Terremoto Hijo: In Memoriam

Terremoto Hijo is no more… The news that Fernando Fernández Pantoja, better known as Terremoto Hijo, heir to the gitano singing dynasty from Jeréz de la Frontera, died on February 13th 2010 came as a shock. He had been in the prime of his life. The last time I saw him was some years ago, by chance, as we wandered into the South Bank, not knowing that he was in London that day and about to perform at the Royal Festival Hall. True to their name, the Terremoto (earthquake) father and son held a wide repertoire of cante that they could shake the world with. This simple man from Jeréz had a voice like thunder that turned at times almost ephemeral and cloud-like. Though his genius was in evidence that night in London, he appeared out of place, far from the Peña Terremoto of his hometown that commemorates his father. Afterwards,  we went to a bar for drink, but it was nothing like the bars of Spain. He complained of the cold, both in terms of the temperature and the silence of the restrained London audience. It was not that his magnificent voice had gone unnoticed: it was most likely more that the English language did not have the words with which to respond adequately to the heart-wrenching cry of his siguiriya… British audiences always seem to respond more overtly to flamenco dance than to the cante. Deep song often leaves them at a loss for words.

Earlier, perhaps some ten or more years ago, we had first met Fernando in a much warmer setting, in a bar in Jeréz, surrounded by his entire family. His sister Luisa Fernández Pantoja had participated in a research project of mine on the identity of women from the gitano dynasties by video-recording aspects of her life. Luisa proved herself to be an able film director. Fernando had been at the centre of one of her videos, as he was at the centre of her life. In the film, he sings bulerías in celebration of the birth of his son, as their whole community dances one by one, Luisa and her daughters included.

That, no doubt, is how he is best remembered.

March 20, 2010 Post Under General - Read More

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