International Flamenco Day 16.11.19

Photo of Lola Greco (1998)

Last year I celebrated International Flamenco Day with one of my flamenco photos. This year I would like to celebrate with some of the epic photos of Elke Stolzberg and José Lamarca. A German and an Argentinian photographer whose photos are published in the book “Flamenco”.

Two foreigners who realised the importance of the moments they shared with the flamenco artists in the 70s, 80s, 90s in Spain, and with the click of their cameras, made them eternal.

Enjoy the photos and let’s celebrate flamenco, its past and present artists on the 16th of November!

Happy International Flamenco Day to everyone!

Antonio Mairena dancing in the middle, surrounded by Tomás Torre, El Funi, Paco Valdepeñas and Fernanda de Utrera, behind them José Menese, El Lebrijano, Camarón, Curro Mairena, Enrique Morente and Manuel Mairena. On the guitar Manolo Sanlúcar and Samy Martín (Madrid, 1970)

Camarón and Dolores Montoya shortly after their wedding (Madrid, 1976)

Camarón and Paco de Lucía, the photo everyone knows of them; brilliantly captured by José Lamarca after having told them the photo shoot was over.

Juan Habichuela posing with Fernanda de Utrera (Puebla de Cazalla, 1980)

Cristina Hoyos was the principal dancer of the company of Antonio Gades for many years (1982)

Fernanda de Utrera with Marote (1984)

Fernando Terremoto (Sanlúcar de Barrameda)

Antonio Montoya Flores, El Farruco (1987)

The master Agustín Castelló, Sabicas (1984)

Moraíto, the pure essence of Jerez

Tomasa Guerrero, La Macanita

Flamenco Therapy

I recently learned a new expression in English: when shit hits the fan. No need to deep dive in the explanation, just imagine it, literally…

Well, last week shit hit the fan. I was upset, at times fuming, and even bought a pack of cigarettes in the process of sorting myself out (despite having quit 6 years ago!).

Then on Friday I took the tube and everything changed. Not because of the tube – the London tube is not that romantic – but because what happened on the tube. All throughout the summer I cycled to work, and besides the odd rainy day every now and then, I haven’t been on the tube. This simply means that I haven’t been listening to my favourite flamenco podcasts (because on the bike you shouldn’t listen to anything!).

Until the 20th of September 2019. I was going to the global climate strike with my colleagues (photo above), and I decided to take the underground. There is a short walk from my house to the station and on the way, for the first time in months, I turned on Duendeando, the podcast of Teo Sánchez. This session from August is dedicated to Sabicas, the guitarist from Pamplona, for the occasion of the “On Fire” flamenco festival in Pamplona at the end of August.

I hit play and a familiar tune started… I recognised immediately the tune, the song, her voice. It’s like lightening going through my brain. I listened to this song hundreds of times, when I first heard it more than a decade ago. It was so powerful and beautiful, I just couldn’t stop listening to it. Then out of the blue, it appears again. I am most certainly emotionally attached to this song, so it is difficult to be objective about it. However, you only need to listen to it, to understand where I am coming from.

Fernanda de Utrera: Se nos rompió el amor

Fernanda is one of the most important female flamenco singers of history, and probably my favourite. Her voice carries such power and strength, that reminds me of Mother Nature herself. Sometimes even sounding like a male voice, she sings about the tragedy of love that has just ended. The roller coaster of the feeling is there in every sound of her voice, taking you on a sad journey with much emotion involved.

Do you like Fernanda? Or just having a bad day?

Listen to the song and you will not regret it.

Global world with global responsibility

Migration and immigration have recently become burning issues all over the world, even though they are not new topics. People have always been moving around the world in smaller or bigger numbers, from south to north or east to west, for one reason or another.

The books about the history of flamenco talk about the different possible routes how the gipsies – originally from India – reached Andalusia. Via land through Turkey and Europe or via land and sea, through Africa and through the Mediterranean. This was the first major migration relating to the people of flamenco and at that time, they were not even called flamencos yet, they were just people moving in the world. After this journey, as the gypsies settled down in Andalusia and their culture mixed with the locals and the local traditions, flamenco evolved and surged.  Throughout history, people of flamenco had to leave their homes many times in the search of a better life (and mostly simply for survival). Famous example of migration is the one around the Spanish Civil war. Lots of people, including the flamencos, left Andalusia when the Spanish Civil war started, and many of them settled down in Catalonia. They are called ‘charnegos’ in Spanish. Flamenco examples of the people leaving Spain in 1936, at the start of the Spanish Civil, are Carmen Amaya, the gypsy dancer from Barcelona and Sabicas, the gypsy guitarist from Pamplona. During the ’30’s and ’40’s they first toured together South & Central America, then the United States, and while Carmen Amaya returned to Spain a decade later, in 1947, Sabicas settled in New York permanently, and didn’t even visit his native Spain until 1967.

Sometimes, circumstances of life force us give up our current lives. Be it a desired change, or not! No one can be blamed for fleeing war or poverty, or for wanting to have a better life for themselves and for their children.

Some of us were lucky to be born in a country where there is no war or poverty, and some of us even had the luck of having parents who wanted and could care for us. But not everybody. Turning away from these people, building fences and walls, separating children from their parents, is not the solution. Over the past decades, the world has become global. We know now what’s happening around the world, because technology allows us to have connection and communication with distant parts of the world, not to mention the possibility of travelling there.

This is why I strongly believe that we should all realise that the responsibility is also global! The ones in a better position must help the ones in need.

After all, we are all humans.

Londro – Yo vengo de Hungría

(The song is a mariana sang by a singer from Jerez, his name is El Londro and he sings “I come from Hungary with my caravan searching for life”. The original was sung by Bernardo de los Lobitos, but I really like this version too. Interesting to think that the song could be about me, as well.)

Discovering the guitar

The other day I have realised – almost by accident – that the flamenco I have lately listened to, is fully dominated by guitar albums. This is probably an after effect of having just read a book about Paco de Lucía…

Throughout the years, as I have been discovering flamenco and it’s artists, I first found interest in getting to know the dancers (‘bailaores y bailaoras’). Without doubt the visual experience of the dance is the most catchy, especially for new audiences. Then my attention turned to the singers (‘cantaores y cantaoras’), trying to understand the words, recognising the different ‘palos’. Flamenco is the collective name of the art but there are many different forms within. It was an adventurous journey getting to know these forms: starting from the more joyful alegrías, bulerías, tangos, cantiñete, to the more sorrow soleá, malagueña, seguiriya, martinete, toná and so on. There are lots of different categorisations and names of the ‘palos’ (‘cante grande’, ‘cante chico’, ‘canciónes de ida y vuelta’, ‘quejío’ etc.) but I don’t think it is necessary to know these to be able to enjoy the music.

Only after the dancers and singers, I am now exploring the guitar players (‘guitarristas’) and I am discovering excellent artists and albums.

Just to mention a few:

  • The last album of Rafael Riqueni: ‘Parque de María Luisa‘, María Luisa Park ‘es una delicia’ as the Spanish would say. Delightful. The guitar imitating the sound of the birds is astounding.
  • The last album of Vicente Amigo ‘Memoria de los sentidos’ is amazing but the song ‘Requiem‘ dedicated to Paco de Lucía is just breathtaking.
  • ‘Palo Santo’ is the latest album of Dani Casares and the atmosphere of Easter (‘Semana Santa’) is wonderfully transmitted.
  • I really like Manuel Molina , although I wouldn’t categorise him as a guitar player only, he sings and he writes his lyrics, as well. If you listen to his songs, he is a true poet!

I haven’t listened so much to the old maestros Ramón Montoya or Niño Ricardo but more to Diego del Gastor and Sabicas accompanying singers of their time. I recently bought an album of Enrique Morente and Sabicas and it’s also wonderful. And without trying to list all of the guitarists, just a few I like: Pedro Bacán, Moraíto, Diego del Morao, Antonio Rey, Manolo Sanlúcar and Santiago Lara.

The first guitar album I was ever able to appreciate on its own was ‘Sentimientos’, Emotions from Santiago Lara. Santi is married to the dancer Mercedes Ruiz and they create and perform together. I have always been a big fan of Mercedes and her traditional dance from Jerez and through her, I got to know Santi and his music. Very pleasant on a Saturday afternoon while reading on the couch and listening to the raindrops on the window (yes, I live in London).

And even though I haven’t mentioned the other instrument players present in today’s flamenco, I haven’t forgotten about them! Artists like the pianist, Dorantes, drummers like Piraña and Javi Ruibal and the saxophonist Jorge Pardo are also important. Since the revolution initiated by Camarón and Paco de Lucía, flamenco is not restricted to the trio of singer-dancer-guitarist and other, new instruments have greatly added to the beauty of this music.