The passing of Antonio Cortés Pantoja “Chiquetete” is a cruel blow this Sunday morning amidst Christmas celebrations and festivities.
(photo: Jean Louis Duzert /Festival de Nîmes)
I remember the nineteen-seventies as the dawn of the Camarón age. And my mind quickly links points of memory that tie together the life of Chiquetete, so popular in his day. If the singer from La Isla was the captain of the movement towards new horizons, one of his “officers”, those who cultivated and made use of the tendency towards greater artistic tolerance, was, without a doubt, Chiquetete.
I remember him as being the first classic flamenco singer to cross over to the camp of pop music, not combining both paths, but leaving flamenco behind. There were others before him who did the same? Perhaps. But none so flamenco as Chiquetete, born in Algeciras, settled in Seville, nor from such a flamenco family. Cousin of singer Isabel Pantoja, holder of the Mairena prize, first-rate singer for dance, afterwards, his hit songs that made him into an international star…”Esta Cobardía”, “Tú y Yo” are sounding in my mind right now with his voice of old velvet, brandy and smoky back-rooms, not to mention the sevillanas “Mis Dos Amores”.
But what I most remember is the soleá de Zurraque, which had been a local curiosity from Triana and which he brought to the forefront with the flavor of authenticity and a spark of genius.
In recent years Chiquetete reached an admirable level of artistic maturity with a voice that was, yes, worn thin, but compensated by his experience and knowledge that added dimension.
I remember his concert at the Festival of Nimes in 2009 when I wrote: “…his elegant appearance and impeccably sculpted white hair…essential flavor that only comes with first-hand knowledge, and the moderation of maturity”.
I remember the tribute at the Utrera fair a few years ago. We were all moved by his artistic humility and moving delivery, far from that youthful upstart many of us recalled.
I remember last summer when we saw him as keynote speaker at the Potaje Gitano de Utrera which, without realizing it at the time, would be my personal and definitive farewell to this unforgettable artist.