Jerez. He- what?

During intensive periods of life, there is no time (or simply willingness) to spend on extras, like for example writing your blog. So first, you start publishing the posts that you have written earlier, trying to prepare for these periods. When the pre-written posts are all published, you try to change tone and instead of the informative posts, you publish short posts aimed at the emotions. Then it’s publishing time again, and there is nothing written, nothing planned, no new ideas, intensity of life is still at all time highs, but you are too busy even to stress about the blog, and when friends start to mention the lack of posts, you start thinking again how to reinvent yourself. The continuous thinking makes you realise that the blog has celebrated its one-year-birthday in the meantime, but you were too busy to remember, or as a matter of fact, to celebrate….For God’s sake, it’s been one year I started writing a blog! And it’s about flamenco!

Round of applause, please.

Although I’m neither famous nor reached a million followers, and didn’t even get free tickets to a flamenco festival, my love for flamenco is unchanged, I still love writing the blog, my friends like it, I got people listen to more flamenco and I have had readers from countries like Madagascar and Australia! Total success.

So I decided to go back to my roots in blog writing. The roots I had (a year ago! ha!) when I started writing the blog. Simply writing about the flamenco I know about, without wanting to inform and educate beyond my knowledge. Informal and interesting, fresh and exciting.

A marketing expert would probably not agree with my choice of adjectives – I still need courses on “the use of words in blog writing to increase number of readers”, but at least it’s authentic, and at the moment, that’s all I can offer. Authenticity. (A tope)

So I wrote about this town in the province of Cádiz: Jerez (pronounces in Spanish as He-res). Jerez de la Frontera to be precise. When you start listening to flamenco, and hear artists introduce themselves, besides their name, they always say where they come from. For many, this is is their proof of authenticity. So I started hearing Jerez more and more.

La Paquera, José Mercé, Moraíto, the Terremotos, Capullo de Jerez, Mercedes Ruíz, Santiago Lara, David & Alfredo Lagos, David Carpio, just to mention a few; they all come from Jerez.

Jerez is a town where flamenco overflows in every corner of the town, and probably every second person could go and perform on stage, they have it so deep inside of them, their heart beats to the rhythm of bulerías. I am lucky to know a “jerezano” (a person from Jerez). The uncle of A, Cuqui. Engineer by profession, flamenco at heart. He has never made a living of flamenco, but it’s very much part of his day-to-day life. On every family gathering or fiesta, he would be clapping the rhythm, “jaleando”, encouraging people to dance and enjoy themselves, sometimes he would even sing! Jerez is full of people like Cuqui. Flamenco lovers, artists at heart, but not on a professional level.

Jerez is also known as one of the towns of the triangle of flamenco, together with Seville and Cádiz. It means that these towns are considered as the cradle of flamenco, as flamenco has been present here for 2-3 centuries, and much of today’s flamenco is originated from here.

Jerez has two famous flamenco neighbourhoods: San Miguel and Santiago. Artists from Jerez specify where they are from, adding additional information about themselves and their styles to the experts knowing the difference!

Jerez has not one, but two flamenco festivals of its own. The festival of Jerez is organised annually around February-March time, with shows and courses known internationally. My article about the festival can be read here. The Fiesta de la Bulería is organised in August, with the direction of the dancer María del Mar Moreno this year. It will be hot in Jerez in August, but those hot summer nights tend to be the most magical ones!

But Jerez is not only famous in the flamenco world! When you talk about Jerez, you must talk about sherry and horses! The town is home to the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art, who are dedicated to the preservation of the equestrian arts, if you ever want to see some dancing horses! Once you are there, don’t miss visiting one of the famous sherry maker bodegas. In the UK, sherry is known as granny’s drink, but there are actually many different types of sherry, many of them not sweet at all, not granny’s drink at all! My favourite is the fino, which is the driest and has the lightest colour of all. Nothing like a very cold fino on a hot summer evening in my father in law, Antonio’s garden in El Puerto… There is a nice blog from Karen on WordPress about “The home of sherry” as some call Jerez.

So just remember, for horses, sherry, and flamenco: Jerez, the place to be.

The Terremotos – legend or tragedy?

(Photo by Diario de Cádiz on 26.02.2019)

Hearing the name Terremoto, I instantly think of two things: the legendary flamenco dynasty from Jerez de la Frontera, and the tragically short life of their first two generations…

We all know the singer María Terremoto, who represents the Terremoto family today, but she is only the third generation of the famous clan.

The first Terremoto to become famous was Fernando Fernández Monje, also known as Terremoto de Jerez. Born in 1934 in the famous Santiago district of Jerez, he first danced flamenco, only later started singing, to become one of the most important flamenco singers of his time. Some called him the successor of Antonio Mairena, and the most important singer Jerez has ever had after Manuel Torre, with his distinctive broken gypsy voice, that carried the duende and the wisdom of his ancestors. He is best known for his bulerías and seguirillas, the styles known as specifically gypsy styles. Having spent the night of the 5th of September 1981 in Ronda singing, he got home to Jerez around six in the morning, complaining about feeling unwell. By 9 am he has died. He was 47. Heart failure, his doctor said, surprisingly not connected to his long standing liver condition, which put his life at risk so many times in the past.

The art of flamenco as known today, is very different from the flamenco lifestyle that many flamencos lived throughout the twentieth century. Late nights fuelled with alcohol and other substances of the night, that shortened the life of so many…

His son, Fernando Fernández Pantoja, known as Fernando Terremoto followed his footsteps, but only some time after his father’s death. To be precise, he was 22, when he first sang in the peña Don Antonio Chacón in Jerez in 1989, accompanied by the guitar of Moraíto Chico. His flamenco debut was actually as a guitarist some time earlier, but the day he started singing, there was no going back from there… The heritage of his father could not be ignored or denied, and during his short life his career flourished: he sang in peñas, on festivals, collaborated with artists like Israel Galván, and won many awards of the flamenco world. The magnitude of his voice is described as sculptural and one of nature’s wonders. Shame that in 2010, at the age of 40, caused by a brain tumor, he passed away, leaving behind his wife and 9 year-old-daughter, María.

María Fernández Benítez, daughter of Fernando Terremoto, grand-daughter of Terremoto de Jerez. A millennial from Jerez.

Her first ever flamenco appearance was on a zambomba in Jerez, at the age of one! That night she debuted as a flamenco dancer. The night she debuted as a singer, remains unforgettable in the history of Jerez. She was only 9 years old, she went with her father to the peña that bears their family’s name, and sang for the first time in front of the wider audience. Bulerías, of course. This was the moment, when Fernando Terremoto – unknowingly – passed the artistic torch to his daughter, as it proved to be his final farewell to the stage. Today, she is still only 19, but in the decade since she lost her father, she has earned herself a place among today’s flamencos.

María started performing more regularly in Jerez at the age of 14, and gradually, she began to perform more often and outside Jerez too, representing the deep roots of flamenco (cante jondo). Her break came during the prestigious Festival de Jerez in 2016, when she left an entire theatre speechless after her performance; followed by such press acclaim, that no one of the age of 16 has ever received before. By the time she performed on the Bienal of Seville in September 2016, her name was well known. It only added to her reputation, when she received the Giraldillo for the artist of revelation from the Bienal of Seville, as the youngest ever recipient of this award. Positive reviews flooded in from everywhere, and this recognition placed her to the forefront of the flamenco scene. She has been named the future promise of flamenco singing and “the standard bearer of young singers”. Her first album, “La huella de mi sentío” debuted on the last Bienal of Seville, in September 2018. It is dedicated to Jerez and her family, and their singing style, adding her own personality.

I thought a lot about how such historic past – her father and grandfather being so famous singers – can affect her professionally, and personally! Has she felt pressured to follow their footsteps? Is it a weight on her to be good and not bring shame to the Terremoto name? Or is she simply proud of belonging to them?

It must be a bit of everything. On a recent interview in the Nuestro Flamenco radio program, María talked about how her surname helped at certain points in her career, but it also created expectations around her, which were not always easy to manage. 

All I know, that I hope she will be able to break the curse, and live a long and healthy life, singing for us for many more decades. After all, she has only just started!

 

PS. My friend, Álvaro Mayoral from Talavera de la Reina, has always been such a huge fan of the Terremotos, that he and his friends made a documentary about the starter of the dynasty, Terremoto de Jerez. The documentary is in its final postproduction stage, and we will hopefully get to see it this year! I am hoping for a London première too, Álvaro!

Festival de Jerez – the festival of your dreams

“The festival of your dreams

is waiting for you in Jerez,

and so I tell you singing,

olé with olé and olé!”

The motto of the Festival de Jerez.

‘El festival de tus sueños, aquí te espera en Jerez, y yo te digo cantando, olé con olé y olé!’

I am Hungarian; I live in London; and still, when the Festival de Jerez starts, I feel a buzz inside, as if I lived on the main street of Jerez!

Whenever the Festival de Jerez (or as a matter of fact, the Bienal of Seville) are on, I have this feeling, and I love it. My social media is on fire: videos, photos, interviews and articles are published non-stop. Without being there, I feel the buzz, the excitement, the nervousness of the flamenco world through the world wide web. During the two weeks of the festival, the city is full of concerts and events, flamenco tourists fill up the courses, the streets, the bars, and artists come from all over Spain to perform and share their newest ideas, creations with the eager public.

The photographer Toni Blanco Soriano captured one of my moments at the festival, when I was desperately trying to follow the steps dreamed by Inma Aguilar for all of us at her dance course. Remember, those good old times, when I still had time and money… and now I also have to add, long hair…ha!

Unforgettable moments I had at the festival in 2013 and as José de la Tomasa very well said at this year’s opening ceremony: if someone likes flamenco, they must visit the festival to feel and live the true flamenco in one of its cradles!

www.festivaldejerez.es

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/FestivalDeJerez

Instagram – @festivaldejerez

Twitter – @festivaldejerez

Enjoy!