Archive for December, 2010

For Morente: The Deepest of Deep Song

Estrella Morente sang for her father Enrique Morente last night. It was her last song for him.

She sang the poet Carlos Cano’s unforgettable homage to his city Granada, ‘Habanera imposible.’ The crowded theatre rose to its feet as her majestic cante por cabales filled the air. The cante por cabales is, for many, the deepest of deep song. Very hard to perform, it usually comes as the remate of a siguiriya and requires from the singer a final, last effort more powerful than all that went before and a distinct change of tone. This is why it is also called la siguiriya cambiá or the changed siguiriya. Few singers can carry it off with force.

We all know that the siguiriya is deep song and that deep song is about grief, loss and mourning. Yet, for many of us who ‘learn’ flamenco, the siguiriya is lived in the studio, performed, but not really felt. If ever there was a doubt that flamenco and deep song really did spring from the grief a people bereft, then all we need do is to watch Estrella Morente as she sang last night. Perhaps flamenco is at its most powerful when performance coincides with genuine expression.

December 16, 2010 Posted Under: General   Read More

Enrique Morente: His Voice Lives On

Enrique Morente passed away this evening shortly after 5pm at La Luz clinic in Madrid. Flamenco aficionados the world over had kept fingers crossed for over a week now, ever since the news came out early last week that he had been taken into intensive care in the wake of what appeared to be a routine operation. Few would dispute that he was truly a maestro, a grande amongst the greats, the likes of which we may never see again.

Born in the Albaicín in Granada in 1942, Morente’s singing career began early and he became well known after moving to Madrid, where, for a while, he sang in tablaos. Over the last thirty years, Morente systematically forged new horizons for flamenco. He was a nuanced, gifted and incredibly daring singer. He mastered tradition and embraced innovation. He carried the deep song from sky to sky, unearthing links between cante and poetry — that of Lorca, Miguel Hernández and others — and even to art. His last project was an approximation through flamenco to the work of Picasso. He leaves an enormously rich legacy. Sad though we may be to see him go, we should also be grateful that he shaped his daughter Estrella into another dazzling singer and has also guided his two other children, his daughter Soleá and son Enrique into the world of song. In 2009, he released the opening song of a new album, Nana del oriente, in which his entire family, two grandchildren included, took part.

Many will feel that Morente went before his time. He was not yet seventy years old. Yet, it is said that we all die twice, not once. The first time we die a physical death; the second and final death comes only when we are forgotten, when we cease to live in the memories of those who knew us. In Morente’s case, that second death will be long in the coming. Like Camarón, Morente was a pillar of contemporary flamenco. He set parameters, broke boundaries and shaped new talent. He unearthed old songs, reworked known ones and invented others. His voice will ring in our ears for many years to come.  Hasta siempre, maestro…

December 13, 2010 Posted Under: General   Read More

For Enrique Morente : Get Better Soon

Few will disagree that perhaps the greatest flamenco singer alive is Enrique Morente. Most of us who know his singing and have followed his amazing career will be deeply upset to know that he is critically ill, following two recent bouts of surgery, and in intensive care. According to close sources, his state is serious but stable.

Morente is to flamenco what Mohamed Ali was to boxing: a king, inimitable, original, knowledgeable, nuanced and graceful beyond words. He brings together poetry and deep song, tradition and invention.

May la fuerza del cante help him pull through this!

December 11, 2010 Posted Under: General   Read More

Flamenco, Flamenco: A new film by Carlos Saura

Carlos Saura, one of Spain’s most prolific filmmakers, recently released his latest film, Flamenco, Flamenco. Three decades ago, Saura brought out the first of his flamenco trilogies, Blood Wedding, with Antonio Gades and Cristina Hoyos playing the parts of the groom and bride in Lorca’s tragedy. Gades went on to perform his inimitable, razor-sharp dance in Carmen (1983) and in El amor brujo (1996). Saura made both Antonio Gades and flamenco inspirationally global in the process.

Then in 1995, he brought out Flamenco, a rich tribute to the major flamenco figures of our time. Saura’s love for dance and for music — he has also made films on the Argentine tango and the Portuguese fado — combine with his keen political and intellectual perspective and with his wonderful visual sense. One of Saura’s strengths is his ability to offer panoramic shots, much like a canvas or painting. This is not surprising, perhaps, given that his brother Antonio Saura was a major painter from Spain. Flamenco offers a very inspiring and also very painterly vision of the best and the richest in flamenco. Now, I imagine Flamenco, Flamenco will do the same, but in a more updated version, with a focus on the stars who have risen over the past decade or two: Estrella Morente, for one.

Do watch out for this film. It should do the rounds of international venues and come out on DVD soon-ish. I am sure it will be worth the wait.

December 2, 2010 Posted Under: General   Read More

Flamenco: Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Firstly, I should apologize for going silent for over a month. Some of my readers have made enquiries and the truth is that this has been an extraordinarily busy time for flamenco, but also for me. A lot has happened since early October. Firstly, Sevilla held a scintillating Bienal with lots of parallel activities. I got to see Eva Yerbabuena’s new show and it was truly striking. Very innovative but still recognizably traditional. The audience was ecstatic.

During the Bienal, I was at a conference organized by the Centro de Estudios Andaluces and one of the more interesting papers was by a flamenco artist Pilar Albarracín, a flamenco artist — and by that I mean an artist who uses flamenco as a sign system to challenge flamenco traditions and stereotypes. You can see more about this conference, where I gave the opening paper, here.

Finally, what we flamenco lovers have known for long was proven right: earlier this month, UNESCO granted flamenco the status of intangible cultural heritage of humanity as a  result of votes coming in from around the world. This was the second attempt to gain such recognition for flamenco. Last time, flamenco did not quite make it to the list, but this time, support from Murcia, as well as Andalucía, meant that flamenco was put forward for the vote. Perhaps Here is the promotional video they have made. I really like the way in which they highlight how there is a palo for every mood and every occasion in life:

December 1, 2010 Posted Under: General   Read More