rios, I’d resent it. Under the circumstances, it doesn’t carry that much weight.

As for those allegedly asinine assertions, I think they mainly consist of spirited if sometimes confused ad hoc defenses against negative — often extremely negative — appraisals of a particular guitarist, Diego del Gastor. And I think that in the main, these defenses have been essentially correct — more accurate in essence than the negative appraisals they address.

But that’s just my opinion. Since Roberto is seeking “facts and standards”, it seems appropriate to go to the Diccionario Enciclopedico Ilustrado del Flamenco (Madrid, Cinterco, 1988), by Jose Blas Vega and Manuel Rios Ruiz, either of whom know more about flamenco than me, Roberto and the rest of us put together.

I don’t think I’ve ever read this particular entry before, incidentally, and don’t know what it will say — but I’m willing to abide by its text. Here goes:

Gastor, Diego el de El. Artistic name of Diego Flores Amaya. Arriate (Malaga), 1908 – Moron de la Frontera (Sevilla), 1973. As a child, lived in El Gastor (Cadiz) until 1923, when he moved to Moron de la Frontera, where his teachers were his brother Pepe and Jose Naranjo Solis. His artistic trajectory developed primarily in “reuniones de cabales” (sessions with knowledgeable aficionados), except for sporadic appearances in public and on television programs; this, however, did not prevent his fame from becoming universal, thanks to the extremely personal characteristics of his toque, with which he accompanied great figures of cante belonging to several generations.

His art evoked poetry by Jose Bergamin and Alberto Garcia Ulecia among other authors, as well as admiring words (glosas exaltativas) from numerous flamenco authorities, among which the following have been selected:

Francisco Ayala wrote: “The toque of Diego contains more soul — more duende — than the toque of any other guitarist today. Diego does not adhere to the modern emphasis on speed and show-off playing (lucimiento personal), qualities which are admittedly necessary for those who compete in the commercial realm of flamenco. On the contrary, he tenaciously retains the simplicity of an earlier time, before the flamenco guitar became a virtuoso instrumento, when it was still fundamentally a genuine and primitive means of expressing the deepest aspects of flamenco (lo jondo).

Other facets that contribute to the greatness of Diego’s toque are his exquisite talent (exquisito talento) for accompanying the cante — especially the cante gitano — and the fact that much of the material he plays is his own creation, and in fact forms the nucleus of an authentic school and style. But the important thing is not what he plays, but how he plays it. Diego possesses the heart and the talent to convert even the most anodine falseta into a net that continues to expand, until it captures the purest expression of an art that is not a torrent of notes, but rather an expressive combination of music and alma.”

Juan J. Garcia Lopez wrote: “In Japan his style is sytematized by university pedagogues. In New York there is a school of guitarists who study his forms and his artistic modes — the school carries his name. In Spain and Latin America his nephews carry the message, faithful translators of the noble contract (empeno) of Diego. “Un sello que no se vende” (A personal style that is not for sale)”

Fernando Quinones: “His class as a guitarist corresponds to the man himself, simutaneously powerful and delicate. His playing abounds in very original and very flamenco variations. With his death, the guitar lost one of its best players.”

Julio Velez: “At the end of his public appearances, which Diego feared, after the applause he did not lower his head to signal his thanks, but just raised his guitar to show it, reminding us that he only did what the guitar told him to do. In those public festivales, Diego was quite different from the Diego of reuniones de amigos. What was in these reuniones all bravery and “entrega” (forceful, committed delivery) was in the festivales more fear and respect. Diego didn’t like applause and the noise; he belonged to the silence. And in the end, “el ruido pudo mas que el mismo” (the noise was stronger than he was?). The silence that he wanted to place around his person was broken by commercializers and sellers of music. Tape recordings of Diego crossed frontiers, and were sold at exorbitant prices. While the United States could hear his playing, many parts of Spain remained completely ignorant of his art (continuaba completamente ignorado). And the more contracts he refused, the more were offered. The more he hid, the more he was sought.”

The same year he died, 1973, the Catedra de Flamencologia y Estudios Folkloricos Andaluces de Jerez de la Frontera awarded him the National Prize for Flamenco for his teaching and his maestria (mastery, complete knowledge). His playing is heard on the Archivo del Cante Flamenco anthology, and the television documentary series “Rito y Geografia del Flamenco” uses his guitar to introduce each program.

On his death, the traditional Gazpacho de Moron festival was suspended, and in 1974, Moron named a street after him, and inaugurated a monument to his memory at a ceremony attended by many artists including Antonio Mairena, Fernanda and Bernarda de Utrera, Joselero, El Andorrano and Ansonini as well as a large number of aficionados, members of tertulias and flamenco penas, and flamencologists.”

That’s the end of the encyclopedia entry. I didn’t know that Diego had been given Spain’s greatest and most prestigious prize, the National Prize. (But then, I didn’t know that there was a school here in New York bearing his name — I certainly doubt it.)

On the other side, we have Estela’s assurances that no artist she has ever met in 35 years has anything but disdain for the pathetic efforts of Diego del Gastor; we have Bob’s thoughtful appraisal that all available examples of his accompaniment “suck” — sorry, I mistakenly attributed that slur to Julio — and we have Julio’s expert opinion that the man was a joke. (I can’t find Julio’s exact words about Diego — I apparently erased that post as a courtesy to Julio, who actually knows better.)

Hey, nobody has to like Diego del Gastor’s playing. We in the Blackshirt Enforcement Squad have dropped our traditional practice of forcing opponents to drink castor oil, and today we don’t insist that everyone share our opinions simply because they’re correct. Heck, the dictionary entry itself makes it clear that Diego’s very different approach to the guitar wouldn’t be universally appreciated. Still, reality should count for something. And when folks like Roberto decide that all the poor behavior in this argument is on one side, and all the facts on the other, well that ain’t the case.

Regards to all,

Brook Zern

Date: Fri, Aug 15, 1997 11:10 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Carmen Amaya — Meira Goldberg’s dissertation
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

To the list:

Meira Goldberg, well known to flamencos as the excellent dancer La Meira, is also an authority on the art of Carmen Amaya, on whom she did her doctoral dissertation. She has asked me to post a copy of her dissertation abstract and table of contents to the flamenco internet (that’s us). I’m delighted to have it, and post it. The information follows:


A Dissertation
Submitted to
the Temple University Graduate Board

in Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree

K. Meira Goldberg
January, 1995

K. Meira Goldberg
All Rights Reserved

Border Trespasses:
The Gypsy Mask and Carmen Amaya’s Flamenco Dance
K. Meira Goldberg
Doctor of Education
Temple University
January, 1995
Dr. Brenda Dixon-Gottschild

Carmen Amaya was one of the most important and influential
dancers in Flamenco history. Born in poverty, trained on the streets and
on the cart which was the family’s home, Amaya created a style blending
the expression and seduction of the feminine dance with the aggressivity,
speed, and risk of the masculine. Dressed in male costume, she rose to
international stardom in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, raising Flamenco to a
new level of stature and visibility. This dissertation documents,
through primary research, Amaya’s life and dance. It asks why Amaya was
an important artist: what was innovative and seminal in her dance? It
also asks why Amaya was such a popular artist: what deep nerve did she
strike in European and American sensibilities?
These questions are approached by examining Amaya’s historical
context. Flamenco was born from the performance of Spanish Gypsies, yet
Amaya was the first Gypsy to gain fame on the international concert
stage. Amaya’s biography is therefore set into a background tracing in
parallel the history of Gypsy performance in Spain and the development
of their stereotypic image and representation. These two historical
lines define each other by their very opposition, although their
expressive forms often blend.
The forms of the Gypsy mask, manifestation of the relationship
between performance by Spanish Gypsies and performance of them by
others, ground a detailed analysis of Amaya’s dance. Amaya’s movement
and presentation carry the heat of border trespasses between male and
female, between Spanish concert dance and her home-grown Gypsy style.
Stemming from the seductive yet threatening fortune-teller’s gaze,
Amaya’s hotly radical innovations demonstrate continuity with
long-standing traditions of Gypsy performance. Amaya followed in the
venerable Gypsy tradition of fulfilling her audience’s stereotypic
expectations. Masked by the transgressive Gypsy reputation, Amaya
enacted exotic and frightening edges of behavior beyond the pale of the
aesthetic norms of her day. Stealing across the borders delineating her
social and class identity, Amaya created a fiery and volcanic style which
was Gypsy in its very edge of violence and which shaped the bed-rock of
the international public’s notions of Flamenco dance to this day.


I dedicate this work to Chuny Amaya and to all the Flamencos
without whom it would not have been possible. Chuny and her husband Tano
opened their home and their hearts to me. Through her own dance, her
rhythm, and her person, Chuny let me glimpse the living dance of Amaya
and of the Amayas. Domingo Alvarado, Leonor and Antonia Amaya, Diego
Castellon, Juan Escudero Amaya, and Lola Montes invested their time,
enoergy, and knowledge in this project, gave it color and warmth and
weight, and any authoroity which it carries is vested by their presence.
I also dedicate this work to the person who would have been happiest to
see its completion: my mother, Marjorie Weinzweig. And to Arthur
Goldberg, my wonderful and wise husband, who kept me laughing through my
panic, provided financial and technical support, and light and love.


I would like to acknowledge my debt to Huston Baker for the
metaphor of the mask which I have used in my title and throughout this
work. My teachers at Temple University, especially Dr. Sarah Chapman,
Dr. Edrie Ferdun, and Dr. Richard Shusterman, have enriched my life
immeasurably and in more ways than I can list here. Dr. Lynn M. Brooks
has been teaching me through her lectures and published work for some
time now, and was very kind to join my committee where I could benefit
directly from her considerable knowledge and expertise in Spanish dance
history. Many aficionados, including Mariano Parra, Liliana Morales,
Brook Zern, “La Polilla” and her husband Carlos FabÈ, Tony “El Pelao” andhis wife “La Uchi”, Leora Heckelman, Oliver Pflug, Jacinto Kantor, MonaMolarsky, Luis Montero, and Paula Fujiwara, have given me photos and bitsof memorabilia, tidbits of information, technical and moral support. for my father, Dr. Malcolm Gordon, who stuck by me, my godmother, Molly Layton, and my mentor, Dr. Brenda Dixon-Gottschild, who carrots and sticks guided me through this thicket, my deepest gratitude,love, and respect.


I. Definition of the Area of Study 1
II. Purpose 2
III. Key Words 4
IV. The Research Problem and Methodology 9
A. Biography and Oral History 9
B. Review of the Literature 11
C. Movement as the Methodology for Socio-Historical Analysis 16
I. The Genesis of Flamenco Audiences, Performance Formats and Audience – 19
II. The Time Frame: Pre-Flamenco Period (1425-1783) 21
A. The Family as Center for Learning 26
B. Use of the Ambivalent Image 35
C. Cultural Intersections: Taverns and Dance Teachers 43
III. Dancing the Image 48
IV. Aristocratic Patronage: Producers and Consumers 59
V. How Gitanos, Aristocrats, and Popular Culture Danced “Gypsies”
A. Gypsy “Gypsy” Dance 65
B. The “Parade of Nations” 69
C. “Gypsies” in the Theater 82
VI. The Dances and the Movement 87
VII. Conclusions: 100
A. How Gitanos were Presented 100
B. The Image of the Gitana 103
I. Introduction 107
II. Gypsy Dancers 111
III. The Birth of Romanticism and National Identity: Foreign and Upper
Class Audiences 117
IV. A New Context: Gypsy-Controlled Performance 124
V. The Popularity of National Dances: Escuela Bolera 129
VI. Competition for the Image of the Gypsy 142
VII. Flamenco’s Golden Age: Gypsy Artists Invade the Stage 148
VIII. The State of Affairs in 1913 153
4. THE RISING STAR: 1913-1945 158
I. Introduction 158
II. Infancy 167
III. The Tablaos in Barcelona 174
IV. Madrid 178
V. The Beginnings of Fame 180
VI. The New World 191
VII. South American Tour 1939 203
VIII. The Trip to United States 1940 210
IX. Carnegie Hall 224
X. United States Tour 236
XI. Hollywood 237
XII. Carnegie Hall Again, More Touring, More Movies 239
5. AMAYA: ARTIST AND ICON (1945-1963) 247
I. World Tours 247
II. Back to Spain 1947 250
III. More Tours 256
IV. Back to United States 1955 272
V. Still More Tours 289
VI. “Los Tarantos” 298
VII. The Last Tours 300
VIII. Denouement 301
I. Sources 305
II. Structure 314
III. Movement 329
IV. Fundamental Elements of Amaya’s Style 347
A. Feminine and Masculine in the Forward Weight Shift and the
Incorporation of Risk 347
B. Footwork 376
C. Speed, Strength and Attack 381
D. The “Gypsy Gaze” 385

End of information from Meira Goldberg. I think her work represents a valuable addition to flamenco scholarship.

Brook Zern

Date: Thu, Aug 14, 1997 11:28 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Diego and Fernanda
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Thanks to Richard Black, for his post on vocal register and for this one as well. He had the brains to actually check a source available to many of us, Pohren’s illuminating book “A Way of Life”.

It establishes quite clearly that Diego del Gastor was the first-choice guitarist of Fernanda and Bernarda de Utrera, and of Manolito el de la Maria.

I am not surprised. Manolito was the absolute giant of the solea de Alcala, while Fernanda was already the greatest cantaora of solea. Diego played the finest solea I have ever heard. (Bulerias, too.)

Pohren’s authorititative account also confirms my many memories of Fernanda’s feeling for Diego as a guitarist and, I think, as a man. I rarely asked her who her favorite guitarist was because, when she was around Diego, she was usually suffused with a strange glow that was evident even to me. She frequently referred to him with words that went beyond admiration, and responded to his toque as if it were pure magic, which it often seemed to be.

Sorry to tread on territory that had somehow become controversial — I haven’t been all that vocal on an “issue” that seemed clear to me but where documented proof seemed to be lacking. But there it is in black and white, folks. Diego was Fernanda’s favorite guitarist, as always seemed so stunningly obvious in real life.

Thanks also to Richard B. for noting that “when Diego was bad he was bad, but when he was good, o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-oo mi alma!” And for pointing out that “the fact that there is a legend sort of suggests something…”

Strange that Fernanda should be so ignorant of flamenco that she preferred this man whom Julio says “sucks” as an accompanist. But then, she wasn’t born in Ronda and raised in Malaga, as Julio was, so what would she know?

Now, assuming no one wants to call Donn Pohren a liar, perhaps we can move on…

Brook Zern

Date: Thu, Aug 14, 1997 10:57 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Barrueco and Russell
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

I welcome all posts showing the thinking of Julio de los Reyes on flamenco, even when he is, to my amazement, wrong. And I considered his posting of a long interview between classical guitarists Barrueco and Russell to be a perfectly excusable one-time aberration.

But I have to respond to Bill Glenn who asks Julio to keep it coming if no one objects.

That series of three long and interesting posts had absolutely nothing to do with flamenco. It belonged in the excellent classical guitar forum commanded by John Philip Dimick, a witty guy whose control-freak approach to running a list reflects the rigidity of the classical world.

As a flag-waver for free expression, I have nonetheless always advocated that posts to this group should be on our topic. (I have also broken — or as I prefer, stretched — that rule by occasionally writing something about bullfighting, or about freedom of expression on the internet. But I haven’t written or quoted anything about sports cars or collecting old political buttons, because those interests of mine are not our topic.)

Yes, information on differences between classical and flamenco playing would be welcome, but that wasn’t the topic of these posts. Also, classical guitar is a crummy instrument, absolutely unsuited to the great classical repertoire except some Bach that can be played on anything, and otherwise only appropriate for silly programmatic music by lightweights like Albeniz or Tarrega…hey, this could be fun after all — but it still doesn’t belong here.)


Brook Zern

Date: Thu, Aug 14, 1997 10:55 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Upper versus lower end of the range
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Bob’s post on vocal range, and the way it can be so deceptive, is fascinating. Apparently it’s easy to confuse a man’s basic vocal quality with his actual pitch or register. Imagine — a guy who sounds low is in fact singing a high Bb.

Long ago, I posted something from a Spanish magazine, a report on flamenco in 1850 as written by Gevaert, a noted Belgian musicologist of that era. Here’s a brief excerpt, starting with the words of the modern-day author Arie Sneeuw and then quoting Gevaert:

“Finally, we have the brief description, already referred to the repertoire in totality, of the use of the voice and the tesitura characteristic of cante flamenco:

‘What also testifies to the Arab origin of these cantos is the guttural and cut-off, interrupted (entrecortada) way of singing — a way that seems to be compulsory (de rigor) for all of them. All of this music is sung in the highest registers of the voice, and it is not uncommon to hear the entrada (entrance passage) of a cana or of a fandango done with a C-note from the chest (realizada con un do de pecho).’

(Sneeuw then says): “Since starting a phrase with a C from the chest is probably the most difficult way of doing any type of singing, this passage, together with the one above which refers to breathing, gives us an idea of the demands that were placed on singers in those days — or that they imposed upon themselves, since one would customarily implicate the other.

On the other hand, the somewhat forced tesitura which the cante demanded — and which to a greater or lesser degree it still demands today — seems to be a natural corollary of the descending melodic line, as commented on earlier.”

End of excerpt. Again, it seems that a high voice has been part of flamenco, certainly of professional flamenco, for a long time. I’ve gotten a vague impression that the impetus for this might be related to Italian operatic style, though of course there is no other Italianate influence in flamenco song (I hope.)

Incidentally, I am in intermittent touch with a musicologist who has promised to take a close look at Gevaert’s remarkably detailed and precise 1850 descriptions of flamenco and share the information with us at some point. I look forward to that.

Brook Zern

P.S. Bob also did a great job of translating two of Julio’s scurrilous verses directed at us folks in the know-it-all section. Hope he’ll try the rest.

Date: Thu, Aug 14, 1997 10:54 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Re: Facts (and standards)
To: Flamenco@vm.temple.edu

I think I see the problem here. Estela, before inviting a bunch of us to leave the list, says that since it is an academic forum, we should have certain standards.

If I’d thought this was an academic forum, I never woulda signed up. After two years here, I still don’t think it is. But if I’m wrong, I’d say we all flunk and need extensive remedial work.

Maybe people who confuse this with an academic forum instead of appreciating it as a loose discussion group should start their own list. Or at least stop hoping to banish folks whose opinions or styles of discussion they dislike.

Estela, after calling one poster unethical, appeals to the list’s “silent majority” to help her in her conflict with certain people. The last person to try and manipulate the “silent majority” was a Vice President and convicted felon named Spiro Agnew, who urged it to support an unconvicted felon, Richard Nixon, on Watergate and Vietnam. His use of the term was in my view unethical, and doesn’t seem very different from Estela’s.

I do agree with Estela that it would be good to stop calling folks liars because one disagrees with them, or even when one is convinced they are distorting facts deliberately. The word may have a place in heated arguments, but only as a sort of last resort, and any such accusation should be clearly proveable.

I think Estela’s use of the term “creative cutting and pasting” in reference to Richard O’s post is fair — and I often find it hard to follow his posts, especially when he’s hopping mad.

I know many people would agree with Estela’s contention that the “Moron contingent” resents any talk of other styles, and “limits” its talk to “one town or individual”. I know it can feel that way, but I don’t think the accusation is fair. Moron is the filter through which they (we) see much of flamenco, but I think a review of posts will show that even the hard-core Moronies are ready and willing to talk about other aspects of flamenco.

Of course, we’ll will keep rising to the bait if our faith is sorely tested — especially when it’s done by folks who, like Julio and perhaps Estela as well, clearly think its fun…or, worse yet, necessary for our re-education. So what else is new?

Brook Zern

Date: Wed, Aug 13, 1997 6:00 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Review in El Pais
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

It really is amazing, being able to punch in the website of places around the world and getting all kinds of information.

If you can figure out Spanish, a very good one is that of El Pais, the major Spanish newspaper. It’s at:


The “cultura” section gives info on flamenco and the bullfight as well as everything else. Today’s paperless paper reports on the 37th Annual Festival of Mining Cantes in La Union or somewhere in the Levante. Angel Alvarez Caballero says that all three principal “acts” were terrific. A rave for Gerardo Nunez (again, thanks to Peter and Max for their reports on the Gerardo-fest and other happenings). His first time in the area, and he was great with sumptuous sound and a great (magistral) sense of composition. “Nunez long ago went beyond the two-plus-two-is-four of the flamenco styles, to create and recreate, with formidable talent, a music that he has known and loved since his childhood (i.e. flamenco).” He also liked Gerardo’s surprising singer Carmina, and (no surprise) his wife the exceptional dancer Carmen Cortes.

Then Jose Merce came on, accompanied by Moraito Chico, and did a great job — they are terrific together. Admirable renditions of serious cantes, very profound emotion.

Then it was the turn of the 26-year-old dancer Antonio el Pipa, who was also outstanding. He brought his folks from Jerez, including Juana Fernandez “who sang por solea, without real power although she tended to shout, but with a racial wisdom (sabiduria de raza) and a well-aged voice from a late-hour juerga (una voz aguardentosa del viejo cantaor en amanecida de juerga). Maria del Mar Moreno was an excellent dancer, too, and Antonio Jero’s guitar was deep, Antonio Malena and Joselito de Lebrija did some great song, Jose Luis Monton’s guitar was imaginative — all in all, a magic night.

Pretty good writeup. It seems serious flamenco is alive and maybe even well. Note the casually admiring reference to race (Gypsy heritage), and the use of the word “juerga” — rather than fiesta — to refer to another kind of event, a private session.

Brook Zern

Date: Wed, Aug 13, 1997 1:10 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: The Great Diego Controversy
To: FLAMENCO@vm.temple.edu


Ole — at least your guasa to me and Richard has class . Wish I could translate the poetry, but it would lose too much.

(Julio’s beautifully crafted poem — in which he calls me “pesao”, which means tedious or heavy but translates best as “a drag” — ridicules my effort to rib him for not being a native of Andalusia’s very small flamenco heartland. He insists that it’s enough to be Andalusian (from the Despenaperros pass on down, as the customary geographic definition goes), and cites the names and birthplaces of many other Andalusian artists who weren’t from the epicenter.)

Of course, Julio also knows that the great Sabicas, the great Carmen Amaya and the great Argentinita clan aren’t from Andalusia, and in the latter case aren’t native Spaniards. But he ignores this — preferring to draw a line that includes himself and then stops. (I take a certain chauvinist pride in my conclusion that David Serva, an American, seems to be an even better guitarist than the Julio of my recollection. There’s hope for us all, though it helps to be from Spain, helps to be from Andalusia, and helps most of all to be from the Jerez/Lebrija/Utrera/Seville main axis. I don’t mention Moron because its recent tradition is based on just one rather idiosyncratic guitar style; it was never a hotbed of cante, though the legendary Silverio Franconetti was mostly from Moron; of course, I suspect he wasn’t all that good because he was partly Italian…)

On another topic, I just noticed that in my recent post mentioning my father, I was referring to something that Estela had sent privately to someone else and copied me in on. Sorry for any confusion, and for publicly citing a private post.

Brook Zern “Er Pesao” (got a nice ring to it, don’t you think?)

Date: Wed, Aug 13, 1997 9:36 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Flamenco Ultimatum
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

I’m sure I speak for all of us in saying that I envy Dan S. for having found such a tolerant and understanding partner.

Brook Zern

Date: Tue, Aug 12, 1997 12:43 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Upper versus lower end of the range
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Estela’s post on this topic was fascinating. I guess I have a predilection for low voices in male singers. It disturbs me to hear some of the legendary singers of the past because their voices seemed higher than they “ought” to be — Tomas Pavon is just one among many. Heck, even Manuel Torre sang higher than I expected. I wanted him to be the opposite of Chacon in every respect, and while he didn’t use Chacon’s eerie high register (falsetto?) he wasn’t a low-down growler, either. Many of the low-range guys mentioned were real old — Talega, Pepe de la Matrona, Manolito, Perrate — and I wonder if they sang higher when they were younger. I have the same problem with blues singers, and even think the legendary Robert Johnson sings “too high”. I once noted that high registers can equate to popularity (the Beatles, for instance) and wondered if Camaron would’ve been so popular if he had a more typical, lower register. Incidentally, very old reports of flamenco singers seem to mention high registers, so it isn’t (as I had suspected) merely an echo of the decadent “Opera Flamenca” era, with its cheesy malaguena and fandango warblers. In fact, I think if there’s any outside influence, it may come from the Italian vocal tradition.

I was surprised to learn that Paquera sticks to a narrow range. She’s such a knockout vocalist that I thought she was using a lot of range when she wasn’t. I use her recordings when I want to play flamenco that is really good but still might appeal to a non-aficionado, and indeed she gives a great impression.

The post mentions Fosforito. I just bought an LP of his. But it’s an odd one indeed. It’s an old Argo record, ZRG 560, dated 1968 called “Portrait of Andalusia”. No artists are listed on the cover, but the inside sheet reveals that the featured singer is Antonio Fernandez, who must be Fosforito, recorded in 1956 in Puente Genil (just before or after he won the Cordoba contest at age 24 and became a notable figure.) He sings solea, serrana, Cantinas de Cadiz, and Alegrias de Cadiz (the few other cuts are mostly saetas by locals, recorded in Puente Genil and in Seville in 1956.)

Yes, Estela, I remember Alberto Santiago, whom I first knew in New York. He was already in Seville in the mid-sixties. Sorry to hear of his health problem, and I hope you’ll give him my regards.

Brook Zern

Date: Mon, Aug 11, 1997 6:02 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
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. (The only other Caracol “anthology” mentioned thus far is the four-CD Odeon thing, made in Mexico, where a lot of Caracol cuts are sprinkled around other with stuff including some outtakes from the key Hispavox “Antologia del Cante Flamenco” sessions.)

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 electrifying 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 Nina 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.


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


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

Cante: Manolo Caracol
Guitarra: M. de Marchena

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

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

Okay — now, since I hear the clamor to list all the no-doubt-unavailable solo records by Melchor, here they are:


[faf][am√][gs][de][tb][ay]√[ck]1. Guitarra Gitana (w/A. Duque, 2a guitarra*) Hisp HH 10-151 1955 1959
Maestros de la Guitarra [ab][jba][faf]Hisp (530)
40.3258 1 1987
Maestros de la Guitarra [jba]CD: Hisp 7992132
Guitare Gitane [jba]Erato EAF 1057 France
Guitare Gitane [jba] Hisp 28.510 France
[fc]CD: _____
Bul; Aleg*; Tientos; Tanguillos de Cadiz*; Mal; Sevillanas*; Media Gran;/ Peteneras; Taranta; Fand de H.*; Serranas; Zapateado*; Sig; Sol

[jba][faf][de][ay]√[copia]2. Tesoros de la Guitarra Gitano-Andaluza (w/E. Jimenez, 2a guitarra) Ariola S 82175 H 1975
Sig; Tangos Flamencos; Tarantos; Bul por Sol; Farruca;/ Sol; Jabera y Gran;
Aleg; Rondena; Bul Festeras

3. Homenaje a Andalucia (w/Enrique de Marchena)
Movieplay S 21.335
[gs][de]**4. Cuerdas de Espana Musart D553 [USA?]
√Rex M-Rex 036 Cancion “Ojos verdes”; Sevillanas; Danza Mora “Danza gitana”; Cancion por Sig “La Lola se va a Los Puertos”; Tango Argentino “Quizas, quizas, quizas”; Guajira; Tanguillo de Cadiz; Cancion “Los piconeros”; Cana y Polo; Media Gran; Cancion “Llamame Lola”; Cancion “La Mariana” [¿Marianas?]; Sig “Seguidillas japonesas”; Tarantas

[faf][ay]5. Fontana 64 29 041 1971

Incidentally, I like that title “Seguidillas japonesas” for a Siguiriya on the fourth recording. I presume it applies to one of his best falseta-concepts, sometimes played as an intro for siguiriyas, which seems to use a pentatonic scale or somesuch — it really does sound Japanese, but very flamenco.

Caracol, incidentally, has a total of ten individual CD’s at last count — of course, that includes lots of duplication, and lots of the material is his popular stuff, canciones and zambras and whatnot. Unfortunately, his serious cante was under-recorded.

But there’s one Caracol recording that might be overlooked. It’s a 2-LP anthology, mostly Caracol but also some others doing an homage to commemorate his fifty years of singing — the 1922 date refers to his “debut” as the young revelation of the Granada concurso. He died in an auto accident around the time this record was released. Cuts are by Caracol unless otherwise noted. Here’s the listing:


2 Discos: RCA LSP 19001 1972

Cante: Manolo Caracol con Adela La Chaqueta, Gabriel Cortes, Fernando Galvez, Diego Pantoja, La Gitana de Bronce, M. Valencia “El Diamante Negro”, Enrique Ortega “Caracol Hijo”, Enrique Montoya
Guitarras: M. de Marchena, Enrique de Melchor, Manolo Heredia

I. Bul por Sol; Fand Caracoleros; Tarantos; Sig Gitanas; Bul Festeras de Jerez; Zambra Nueva; Fand de Dolor; Tientos de Pastora; Mal del Mellizo; “Companera de mi Alma” – Lamento

II. (Poesia); Sol de Cadiz; (Poesia); Sig de Caracol; Sol de Alcala; Ranchera por Bul (A. la C.); Fand Jerezanos [Fand de Jerez] (G.C., F.G.); Bul de Caracol (D.P.); Fiesta por Tangos (La G. de B.); Fand Gitanos (M.V. “D.N.”, E.O., “C.H.”); Cancion por Fiesta (E.M.); (Poesia); Sol Bul [Sol por Bul?] y Fand de Adios

I hope all the Caracol cuts in this thing have been reissued somewhere on all those CD’s.

Brook Zern

Date: Mon, Aug 11, 1997 4:56 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: The Great Diego Controversy
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

A great weekend in the annals of the oldest established permanent floating crap game on the flamenco net.

Let’s see. Ken Parker, a Diego fan whom I greatly admire as a guitarist, accompanist and real-life expert, offers the surprising news that Camaron was a closet Diego buff. Estela, who has never met a closeted or uncloseted Diego buff/artist in her 35 years of living out Jacinto’s (and my) dream (hey, that’s hitting below the belt, Estela), seems to cast doubt on this possibility.

Ken also says that the films and the Vergara recording — the only officially available documents of Diego’s accompaniment — are poor examples.

I had thought the film was always interesting and often pretty good, but I don’t consider myself particularly adept at evaluating accompaniment since, unlike Keni, I can’t accompany well. I will concede that Julio notes the obvious in saying that Diego’s accompaniment is atypical because it can call attention to itself — it is not the almost-invisible support that characterizes more traditional approaches to accompaniment. Julio is/was a fine accompanist, and he thinks Diego was a dreadful accompanist.

Chuck notes that when Julio calls Diego a “showman” it implies a kind of phoniness. He does a nice job of debunking that interpretation. Diego was in the spotlight, but it doesn’t seem right to call him a showman. A shaman, maybe, but not a showman. Still, he had phenomenal personal charisma which certainly clouded my judgment.

At one point, Julio seems to confirm that the fanaticism of some American Dieguistas colors his view of Diego and makes it more negative than it would be otherwise. That seems both unfair and completely understandable.

Julio also spells out the idea that he understands flamenco better than Americans, because he is from flamenco-land. I happen to agree with the premise of this monoculturalist attitude (I think I made up that word; let’s say it’s the opposite of the all-embracing multi-culturalist attitude), though I wouldn’t want to bet against Ken in a flamenco-smarts duel.

Julio says he was born in Ronda and raised in Malaga. Well, my own monoculturalist attitude is more refined: in fact, when I hear that I think to myself “Close, but no cigar.” Now, born in Triana and raised in Jerez would command my complete attention and respect — although the only guy I know personally who meets those criteria is a rock ‘n’ roller who hates flamenco.)

Richard raises the serious issue of whether some of the disdain for Diego in certain Spanish circles was due to his being a Gypsy, and a “primitive” Gypsy-style (though non-typical) player. I heard that in some appraisals. Pepe Martinez, a favorite of the British crowd in the 60′s who carried Ramon Montoya’s mantle as a brilliant virtuoso in a genteel style, dismissed Diego as “some primitive who lives in the mountains”. There was an anti-Gypsy flavor to that attack, despite the fact that Pepe’s mentor Ramon Montoya was a Gypsy. Yes, but Ramon didn’t play “like a Gypsy”.

(Nobody today plays in Diego del Gastor’s style, as has been noted. But it’s interesting to note also that nobody plays in the style of the top-ranked Gypsy-style player of this century, Melchor de Marchena — yet nobody says Melchor was a phony or an incompetent loser. Come to think of it, hardly anybody plays like the marvelous Juan Maya, except some extranjeros who studied with him. In fact, when you get right down to it, nobody plays like anybody except Paco de Lucia.)

Yes, as Richard says, there was relief among “progressive” Spaniards when Paco de Lucia came along. Some of them were glad to see Paco’s slicker and more sophisticated music, more European in character, as opposed to an older style that was more emotional and unsettling.

I know how to play lots of material by Paco and by Diego. Putting aside my grave limitations as an interpreter of both, I have found that regular humans always prefer de Lucia’s material. It’s much more attractive, more appealing — heck, I like that quality too, though I sort of understood one hard-core aficionado’s comment that Paco’s astonishing intro to “Cuando Canta el Gallo” was “cocktail flamenco”. Paco’s music is marvelous and plenty flamenco, but I wouldn’t want to characterize it as more flamenco than some other players, including Diego.

A while back, Estela told an interesting story. She said that when she’d mention Diego people would always say nice things about him, until she indicated that she wasn’t a big fan. Then they would be very relieved, and start to confess that they really couldn’t stand the way he played.

I don’t doubt for a second that this happened often. Still, it reminded me of something that happened when a bunch of people got together to celebrate my father’s 75th birthday.

My father was an outdoor writer/humorist, quite well known among hunters and fishermen. At this occasion, a longtime friend of my father got up to say a word.

“I’ve known Ed Zern a long time,” he said, “and when people find out that I know him, they always ask me what he’s really like. And I always have to tell them: ‘He’s a prince of a fellow, a credit to humanity, the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet.’ And they always think about that for a moment, and then say, ‘I thought so.’

Well, one day about a year ago, someone found out that I knew Ed Zern, and they asked me what he was really like. And that day, I was just so tired of answering that question that I looked straight at him and said, ‘Ed Zern is the worst prick I’ve ever met in my life. He’s a nasty, dishonest, foul-tempered bastard.’

And the fellow contemplated what I’d said for a moment, and said, “You know, I thought so.’”

Well, I thought that was a riot, as did my father. I don’t know what it tells us, exactly, except that people welcome permission to say the unsayable — perhaps regardless of the content.

Anyway, it’s been fun to follow the flak. I suspect Diego’s reputation will survive the tirades of his detractors, and with luck might even survive the accolades of his supporters.

Brook Zern

Date: Thu, Aug 7, 1997 4:52 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Confession
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

We knew it all along, Estela.

Hey, I see that Jacinto, defending Diego, asks why Fernanda and Bernarda chose him as their guitarist on countless occasions. Estela, maybe you should demand that he ask Bernarda what she thought of Diego.

(Actually, you don’t even have to ask her. On the last two occasions I spoke to Bernarda, she froze up at the mention of Diego’s name and then launched into some pretty heavy invective. I didn’t want to pursue the matter, but just for the record, she’s one of the artists who holds him in real disdain — for personal or artistic reasons, or both.)

Life is strange, flamenco is stranger still. Interesting that a great artist like Diego can generate these reactions. (But then, Moron may foster such things. I just learned that the other greatest artist of our century has a Moron connection. Yes, before they moved to Malaga, the parents of Pablo Picasso lived in Moron. And you could look it up.)

Brook Zern

Date: Thu, Aug 7, 1997 11:14 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Translating Alfonso Eduardo: Melchor and other Sabios (Chuck)
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Alfonso Eduardo wrote, approximately:

“1. Julio sent a very generic but reasonable response to the new ‘topic of discussion’, which almost always serves to generate more information and can help us draw more accurate conclusions even as time goes on.
2. Chuck has been more specific and has “put the bull into the action”.
3. And I’d like to add some more data on this subject-toro, so that each of us can go in for the kill as we prefer.

a) Fernanda de Utrera said on many occasions that Diego was her favorite guitarist. Fernanda also said on many occasions the opposite (lo contrario). The number of times, and the contexts, of these two affirmations could not be accurately tallied by even the best flamencologist…
b) Diego del Gastor, like Manolo de Huelva, was an individual with some very dignified and profound aspects, but also with unsuspected caprices and childish whims.
c) The few who had the opportunity to know his art well owe to flamenco their impassioned defense; the only limit should be recognizing that others don’t have the same information. But this is not to say that these others might not have other important information regarding flamenco.
d) I adored Diego, but he was a man who had more limitations than other guitarists both living and dead; and who also had more genius than those others.

Simply wanting to be helpful,

Alfonso Eduardo”

Date: Thu, Aug 7, 1997 10:43 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Vibes and Diego
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

For no good reason, I feel like commenting on the vibes around here, and one of the issues.

I’d like to start by restating my conviction that we’re all a little bit nuts, or we wouldn’t be hurling ourselves against this particular wall called flamenco. (Actually, it seems that Amber is still perfectly sane, as well as exceedingly welcome, but then, she has plenty of time.)

I thought that the list had been a really pleasant place for a long time — weeks and weeks, which may be a modern record. A lot of solid information was going around, and a lot of entertaining and thoughtful commentary. The only downside, in my view, was that there didn’t seem to be enough posts from lurkers and less verbose or committed listers. (I like to see queries on finding dance shoes in Chile, or on shows in Finland, even if I never have anything to add — this kind of stuff seems healthy to me.)

Folks seemed to be avoiding insults. True, there was a simmering conflict, as might be expected; this time, it seemed to focus on the reputation (or, incredibly, the abilities) of Diego del Gastor. Estela upheld one view, which didn’t buy his act. Jacinto and others, including me, refused to let that negative view pass unchallenged.

Okay so far. We’re not gathered here just to agree with each other.

I was a little rattled by the “Five Easy Rules” post from Julio de los Reyes, though. I get the feeling that he was rushing to Estela’s defense, though the post could have been aimed at a lot of us. Posts like that can be bitingly funny, but this one just seemed angry.

(Ken asked who Julio was, which Estela took as an insult to Julio or an indication of a lack of knowledge. In fact, Julio has been out of touch for some weeks, during which Ken has become a regular poster — and for me a great asset to the list. I assume Ken simply didn’t know who Julio was; and, with due respect for all, I would find that understandable.)

Julio is, of course, the most certifiable flamenco we have. I had missed his contributions — his reminiscences are always a high point — and hope he’s back to stay.

Julio shares Estela’s negative evaluation of Diego. But maybe that shouldn’t surprise us, since Estela’s latest post notes that she has never encountered any Spanish artist, professional or amateur or aficionado, who holds Diego’s art in high regard; indeed, everyone she has ever met, or asked, said that Diego del Gastor Really Sucked The Big One, or the castillian equivalent.

I have taken notes as you requested, Estela. Unanimity is a very rare thing in the realm of flamenco, and the fact that Diego could generate it certainly is a phenomenal achievement. For me, it is the least of his phenomenal achievements — but a phenomenal achievement nonetheless.

Assuming your observation is accurate (perhaps Alfonso Eduardo will confirm that no flamenco artists respect the artistic ability or the memory of Diego del Gastor), I will now reiterate in deadly earnest something like what I said in jest quite recently:

Those half-assed Spaniards — who never sought out Diego when he was alive, and have never sought out existing recordings of his artistry, but who still claim to know exactly how he played long after his death — don’t know shit from shinola about good flamenco guitar; obviously, it takes us golden-eared extranjeros to recognize and appreciate the really good stuff.

Brook Zern

(Estela wrote:

“Are you *sure* you want me to reiterate??? Okaaay…take notes this time:

All the high-profile flamenco people (I didn’t use the word professionals)
I have ever spoken to in 35 years in flamenco have had withering comments
to make (and that’s a gross understatement) about Diego’s playing.
(What people say in print is not necessarily what they say off the record.)

Fernanda, on more than one occasion, expressed her preference for
other guitartists (for whatever reason). Her kindest remark (to me) about
Diego (as a guitarist) was “Diego es Diego, ?qui le vamos a hacer?”

Opinions? No. All of the above is cold hard fact as it happened to
ME in real true life and I don’t need Julio’s or anyone else’s help to
know it.

My opinion? Diego was never my cup of tea.

And one last word – perhaps the most important. Inventing information
that suits one’s agenda and then attributing it to others is devious and
unscholarly and undermines the value of this type of forum.

And THAT’S my opinion.”

Date: Tue, Aug 5, 1997 12:24 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Solea de X / Keys / Mod v Trad?
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Bob, wondering about my post, notes that today’s hip singers don’t avoid the more serious side of cante.

First, thanks to Marie for her terrific analysis of what these artists have actually been putting on wax, or whatever CD’s are made of. It seems that many of them do tend to give short shrift to the more serious cantes.

But Bob, I hadn’t meant to say that they don’t perform these serious cantes. Just that they didn’t “mess with” those forms by taking newfangled melodic approaches, or seeing them as pathetic relics that need fixing.

In fact, I’m delighted that their respect for this central part of the tradition leads them toward the “textbook” approach that Bob mentions. And I like hearing all the singers he mentioned when they sing this stuff. It’s the Europop-influenced cantecitos that I find boring. If I can whistle something after one hearing, it ain’t really a bulerias or a tango no matter what the title says.

Anyway, it sure is fun to have someone to query about cante mechanics. Estela notes that different styles of solea may use the same chordal accompaniment, despite their distinct melodies. Fine. Now — Can someone name some different styles of solea that might use the same guitar-chord accompaniment?

Also, if I recall rightly, Bob seemed to say that solea typically used less vocal range than an alegrias, which seemed logical to me. But Estela seemed to say that solea, with its phrygian-modal aspect, used more vocal range than the major-key alegrias. Who’s right?

Brook Zern

Date: Tue, Aug 5, 1997 12:14 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Greats
To: Flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Estela says: “And moving right along to Diego, I think his toque is distinctive enough that there should be *someone* who has the sound if so many people admire him so much.”

Stella! You sayin’ he wasn’t no contender? Ain’t nobody else had his punch, ain’t nobody else slugged you in the gut like he did. Ain’t nobody else could do what he did. Guys’d see it, know they couldn’t do it the same way. So they didn’t even try.

Seriously, I’ve written about my first exposure to Diego. Early morning, at the Feria churros place. I’m with a successful working professional guitarist, trying to set up a lesson. We stumble on Diego. I can’t understand his music at all. But the guitarist insists on staying to listen, and after maybe ten minutes he goes up to Diego and says, with a strange mixture of admiration and resentment — I can’t have imagined this — “Next to you, we are all bootblacks. Bootblacks! (Leeeeempiabotas!).” Then he turns around to leave. But I decide to stick around, because I figure this probably doesn’t happen every day to this guy.

But the point is — I had the option of switching allegiances. This guitarist didn’t. He knew he had just heard some kind of a genius, a man who in terms of emotive power put all other guitarists in the shade. But he wasn’t about to traipse around after this strange man, begging for lessons or jotting down tablature or making crummy recordings on a Norelco mini-corder. That was my job, not his. He may even have realized that Diego del Gastor’s music wouldn’t travel well — that it couldn’t just be picked up and used for normal professional work. He may have sensed that this music only worked for certain cantes — no more than half a dozen — and even then, would only work for certain singers. But I like to think that he was telling the truth as he saw it, recognizing Diego’s unique aspect, but realizing that it simply didn’t apply to him.

But who knows? Maybe you’re right, Estela, in implying that Diego just wasn’t good enough or interesting enough to cause any notable players to pick up the ball, or balls, he left behind. Maybe he was just a sort of hallucination, or a flash in the pan, or maybe he played in a way that could only be understood by blood relatives and certain Americanos.

In any case, you’re right in noting that no Spanish professionals play in the Moron style. To me, it’s just another case where us foreigners had much better taste in flamenco than those silly Spanish people who are born into the tradition.

(Of course, the way I could best honor Diego would be to stop trying to play the way he did, since I clearly can’t get the hang of it. Fortunately, Ken Parker cheers me up by noting that hardly anyone else can, either.)

Brook Zern

Date: Mon, Aug 4, 1997 5:42 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Estela on Peter’s festival report
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Like Estela, I enjoy Peter’s detailed stories of his Spain adventures. Strange to read about Moron, which I haven’t visited since Diego’s death.

Estela’s right about festival admission prices — steep then, cheap now. Sometimes I just couldn’t afford it, and would hang around outside; it was impossible to actually hear anything recognizable, until Menese came on with that huge voice of his– you’d hear it right through concrete walls. Maybe festivales are cheaper now because there’s more government/Junta de Andalucia support.

Or maybe it’s just hard times. I remember paying ten bucks for flamenco guitar lessons in New York around 1960, when that amount would buy 50 to 70 slices of pizza. Now a lesson costs three or four times as much — but pizza costs ten times as much. So a lesson costs the same as maybe 20 slices of pizza. It has lost two-thirds of its absolute value. (In New York, we measure money in terms of pizza-slice equivalants, or PSE’s; classier folks use subway-token-equivalents, but the result is the same because our pizza-slice prices are always the same as our subway-token prices.) Incidentally, when I was paying ten bucks for lessons here in the early sixties, a lesson in Spain cost maybe 25 pesetas, or less than half a buck at the then-fixed rate if 60 pesetas to the dollar. By the mid-sixties, the price there was well over 100 pesetas, and by the end of that decade it was approaching a thousand p’s.

Yes, Estela, we were both at the 1972 Ronda festival. On the bill was the hot new singer called Agujetas, whom I’d never heard but whose name was on everyone’s lips. He didn’t show up, which is probably for the best since he often insulted people and got arrested when he did show up. It would be another four years before I saw him — working in New York. At Ronda, Pansequito sort of stole the show with his bulerias which used astonishingly long lines and a very loose approach. It was pretty impressive — I don’t know if he had copped some of it from Camaron, but I don’t think so. He did seem to generate equal excitement and perhaps hold equal promise, but he was soon left in the dust by Camaron’s fast-track evolution, charisma and creativity. The rest of Ronda is a blur, except driving back to Moron on those sheer-drop mountain roads. I didn’t know that Fosforito had lost his voice. Does he still sing at all?

Amazing that there was a tablao in Castilleja de la Cuesta, a dinky town almost overhanging Seville but quite out of the mainstream. But — did I learn this from Estela? — it was evidently part of the Rocio trail, and had a tradition of that kind of singing.

Brook Zern

Date: Mon, Aug 4, 1997 10:48 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: traditional v. modern
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Ian Buick, hoping for a clear definition of modern flamenco, does a good job of raising the perennially problematic issue of flamenco boundaries. I like his comment about Vicente Amigo, “loitering on the line with intent to deviate.”

On the guitar, I think that hidebound traditionalists have all but disappeared. It’s hard to think of working guitarists who play in a way that would be recognizable, say, thirty years ago. (Perico del Lunar, hijo, now aging, plays just as his father did, though a bit of pop’s magic is missing. And Paco del Gastor is clearly indebted to uncle Diego, so that even his new stuff isn’t really modern in a musical sense. David Serva, too, takes a fundamentally older approach, though he has injected a lot of modern ideas into it. And some older pros still tend to imitate Nino Ricardo, who was very advanced for his era and was its greated innovator but is now seen as a classicist/traditionalist. Jerez still harbors some guitarists who retain the more traditional approach exemplified by the elder Moraos and Parillas, though the younger players seem to go beyond it. Regarding Sabicas — it seems this genius never really left a school in the musical sense; instead, his influence rests in revealing the potential of great technique combined with interesting musical ideas.)

But Paco de Lucia has obviously moved the boundaries forever. In fact, he seems to have done it in two stages. The first stage, from his advent as a force around 1968 until sometime around 1980, saw him invent modern flamenco guitar. This concept has been so deeply assimilated into flamenco that it seems to be a given. Indeed, when it is lacking, one wonders whether the player is bravely resisting this current to make a fresh statement, or just doesn’t have a clue or good enough chops to cut it in the new idiom.

I think this phase of Paco’s creativity is so “embedded” in flamenco (a term someone used in referring to Camaron’s influence) that it’s definitive. But Paco didn’t stop there. He continued to evolve, especially after absorbing jazz influences and working with DiMeola and McLaughlin, and his work since the time of Siroco has really incorporated a newer, more advanced sensibility. If I knew what “post-modern” meant, maybe I’d use the term — but it’s really more a matter of going beyond all tacit boundaries, as Ian suspects.

(Ian hoped there would be certain clear markers between modern and pre-modern styles. Maybe, but it’s never simple, Ian. While you’re right in suspecting that the A-major alegrias had fallen out of favor by the seventies, Paco brought it roaring back in solo form with his magnificent “La Barrosa” on Siroco, though singers retained the preference for E or C. And yes, it’s true that modern guitarists often use three-finger rasgueado instead of the four-finger version us old folks struggled with.)

Anyway, it seems modern flamenco is like pornography — easier to detect than to define. But I think Vicente Amigo is always up-to-the-minute modern, even though he avoids the trap of constantly using too many notes.

As for singing — hey, pay no attention to all these fads and fancies. As long as today’s practitioners leave the serious stuff alone (and in fact they hardly ever dare to mess with solea, or siguiriyas, or tonas/martinetes; and they also don’t often meddle with the fandangos family including malaguenas, tarantas, granainas and others), let them have their fun with catchy pop songs that they mistakenly term bulerias or tangos…

Brook Zern

Date: Mon, Aug 4, 1997 10:43 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Solea’ de Frijones tip off.
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Picking up on Robert/o’s request — for that matter, can any of our experts do a sort of rundown of most obvious clues for all the soleares one is likely to encounter. I appreciate Estela’s definition of Frijones as the only one that has three lines and uses A minor at the end of the first line. (I guess that would be even more helpful if one knew in advance that the song would be a three-liner rather than a four-liner; is that evident by the end of the first line?)

Anyway — what’s the chordal tip-off for the Solea de Triana, the Solea de Alcala, the Solea de Jerez, the Solea de Serneta, the Solea de Cadiz, the Solea de Cordoba, etc…

Brook Zern

Date: Fri, Aug 1, 1997 9:57 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Greats
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Jonathan Nagy wonders about Manolo Sanlucar’s statement, which cites Nino Ricardo and Diego del Gastor as key influences while omitting Paco de Lucia.

I think it’s age-related. Manolo Sanlucar (like Serranito and Paco Cepero) was a well-known and fully-shaped guitarist — technically as good as we though anyone could ever get — before Paco de Lucia rewrote the rules and redefined the possibilities of flamenco. Sanlucar grew up steeped in Ricardo, the most influential player in Spain by far. And unlike most other guitarists, Sanlucar listened to Diego, who never had wide influence among Spanish guitarists, and whose toque Sanlucar appraises very wisely: “a guitar very jonda, very profound, almost primitive but with a marvelous taste. Diego played without using much harmony; he was one of what we call “a cuerda pela”, but with purity and gracia”.

But while Manolo Sanlucar would later be influenced by Paco de Lucia, whom he reveres, I think this influence was “after the fact”, and was never very well integrated into Sanlucar’s playing. Indeed, that’s one thing I enjoy about Sanlucar — the fact that he has a different take on flamenco, one that is essentially independent of Paco.

(Still, I find that I don’t spend much time learning Manolo’s material, or Serranito’s. For whatever reason, while retaining lots of Ramon Montoya and Sabicas stuff, I keep working on Paco de Lucia, as well as Ricardo, Diego, and Paco Cepero. Oh, and Tomatito — whose accompaniment seems brilliant and not merely imitative of Paco. Maybe someday I’ll try to tackle the astonishing post-Paco creators like Amigo, Nunez and others, but for now I feel more comfortable copying the fuente himself.)

Brook Zern

Date: Wed, Jul 30, 1997 3:54 PM EDT
Subj: (long) Rito y Geografia del Cante videotapes

Thanks to an ambitious friend who tracked down the direct source for the astounding Rito y Geografia del Cante video series, I have some new information to add to my mid-May ravings.

By going through the commercial office of the Spanish Embassy in New York, he got the details on the publisher, Alga Editores, S.A., Avenida Miguel de Cervantes, 43, Expomurcia, Local 2, 30100, Murcia, Espana, tel (968) 29 99 04; fax (968) 29 22 00. Their letter to him, signed by Director General Juan Francisco Salar Ayuso, said the complete series of 26 videos and one book was available at 62,500 pesetas for PAL format, or 65,000 pesetas in the NTSC format that works in the U.S. There’s an additional charge for shipping and handling of 12,000 pesetas, so the totals are:

PAL system: 77,500 pesetas (hey, shouldn’t that be 74,500?)

NTSC (U.S) system: 77,000 pesetas

For immediate delivery, they request payment by bank check or by Visa or Mastercard. Considering the strength of the dollar, today at about 155 pesetas, this would seem very close to five hundred bucks. This is a very good buy, folks. (For those with an allergy to international ordering, the same thing is available from our friend Ibrahim at Catalina’s at a higher price, perhaps $700.)

A special page listed the titles of the programs. It added:

“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 Mairena, Caracol, Beni de Cadiz, Pericon de Cadiz, Pepe de la Matrona, Joselero de Moron, El Gallina (Rafael Romero), El Perrate, La Pirinaca, El Borrico, Pepe Marchena, Camaron, etc.

“Rito y Geografia del Cante” was realized 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 Camaron, 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. Jose 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 Jose Moreno Galvan, 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, Camaron 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.

In the present edition, there have been some minor changes in the criteria of presentation. First, the programs are generally grouped at three programs per video. This was required in grouping them. It should be noted that while in some cases the bringing together by threes presented no problems, in other instances, according to the tenets of present-day flamencology, there were multiple possibilities, all logical and legitimate: to group them by “schools”, or by “families”, or by generation, in the case of interpreters. Or by diverse criteria in the case of shows from different geographic locales or other thematic aspects. In the end, the programs were grouped according to evident criteria although, of course, there’s was plenty of room for debate.

In any case, given the fact the the public will purchase the entire collection at once rather than one at a time in sequence, the grouping and the numerical ordering has only a relative importance in this edition, since the aficionado will be able to view any programs in any order of choice.”


Antonio Parra
Director of the Edition

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 Gomez 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 Jose Maria Velasquez, 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 Pirinaca, El Beni de Cadiz, Diego el del Gastor, Antonio Pinana (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 a Mairena dancing por bulerias; or Tia Anica giving her advice to some youngsters (who were none other than Manuel Sordera and “that ‘Camiron’, or whatever he’s called…”); or to see Juan Talega in a fight to the death with the song called the tona, perhaps the last one he would sing in his lifetime; or Tomas 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” (?) Camaron de la Isla; young Jose 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 Gonzalez

End of material on the series.

I am embarrassed to admit that I have no knowledge of “Eleuterio”, who is cited as one of the mythical figures shown in the series who has since died.

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. For the record, the shows received by Columbia that are not included in this new commercial edition were:

Por Solea; Evolucion del Cante; La Marrurra [Moreen Carnes]; Maria Vargas; Antonio de Canillas; Diego Clavel; El Pali; Encarnacion la Sallago; Los Flamencologos; El Vino y el Flamenco; Pedro Lavado; Platero de Alcala; De Despenaperros Para Arriba; Luis Caballero; Cristobalina [Suarez]; and Fiesta Gitana [evidently not to be confused with "Fiesta Gitana por Tangos" or "Fiesta Gitana por Bulerias".] (Columbia also received another program called “La Guitarra” that can hardly be the same as the commercial edition’s “Guitarra Flamenca” — since we also received this latter program separately.)

(Second-guessing a bit: Of these omitted shows, the ones that most deserved inclusion might be: Por Solea; Maria Vargas; El Pali (a master of Sevillanas); Cristobalina Suarez (though this woman, Miguel Funi’s wife, is shown in other programs); and maybe Fiesta Gitana and the “La Guitarra” show.)

Anyway, that’s the latest on the video front. I haven’t seen the big book that will accompany the series — and presumably help in identifying the performers, who are often unidentified on the videotapes though their names were sometimes inserted in type during the original broadcasts.

For my money, Rito y Geografia del Cante is the most important single document on traditional flamenco available anywhere. If I were certain that my frantic, bumbling, whimpering, nagging efforts of 1973 to 1988 to get the copy that was ultimately made for Columbia University contributed in some way to the preservation of this material, I’d be thrilled. In any case, at $19 per 90-minute videotape, this commercial version is cheaper per minute than CD’s and it’s well worth your while.

Brook Zern

Date: Thu, Jul 24, 1997 6:07 PM EDT
Subj: Re: Aire

Bettina joins Mike Rusk in wondering if there’s a foolproof way, or at least a pretty good way, to develop aire.

Well, you’ve taken the first step, Bettina. Unlike a lot of folks, you recognize the challenge, and you don’t mistakenly assume you were born with, or magically blessed with, this elusive thing called aire.

Richard’s suggestion seems smart — watch the people who have it, and dismiss the mechanics. (As Cindy Carter notes, that’s assuming that you have already internalized the mechanics, so the technique is there when you need it, without requiring any conscious effort.)

Just keep working on it. (Some youngster suggested that it might help to be at least 50. Not necessarily, I’m afraid. I’m hoping 60 will help, but will happily settle for any age that precedes my demise.)

Brook Zern

Date: Thu, Jul 24, 1997 6:03 PM EDT
Subj: Re: Flamenco Jokes??

Jim — since you ask: at last count, there were 311 of us flamenco jokes on the list.


Date: Tue, Jul 22, 1997 4:59 PM EDT
Subj: Re: Flamenco and MIDI???

Keni seems to have doubts about the wonders of MIDI. Yeah, at first I sounded pretty bland playing my flamenco via MIDI, but then I saw this advertisement for a Duende Board, just $44.00 from Torretronics in Jerez. I took my computer apart, installed the Duende Board, and now every time I play, people cry, tear their hair out, tremble, rip their shirts off, and jump out of lower-floor windows.

And that’s during guajiras….

Brook Zern

Date: Tue, Jul 22, 1997 6:02 PM EDT
Subj: Re: Affedis transcriptions

Andrew wonders how I can look a gift horse, or at least a cheap horse, in the mouth. He suggests that guitarists play things differently on different occasions, so I shouldn’t expect a skilled transcriber like Alain Faucher to magically divine the one “correct” answer for his $12 transcriptions.

Maybe so… Nah, I think that’s letting these guys off too easy.

Since this discussion can only interest guitarists (and not many of them), let’s get down to cases — like Faucher’s first page of Paco de Lucia’s brilliant “El Tempul” from Fantasia Flamenca, and his first page of Paco’s breathtaking “Cepa Andaluza” from Fuente y Caudal.

El Tempul starts with a terrific falseta that takes up most of the first four compases. Then, entering at the end of the fourth compas, it continues with a nifty section that uses four-note runs followed by chords. The first run (starting on the open high E string and descending) is e d c# d, followed by a chord I’d call “D-minor plus F on the fourth string” (we hear a f a d). So far, so good. The next run comes in right away: d c b c (with that instant legato “curlicue” up to d and back), followed in Faucher by a C7 chord.

Sounds great. Only trouble is, the chord Paco plays is not a C7. In fact, it’s similar to the prior chord. It’s an F major 7 like we all use in solea (we hear a f a c). Then there’s a run, c b a b, followed in Faucher by an E7 chord (e, b, d, g#, b). But I think I hear that chord as e, b, f, g#, b.

The next section starts with a similar anomaly: the run d c b# c is followed by a C7 chord (c, e, b#, c), and then the run c b# a b# is followed by a Bb chord. That sounds fine, too, but in “real life”, or at least on this recording, Paco plays C7 again, rather than Bb. Difference? You bet there’s a difference. They are two grossly different chords, representing two entirely different places in the A-phrygian universe of bulerias.

Okay, now let’s look at Faucher’s version of Cepa Andaluza. The intro uses a D-string legato figure (7 to 5 to 3 to 5) while holding a four-string-bar on the third fret. (To me, it sounds like I should be holding a full-barred G minor chord, but I’m undoubtedly wrong.) Anyway, after that intro, Paco descends into a barred F7 shape, then plays an ascending rasgueado melody while holding that F7 chord. Faucher indicates that Paco holds that chord even when the melody reaches the g note on the first string. I’m pretty sure that at that point, the chord has actually changed to a Bb7 chord.

Two definitive pieces, both with significant glitches right from the beginning. (And don’t get me started on the descent mechanism that starts at the end of the first line on page 6 of Cepa…)

Should I be critical? I think so, because Faucher’s ears are a lot better than mine. In fact, I can’t believe he hasn’t picked up on many of these problems. For all I know, he offers correct versions by now. If not — heck, I’d pay a hundred bucks for his corrections, if he’s accumulated as many as I think there ought to be.

I disagree with the notion that close is good enough for flamenco. If a record is a document, there are no options about chords or melodies (though positions and fingerings pose another, greater challenge.)

Now regarding those chords following the short runs on El Tempul: I think they were indeed played much the way Faucher has them — but on a *different* recording. That bulerias is on Recital de Guitarra de Paco de Lucia (w/R. de Algeciras, Enrique Jimenez, Isidro de Sanlucar and Julio Vallejo, guitarras acompanantes) Philips 63 28 036 1975. Maybe Paco wanted it different — or maybe they were all faked out by his original recording on Tempul, as Faucher was.

Yes — in this other context, the chords in question are played much as Faucher describes them. But not on El Tempul, where we discover the subtle, fascinating way that Paco *suggests* very different chords, while actually *playing* chords that are similar to one another.

Hey, if we’re going to contemplate this genius, then let’s give him the courtesy of seeking and acknowledging the breadth of his gifts.

Anyone else have other examples, from Paco or other players?

Brook Zern

Date: Mon, Jul 21, 1997 4:47 PM EDT
Subj: Affedis transcriptions

Bill Glenn asks about the transcriptions of flamenco guitar music from Alain Faucher, who is the brains behind Affedis.

Faucher’s comments on various guitarists and falsetas appear in Greg Case’s Journal of Flamenco Artistry, and show that he’s a thoughtful and gifted analyst.

His many transcriptions of individual flamenco solos by great guitarists old and new (probably 70 Francs each, or about $12) are in cifra (tablature) only — not in music notation; though they use music conventions to indicate note duration. (He does not use any real metric indicators, such as alternations of 6/8 and 3/4 or whatever; he just uses bar lines and assumes a knowledge of compas, which is logical since the transcriptions are based on recorded pieces that should be well known to the would-be learner.)

I have worked extensively with Faucher’s transcriptions for a long time, and have learned many specific toques from them including a lot of Paco de Lucia. They are pretty accurate.

Unfortunately, this is not the same thing as being extremely accurate. The vast majority of each piece seems right on to me. But at those points where the going gets really tough — when you wish you could be sure of the optimum way to play this stuff, or at least the way the artist originally played it on the specific recording — I would say it’s often hit or miss.

That is, I can’t be confident that Faucher’s version is “right”. Of course, it is probably playable, and it makes the right general sound. But I am very interested in the subleties of technique (like which right or left hand fingering is correct; or which notes are exactly right when, as sometimes happens, two different notes seem to sound equally correct.)

I have closely compared Faucher’s versions of certain solos (e.g., Cepa Andaluza) with other available versions in cifra, such as the Haas transcriptions of a few Paco solos, or Claude Worms’ Duende Flamenco stuff (which doesn’t present complete solos, just individual segments). On occasion, all three will present a different “answer” to the same question, and all too often, they each have a certain plausibility. (And of course, all these transcriptions are subject to typos, or mental lapses, which have the virtue of being immediately apparent.)

I know it seems awfully fussy, but I wish there were transcriptions I could unreservedly believe in. I’ve heard promises that each of the three above sources is absolutely accurate, which is clearly absurd. I’ve found many cases where I could ultimately tell that Faucher was “wrong” — that his approach wasn’t the one on the recording. I have no doubt that the other two sources are fallible as well. And I’ve seen Igor/Enrique Vargas laugh at all three — and his ears are much better than mine.

Months ago, I half-jokingly suggested a Transcription Correctional Center, where obsessive guitarists who had managed to divine the correct rendition of problematic falsetas could e-mail their revelations. (Yes, there is a right answer, and often one can tell what it is, especially after playing the not-quite right version for years…) I seriously hope someone sets this up someday. It wouldn’t contain whole transcriptions, just particular correction/explanations (which could be verbal, or in cifra).

Anyway, Bill, there’s a long answer to your short question. Faucher is the only source for most of what he offers, and I’ve found his work extremely helpful and valuable. His transcriptions are probably 98 percent accurate for about $12, which is very reasonable. I just wish they were 100 percent accurate, for $24. That would be a bargain.

Brook Zern

Date: Mon, Jul 21, 1997 11:46 AM EDT
Subj: Re: Notating baile

Interesting info from Katerina and Suzie. I think it’s neat that there’s a way (or several ways) to accurately notate dance — hey, maybe we can start some good fights on the best way, to complement our fights on compas notation.

However, I wonder why any dance notation system is important, now that we have film (never mind cheap videotape). Can dance notation be studied for insights that aren’t clear from the live or filmed performance? Or is it somehow meant as a substitute for filmed records, since it can admittedly be transmitted on paper or maybe by e-mail (unless it uses drawings somehow)?

Sure, dance notation of important pre-film-era artists could be priceless. But what good can it be in documenting the work of a contemporary dancer? (I admit, a film of a guitarist isn’t quite as useful as a film plus accurate musical transcription of what he’s playing — though such a transcription could be derived from a good film. But dance is different, it seems, and notation/transcription would seem to add nothing at all to a film…)

Just wondering.

Brook Zern

Date: Fri, Jul 18, 1997 10:06 AM EDT
Subj: Re: Baile (Secrets of)

Dear Mr. Keyser:

As attorneys for Mr. Brook Zern, we strongly advise you to reconsider your public offer to sell alleged videotapes of our client allegedly performing certain alleged actions. Our previous representation of Mr. Rob Lowe and Ms. Barbra Streisand in similar actions, and the unfortunate demise of all those involved in distribution, as well as their associates, families and casual acquaintances, should suffice to underline the importance of your immediate compliance.

Of course, if an equitable arrangement can be made regarding the disposition of any profits from such alleged videotapes, our client advises us that further discussion would not be out of the question…

Date: Fri, Jul 18, 1997 9:42 AM EDT
Subj: Re: Washabaugh Book

Just want to thank Marie for an admirable post, in which she summarizes Leblon and makes important points of her own.

Yes, there are many documents indicating that even during the 1500-1780 period when harsh anti-Gypsy legislation was in effect, various strategies were in place to circumvent or mitigate the effects. So perhaps Gypsies were not constantly being thrown into the galleys, but instead were in the same boat with other Andalusians.

However, this sets the stage for the Mitchell/Steingress idea that Gypsyism was a kind of invented identity — so I tend to ignore it, because as Marie suspects, I have my own axe to grind.

I much prefer Leblon’s idea that flamenco was not invented belatedly by a motley bunch of fake Gitanos, but was instead the great cultural creation of a limited number of real Gitano families, say 50 of them. It fits my prejudice much better. (And again, I’m always amazed at how many flamenco artists are related to other flamenco artists, especially on the Gitano side, and wish somebody would draw a kind of flamenco family tree that illustrates these relationships.)

Thanks again, Marie. And, of course, thanks to John Moore for his elucidation of calo characteristics.

Brook Zern

Date: Wed, Jul 16, 1997 5:57 PM EDT
Subj: Washabaugh book

Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time with Bill Washabaugh’s fascinating book Flamenco: Passion, Politics and Popular Culture. I know that Bill would prefer to let this book and other original works speak for themselves. But I’d like to try and summarize about half of one key chapter here, in the interest of promoting some discussion.

Chapter 4, titled Gypsies, raises the question of whether Gypsy flamenco is the real stuff, “or just some sort of Madison Avenue hype.” Here’s my outline:

In the 50′s, some authorities doubted Lorca’s claim that Gitano style was really the essential trunk of the flamenco tree. In the 60′s, Molina and Mairena countered that Gitano flamenco was indeed the “real” flamenco, and resided in the solea, siguiriya, tango and bulerias. This was the dominant idea through the 70′s.

But today, many contemporary investigators (including Mitchell and Steingress) say that the whole notion of cante Gitano is fraudulent, just a commercial invention. They say the whole social category of Gitano is vague, hard to differentiate from the Andalusian lower class or “lumpen”, and was just invented to help make money from flamenco.

Washabaugh says he thinks this blanket condemnation is too simplistic.

In greater detail, he outlines the idea of Molina/Mairena that Gypsies have something special. Mairena uses the term “razon incorporea” to indicate these inherited Gitano mental states and abilities — an inherited group psyche.

Opponents of this notion say that in the late 1700′s, Gypsies were indistinct from the landless jobless masses of Andalusians. The idea of special Gitano ethnicity derived later, from Franch Romanticism, which made it all the rage, and started a rush among poor Andalusians to fit this stereotype.

Therefore, Gitano ethnicity is made-up. It’s invented. Not a survival from the deep past, it’s a late strategy for dealing with their tough situation. And while “inventing” is okay, it’s fraudulent to pass such invented identity off as inherited. But these Gitano ‘wannabees’ did just that, and profited handsomely from early tourism.

Washabaugh doesn’t deny some of this thinking, but he insists that “all history is invented”. He says that yesterday’s invention can become today’s reality. Therefore, the idea of Gitano identity, and the ‘gitanophilia’ of some people, is not merely artificial. Washabaugh seems to give it validity, even while granting that it could be based on a made-up, invented history.

He notes that Gitanos in the 40′s and 50′s were hard pressed, because even as all of Spain was having tough times, their trades were disappearing. Mules and horses were no longer big business, and small local forges were disappearing. Intermarriage rose to about 30%. But then Mairena reinvented Gitano ethnicity, practically single-handed. Mitchell says that was clever, but fabricated — a deception.

And non-Gitano intellectuals only made it worse, using Mairena as a folk messiah. Mitchell says they were in the grip of a nasty ideology, that made them latter-day romantics. Watching the old Spain disappear, they turned their back on the future and embraced the past.

Well, that’s a rough look at part of one chapter of Washabaugh’s book.

My own views were shaped in the 60′s, and I am not a qualified researcher. But I am quite surprised by the Mitchell/Steingress claim that Gitanos had managed to lose virtually all of their differentiators and cultural markers by the late 1700′s — after which they, along with some flexible non-Gitanos, reasserted a suddenly-fashionable adopted Gitano identity to make a quick buck.

I guess it’s possible, but I don’t think it happened. I prefer the idea of persecuted, hunted Gitanos hiding out in ghettoes or wherever from 1500 to 1800, then emerging, blinking in the sunlight, after the laws that criminalized Gitano behavior or descent were lifted. Hey, I’ve read those laws. Maybe they were ignored, and the Gitanos were allowed to be just like everyone else for a long, long, time so they lost their distinct identities — but I doubt it. And there are plenty of court records showing that they were placed in a very different category from other Andalusians, and indicating that they lived differently. In other words, I think that Gitano is a real identity, not an invented one (even though I grasp the idea that all identities are, to some extent, invented — including mine as an “American”, whatever that means.)

Anyway, for dessert (at least for Jacinto), here’s one of the footnotes:

“3. Gitano presence in Andalucia is said to predate 1450 or even 1415. There is a widespread assumption among Andalusian Gitanos, at least according to Pedro Pena and many “andalucista” non-Gitanos in the tradition of Blas Infante (Barrios 1989 [Gitanos, Moriscos y Cante Flamenco], 27f.) that Gitanos immigrated into Andalucia via North Africa in the centuries before the Fifteenth, and that by 1450 they were already well integrated into Andalusian social life.”

Again, this is a heck of a book. Not an easy read, but rewarding. Among many other things, it considers the now-purchasable late-60′s TV series Rito y Geografia del Cante Flamenco, offering valuable insights into its creation and political agenda. (I never even thought the series had one, until I met Bill Washabaugh). The book is available from lister Nick Clarke of The Bold Strummer Ltd, phone (203) 226-8230.

Brook Zern

Date: Wed, Jul 16, 1997 5:20 PM EDT
Subj: Tapas in the Times

Thanks to Suzie for calling attention to the Tapas article in today’s New York Times. I read it, and think it would appeal to the fusion crowd among us. It said, basically, that tapas (it’s plural, though a single tapa is singular) are big in New York — literally. In fact, it said that we New Yorkers can expect to find giant portions of tapas in the new tapas places. Oh, and they use all kinds of novel ingredients, mostly American, of course, but also Asian and Latin, and rarely if ever Spanish.

So now we New Yorkers have the biggest, best, newest tapas anywhere, presumably including some that are based on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and radicchio. So how come I still miss those dinky little tapas, with pathetically traditional Spanish ingredients, that I got last year (and most years since 1961) at the Bodegon Torre de Oro in Seville (where a larger portion would, of course, be called a racion?)

I’m no foodie, and have avoided alimentary arguments — but shouldn’t we have a thread on the ten best traditional Spanish tapas? (I know what they are, of course — but does anyone else?)

Brook Zern

Date: Wed, Jul 16, 1997 1:06 PM EDT
Subj: Re: Baile

Chuck, explaining the secrets of baile at last, writes:

“The most basic is to be able to mark in compas (one foot out and in, and then the other)…”

Thanks, Chuck. After that move, I assume you do the hokey-pokey and you turn yourself around…


Date: Wed, Jul 16, 1997 10:53 AM EDT
Subj: Re: (Sonifolk CD 20106), informacion incluida

Just read Ibrahim’s post with more CDetails. It seems I may have been hasty, as I always say when I was clearly wrong, in dissing/dismissing this new Sonifolk CD for not including any “new” material that hadn’t already been re-released in modern formats.

First, I see that only four of the six cuts by 1922 Concurso winner Diego Bermudez “El Tenazas” have ever been out on either EP, LP, cassette or CD. This must mean that we have been given at least two newly-available cantes by Tenazas: The Siguiriyas Gitanas de Silverio, titled “He andaito la Francia”, and the Serranas, titled “Bajo llorando”. (The Cana, Solea, Solea de Paquirri and Martinete had been issued. I presume that these are the same versions that are on the new CD. Titles: Cana “En el querer no hay venganza”; Solea “Correo de Velez”; Solea de Paquirria “Magino (?) entre me” and Martinetes “Ya me sacan de la carcel”.)

As for the four cuts by Manuel Torre — it’s very exciting to learn that Robert/o thinks he hasn’t heard them; maybe they, too, have not been available before in any modern format. It’s hard to tell, because while we have specific titles for the CD cuts, such titles are rarely given on the previous re-releases of Torre’s stuff. Here, again, are the Torres titles on the CD (guitar by Hijo de Salvador):

1. SOLEARES. Tan solamente a la tierra
2. SEGUIRIYAS. Quedito los golpes
3.SOLEARES. Yo dije que me echaria
4.SIGUIRIYAS.Siempre por los rincones

Again, if these represent previously un-reissued material, they are historic indeed — presenting the greatest Gypsy cantaor, in his prime. I look forward to comparing them to existing reissued cuts of Torre, which I’ve found fascinating but generally disappointing in terms of revealing the man’s power and magic. Maybe the new cuts will finally offer the confirmation/revelation the flamenco world (read: me) has been waiting for.

Remember — Tenazas was no Manuel Torre. True, Tenazas was an interesting discovery, a fine and authoritative non-professional aging voice from the past even in 1922. This fit the parameters of the contest, which insisted (unwisely, in my view) that professionals like the fabulous Manuel Torre should be ineligible or disqualified (they put him on the jury, I think) because they lacked a certain authenticity.

Like some others, I feel that this view was misguided. Professionalism has been one part of flamenco almost since the beginning of the art — almost an inevitable consequence of having great talent, since the pay for everything else was so pathetic and it was easier to earn a duro (five pesetas) for singing all night than for making horseshoes all day. I don’t think professionalism was intrinsically contaminating to flamenco — but can I understand that by 1922, when the “opera flamenca” phenomenon meant lots of inferior commercial presentations showing often mediocre flamenco, professionalism could have a bad name.

Anyway, this new CD is sounding a lot more interesting. (The remaining 12 cantes — eight by La Nina de los Peines, two by her brother Tomas Pavon and two more by Jose Cepero, were almost certainly already reissued, except perhaps the Cepero cuts.)

Incidentally, someone asked me why I was so cranky about this record when I thought it contained nothing I didn’t already own. He thought I should be happy that it was making this excellent historical material available to a new and wider audience.

I replied that as long as I already had the stuff — obtained at high cost with much difficulty — I thought it was terrible that it should now be conveniently and economically available to the riff-raff, meaning everyone else. I was much happier hoarding the only, scratchy copy, bought from Casa Damas in Seville in 1972, than knowing that I could pick up a clean CD version around the corner at Tower — or order it from Ibrahim, of course.

(This kind of selfishness might be called a “dog in the manger” attitude . On second thought, that could be the term for my other kind of selfishness — namely, if I can’t have something, I don’t want anyone else to have it, either.)

Brook “selfishness is always better when it’s shared” Zern

Date: Mon, Jul 14, 1997 11:41 AM EDT
Subj: Re: (Sonifolk CD 20106), informacion incluida

I’m grateful to Robert/o for posting extensive details on this Sonifolk CD focused on the 1922 Granada Concurso de Cante Jondo.

At the same time, I was quite disappointed to learn that little or none of the material on the CD is “new” — that is, promising a fresh revelation. I had hoped that some of it would be taken from alleged privately-made recordings made during the contest and rumored to have been locked in vaults ever since, but that’s clearly not the case. The six cantes by the Concurso winner, Diego Bermudez “El Tenazas” were all evidently made after the contest and released on 78′s in February of 1923. I had bought them many years ago on both an EP and on an EMI LP.

The four cantes by Manuel Torre are also taken from commercially-released 78′s. It’s good to know that they were released in December of 1922 — when he was still strong. What I don’t know is whether they, too, have been among the material by Torre released on existing EP’s, LP’s or CD’s. I sure hope they are “new” and perhaps revelatory, but fear that they may have already been available. (Of course, if they’re already in my collection I should’ve immediately realized that they represented the younger “real” Manuel Torre; but I’m usually a sloppy listener, and they might’ve been inferior recordings that obscured any greater strength.

The other 12 (?) cantes on the CD come from Lorca’s collection, which to me is not a real powerful reason to anthologize material that may have already been released in other contexts. (It’s even noted that they were in well-worn condition — wouldn’t it have been better to use less worn examples of the same 78′s from other collections?)

But it was fascinating to learn that there was a U.S. market for flamenco as early as 1929 — at least for La Nina de los Peines, whose magnificent voice cut through cultural barriers. In fact, three of the six 78′s were U.S. releases. Funny to think of Federico giving public talks on flamenco, maybe even in New York, and using the records to illustrate his comments. I’ve done that now and then, feeling pretty silly about spinning such arcane platters. It’s good to know I was following in the footsteps of flamenco’s first DJ, Fey Freddie from the Big Pomegranate.

Brook Zern

Date: Mon, Jul 14, 1997 3:08 PM EDT
Subj: Re: strange job

Martin’s deathbed gig reminds me of my Jewish funeral gig.

The mother of a wonderful American aficionada died. The mother liked flamenco and liked me, no doubt just because her daughter did and she loved her daughter. Anyway, the daughter asked if I would play the guitar at the — well, I forget what we Jews call such formal services, but it was intended to help everyone recall this lovely lady, whose name was Rose.

This sounded almost logical to me, but someone politely informed me that any music, of any kind, is considered completely inappropriate on such occasions. Yet the daughter had known that fact, as she knew the whole Jewish tradition, and she insisted anyway.

Some people at the service were offended, naturally, at the idea of this breach of custom. Before I played, I said I knew it was not the usual thing, but that Rose was not a usual woman.

I said there was a flamenco form linked with death and the grief of loss, called the siguiriya, and that I’d play a brief siguiriya on the guitar. I did.

Then I said that flamenco wasn’t always sad music, and that another form called the alegrias could remind us that happiness had a way of ultimately reasserting itself. I added that on the guitar, over the years, a special kind of alegrias had been created that was even more beautiful, and more elegant, and more vivacious than all the others, adding “and so, of course, they named it ‘Rose’”. I then played a short alegrias in E, or Alegrias Rosa as I had always heard it called.

Some people undoubtedly remained offended, but they weren’t among those who spoke to me after the service.

Brook Zern

Date: Mon, Jul 14, 1997 10:47 AM EDT
Subj: Re: Baile-an opinion

Estela, answering Jacinto’s query on what makes good campo/funky style dancing, quotes Ansonini as saying that…

“the really great pueblo dancers, (the implication being, like himself),
knew how to let the compas go by and just grab it for an occasional effect.”

Illuminating. Among the best filmed “dances” I recall is Ansonini, on a visit to California, making sausage in a film by the famed documentary filmmaker Les Blank called “Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers.” I’m not sure if he does any actual steps or turns, and most of the time he does nothing perceptible at all — but what a performance.

Brook Zern

Date: Fri, Jul 11, 1997 12:39 PM EDT
Subj: Re: America v. Europe

Thank you for your intense yet coherent reply, Sandra. It appeared on my screen with the following last line:

Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable

That’s better than unprintable.

You wonder why I keep dragging America into the matter of comparing degrees of individual freedom. Well, it’s because I’ve been indoctrinated, rightly or wrongly, with the idea that the U.S. was the first country to guarantee it in writing, and made the guarantees more specific and stronger than any country before or since. Granted, we originally excluded slaves and women, in no particular order, from the freedom — but the idea was there, and was belatedly extended to all citizens.

I’ve been arrested in Spain, Sandra, and it was a real quick lesson in the differences between constitutional guarantees. I later learned that Spain’s system was loosely based on that of France. It sure didn’t make the same presumption of innocence that can come in handy over here when somebody wants to put you in the calaboose (American word for jail, from the Spanish word “calabozo”).

You mention, correctly, that Europeans haven’t all voted in direct referenda to join the EU. True — but they’ve tended to support whichever parties promised to drag them kicking and screaming into the EU. An odd ambivalence, though France’s election showed a willingness to reconsider the issue and maybe even walk away.

Myself, I hope the whole damn thing falls apart — mainly because I resent the fact that now any European can readily get a job in any other European country, while I as an American have to get on line behind them all and really don’t have a very good chance of finding work in Europe. (Yes, I’d rather be living there than here — I like it better there, though New York has its own rewards.)

You say that American movies and TV don’t give a true picture of life over here. That’s ridiculous, Sandra. In fact, we all are raised in loving families of remarried widows and widowers (c.f. The Brady Bunch), and we all grow up to become happily married ex-prostitutes (c.f. Pretty Woman) and/or homicidal maniacs (c.f. Reservoir Dogs and all other successful American films.) We have, unfortunately, all forgotten how to make anything, so we can only serve one another skinny little hamburgers (but from sane cows) and sue each other (for psychological damage due to burns received from hot coffee we spill on ourselves while driving our Japanese cars, or to trauma resulting from having to drink coffee that isn’t hot enough.)


Brook Zern

Date: Mon, Jul 14, 1997 11:41 AM EDT
Subj: Re: (Sonifolk CD 20106), informacion incluida

I’m grateful to Robert/o for posting extensive details on this Sonifolk CD focused on the 1922 Granada Concurso de Cante Jondo.

At the same time, I was quite disappointed to learn that little or none of the material on the CD is “new” — that is, promising a fresh revelation. I had hoped that some of it would be taken from alleged privately-made recordings made during the contest and rumored to have been locked in vaults ever since, but that’s clearly not the case. The six cantes by the Concurso winner, Diego Bermudez “El Tenazas” were all evidently made after the contest and released on 78′s in February of 1923. I had bought them many years ago on both an EP and on an EMI LP.

The four cantes by Manuel Torre are also taken from commercially-released 78′s. It’s good to know that they were released in December of 1922 — when he was still strong. What I don’t know is whether they, too, have been among the material by Torre released on existing EP’s, LP’s or CD’s. I sure hope they are “new” and perhaps revelatory, but fear that they may have already been available. (Of course, if they’re already in my collection I should’ve immediately realized that they represented the younger “real” Manuel Torre; but I’m usually a sloppy listener, and they might’ve been inferior recordings that obscured any greater strength.

The other 12 (?) cantes on the CD come from Lorca’s collection, which to me is not a real powerful reason to anthologize material that may have already been released in other contexts. (It’s even noted that they were in well-worn condition — wouldn’t it have been better to use less worn examples of the same 78′s from other collections?)

But it was fascinating to learn that there was a U.S. market for flamenco as early as 1929 — at least for La Nina de los Peines, whose magnificent voice cut through cultural barriers. In fact, three of the six 78′s were U.S. releases. Funny to think of Federico giving public talks on flamenco, maybe even in New York, and using the records to illustrate his comments. I’ve done that now and then, feeling pretty silly about spinning such arcane platters. It’s good to know I was following in the footsteps of flamenco’s first DJ, Fey Freddie from the Big Pomegranate.

Brook Zern

Date: Fri, Jul 11, 1997 11:25 AM EDT
Subj: Concurso de Cante Jondo, 1922 — A Remarkable Recording

Notified by a considerate cybercontact, I am pleased to note the publication of a remarkable historic recording, which I haven’t yet heard. It’s on the Sonifolk label, which did such a fine job with the CD titled “Chacon — La Cumbre de un Maestro”.

For many years, I’d heard stories indicating that some recordings were made during the fabled 1922 Concurso de Cante Jondo de Granada, organized by Lorca and de Falla and Segovia and others. I never got to the London Sound Library (?) where these recordings (or a copy, anyway) allegedly resided.

Now, it seems that this potentially priceless material has been issued as part of Sonifolk CD 20106 (I’m not sure of the exact title). Also on the recording are some or all of the records from the personal flamenco collection of Federico GarcIa Lorca (as re-recorded from the 78s in the Falla and Lorca archives).

Although the accompanying book, with Lorca’s “Arquitectura
del cante jondo” won’t be published until October, the CD is out now. It includes songs by Diego Bermudez “El Tenazas”, who won the prize at the concurso; Manuel Torre, the most emotive singer in flamenco’s history; La Nina de los Peines, the greatest cantaora who ever lived; Tomas Pavon, her brother and a true giant of the art; and Jose Cepero, an excellent singer who somehow seemed to link the disparate styles of Torre and Chacon, with a foot in each camp, impossible as that seems. I don’t know who plays guitar. The recordings were made between 1922 (those would represent “new” material) and 1929.

The company’s e-mail address is sonifolk@mail.eurociber.es.

Now, the reissuing of 78′s that happened to be in Lorca’s collection is very nice, but doesn’t add anything important to the musical literature (“musicature”?) — unless some of them haven’t been reissued before.

The potential treasure here would be any recordings made privately, or at least non-commercially, during the 1922 concurso, either during the competition or, much more likely, concurrent with the event. (To record in those pre-electric days, the singer had to sing into a horn, which turned the sound directly into vibrations or wiggles of a needle that cut a single disc revolving at 78 rpm — or thereabouts.)

So I don’t know what to expect… The material recorded at the time of the concurso, if indeed that’s the case, could be a real treasure trove, giving the truest idea yet of how Manuel Torre sounded in his prime, and revealing other greats in new ways; or (pessimism pays in flamenco) it could be very poor recordings of great artists in off moments.

Hope our Spainside pals will check this out and report. Heck, it’s one CD I might even buy myself.

Brook Zern

Date: Thu, Jul 10, 1997 3:40 PM EDT
Subj: Re: re: America v. Europe

Elaine Fraser offers a welcome clarification for me, and my fellow American Jacinto. She says:

“I feel both of you have missed my point. I was commenting
on the American tendancy for generalisation of ‘the rest of the
world’ versus ‘US’ (pardon pun) and _not_ on rights at all.

A woman on the knit list recently sent a post saying
(pardon re-phrasing) ‘Can someone in Europe contact me
because my daughter will be staying there in the summer’. This is the sort of thing which annoys me – blatant ignorance of the fact that Europe is a diverse continent of many countries, and not a few ‘states’ with the same language, legal system and national flag.”

Thanks, Elaine, and you do raise a point — but in fact I was originally quoting and agreeing with a *European’s* generalization about America vs. Europe. So take up the cudgels against Alfonso Eduardo of Spain, who made the observation. (Or take up the cudgels against the majority of your fellow Europeans, who voted to support Maastricht and to move toward a united states of Europe with a common currency and legal system…but that’s another story. Moving back to that rights question for a moment, does anyone know if, say, the Dutch have about the same degree of individual rights as Americans have, or more, and if they are guaranteed…)

Elaine, do they have fights and flame wars like ours on your knit list?

Best wishes, and I’m glad you contributed your opinion.

Brook Zern

Date: Wed, Jul 9, 1997 5:44 PM EDT
Subj: Flamenco and the blues

I was dismayed to learn that the fine bluesman Johnny Copeland died last week, at 60. It brought me back to the May 27th issue of the Village Voice, and its fascinating article by Ann Marlow on a bluesman called T-Model Ford, who’ll be 73 in June and just released his debut album, “Pee Wee Get My Gun” on the tiny Fat Possum label. Mr. Ford has never made a living at his music, and drove a truck until t********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************he speaking voice can’t say… In its dissonances and eerie harmonics you will find fear and mystery, and the knowledge that some things can’t be said, just gestured… Black Americans increased the general possibilities of human expresion with their music. Someone who’s never heard Mississippi John Hurt or Elmore James or Fats Domino is just as culturally impoverished as someone who’s never read Nathaniel Hawthorne or Emily Dickinson or Ralph Ellison…

What you realize dring cross-country is that there’s no taking the measure of America, it is too big. And this makes us proud, forlorn, violent, and, perhaps, musical.

T-Model Ford might have thought about this as he drove up and down Mississippi, which is a little smaller than England, half the size of Italy, a quarter the size of France or Spain. Weigh the work of Bo Diddley, Willie Dixon, Guitar Slim, Mississippi John Hurt, Elmore James, Robert Johnson, Albert King, B.B. King, Charley Pride, Charlie Patton, Hubert Sumlin, Ike Turener, Muddy Wathers, Sonny Boy Williamson II, and Howlin’ Wolf against the entire musical output of any of these countries, or even all of them together. This brilliant artistic movement, which we have somehow failed to see was our Renaissance, our Athens, is nearly over. [T-Model Ford and other latter-day bluesmen] are reminders that what happened in Mississippi will be remembered when our descendants will need dictionairies to read this paper. And T-Model Ford…makes good for the thousandth time the promise of the blues, that the damages of history can be transformed into beauty.”

Yes indeed. Nice writing and thinking, though of course Ms. Moore, like most Americans, is unaware of serious flamenco. This art, while it had far less impact on how the world hears music today than did the blues, alone can equal the gravity and vastness of the blues in transforming the damages of history into beauty.

Brook Zern

Date: Wed, Jul 9, 1997 12:26 PM EDT
Subj: (non-flamenco) Reply to Elaine Fraser on individual rights

Elaine Fraser’s interesting message (she’s in the U.K.) is quoted below.

Elaine, I didn’t intend to make an inaccurate or offensive generalization. Is it wrong? Or do you, like some others on the list, simply consider the U.S. emphasis on individual rights over societal rights to be miguided? If the former: Could you give examples of countries which place a stronger emphasis on individual rights over “societal” rights or “majority” rights than does the U.S.?

If you can name a country that guarantees more individual freedom, I’ll start packing (assuming the temperature occasionally goes above freezing). I ain’t exactly a blind chauvinist on this issue, since during our Vietnam blunder I seriously thought of joining my draft-dodging friends in Canada. And when I got a forwarded notice from my local U.S. draft board while I was living in Seville (no, I hadn’t gone there to avoid anything, honest) I was upset, not to mention terrified, and so I went over to the consulate of your country in that city. Soon the consul, a very dignified man with a marvelous Etonian accent, appeared and asked if he could help me. “Yeah,” I said. “I wanna become an English citizen.”

He looked at me for a while, contemplating my straggly beard and threadbare clothes, and said:

“I believe, sir, that the term for which you are so earnestly struggling is ‘British subject’”.

“Ahhh, never mind”, I said, and left.

So, Elaine, that’s why I’m not among your fellow English citizens, though I like your country very much. I certainly appreciated the fact that you weren’t drafting kids to fight for a cause I thought was very bad, and I realize that there is a lot of personal freedom in Great Britain, as there is in so many other countries. But I do have the impression that the U.S., with its Constitution and its Bill of Rights, guarantees more individual freedom than any other country, though I’ve never been to the Isle of Man, or most other countries for that matter.

Oh, and since you mention it I think the U.S. video format is pathetic — not nearly as good as most European countries that have more lines per inch and better resolution. Or are you talking about our decision on the new digital format — have we been bullying other countries about that, as we so often do on other issues? Remember, I never said the U.S. was well-behaved (it isn’t) . Only that it had a thing for individual rights.

Brook Zern

Elaine Fraser wrote:

Reluctant as I am to get involved in flame wars,

>Thank you, Alfonso Eduardo. An interesting distinction indeed, between the
>U.S. penchant to defend individual rights (even, possibly, to the detriment
>of society’s rights) and Europe’s tendency, shared with so many other
>regions, to defend society’s rights at the expense of individual rights.

this sweeping generalisation has got me. Do North Americans
have any idea _how_many_ countries’ democracies they’re generalising
about here? It also appears to be a classic example (illustrated when
talking about things as mundane as video formats) that even when it’s
in a minority of one, the US example is the _right_ ‘one’.

Elaine Fraser (frasere@eureka.demon.co.uk)

Date: Wed, Jul 9, 1997 11:28 AM EDT
Subj: Stick Around, Andrew

Andrew Kilbourne writes something like this:

“Well, I’ve bought a lot of flamenco CD’s that are mediocre, but sometimes I make an impulse buy that comes out well. That was the case with “Un Gitano de Ley” — it’s marvelous! An oratorio (religious record) as an homage to Cerefino. Aurora Vargas singing algrias to Tomatito’s guitar (they say he did it for free). Esperanza Fernandez, La Macanita (a solea de hostia), Pedro Sierra, etc. etc.

Also, the FNAC store is selling a CD called “Juerga Flamenca” by Maria Vargas for just 975 pesetas — very good, I like it a lot.

I’ve been thinking of leaving the list, because at a time like this — what El Pais calls “the new golden age of a music with roots” — all I read on the list are things about the past.

I’d like to say that it was good to hear La Nina Pastori in concert. A year after her CD comes out, someone (on the list) makes foolish remarks about it — I don’t remember just what, because I erased it. Someone says she’s like Camaron, which I don’t understand. There are few singers today who aren’t at least slightly indebted to Camaron. I saw him on the Classic Channel last Thursday, with Tomatito. Sad, because Camaron already seems to be in that well he’s been put into (?), but the voice triumphed over everything. Pa’lante Nina Pastori no deja Carmen Linares sola alli arriba (?). (perhaps: Nina Pastori gives Carmen Linares a real run for her money — she won’t leave Carmen all alone at the top.)

For newcomers to the list, here are some names that El Pais considers important:

(Singers:) Enrique Morente, Carmen Linares, Rancapino, Chano Lobato, La Macanita, Esperanza Fernandez, El Torta, Jose Merce, Ginesa Ortega, Mayte Martin, Potito, Duquende, Miguel Poveda, Jose Parra, (Guitarists:) Vicente Amigo, Moraito Chico, Tomatito, Gerardo Nunez, Pepe Habichuela, Rafael Riqueni, (Dancers:) Beatriz Martin, Javier Baron, El Guito, Antonio Canales, Joaquin Cortes, Carmen Cortes, Cristina Hoyos, Belen Maya.

Well, after some very late nights at Candelas, I gotta go earn some bread.


Andrew, I understand your frustration at what seems to be a fixation on the past around here. That’s precisely what makes your posts, and those of Berit and others who are enchufao (plugged into the current scene) so extremely valuable to me and, I think, to the whole list. I wish there were many others who’d post from the front lines as you do. And I urge you to keep it up, despite your recognition that too many of us don’t have a clue about the current scene.

I would like to say, though, that the excellent list of important current artists you provide includes many — a substantial majority, in fact — who have been mentioned in our discussions, and fairly recently, and often repeatedly. (Some, like Chano Lobato and Rancapino and El Torta, may be favorites of strict traditionalists, though most of them are hipper than that, and some are either too new for us to have heard/appraised or too far out for us to grasp or appreciate. In some cases, it’s fascinating to contemplate their talent. For example, Alfonso Eduardo amazed me by noting that Nina Pastori, who often seems to sing stuff that’s pretty close to pop (do audiences sometimes sing along?), did a siguiriya in the manner of La Pirinaca, the grand old lady of pure Jerez cante. He clearly thinks she’s a flamenco genius of some sort.

Don’t give up on the list, Andrew. Go find some other folks who are up to date, and get them to help you drown out the fogey faction.

Brook Zern

Date: Wed, Jul 9, 1997 10:06 AM EDT
Subj: Re: terminologia

Suzie, answering my plea for grammatical help, says “Farther refers to physical distance. Further to a more abstract (or temporal) extension. i.e. Grenada is farther from New York than it is from Jerez.”

Thank you, Suzie — now I get the idea. Though actually, geographically speaking, Grenada is closer to New York than it is to Jerez. I know, because after we invaded the place for some cockamamie reason, I had to go to protests and teach-ins just to find out where it was. (At first, I thought that the U.S. had invaded Granada, which I supported because then I could visit the Alhambra without going through customs…)

Thanks, too, for reminding me of the word “lyrics” which seems to match Alfonso Eduardo’s meaning for “letras”. And yes, I probably used the term “verses” wrongly — as a general term for the words of individual songs, when it’s more tightly defined as something akin to “stanzas” of a longer song.

Maybe this is why I’m not a musicologist. But hey, who else remembers that on one of their million-seller LP’s the Kingston Trio (never mind, children) did a song called “Coplas” — just a bunch of sly, unrelated coplas in the Mexican style and probably America’s first exposure to the term.


Date: Tue, Jul 8, 1997 12:20 PM EDT
Subj: Alfonso Eduardo on Supreme Court Internet ruling

Some time ago I asked listers for comments on non-flamenco “Legal Matters” — specifically, the recent Supreme Court ruling supporting freedom of expression on the Internet. On June 28th, Alfonso Eduardo Perez Orozco responded to the list in Spanish. Here’s approximately what he said:

“Amigo Brook,

I can’t resist responding to your request. My knowledge of the law, or of North American politics, is pretty superficial, but the nature of that court decision seems to fit quite well with my ideas of the U.S. Constitution. In my view, European countries remain tied to democratic structures that are less developed than those of the U.S. with its (more modern) approach. And for me it’s not just a question of maturity, but of distinct points of view. In Europe, politicians almost never defend people themselves; instead, they defend ideas, along with society — or the majority of society. I feel that our European Constitutions defend society, while the U.S. Constitution defends the individual — the actual person. I think that your approach is more useful than ours. And as a reflection of your approach, the Supreme Court decision seems quite logical. And if it’s indeed logical, it fits the style of democracy that you have elected and perfected.

Here in Spain, we have a curious situation that puts us in a paradoxical state (and I don’t like paradoxes in the realm of Rights and Democracy.) Our (former) left-wing Socialist government favored a particular group, called Grupo Prisa, that has become a media force (press, radio and TV) unequalled in the U.S. or any other country. The (current) right-wing government wants to reduce the economic and pressure-generating power of Grupo Prisa. The socialists are therefore in the role of defending a capitalist monopoly, while Izquierda Unida (United Left, the most radical leftist group) is defending the rightist government’s effort to break the monopoly. These kinds of incoherent/inconsistent attitudes are what bothers me about European democracy.

Don’t know if that clarifies things, but I hope so.

Alfonso Eduardo”

Thank you, Alfonso Eduardo. An interesting distinction indeed, between the U.S. penchant to defend individual rights (even, possibly, to the detriment of society’s rights) and Europe’s tendency, shared with so many other regions, to defend society’s rights at the expense of individual rights.

This is one of the very few things that can make me feel (dare I say it?) proud to be an American.

Brook Zern

Date: Tue, Jul 8, 1997 9:57 AM EDT
Subj: Re: Noche Flamenca (timing)

Jonathan asks what would be the best day to attend this outstanding New York production during its extensive run, adding that us experienced aficionados must have solved this question long ago.

Jonathan, it doesn’t matter when you go. With all flamenco events, whenever you go, it is invariably the case that you shoulda been there last night.

Except if you go on opening night, of course, in which case you shoulda been there the following night.

Brook Zern

Date: Mon, Jul 7, 1997 12:21 PM EDT
Subj: Solea por Bulerias vs. Bulerias por Solea

The big Diccionario Enciclopedico Ilustrado del Flamenco (Cinterco, Madrid, 1988) ain’t too helpful here. It defines the solea por buleria as “a solea in which the compas approaches that of bulerias”. And it defines the bulerias por solea as “a bulerias in which the compas approaches that of the solea” (adding that this form also called the bulerias a golpe).

But Estela insists that the two terms, solea por bulerias and bulerias por solea, apply to the exact same thing. I’ve heard that view before, and tend to agree. However, the dictionary seems to imply that we’re starting with two different cantes (i.e., two distinct basic melodic conceptions), namely the solea and the bulerias — and that two new and distinct forms arise when you fiddle with their respective tempos.

If, on the other hand, the solea por bulerias and the bulerias por solea are identical, as Estela believes, that would seem to mean that either (a) this single entity is essentially not really a solea, and not really a buleria, but rather a separate and distinct conception; or (b) this single entity is essentially both a solea and a buleria at once. In the latter case, it would imply that solea and buleria are essentially identical as melodic conceptions — the only real difference is tempo, though I’d also suspect that there are certain characteristic melodic aspects which would only work right in a bulerias, and (on the other side) certain other characteristic melodic aspects which are part of certain specific soleares and wouldn’t really fit in bulerias.

Q: Does a singer conceive of the “core” bulerias and the “core” solea as fundamentally the same, except for the obvious differences in tempo and rhythmic lilt? If so, it would bolster the notion that the solea por bulerias and the buleria por solea are the same thing.

Separate but Related Q: Could a singer doing a full-fledged bulerias think to himself/herself “solea de Triana” or “solea de Serneta”, and then render these essential melodic traits within the framework of the bulerias — thereby creating an ad hoc sort of “bulerias de Serneta”, or, say, a “bulerias de Alcala”, though such odd terms would never be uttered out loud?

Brook Zern

]Date: Mon, Jul 7, 1997 5:39 PM EDT
Subj: Re: terminologia

Since some key discussion of terminology has been in Spanish, here’s a loose paraphrase of the proceedings.

Alfonso Eduardo, who knows, suggested that we agree on the term “copla” for flamenco verses.

That sounded fine to me, and I use that term myself — but Estela, who also knows, questioned the idea, saying that flamencos don’t seem to use the term copla (which in any event might certainly apply to other areas, like cuple or Spanish popular song); instead, she said that flamencos used the term “letras”.

That sounded fine to me, too. Come to think of it, I use that term, too. I remember asking many flamencos what they’d said in a cante, and they said, “oh, you mean the letra”.

But Alfonso Eduardo countered with an interesting point. He says that “copla” means that thing that you sing, while “letra” means the *text* of that thing that you sing. “A copla is a sung letra”, he says. In fact, he goes further (farther? I don’t know the correct English word here) and says that a letra refers more to the text of written poetry than to the expression contained in a flamenco verse (or copla).

Alfonso Eduardo distinguishes between the two ideas when he says that the poets and would-be poets who infest Andalucia (half of Europe’s total, he claims) are constantly writing stuff (letras) that they hope singers will render in their coplas. But he correctly notes that while those written letras may seem to fit the metric rules and regs, that’s not enough to qualify them as worthwhile flamenco coplas. He notes that the great singer Antonio Mairena told him that in these letras, the sounds of the vowels and consonants just didn’t seem musical (singable) to him. As an example, he said that letras stressing the Spanish “u” sound aren’t very flamenco.

(But Alfonso Eduardo gives a terrific exception to the rule:

La Magdalena en el monte
Lloraba al pie de la cruz
Yo lloro sobre las piedras
donde estas enterra tu.

(Mary Magdalene on the mount
wept at the foot of the cross;
I weep on the stones
beneath which you are buried.)

Wotta verse.

(By the way, we have the nice word “verse” in English — though I can’t tell whether it’s closer to “copla” or “letra” in meaning. But, confusingly, the Spanish word “verso” doesn’t mean “verse”; instead, it seems to mean “line of a song (or a poem)”. Also, we have the word “couplet” that sounds so much like “copla” or “cuple” — but I think it only refers to two-line thingies)”.

Tricky business, this terminology stuff. No wonder John Moore notes that it doesn’t matter what rules we make up — people will use the words they use, and it’s useless to try and stop their usage.

(In another post, incidentally, Alfonso Eduardo points out something I’d never quite noticed — that between 1935 and 1963, there were no serious books published on flamenco. No wonder our histories are so full of holes. I would like to confirm, Alfonso Eduardo, that you are deliberately omitting a 1950′s book by Rafael Lafuente called “Los Gitanos, El Flamenco y Los Flamencos” (or something very like that) because it’s lacking in both scholarship and substantive anecdote. Myself, I learned a lot from a little softcover booklet that I bought in Madrid in 1961 for the cover price of two pesetas. It was by J.M. Caballero Bonald, whom I assume became the flamencologist Caballero Bonald when he had built up a better knowledge. Oh, and Pohren’s prizewinning first book “The Art of Flamenco” came out in 1962, but only in English at first.)

Brook Zern

Date: Mon, Jul 7, 1997 11:45 AM EDT
Subj: Mystery coplas

Agreeing with Estela’s post on the solea por buleria (or vice versa), I’d like to comment on two of the letras she posted:

Lebrijano: Voy como si fuera preso
detras camina mi sombra
delante mi pensamiento

Gaspar: Si sera
unos tormentos mu’ dobles
verte y no poderte hablar

Lebrijano’s verse is old, I believe — I’ve seen it written in non-recent books. It is a strange and fascinating verse.

“I go (walk) as if I were a prisoner;
behind me walks my shadow,
ahead of me, my thoughts.”

Incredible. I sense that it has huge layers of meaning, though I can’t really grasp a concrete message.

The other verse as sung by Gaspar de Utrera is much more representative of “typical” flamenco sentiment, at least in the forms I consider to be of Gypsy origin:

“It is a double torment –
to see you,
and not be able to talk to you.

The meaning is clear enough. And the verse is artful without seeming artificial or “poetic”, qualities which often characterize flamenco forms that I consider to be of non-Gypsy origin.

In this case, both verses seem Gypsy (to me). Yet the first one is somehow abstruse (without being poetic or artificial). There are a number of such verses — dozens, or maybe even a hundred — but that’s out of the many thousands of verses for Gypsy forms. Examples: “Fue piedra y perdi mi centro…” (“I was a rock and I lost my center/and they threw me into the sea/and at the end of much time/I found my center again”). Or “Un panuelo en la tienda”, though that verse may refer “only” to the value of virginity.

Sometimes, odd verses that I hear in flamenco are the result of the singer borrowing a verse from a full-fledged poet. But I like to think I can identify these, and I also think they rarely work. (Though I’m a sucker for “The cart of the dead rolled by — and I recognized her by her dangling hand”, by Becquer or somebody, as inserted into a siguiriya.) Anyone else care to post and comment on flamenco’s “mystery” verses — which might seem quite clear to actual flamencos, of course.

Brook Zern

Date: Mon, Jul 7, 1997 10:16 AM EDT
Subj: Re: tientos (Brook) + Moron bulerias

Thanks, Estela — for your information about tientos, and for being specific on the matter of how Moron bulerias may have used loose threes to go out of compas . One of Diego del Gastor’s marks as a player of bulerias was indeed that rasgueo you mention, which I always heard as “TWELVE-and-a-one, (two)”

If he had done that in arbitrary fashion, it would indeed result in “loose threes” which would be out of compas. I’ve got it on tape any number of times, though, and because I never heard him go out of compas with it, I am convinced that he always thought of it (as I do) as half of a full six-beat unit: “TWELVE-and-a-one, (two), THREE-and-a-four (five)”.

Now, I can’t prove a negative, and everyone is human, so maybe Diego occasionally lost it while doing this rasgueo thing. From now on, I’ll pay close attention to every instance where I hear a tape of him (or the nephews) doing it. I will keep you posted on the results.

Others who have Diego tapes or recordings are welcome to join me in the quest for examples that can’t be measured in either 6′s or 12′s. Of course, you know he won’t end up going out of compas half the time, as he would if he really played loose threes in bulerias or didn’t bother to keep track of compas. In fact, I will bet dollars to doughnut, or centimos to churros, that he will be remain firmly in compas more than 95% of the time, and I suspect it will be 100% of the time. I don’t want to vouch so firmly for all the nephews all the time — and they didn’t seem to use that particular Diego-ism nearly as much as he did, anyway.

I will keep you posted, Estela — and, as I might’ve said in the post you didn’t get, I would be more interested in discovering you are right than in proving you are wrong.



Date: Mon, Jul 7, 1997 9:47 AM EDT
Subj: Re: lationships

Out of the mouths of Okies… Mike Rusk revealed the truth when he wrote:

“As for this not exactly being ‘flamenco’ I think this list has
proven time and again that almost anything in the universe has some tangential relationship to flamenco.”

Thank you, Mike. That’s all the excuse I need for posting something I saw on a T-shirt yesterday. I don’t know if anything was on the front, but on the back it said:

“The floggings will continue until the morale improves.”

Brook Zern

Date: Thu, Jul 3, 1997 9:56 AM EDT
Subj: Re: tientos (Brook)

Estimada Estela,

I stand corrected — or, more precisely, after being run down by an actual singer who actually knows the tientos, I lie down corrected.

But yes, I did say that there were several different melodic approaches for the tientos (meaning styles, as you surmised). Are you saying that’s an understatement, because there are a great many such variants?

You may disagree with my seemingly contradictory contention that there’s only one tientos. There I was referring to nomenclature, and the fact that the different styles/melodic approaches are rarely given the names of individual artists or localities.

I’m not arguing, mind you — just wondering where I was wrongest.


P.S. I did argue with you publicly about some Moron bulerias falsetas being infected with loose extra threes, or twos, so they can’t be counted in sixes or twelves. I denied this, and asked for examples. I mention this only because you said your server/system was down for a while; I’d be glad to resend you a copy of that lengthy contentious post.


Date: Thu, Jul 3, 1997 10:20 AM EDT
Subj: Re: Triple Ayyy

Contemplating Bob’s recent post on the above subject — isn’t Triple Ayyy that roadside service for flamencos who have stalled or run out of gas?

Brook “running short of posts already and the day is still young, and life is so unfair because I hardly ever post on holidays or weekends so shouldn’t I be entitled to use my post quota for those days on the days when I do post, so I could post more than five on those days, not to mention if I ever took a vacation thereby wasting my quota for those days as well and I’m not even allowed to sell my unused quota for those days despite the triumph of the free market system which I dislike anyway and does anyone care about my plight, no” Zern

Date: Thu, Jul 3, 1997 11:40 AM EDT
Subj: (long) Manuel Torre’s recordings (list)

Robert/o asks about the discography of Manuel Torre (1878-1933), the singer who best embodied the mysterious thing called duende. Here’s a list of his original 78′s. (It’s widely believed that few if any recordings caught the true dimension of this man’s magic — I think most were made late in his life, when he was not in good health.)

Gramofono label, with Miguel Borrull, guitar

AE-2.486 Seguidillas Gitanas (Sig)
” Saeta (with band, no guitar)
AE-2.487 Los Campanilleros
” Sol
AE-2.511 Seguidillas Gitanas (Sig)
” Rondena
AE-2.540 Seguidillas Gitanas (Sig)
” Sol
AE-2.589 Seguidillas (Sig)
Saeta (with guitar? or with band?)

Odeon label with Habichuela, guitar

68.109 Sol. No. 1
68.111 Tango No. 1

68.110 Sol No. 2
68.112 Tango No. 2

68.113 Tango No. 3
68.125 Seguidillas No. 1 (Sig)

68.114 Tango No. 4
68.126 Seguidillas No. 2

68.115 Tango No. 5
68.127 Seguidillas No. 3 (Sig)

68.116 Tango No. 6
68.128 Seguidillas No. 4 (Sig)

68.117 Tango No. 7
68.123 Mal

68.118 Tarantas
68.124 Mal

68.119 Tarantas
68.122 Peteneras

68.120 Farruca
68.121 Petenreras

Odeon with Hijo de Salvador, guitar

101.032 Seguidillas (Sig)
101.033 Sol

101.034 Seguidillas (Sig)
101.035 Sol

Odeon with Miguel Borrull, guitar

182.283 Seguidillas Gitanas (Sig)
” Fand
182.284 Saetas (with band)
” Saetas (with band)
182.285 Seguidillas (Sig)
” Zambra
182.286 Fand
” Bulerias Cortas
182.287 Sol
” Mal
182.289 Fiesta Gitana
” Taranta

Parlophon label, with Javier Molina

B-25.631 Seguidillas Gitanas (Sig)
” Sol
B-25-656 Sol
” Seguidillas (Sig)

Manuel Torre using name “Nino de Jerez”

Odeon label

68.097 Saetas en Semana Santa (with Band)
(other side had a Saeta by the singer named La Serrana)

End of 78′s discography for Manuel Torre. Again, it sure would be helpful if the info included dates, and titles derived from the first-line (or key line) of each song — as often appeared on the records.

I’ve never constructed my own discography of 78′s, as I did with EP’s/LP’s/cassettes/CD’s. Here are the few Manuel Torre entries from that later discography:

EP’s (45 rpm)


[gs][ay]√[ck]1. w/Miguel Borrull EMI Odeon J 016-20.832
Campanilleros; Sol; Saeta; Sig
[gs][ay]2. w/Miguel Borrull EMI Odeon J 016-21.037

Here are two cassettes devoted exclusively to Torre:


1. Epoca del Cante Flamenco Antiguo – 1900-1940 w/Miguel Borrull y Juan Gandulla “Habichuela” ˚Raices C-137
Sig; Sig; Taranta; Sol de Alcala; Campanilleros;/ Saeta; Sig; Fand; Sig; Mal del Canario
[fc]2. El Cante Flamenco de Manuel Torre “Nino de Jerez” – Grabaciones Anos 1920-1940 w/Miguel Borrull ˚Ole C-082
Taranto; Fiesta Gitana; Gran; Fand; Fand;/ Sol; Sig; Sol; Tientos; Aleg; Taranto

A possible LP — vague data:




An important LP he shares with Tenazas de Moron


EMI 038-021.510 1978

Cante: Manuel Torre, El Tenazas De Moron [Diego Bermudez]
Guitarra: Miguel Borrull

Campanilleros “A la puerta de un rico avariento” (M.T.); Sol “Lo que yo hago contigo) (M.T.); Saeta “Al son de trompetas roncas” (M.T.); Sig Gitanas “Contempladme a mi mare” (M.T.); Sig Gitanas “Camisa en mi cuerpo no me voy a poner” (M.T.); Rondena “Donde andaron mis muchachos” (M.T.); Sol “Por ti abandone mis ninos” (M.T.); Cana “En el querer no hay venganza” (El T. de M.); Sol “Correo de Velez” (El T. de M.); Sol de Paquirri “Cuando me acuerdo de ti” (El T. de M.); Mart “Me llevas por la muralla” (El T. de M.)

And two CD’s:


CD: EMI 7991342

Guitarras: Juan Gandulla “Habichuela”, Miguel Borrull

Aleg “Que le llaman relicario”; Sig “Contemplarme a mi mare”; Campanilleros “A la puerta de un rico avariento”; Taranta; “Un refajo”; Sol “Lo que hago contigo”; Fand “Mi caballo se paro”;/ Sig “Era un dia de Santiago”; Saeta “Al son de ronca trompeta”; Tarantos “Donde estara mi muchacho”; Sol “Por ti abandone a mis ninos”; Fiesta Gitana “Pilo pilo [?]“; Sig “Camisa en mi cuerpo no me voy a poner”


CD: Planet P 508

Guitarra: Miguel Borrull

Taranta; Fiesta Gitana; Sig; Fand; Fand; Sol; Gran; Sol; Sol; Aleg por Tientos; Taranto; Sol; Rondena; Sol; Sig Gitanas; Sig Gitanas; Campanilleros; Sol; Saeta

Of course, various individual cuts by Manuel Torre appear in all kinds of anthologies. But here’s a CD that’s heavy on his work:


CD: Mandala MAN _____

Manuel Torre (1878-1933) (w/_____): Sig; Sig; Sig; Sig; Fand; Sol de Alcala
Jose Cepero (1888-1960) (w/_____): Fand de H; Fand de Frasquito de Hierbabuena; Mart; Sig de Paco la Luz; Fand; Fand
Mojama (c.1890-1957) (w/_____): Media Gran; Sol del Mellizo;
Nino de Medina (c.1870-1939) (w/_____): Sol; Tarantas

And another, though it’s tricky to guess his cuts:


CD: EMI 7485892

Cante: Don Antonio Chacon, Manuel Torre, El Tenazas
Guitarras: _____

“La Virgen de las Angustias”; “Sas campanilleros”; “Si preguntas por quien doblan”; “Manuel Reyes”; “Si vas a San Antolin”; “Que tienes con mi persona”; “A la puerta de un rico avariento”; “Lo que yo hago contigo”; “Al son de trompetas roncas”; “Donde andaran mis muchachos”; “Era un dia de Santiago”

That’s all, folks. I look forward to hearing the reissues of Torre’s recordings that Robert/o says are in preparation in Spain.

Brook Zern

Date: Thu, Jul 3, 1997 9:26 AM EDT
Subj: 5-post ruling

Bill Glenn writes:

“Hi– Third post of the day! I went to see Flamenco Sin Limites here in Boston…”

Welcome, Bill, to our little group: Flamenco Con Limites.

Brook Zern

P.S. Thanks for that informative report, too.

Date: Wed, Jul 2, 1997 11:43 AM EDT
Subj: Re: Chacon CD: La Cumbre de un Maestro

Thanks to those who’ve written about the new Chacon CD. I look forward to hearing it. I think I’ve only heard him with Perico del Lunar, in his later recordings, when he was nowhere near his prime (an EP — 45 rpm — of the Perico session came out long, long ago, back when there were still EP’s). The new CD has much earlier stuff, and maybe I will enjoy it more. Could anyone tell me about differences in vocal quality between his earlier and later work? Is the early work in the same impossibly high and clear falsetto voice — is it higher still, or lower? (I keep wanting to hear Chacon lapse into a nice hoarse ronca croak once in a while, but no such luck…)

Here’s a list of Chacon’s 78 recordings. Wish I knew the dates, (and first-line titles) …

Gramofono, with Ramon Montoya on guitar

AE 2.047 Caracoles/Media Gran y Gran
AE 2.048 Mal/Cartageneras
AE 2.051 Media Gran y Gran/Tarantas
AE 2.052 Murcianas/Seguidillas Gitanas (Sig)
262.165 Sol No. 2
262.166 Mineras No. 2
3-62.353 Tarantas No. 1
3-62.354 Tarantas No. 2
3-62.355 Murcianas No. 3
3-62.356 Mal No. 1
3-62.357 Tango No. 1
3-62.358 Milonga argentina
3-62.361 Mal No. 2
3-62.362 Seguidillas No. 2 (Sig.)
3-62.363 Sol No. 3
3-62.364 Seguidillas No. 2 (Sig)
3-62.365 Seguidillas No. 3 (Sig)
3-62.366 Mal No. 3
AE-471 Tarantas No. 3
” Sol. No. 1
AE-767 Mineras No. 1
” Tango No. 2

Odeon, with Habichuela, guitar

68.086 Mal No. 1
68.087 Tango No. 1
68.088 Mal No. 2
68.089 Sol No. 1
68.090 Mal No. 3
68.091 Seguidillas No. 1 (Sig)
68.092 Tarantas No. 1
68.093 Mal No. 4
68.098 Cartageneras No. 1
68.105 Tango No. 2
68.099 Cartageneras No. 2
68.106 Tango No. 3
68.100 Cartageneras No. 3
68.107 Tango No. 4
68.101 Tarantas No. 2
68.103 Mal No. 5
68.102 Tarantas No. 3
68.104 Mal No. 6

Odeon with Perico del Lunar, guitar

181.026 Media Gran
” Siguidillas Gitanas (sig)
181.027 Gran
” Cartagenera
181.028 Caracoles
” Mirabras
181.029 Caracoles
” Media Gran

Maybe this will help us get a grip on what’s been released, and what might remain…

Again, I’m always a little rattled when I hear early recordings that feature singers with very high, clear voices. I was ready for it in Chacon, and wanted to dismiss him as a mere payo warbler (though I know he is also one of the very greatest singers in the history of flamenco.) But I was taken aback when Tomas Pavon turned out to also have a high and rather clear voice — he sounded much more like his sister than I expected. Other early Gitano giants had this same trait, which still strikes me (incorrectly) as a defect. (By the same bias, I don’t care for the high-ish vocal register of Robert Johnson, the paradigm of the enduendado blues singer…)

Brook Zern

Date: Wed, Jul 2, 1997 9:13 AM EDT
Subj: Re: Miami

Personally, I don’t find m-i-a-m-i to be as effective in tremolo as the traditional p-i-a-m-i. (Silly guitar joke).


Date: Wed, Jul 2, 1997 11:02 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: (long) Re: Tientos/Tangos lentos
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Once again, Robert/o distracts us from our true vocation of fighting with each other by the cheap device of injecting flamenco discussion into this civil rights and responsibilities forum…

Interesting topic, and I somehow agreed with both Bob and Jacinto, though their posts had different conclusions (I’m easy). I tend to think of Rafael Romero and Almaden for tientos, a form which seems real serious (sometimes deadly serious) but doesn’t seem “jondo” — not because I reserve that term a priori for the big 3, but because tientos and other serious cantes don’t seem to have the same approach or the same aesthetic objective. For me, even the best tientos (or peteneras, or cana, or serrana) just sort of lies there — it may be done well, or badly, or brilliantly, but it doesn’t have the potential to reveal vast layers of deep meaning to me. I wish I appreciated these forms more.

It’s also worth noting that while there may be several sort-of-different melodic approaches for a singer to choose from in the tientos, it seems there’s really only one tientos; of course, this is quite different from the case of siguiriyas and solea, which have literally dozens of different manifestations, often bearing the names of individuals or places. (The tonas/martinetes may have had many distinct variants as well, though most have been lost.)

The big Cinterco Dictionary says the tiento (it insists on the singular, though it says it’s a plural noun) “is a song with three or four 8-syllable lines, usually followed by one or several 3-line estribillos, whose measure is uniform. It’s a recent song, dating from the beginning of this century — derived from the earlier tango, which has the same compas, though the tientos is slower, more solemn and complex. It was in Cadiz where it began to be called the “tango tiento”, which means “tango lento” (slow tango); later, in Seville, this term was forgotten, so only the adjective “tiento” remained and the form became a new cante in itself, due to the further slowing of its pace, and evidencing a certain influence from matrixes (matices) of the siguirya and the solea. It’s a danceable cante, with verses that are customarily sentimental (patetica) and sententious. As a dance, some say it was created by Joaquin El Feo. It is majestic, sober and dramatic, with a decidedly ritual air. Oral tradition says (the singer) El Marrurro was one of the first to cut the tientos to this style, after which El Mellizo fixed it in its present form/context. Molina and Mairena write: “It was Enrique el Mellizo who aggrandized the tango until it became the tientos. Quinones seconds this, and agrees that (the incomparable Gypsy singer) Manuel Torre was the first “divulgador” (to give it a public profile), as he was announced in his 1902 presentation (theatrical debut?) in Seville as a singer of tangos (i.e., tientos). But Jose Blas Vega (one of the dictionary’s two authors) affirms that its first presenter (difusor) was don Antonio Chacon, writing: ‘The tango-tiento de Cadiz, of El Mellizo, is the musical “equilibrio” from which Chacon pulled forth the tientos; he knew the Cadiz school of song, and brought to it his great creative and musical sense, so the tientos of Chacon are impregnated with enormous melodic value. Chacon may also have heard tientos in Jerez, by Marrurro, whom he knew and admired in his youth. Those tientos, of Marrurro, have been lost, though (guitarist and cante expert) Perico del Lunar referred to them. The first reference to tientos appears in 1901, but the name didn’t gain currency until years later. And although Chacon in his recording of 1909 and 1913 kept using the name tangos, he is credited with spreading the name tientos simply because the public, and aficionados and artists, identified the new modality of tangos lentos or tientos with the style that Chacon — not Manuel Torre and not Pastora Pavon — gave to it in recasting it. Later, there were written references like this one from 1914: ‘How often I’ve heard people sing the famous tango popularized by Chacon, the Gayarre (who was Gayarre — an opera star?) of flamenco, as in “Que pajaro sera aquel”‘, thus alluding to the famous tientos verse. Paco Percheles wrote: “Don Antonio Chacon was, contemporaneously with Manuel Torre, the other artificer of the tientos, which he popularized in Madrid, elevating them, as with everything to which he applied his art and his faculties, to a higher level.” Augusto Butler wrote “Undoubtedly, it was Chacon who gave the form vigor and strength upon adding it to his exhaustive repertoire — and evidently gave it the name tientos.” But Jose Blas Vega clarifies “These comments don’t stop us from affirming, in the spirit of truthfulness, that Manuel Torre with this version of tango lento, much more accented by him due to his interpretive tendencies, met with great success in Seville. From him and from Chacon, Pastora Pavon (Nina de los Peines) got her main influences for tientos. It’s enough to hear the tientos of Chacon and analyze them through extensive recordings, to appreciate that he has been the modern fundamental fount of this style, in which the tracks of the maestro are perceived directly or indirectly in some 70% of recordings, though time has unfairly obscured his creative and diffusionary labor.” For some years now, not just in public but in recordings, most interpreters have linked the tientos to the tangos, usually beginning with tientos, given its greater expressivity and possibilities for timing (temple), and ending with tangos, which is easy, since the guitar simply has to lighten/brighten (aligerar) the rhythm. Other important past interpreters were Tomas Pavon, Aurelio de Cadiz (Selles), Manolo Vargas, Antonio Mairena, Pepe de la Matrona, Bernardo de los Lobitos, Manolo Caracol and Terremoto. Today its a common (prodigado) cante with evidences of its Cadiz and Triana sources, as well as the personal touches of its early specialists, which makes it fair to say that in the last 50 years it scarcely shows any evolution (por lo que puede decirse que en los ultimos 50 anos apenas si se aprecia en los tientos alguna evolucion).

End of excerpts from the out-of-print Diccionario Enciclopedico Ilustrado del Flamenco, Cinterco, Madrid, 1988. (which has an aversion to paragraphing).

I disagree with the idea that the tangos and the tientos have essentially the same rhythm. Speed aside, I know that the tientos has a “dotted” rhythm, which I hear as “and-a-ONE,-and-a-two,-and-a-THREE,-and a four,…” — the same “trick” rhythm that identifies the faster, and major-key, tanguillos and zapateado; the tango, on the other hand, has a flat-footed, 4/4 or even rhythm, “one-and-two-and-three-and-four-and…”, just as boring as, say, the farruca rhythm, and so easy and obvious that even an American (me, anyway) can play it. (Lately, modern guitarists have jazzed up the tango rhythm a bit by using neat triplet rasgueo — but the basic pulse remains simple.)

I’d like to ask Bob, who likes Mayte Martin’s tientos, what he thought of her CD and her singing in general. (And others, too, of course — I still haven’t heard her, and she’s the critics’ new darling.)

Brook Zern

Date: Tue, Jul 1, 1997 4:02 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Triple Ayyy, and Alfredo el mono mas mono del mundo
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu


Your counterslander of me, in which you accuse me of possible mistreatment of a possible monkey, not only fails to match the depravity and viciousness of my original slander of you, but is less inaccurate as well. But not fully accurate. In fact, I never had a monkey of my own — that was probably my infant daughter you saw waving the tin cup, trying to dance, and begging for money as I played flamenco guitar in the subway station — but my sister really did.

Actually, the little capuchin monkey that she got in 1965, and that she took to Spain when she took over my apartment in Los Remedios in 1967, and that she carried on her shoulder all over Seville wearing Pampers with a hole cut for the tail, the monkey did, that is, earning me the sobriquet of “the guy with the sister with the monkey with the diaper”, and later, “the monkey’s uncle”, and that was a prime suspect in the mysterious disappearance of pollito, the chicken someone got her that that monkey never liked all that much and that one day fell, jumped or was pushed off the 8th-floor/7th piso terrace after which the monkey evidently felt better, and that flew first class back from Madrid to New York with his own seat at staggering cost, right beside my sister’s, because it turned out you couldn’t take a monkey in coach class on Iberia and they said he probably wouldn’t survive in the baggage compartment so I got to peek through the curtains to watch him sitting on my sister’s head, sharing her lobster, while I was nursing my almonds in steerage, died almost thirty years later, the monkey that is, after virtually setting a new longevity record for monkeys in captivity thanks to my sister’s devoting most of her time and energy to caring for him — she says no one should ever get a monkey or other primate, or any wild animal, as a pet, and she took the monkey only because she knew it was a life-or-death last option for him– anyway, he’s not in my sister’s freezer, because it’s the wrong kind; he’s in the freezer of the woman who studied singing with El Chocolate and is a great individual, as perhaps indicated in part by her willingness to have this ex-monkey, carefully wrapped of course, in her freezer for a long time as my sister comes to grips with the difficult issue of what to do with the body of this little being that she loved so much — no, this is in no way equivalent to losing a beloved dog or cat, as wrenching as that is — which she will probably decide very soon, I hope, is all I can say.



Date: Mon, Jun 30, 1997 4:06 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Fight news
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

In a joking private post, a lister, noting my propensity to defend questionable behavior, has threatened to tell everyone that I was seen Saturday night in Las Vegas in Tyson’s corner, cheering him wildly and then staging civil disobedience when he was disqualified.

Nonsense. In fact, I was outraged by Tyson’s action. I’m supposed to be the only one around here who’s allowed to chew peoples’ ears off.

Brook Zern

Date: Mon, Jun 30, 1997 1:38 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Siguiryas
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

A fascinating discovery from Jacinto, citing the proto-flamencologist Machado y Alvarez writing more than a century ago. Here’s the translation:

“The seguidilla gitana [clearly meaning the siguiriya] is, as we’ve said, danceable. At least, we’ve been told as much by Silverio [Franconetti] and Juanelo de Jerez, competent experts on the issue, as well as some other less renowned sinngers.

On our part, we’ve never seen it danced, and many aficionados say the same thing — which is yet another indication that flamenco cantes are not as popular and as well known by people as some suppose.”

Like Jacinto, I had thought siguiriyas weren’t danced till early in this century, probably by Vicente Escudero (but then, I thought I’d carefully read Machado, too.)

Brook Zern

Date: Mon, Jun 30, 1997 1:37 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: flamenco in Los Angeles (long)
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

It may have seemed that I was too much of a gentleman to respond to Bob’s post of June 25th (?), which said I was wrong to defend Luke’s criticism of another list member. No such luck. In fact, my civility was only due to the unfailing tact of America Online, which failed to deliver his message to me.

Bob quotes Luke, to underline the harshness and pointedness of Luke’s criticism. And he indicates that Luke must have an underlying agenda, so Luke’s negative criticism should be suspect.

Bob seems convinced that Luke was being dishonest in making such criticism, as well as in the coolhanded way it was made. He even offers a lineup of the two opposing sides in some strange internecine L.A. warfare, as hinted over the past two years. He seems to think there was not just buddy-ism but a kind of corruption in the particular negative critique we saw from Luke.

Hey, maybe so. I don’t know. And Luke has seemed apologetic for saying what he said the way he said it.

So here’s my offer: As long as Bob will support the idea that there’s a place on this list for criticism, including negative criticism, of public performances by anyone, including list members, I will cheerfully agree with his specific points — including the implied obligation to disclose that fact that you happen to be somebody’s archenemy or rival, or drinking buddy or blood relative.

And of course I’ll also cheerfully support the right of the targets, and Bob and others, to impugn the character and motives of those who post negative criticism — especially if they add materially to the issue by revealing possible hidden agendas.

It’s all information flow. I’m in favor of that. And, as a result, I’m in favor of a certain kind of open discussion around here. If that preference makes it seem that I also favor certain possibly unpleasant characters with possibly obvious character flaws, I’ll just have to live with that.

Even if it sometimes puts me on the opposite side of the fence from Bob, whose general grace as a poster is a consistent inspiration to me. (Disclosure: I have never met Bob; that’s undoubtedly why I find it easy to like him.)

Brook Zern

Date: Mon, Jun 30, 1997 11:11 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Siguiriyas Debate/Novices Respond
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Bettina wrote:

“Jacinto, Estela, Brook, Flamenco Chuck et. al.,

Wow! Your debate regarding compas, measures, 5/8, 7/8, rubato, etc., etc., has left me wondering whether I’m competent enough to continue studying…”

Me, too, Bettina. In fact, I don’t think I said anything at all in public about this topic — because I felt unequipped to understand the complex metric questions, much less answer them. And that’s after a long, long time trying to learn flamenco. I may grasp the basic siguiriyas rhythm as it applies to the guitar and even the dance — but when it comes to analyzing the way it works (or doesn’t work) in the singing, I’m baffled.

That’s one thing that makes flamenco so fascinating to me — that I can hear so much, and maybe even know something, and yet still not fully hear or fully know anything…

Sometimes I feel sorry for those poor Jerez Gypsies, who will never know what it’s like to have to fight to begin to get it…

Thanks for sharing your story, and that of your rythmically handicapped friend. I guess if she really learns the dance arrangements, it hardly matters whether she knows the rhythms or not, unless the tape breaks or the guitarist sneezes. Come to think of it, I play flamenco guitar without understanding music at all. It doesn’t help, of course, but I can get by (unless the singer does a verse I don’t recognize, or the other guitarist decides to get creative on me.)

I find that if you lack the gift, you can still find joy in the struggle.

Brook Zern

Date: Fri, Jun 27, 1997 12:23 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Legal Matters
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

I see that the Supreme Court of the United States has just unanimously decided that free speech is fully protected on the Internet, except for criticism of one flamenco list member’s performance by another flamenco list member.

Just kidding, really. I even understand that there’s a difference between our little group and the Internet in general, and that we can make our own rules (or, more accurately, have them made for us), just as, say, it’s possible to declare discrimination illegal in the U.S. yet allow private clubs to discriminate (or is it?)

Anyway, I suppose it’s off the topic, and hope it won’t cause unconscionable mailbox clutter, but I’m really curious about how my fellow listies/inmates, both U.S. and elsewhere, feel about this “liberal” ruling by a “conservative” Supreme Court . Is it good or bad?. I’m really not trying to start an argument — honest — so I won’t argue and would ask others to please refrain as well. But I’d love to see the list’s consensus, if any. And lurkers, you’re certainly as qualified as anyone to jump into this one — just as we all hope you’ll feel free to jump into the flamenco fray with comments, questions or complaints whenever the spirit moves you.
Brook Zern

Date: Fri, Jun 27, 1997 12:39 PM EDT
(Speaking of consensus, I confidently state that I share the virtual-unanimous appreciation and admiration for Sue Banka, who makes us all possible. Thank you, Sue.)

From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Moron Bulerias
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu


Yes, on occasion a Moron guitarist, strung out on fino or worse (or, worse yet, cold sober), might go out of compas. Like you, I’ve heard it happen.

But falsetas can be seen as things in themselves. And Estela, I’d really appreciate it if you could cite examples of Moron bulerias falsetas that have loose twos or threes, and don’t work in either twelves or sixes. (You don’t have to put it in cybercifra — just tell me if it’s thumb or picado; how many notes it usually employs per beat — usually two, of course; and give me the first two dozen or so notes, after noting the starting-point string and any unexpected positions.)

There’s a strong chance I’d know it — in compas. If I don’t know the falseta — well, we’ll see what that might mean. I’m especially interested in falsetas that were conceived by Diego. But I’d bet on the other nephews as well, though in the case of Dieguito, please indicate whether he was anywhere on this planet when he devised it, since I can’t take responsibility for all his mental states.

(I’m not being combative here, at least not yet; I’m really curious as to whether the metrics of these allegedly out-of-compas falsetas were always wrong (but I don’t know them); or are actually correct but deceptive to other experienced listeners (I flatter myself); or whether everybody’s forgotten the right way to play them since Diego died and the kids almost went away (making me and some other obsessive extranjeros his rightful heirs at last).

In my own transcriptions of Moron stuff, the only falsetas that weren’t countable in solid compas were a few by Paco del Gastor, who may have told you that his other relatives were sometimes out. But even with Paco, it seemed evident that he had simply overreached and lost it in the moment — i.e., he had the compas right in his mind, and if he’d played it again, it would’ve come out right. It’s just that he didn’t happen to play the damn thing again — so I’d “wasted” hours of decoding just because he screwed up in midstream and didn’t stop to clean it up.

Again, the issue isn’t whether these or other guitarists are human and prone to an occasional crossed wire. The issue is whether there are Moron falsetas that consistently don’t work in either sixes or twelves. I await your reply/examples with genuine interest — in fact, I’d find it more interesting to be wrong about this than to be right.


Brook Zern

P.S. I second John Moore’s suspicion that these and other “real” guitarists have more compas in their little fingers than we’ll ever have in toto. (John indicates it’s because they “grew up around it”. Well, I grew up around it, too, if having a Pennsylvania Dutch father constantly playing flamenco guitar from one’s cribhood days qualifies, and I’m afraid it didn’t do for me what such early exposure did for, say, Paco de Lucia or Paco del Gastor.) As for my tendency to correct some great players on compas — that wasn’t bravery or even foolhardiness; it’s just that I was taking lessons from these characters, and while it was hard enough to memorize something that was in compas, it was quite impossible for me to memorize something that was out of compas, so I had to point it out. The result was generally problematic, as a big hunk of lesson time then went to watching their efforts to fix it up.

Offensive Ethnic Joke:
Q: What is this: “Clop, clop, clop, bang, bang, bang, clop, clop, clop”?
A: An Amish drive-by shooting.


Date: Thu, Jun 26, 1997 12:11 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Moron bulerias
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Estela drops a little bomblet with a devastating depth-charge: that in Moron bulerias toque there is a tendency to use not just half compases (6 beats) but quarter compases (3 beats) as well.

My short answer: No. My long answer:

Half-compases are indeed characteristic of Moron bulerias. Some falsetas have melodic sections that go on for a compas-and-a-half, e.g., starting on one and ending not on beat ten (followed by a tap-up for eleven and twelve) but on beat 4 of the next compas (followed by a tap-up for five and six). And some falsetas that essentially start on twelve will fall into a groove, using a six-count segment that’s repeatable so you can’t remember whether it finally resolves on a six, or a twelve. Of course, it sometimes happens in a danced bulerias — often heard on older records — that guitarists fall into a six-count rasgueo groove (i.e., the “last half” of a full compas) and do it so many times that it becomes academic whether they snap out of it to end on a six or a twelve.

Anyway, that’s tricky enough. But the use of quarter-compases (presumably in random fashion) would really unpin bulerias from its psychic moorings. Falsetas or rasgueos could easily end on a 9, or a 3, instead of only on a 6 or a 12. I’d call that just plain wrong (though others might call it “el jaleo”, a looser approach to the bulerias idea).

I never noticed any tendency to use quarter-compases in Moron, either “in performance” or “at leisure”; I doubt if it happens. All of the innumerable Moron bulerias falsetas I know are measurable in 6′s. I doubt if Evan Harrar’s massive compilation of several hundred Moron bulerias falsetas contains any that would end on a 9 or a 3.

However, Moron bulerias falsetas ain’t always obvious as to their metrics. There are:

Falsetas where the melody must begin on beat 10 (or beat 4) (but, of course, compensate for that fact and work out right.)

Falsetas where the melody must end on beat 8 (or beat 2) (but compensate for that in the ending rasgueo and work out right.)

I think these types of falsetas, viewed casually, might give the impression of using those “loose threes”.

But this kind of measuring is not limited to Moron toque. Several bulerias falsetas attributed to Manolo de Huelva, for example, must begin on 4 (Sabicas plays one or two of them). And Paco de Lucia plays some bulerias falsetas that must begin on 10.

(Note that I’m not referring here to anacrusis, or pick-up beats, that might sometimes confuse the issue. To me, a falseta is essentially the same whether it starts on twelve, or starts with an earlier pick-up beat, e.g. and-11-and-12…; nor am referring to those slurred legato endings, where instead of terminating with a tonic note like A on beat six, a falseta melody would hit the C note for beat 6, pull-off to the Bb note for “and”, then end with the A note on beat 7 and compensate in the ending rasgueo — something I think I first heard in Moron.)

(Of course, any guitarist can make a mistake, or be faked out by a falseta’s unusual internal dynamics, and this can cause a compas screw-up that’s often manifested in loose threes, and a wrong ending on 3 or 9. I have heard many noted guitarists make this kind of mental slip; sometimes it even survives and leads to an improperly measured falseta in their repertoire. Because I count mechanically, lacking their usually-infallible internalized compas, I have even had the temerity to point out the error of their ways to them on several occasions (Hey, what could I lose? You can’t fall off the floor.) They’ve taken it with initial incredulity, followed by bemused good humor, like elephants being momentarily led by a mouse — but they’ve always corrected the falseta.)

Brook Zern

Date: Thu, Jun 26, 1997 11:30 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Strunz & Farah
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

I appreciated Lin Jialun’s post on Strunz & Farah — and of course, it’s nice to read George (Jorge?) Strunz’s precise and accurate “positioning” of their music, with his acknowledgment that it is not flamenco. I seem to recall (and other listies may know) that Strunz was playing flamenco guitar pretty seriously before he found this more profitable means of expression. Now, if I hear mellow flamenco-esque music, I initially wonder if it’s Ottmar Liebert or S&F. But often, a really solid picado or other impressive technique clues me in that it’s probably Strunz & Farah. I can understand Lin’s respect for these accomplished and inventive musicians, though they’re not my cup of tea.

Brook Zern

Date: Wed, Jun 25, 1997 3:09 PM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Primos
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

I think Jacinto’s post made some telling points, touching on the idea of family, and how we see ourselves.

I’m reminded of a New Yorker cartoon. It showed an all-American type family at the dinner table — father, mother, three cute children. The father had risen from his seat, and was saying: “I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to let one of you go.”

At the time, my department had a boss who liked to think of himself as kind-hearted (and may have been, for all I know.) He always referred to us as a “family”, and I’m not even sure he got the point when I taped that cartoon on his door after he fired somebody. But I felt better when we got a new boss who didn’t insist we were a “family”.

Were we truly a family here on this list, we might tend to love even our “bad” members, or at least we wouldn’t display ill-concealed glee when we “had to let them go.”

(Of course, this list may be *better* than a real family…)

Brook Zern

Date: Tue, Jun 24, 1997 10:20 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: bashing and leaving
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Jim Millovich joins others in supporting a tacit ban on criticism of list members, saying: “…discouraging members from supporting each other will not do any of us any good.”

I think we’ve found a great way to increase list membership, folks. Just tell all your performing friends that for a few bucks a month they can go online and join our list, thereby rendering themselves immune to any kind of criticism here.

Seriously, flamenco criticism in Spain (and elsewhere, no doubt) has always been tainted with what’s called “amiguismo”, or “friend-ism” — where friendship determines the content of a review. This seemingly delightful custom is actually a rather ugly practice, and one which consistently leads to corruption.

(Not here on this list, of course, since there’s no money to corrupt us; but in big-league flamenco criticism, and bullfight criticism — and even at higher levels; in fact, justified charges of “amiguismo” or bias toward friends contributed to the recent fall of Spain’s Socialist government.)

I found it sort of entertaining that Ross, drawing lessons from his martial arts training, carries the “no negativity” argument to its logical conclusion, advocating “no positivity” as well — in fact, no comments of any kind on members’ performances. I would certainly agree that if negative comments have no place here, then any positive comments would be equally out of place. (Hey, Ross — I have a firm policy of never, ever saying anything negative about any master of martial arts. Honest. Otherwise, I’m afraid I might be mistaken for one of those concrete blocks.)

(Katerina, I thought your post was terrific, except for the leaving part. Get back in here this minute.)

Best to all,

Brook “Every night’s a bad night at *my* performances” Zern

Date: Wed, Jun 25, 1997 11:15 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Re: Attitudes toward criticism
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Jerry Lobdill writes:

“I’m from Texas. I just don’t understand why Jay, Brook, and Estela are defending Luke. Maybe it’s a cultural abyss. I just don’t understand the combination of a spirited defense of Luke’s cheekiness and an apparent lack of feeling for his targets.”

Jerry — Yeah, I guess it’s a Noo Yawk ‘n’ Nietzsche thing. We don’t mind criticism as long as it isn’t delivered via knifepoint, figuring anything that doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. But (speaking for myself and, possibly, my citymate and my ex-citymate) please don’t assume that defending certain list behavior implies a lack of feeling for the original target. That’s not the case at all. It’s just a desire to keep the list open rather than closed in terms of what kind of expression is allowable here. Indeed, it’s possible to regret that something happened and yet still consider it defensible.

(Notice I said “original target”. That’s because the *real* target of massive opprobium was the one who dared to post a negative appraisal — committing the crime of “cheekiness” — and not the person at whom it was directed. There was a tendency to stomp Luke, while rushing to support the original target.)

Anyway, Jerry, while you know I enjoy your company and admire your knowledge and writing, I suspect your “cultural abyss” observation is essentially true. I don’t seem to share certain fundamental assumptions with many out-of-towners, as we call Texans and New Jerseyans and Fijians and everyone else. (In fact, it’s rumored that there are some non-leftists and even a few non-Liberals in your region. Nonetheless, I think you, or “y’all” as you would presumably say, should be allowed to live, if only so we can go down there, or “thar” as y’all thar would presumably say, and gawk at you as if you were some sort of exotic zoo creatures…)

Brook Zern

P.S. John Moore is quite correct when he says “It is Luke’s 1st amendment right to post what he wants, but it is mine to say I think it is in poor taste, and shows lack of sensitivity and class.”

Date: Tue, Jun 24, 1997 10:22 AM EDT
From: Brook Zern
Subj: Bob’s Apology
To: flamenco@vm.temple.edu

Glad to see that Bob thinks he owed me an apology for something. Whatever it was, he should be deeply and permanently ashamed of himself, and yet, even so, I am magnanimous enough to forgive him.


P.S. Of course, that’s *after* he has taken twenty backward banana steps while wearing a propeller beanie and clucking like a chicken.

January 16, 2017   No Comments

Flamenco Singer Agujetas Speaks – Interview by Paco Sánchez Múgica – translated with comments by Brook Zern

Translator’s note:

Manuel Agujetas died a year ago. Shortly before, a Jerez publication called Voz Jonda ran an interview by Paco Sánchez Múgica titled “Agujetas, the man and the myth: “Flamenco is a lie”.

I’ve translated it here, starting with a few personal comments in italics:

The lion in winter? Portrait of the artist as an old man?
And is that a trace of mellow we see in this portrait of Agujetas?

Note: I got a kick out of seeing that Manuel still got a kick out of the Village Voice article I wrote when he showed up at the Sangria restaurant in 1976.

An ironic note: The actual headline of the article was: “Duende on Hudson Street — A Flamenco Master Sings for his Supper”. Well, I have too much invested in the mythology of “duende” and “black sounds” to take Agujetas seriously when he says in this interview that duende “is all a lie”.

Hey, Who ya gonna believe – me, or the man who held the patent on it and insisted it doesn’t exist?

Manuel’s memories of the time we spent in New York and Madrid were always sharper than mine – there was a formidable mind behind the forbidding persona he usually projected, and it shines through in this interview.

Incidentally, I had always felt grumpy that I’d never been invited to the endless round of private juergas which I assumed were the major part of Agujetas’ artistic life, as they were with all the other legendary singers he names. Now I learn from this interview that there were no such sessions — he had no interest in singing in private. It makes me feel better about the nights when he tolerated my nervous efforts to accompany his songs – a mismatch for the ages, but at least I wasn’t keeping him from lighting up all those amazing intimate fiestas and jam sessions that haunted my imagination. (He could be very hard on guitarists, even very good ones, who took up too much sonic space. Contrariwise, he seemed to appreciate my fearful approach and almost inaudible volume levels, which covered a multitude of sins — mine, not his.)

Okay, okay, here’s the interview:

A warm autumn afternoon. A narrow secondary road. Like an asphalt line traced with charcoal and marked with country houses. The sun is weak at five o’clock. The municipal terminal of the town of Chipiona, on the northeast coast of the province of Cadiz. “In Jerez they say I was born in Jerez; and in Rota, that I was born in Rota. I grew up in those two places,” says Manuel de los Santos Pastor. But there’s no birth certificate. “Do you need one to know how old a man is? There’s a monument to me in Rota and now they’re making another one in Jerez,” Agujetas says. There’s a feline aspect, but he’s engaged in friendly conversation with a neighbor who sometimes sometimes rests to listen to him. Manuel touches his right leg; the circulation isn’t very good lately. “The doctor tells me I have to walk.” Agujetas – how ironic – has even tried acupuncture [ironic because his name refers to the word for needle]. “But it’s useless, it’s a lie. They put in the needle [la aguja] and it doesn’t hurt.” He rubs his leg. “It burns here.” Walking has become a routine, walking through the farmland and going back home. He invites us to accompany him and gets into the car. We arrive at “Los Milagros” [The Miracles – his house.] “Here I come with my guards,” he jokes to his wife Kanako when we go in. As Luís Clemente would say, “With Agujetas anything is always possible.”

Two stories and a large garden, all modest. Two goats graze quietly on the lawn, near the well, and cats of different sizes and colors appear and vanish. Light pants, a black shirt and a colorful shirt unusual for a man of at least 75. Or three years older than that. He doesn’t know exactly where he was born, and doesn’t know when. “Que mas da la edad de un hombre”, after proclaiming that “love doesn’t understand languages”. He says those words, in his wise and cultured illiteracy. [“en su sabio y culto anaflfabetismo”]. And he urges us, “Speak, speak, ask whatever you want.” Now we start to talk to the man. Suddenly, Agujetas stops being Agujetas and changes into a man who is miles away from his own legend. Agujetas, as we’ve already said, is Manuel de los Santos Pastor. The self-proclaimed “king of cante Gitano [Gypsy flamenco song]. An endangered species. The last dinosaur of song with no concessions. Paleolithic. Contradictory. Controversial. A Gypsy, an estirpe, 100% pure crystal, as Walter White might say, Incorruptible. Uncontaminated and uncontaminatable. Aspero en el trato, huraño. But oat this time, no trace of the personality, just the person.

There’s none of the usual reticience [sequedad] with the media. Not a trace of the arisca and irritable public personality he tries to project. Here, he attends to us entranable. Between affable smiles he speaks of one of the goats, as if to break the ice: I bought her very young, now she’s pregnant – I have to distract myself with something. Like her (he indicates Kanako) with her cats…” In front of the photos, he says, “I’m not dressed as an artist here. Well, we’re out in the country, right? I’m a little sick, though I’m not one of those who have those veins in their legs.” He goes through a doorway, and shows us a relic that he made with his own hands and that hangs on his porch, almost like a little sanctuary: a strange crucifix, “more than 40 years old. I’m friends with all the abstract painters,” he says. “This (pointing at the Christ) I made with a file that was in my kitchen. But I castigate myself. I caught pneumonia 40 years ago; when I recovered, they told me “Ya te ha quitado el arresto, recogelo. Ouka Leele me daba 80.000 duros [400,000 pesetas] for the Christ.”

[The interviewer writes]: Let’s begin. Manuel, for those who may not know you… But he suddenly interrupts the question: “Who doesn’t know me? Name somebody” (he laughs). We correct ourselves: How do you spend your days here? “I’m not here often, I’m rarely here. I’m always going to France or to Japan… They say there’s flamenco in Japan but that’s a lie – there are a few poor back-up artists [“artistas de cuadro”] who don’t have anything else to do so they go to Japan. To sing there you have to go to a bar, where they put up a little portable stage floor and they dance and play the guitar. But people go there to give classes, usually female dancers. When I go to see my mother-in-law, I rent a theater to appear in. It costs me a million [yen?] and I make two million. And I earn two million here in Spain, so why do I have to go over there?” But even so, he travels a lot. “Yes, I travel – who in Spain will pay anything? And even less in profit. Here you can call up a little peña [flamenco association], and they pay 200 or 300 [euros] — nothing.”

Tell us about purity [pureza] – your purity. Where it comes from? “I haven’t lived purity, and I was the last to emerge [Yo no he vivido la pureza, yo fue el último que salió.] When I showed up, El Chocolate [the great Gypsy singer] had been around for thirty years. Terremoto [the great Gypsy singer], thirty years. La Paquera [the great Gypsy singer], forty years. Mairena [the great Gypsy singer, older than the others who were not much older than Agujetas]…I was the last to come forth. I emerged one year after Camarón [the great Gypsy singer, much younger than Agujetas]… But since I’ve been fighting for flamenco puro, joé! [joder, the strongest expletive in English but much milder in Spanish]. I mark the end all those who did classic flamenco. Everything is being lost. Everything is modern. I never stopped singing and singing, and now everyone wants flamenco puro.”

Is it really appreciated enough? “Andalucía doesn’t stand up for flamenco, or for any music at all, because Andalucía is [musically] illiterate. I sing in France and nobody says a word. Nobody. When I get up, the chillíos, look…Because they’re people who know about music. But here? It’s not that they are disrespectful, it’s that they just don’t know. And in Jerez? In Jerez they all think they know about flamenco, but when they go to hear it they’re all talking and eating sunflower seeds. Because they think they know, but they know nothing. Nothing about singing or dancing.”

But Manuel, not even the good aficionados? “Well yes, those who really like it, yes. Those who really like it.”

Well then, Manuel, just in case there’s a remote possibility that someone has never heard of you, that you are, in the words of Manuel Torre [the greatest Gypsy singer], the last [of the artists who can generate the fabled] black sounds [soníos negros].”

“Don’t say that. It’s a good thing that Antoñito [Manuel's son] isn’t here, si no te pega. I don’t tell you anything. That kid wants people to tell him he’s better than his father, understand? A man of nearly fifty. Kid, that’s when you’ll hear it. He left here in tears. He was getting over a drug habit little be little, and they’re starting to call him to sing, three or four places. Now that he’s getting cured, I tell him, ‘Antonio, not like that.’ And sometimes he leaves crying. Where will someone tell him your father is here.’

Can flamenco song be taught? “Nobody can teach you that. The one who teaches him when he’s here is me. But my father [the great singer Agujetas el Viejo] never taught anyone anything, Nobody. Nooo. My father was working at the forge. I put the iron in the right place. My older brother placed the coal. And my father sang when he was resting. Because the notion of a blacksmith singing at the forge is a lie, a myth, because you can’t sing a martinete [a very difficult flamenco song] while you’re working. How can you sing a verse – you’d have to stop swinging the hammer [martillo]. Get the idea? It’s all a lie. It’s a lie told by people to fool other people. Why? Then my father would do two songs, resting and singing. Or he was in a corral at a friend’s house. Or on Sunday he’d sing a few songs for friends. And we’d listen. Don’t think that my father would say ‘this goes like this, and that goes like that’. Que va! [That’s nuts.]

Besides arte jondo [deep flamenco song], do you listen to other music?”

I never listen to any flamenco. Not by anyone. Ever since my father died, I don’t listen any more. I keep the record here, the one I made, and that’s it. But I don’t listen to my father’s singing – I have to be very good… to listen to it. Because when our family dies, let them be quiet and not bother That’s what they have to do. Then, everything is a lie. Flamenco is a lie and the books about it are a lie. There has never been more of a singer than Juan Talega [a great Gypsy singer] in the epoch I knew. I met him a few days before he died. I met La Niña de los Peines [the greatest female Gypsy singer] and she died a few days later. I didn’t know any of the other old masters. And I knew Antonio Mairena.

How were things between you and Mairena? “It was okay [Me llevé bien]…for a few days Because the man fell in love with me [se enamoró de mí]. People said “Agujetas slugged Mairena – you knew about this, right? Agujetas hit him. I didn’t hit anyone. We were at a Flamenco Festival and [the great guitarist] Melchor de Marchena took me out [me sacó]. Curro Mairena [a great singer, the brother of Antonio] was with me. There was the Yunque de Oro [Gold Anvil, an important prize], but we went for the festival, not the prize. For the best singer – and the way I sang, the public was with me, Then the guy gave the prize to aquel que era el que le hacía cara. The guy passed by thirty seats on my side, I was in one, he was in the other. I was put in jail for a half hour, until the festival ended.

Despite the incident, he doesn’t hide his admiration. Antonio was a maestro. True, he was a bit cold. But he was a maestro, man. They shouldn’t tell stories about Antonio. Antonio learned from the four old singers of Jerez. He took old songs, from my grandfather and my grandmother and from Manuel Torre. To know how to sing like Antonio… Maybe he was cold, but he was a maestrazo [a great master]. Don’t say that stuff about the Gypsies – that the Gypsies don’t like them. There are those who don’t even know how to open their mouths, but want to sing stuff by Mairena or me. Let them go where that takes them. People will go to see flamenco knowing that it’s not flamenco.”

Like sand castles erased by the tide, Manuel knocks down the urban legends surrounding serious flamenco. Those that shape the deepest mythology. The mystique about the dark night of the soul, or the dark trunk of the Pharaoh, like the “soníos negros” or black sounds, which [the great poet Rafael] Albertí revealed was nothing more than Federico García Lorca’s obsession with the sound of the sharps or flats on a piano. The black keys, the “black sounds” it seems. Agujetas offers no doubts when he’s asked about the duende, that other great unknown: “It’s a lie…” [Es mentira, es mentira, eso es mentiiiiraaa. Aquí no hay duende ni ná [Here there is no duende or anything]. I don’t know anything about it. Duende is for little kids, the guy who comes to you, the bogeyman [coco]. The same. [Iguaaaa.] I don’t know anything about it. I don’t know what it is. I have no idea.” And a new parenthesis: “And my father, as I’m going to tell you, in that era was a man who had a sweetheart and when he saw that he had two kids, Antoñito and Dolores, me dió por ser artista he set me toward being an artist, po carajo, well, I went to become an artist. Nothing happened here. Now, I sent the money I made to my daughter. I wasn’t here, like all artists. It’s the same with movie actors, they send money to their children and their wife, but if the man goes to America and comes back with nothing, well then, there’s no papa. If he brings money, there’s a papa. Have you heard this? Well, there it is, so you’ll know.”

He revisits his comments on duende: “It’s all a lie. There is no duende, no bogeyman, none of that.” And he says “Cantar [to sing]. There are those who need drugs, wine and the rest. I don’t need anything. I take a little water and I sing. Why should I be ashamed of singing (he laughs) if I live from it.”

Is it also untrue that business of the enormous juerga [flamenco jam session, usually private] that flamencos need in order to be a gusto [in their element, at their peak] and to seek out the real truth of the flamenco song? Haven’t you been in such juergas?

“Never, never, not one, not a single one. No juergas. There you have it. They’re a bunch of frauds. And in their book they say that I’ve been everywhere when I haven’t even left my house. I sing and I sleep. Others keep saying I was with them to god knows where, and I – god knows – I haven’t gone anywhere. Once when I was with this guy’s uncle [he indicates the photographer, alluding to his uncle the painter Paco Toro]. I just took a copita at the Feria and in his house with his wife and kids. Never, with Toro, nothing more. No juerga. What do you think. All the rest just a lie. They also said that Manuel Torre went to bed with his son’s wife. All a lie. Manuel Torre – a man like that going to bed with his son’s wife?”

So much confusion between flamenco and what is not flamenco – true?

“No, none at all. Confusion is what we see in the people who go to see it, those who like what is not flamenco. You can’t have a book about flamenco because it isn’t flamenco or anything like it – it’s just garbage.

And the market for recordings?

“There is no market – it’s over. No company offers flamenco discs. Maybe they put out a record with two or three artists together – but who do they sell them to? To their friends? Before, they’d come to me: ‘Agujetas, we want to make a record. What’s your price?’ Six or seven million [pesetas, maybe $50,000] plus ten percent,’ ‘Okay, let’s do it’ Now? Where can you make a record nowadays? Nobody calls me. One came out where they wanted two songs from me. Two songs. I took whatever it was and that was it. I have my live performances, but those are outside the country. I don’t have a manager because that’s worthless; they call me here at home.”

And even so, Manuel says that he has a Japanese passport and U.S. residence [residencia norteameriana] due to his last two marriages, and has toured the world twice, though never in Australia. “The first time I went to New York, I didn’t go to sing; I went with a gachí [a non-Gypsy woman -- La Tibu or Tibulina, a fine American dancer who died about a decade ago.] I went to a restaurant, and there was flamenquito [a diminutive term meaning “flamenco lite”], performers with Spanish names but who weren’t Spanish, and now they even have bars there. And fijate [get this!] there was a newsstand with a newspaper hanging up, and I saw a picture of me; and I asked the lady to read it to me and she said “The Leading Figure in Spain is now in New York” (he laughs). I have it right here, here’s the paper. I got to know a lot of countries, like I’d been born there. It seemed that way, at least. I told my father that. For me, it’s as if I’d been born in America. And he told me, “It’s because your uncle was there, and he brought back English chickens.”

But he doesn’t travel by plane. “The doctor told me: You have cañas tapás [a medical condition, clearly]. But the doctor wouldn’t operate yet. Now I can’t fly, the blood thing is scary. And now I’m headed to Japan, and it’s going to be a nice voyage. When I finish a gig in Paris and another in Jerez, I’m taking a train to Moscow, and after that, a two-day boat trip to Japan. Two weeks in a train! (He laughs]. One station, another station. But seeing the countryside. It’s scary, you won’t believe it. Those boats are preparaos. The boats float on the water, and if a boat goes down, it goes down.”

With all that traveling, do you want to sing again in Jerez?

“If I don’t feel bad, I’ll sing. If someone makes a stink about it, who cares? I sing well everywhere and that’s it. For the poor guy who doesn’t know, kmaybe he has more responsibilities. But what are they going to say to me? I rehearse every night. Even sleeping. I get up in the morning, I have a headache, but I practice every day. You can’t let this thing stop (he indicates his throat). And often I practice sitting here for an hour or so. Because if you don’t do that, yur voice will close up. The mouth has to be open. If you stop, it closes up and then how can your voice ring out? I don’t have anything written – I start singing a verse and 300 come out. According to what I encounter, with help from above.”

Winding down. Agujetas returns. “Okay, that’s it – your recorder will wear out. And the people will see this interview and say, whoa, look what Agujetas is saying. And you’ve done what no one else has done in your lifetime, with money. I’ve done it for you. (He laughs). You’ll be astounded, the other day a team from Moscow TV was here and I spoke about two words and they give me four thousand dollars. I didn’t do anything, right? That’s good. Nobody has done that – I did it for you because you made me a poster,” he reminds Juan Carlos, whose mural-sized photo of Agujetas was on a wall for weeks at the San Telmo roundabout in Jerez. And he insists: “4000 Euros” I tell him I don’t give credit, that I can’t believe he allowed us to interview him in his own house. So human, so entrañable. So far from the flamenco God that he is for those who love him. And those who hate him.” (He laughs.) You don’t believe it? Noooo – whatever you can believe. You say that Agujetas charged you a lot. Come on, you’ll be late.” “Habeis sacado la entrada ya?” he questions.

And that’s it – punto y final.

End of interview. The original is at http://www.lavozdelsur.es/agujetas-el-flamenco-es-mentira – corrections are always welcome.

The pictures are excellent. The bottom picture links to film of part of the interview.

December 26, 2016   1 Comment

Bad Taste in Flamenco Guitar

Correspondent R.W. asks for  examples of bad taste in flamenco guitar, and cites one so egregious that “It would be like playing “Lady Of Spain” as part of a soleares. (Thank God Carlos Montoya never thought of this!)”

I can think of something even tackier, R.W.  How about some tasteless musical vandal playing the entire chorus and verse of “In a Little Spanish Town (‘Twas on a Night Like This)”, in bulerias.

(It took Diego del Gastor two days to teach me how he did this.)

Brook Zern

December 26, 2016   No Comments

The Flamenco Guitarist as Metronome — Article by Ricardo Pachón — translated with comments by Brook Zern

Excerpt: “Diego del Gastor today is the key to understanding this art, so perfect and so difficult, that is cante gitano-andaluz.”

Translator’s note: I can’t remember where I saw the following 2008 article by the eminent flamenco expert and record producer Ricardo Pachón – the man behind Camarón’s now-legendary later recordings. But he was around in the sixties, and I saw him in some fiestas in Seville and in Morón de la Frontera. (He also wrote an article titled “The De-Gypsification of Flamenco”, pointing out the powerful movement to strip Spain’s gitanos of any claim to primacy in flamenco, that’s also translated in this blog.)

This piece deals with one of my own culture heroes, who has always been controversial in his own way:

Diego del Gastor: The Mathematics of Flamenco

By Ricardo Pachón

We have to accept as a given that music is essentially the ordering of sounds in a time frame. For Diego del Gastor, that axiom was converted into a dogma, an article of faith that he carried to its ultimate conclusion and consequences.

When Diego accompanied a singer in soleares or siguiriyas or bulerías he never stopped. NEVER! Diego punched out, implacably, the alternating twelve-beat rhythm just as a metronome or the drummer in a group would do it. He had total awareness of his role as a “base”. And knew that in flamenco song it is the guitarist who marks out the rhythm. Never the singer.

With Diego, those master singers who had impeccably “caudrado” or squared-away siguiriyas, soleares, cantinas and bulerías were truly comfortable and pleased: Juan Talega, Perrate, Fernanda de Utrera. Amparo and Maria Torre, Joselero and Ansonini. On the other hand, singers who didn’t respect the metric rules of the game wanted nothing to do with him. Juan Talega, the teacher and mentor of Antonio Mairena, said that Antonio never wanted to sing with Diego and preferred Melchor de Marchena because Melchor “maquillaba” or covered up his “descuadres” or out-of-rhythm moments, no doubt motivated by his extraordinary abilities that enabled him to elongate some measures beyond the requisite twelve beats.

Something similar always occurred with the fandangos de Alosno: The singers El Pinche, Sebastian Perolina and Juan Díaz never stopped – NEVER! That’s why its so difficult to properly execute that style of fandango. That’s why Paco Toronjo has left an immense vacuum that is so difficult to fill. In flamenco, that’s called “cuadratura” – and if its difficult in the [relatively simple] three/four time of the fandango, imagine how hard it is to command in the alternating twelve-beat rhythms of the other songs we’ve named, which combine binary and ternary rhythms. “In the house of the soapmaker, he who doesn’t trip resbala.”

Juan Talega said: “…the more a guitarist plays for good singers, the better he becomes, because clearly it is the guitarist who carries the singer. I really like to work with Diego. He knows me, and knows how to make me sing. Whenever I work with Diego I have to sing well.” And Fernanda de Utrera and Perrate expressed themselves in those same general terms.

Diego was a “fundamentalist” guitarist, and singers who didn’t know how to measure their art – today that’s a majority – fled from him. Diego refused to make commercial recordings, or leave his home territory, or to play for singers who didn’t know the metric measure of the songs. He was a complete unknown in the flamenco centers of our country, while he was venerated almost worldwide through his hundreds of disciples who passed through Morón de la Frontera and through that Flamenco University called the Cortijo Espartero.

Today we’ve entered a flamenco era when “everything is good” and anything goes. In the rules governing the Seville Biennal of Flamenco we see this clearly: “The contestants must perform three styles, at least one of which must have compás [a fixed rhythm].” I personally don’t know any of the free-rhythm flamenco forms. [Translator’s note: those would include the lovely malagueñas, tarantas and granainas, and just a few others among some sixty flamenco forms or palos.]

From the martinete — sung by blacksmiths working at their forges, and if the rhythm is lost amid all that hammering, it’s goodbye to someone’s hand – to the malagueñas or granainas with their underlying hint of the three/four rhythm of the danceable fandango form called abandolao or the fandango of Granada.

For the last three years, I’ve been listening to Diego’s guitar almost daily in the task of digitizing tapes for the Centro Andaluz de Flamenco [CAF, now CADF]. Diego is at the center of endless fiestas, fiestas of white wine and country bread, fiestas from the sixties before the introduction of hashish and the craziness of cocaine.. Fiestas, simply to celebrate life to the sound of the bulerías, soleares or tangos. At those fiestas were Perrate, Juan Talega, Manolito de la Maria, Joselero, Enrique el de la Paula, Fernanda and Bernarda, Amparo and María Torre, Paco Valdepeñas, Fernandillo… and at the center Diego, implacably marking flamenco’s alternating rhythm and giving out warning slips, like a soccer referee, to all those who are weak in the mathematics of flamenco. That’s life, and that’s flamenco.

Salazar, the great music critic, said that if Andrés Segovia had been a pianist he wouldn’t even have been known in his own home town of Linares. And that maestro, who made the classical guitar fashionable worldwide, took the same liberties while interpreting Bach that Don Antonio Mairena took in flamenco: he rested a while on the notes that held the most emotion at the cost of destroying the mathematical universe of the Baroque. For that reason, Diego today is the key to understanding this art, so perfect and so difficult, that is cante gitano-andaluz.

Ricardo Pachón, Seville, September, 2008.

End of article.

Translator’s comments: First, the author’s reference to the Cortijo Espartero is actually the Finca Espartero, run by the preeminent American authority Don Pohren, where paying guests could readily immerse themselves in fine flamenco [see my 1972 New York Times story about it elsewhere in this blog )

Second and third: As one of the hundreds of pilgrims who studied with and sat at the feet of Diego during countless fiestas, I like to think that he could do no wrong, or not much wrong. I think that Sr. Pachón’s insistence that a good flamenco guitarist playing for singers or dancers should provide a rhythmic base as steadily metronomic as a drummer is important, though I’m not sure it’s always optimal. Recently released material from the legendary guitarist Manolo de Huelva revealed the same aesthetic principle, and he said as much. (Other great guitarists, including Melchor de Marchena and other contemporaries, revered Manolo’s way of playing and said he was better than they were.) Compared to Manolo de Huelva, Diego seems less metronomic.

Sr. Pachón (who sings on the side) is more qualified than I am to judge Diego’s accompaniment – but others, also more qualified, have expressed reservations about it, including his invariant rhythmic pulse. I vote for Pachón’s admiring view, but what do I know?

December 25, 2016   No Comments