From the oldest festivals to those recently created. From the ones based on the most classic traditions, to those that go for more novel formulas. These are the ten flamenco festivals not to be missed in summer.
When the word “vacation” hadn’t yet been imported, and “air-conditioning” sounded like science fiction, locals would pull out their folding chairs to sit in front of their houses sharing gossip and local chit-chat, enjoying the minimal breeze that came with the night, with singing and rhythm.
At that time, flamenco was the artistic language and natural focus of get-togethers in these towns inhabited by the illustrious stars of the era. Which is why, in a more or less casual manner – as happened in Utrera where the first one took place – in the second half of the last century, these festivals became an excellent way of lengthening the nights with friends and neighbors, enjoying flamenco singing, guitar and dance.
In this way, these events have become imbued with the creative personality of each zone, acquiring their own sounds and styles, and have also transformed the character of the people, creating a following expressed in each town’s particular style.
For this reason, and despite vicissitudes of recent decades often making it necessary to find new formulas to attract new audiences, they continue to be necessary events that capture artistic expression that transcend music, making them relevant in their context.
Here we offer a run-down of the main festivals that fill the summer agenda, from the oldest ones to the most recent that have sought a niche with the incorporation of more innovative formats. From June to September, we list the ten most important ones.
1. POTAJE GITANO. UTRERA
Date: Saturday, June 30th
2018 program. Tribute to Moncho. Benefit for the Social Work of the Brotherhood
Presided by: Chiquetete
Voice: El Pele, La Macanita, Rancapino chico, Tomás de Perrate, Inés Bacán, Tomasito, Perico el Pañero, David el Galli, Luis el Chimenea.
Dance: Pepe Torres, Farru, María Marrufo
Guitar: Pedro María Peña and Antonio Higuero
Reservations: Telephone. 684 11 90 69
Time and place: Patio of the Colegio Salesiano, 10:30pm
The Potaje Gitano de Utrera came into being one May 15th in the year 1957, during the celebration of a meal organized by the Gypsy Brotherhood of Utrera at the Tiro al Plato stand at the beginning of the Consolación Avenue. About sixty people attended, including Diego del Gastor, Perrate, Cuchara, Gaspar de Utrera, Manuel de Angustias senior and José de la Aurora, the father of Fernanda and Bernarda. After eating, a big flamenco party got underway, which was the beginning of a long tradition that consolidated the event as one of the most important of its kind, and the oldest in Spain. The name is owed to the rich bean stew prepared that day by the owner of the Onuba bar.
In addition to the artistic aspects, the festival is characterized by yearly tributes to major figures of flamenco, and culture in general. Among those so honored are artists such as Pastora Imperio (1967), Lola Flores (1972), Gracia Montes (1976), Rocío Jurado (1979), Cristina Hoyos (2000), Alejandro Sanz (2004), Raphael (2006) and Joaquín Cortés (2007).
In 2016, the first children’s Potaje Gitano Flamenco was held, with the goal of promoting this art among the little ones, and making room for the youngest.
Why you should go:
The Utrera flamenco tradition can still be felt today in many plazas and corners that speak of the town’s past as one of the birthplaces of this art-form, and remember its most celebrated interpreters. In fact, you need only enter the city to see that you are welcomed by figures such as Bambino, Fernanda and Bernarda and Enrique Montoya. But flamenco here is the cause and consequence of the character of its people who take it as something absolutely natural, the focus of gatherings and the unifying thread around which any celebration turns. In other words, in Utrera, flamenco transcends music to become an identifying characteristic that touches society and culture. And this, without a doubt, is felt more than anywhere else in its Potaje Gitano, an event for which the city puts its best foot forward. This is why, beyond who is or isn’t on the more or less high-flying program, it’s worthwhile trying the traditional dinner, listening to the talk of the people on the program, letting yourself be carried away by the art and genius of this land of artists, and bringing home the complimentary spoon.
2. REUNIÓN DE CANTE JONDO DE LA PUEBLA DE CAZALLA
Date: Saturday, July 7th
Voice: Duquende, Pedro el Granaíno, Elu de Jerez, La Yiya
Guitar: Dani de Morón, Antonio Higuero, Patrocinio Hijo, Antonio García
Dance: Antonio El Pipa and Pastora Galván.
Time and place: Hacienda la Fuenlonguilla, 11:00pm.
The Reunión de Cante Jondo de La Puebla de Cazalla is a different sort of festival. And it’s been that way ever since coming into being on September 2nd, 1967 when it was first staged at the Plaza del Arquillo Viejo following the plans of Francisco Moreno Galván. It was he who gave form to the Reunión from the legendary Bar Central, accompanied by singer José Menese and flamenco supporters such as Miguel Núñez and Fernando of the Central among others. It’s a different kind of event because of its objective, since the beginning, of supporting the most essential forms and the most basic flamenco, without superficiality. A festival that was born with a clear ideological political inclination, based on Francisco Moreno Galván’s intention to make flamenco once again a function of expression and social elements, and to create a means of protest of Franco’s regime. A festival with a strong aesthetic identity and a place where the artistic avant-garde and popular culture would unite in a firm embrace. This can be seen in its superb posters and powerful staging, reduced to black and white and dominated by the imposing cast-iron chandelier.
The greatest stars of each era have taken part in this festival, including Juan Talega, El Perrate, Lebrijano, Antonio Mairena, Chocolate, Fernanda y Bernarda de Utrera, Luis Torres, Diego del Gastor, Cancanilla de Marbella, Mayte Martín, Pansequito, Cañeta de Málaga, Ricardo Miño and Pepa Montes among others, in addition to local singers such as Diego Clavel, Manuel Gerena, Ana la Yiya and young hopefuls such as Pepe el Boleco.
Every detail of the festival is meticulously prepared, and an aesthetic experience for the senses is sought and cultivated: the fragrant rosemary and thyme imbue the atmosphere this magical night. A festival in which the stars of flamenco singing, guitar and dance appear on stage with the greatest respect for the genre. A “get-together” in which the audience and the overwhelming silence are the focus of attention in a nearly religious act of communion between the interpreter and the follower. It’s like José María Moreno Galván said: “this town, surrounded by olive trees, is situated in the heart of the culture of flamenco singing”.
One of the most awaited moments each year was, without a doubt, the performance of José Menese, who always closed the program. Now the event is facing a new path without its most representative singer.
An extensive week-long program of parallel activities precedes the big night.
Why you should go:
The Reunión de Cante Jondo de la Puebla de Cazalla is maintained as the last stronghold of a type of flamenco that survives despite changing fashions. Thus, by the gentle light of the famous chandelier that has illuminated the spectacular nineteenth century hacienda where the event is held, the local audience and many tourists who attend the event praise the concept of sobriety and austerity this town in the middle of the countryside applies to the art-form. An almost church-like atmosphere where people go to hear flamenco singing in sepulchral silence, a kind of creed that aims to shout to the world the emotions they feel.
3. GAZPACHO ANDALUZ DE MORÓN
Date: July 14th
52nd Festival Flamenco Gazpacho Andaluz
First part: Pedro el Granaíno, Pastora Galván and Arcángel.
Second part: Paco de Amparo (guitarist). Voice: David El Galli and Jesús Flores with Dani de Utrera. A la Percussion: Miguel Fernández Cheyene and Fernando Espinosa. Guitar: Ignacio de Amparo. Violin: Jesús González. Bassist: Chechu Sierra
Guest artist: El Farru.
Time and place: Plaza of the Morón City Hall, 10:00pm.
Created in 1963, inspired by the enthusiasm of local flamenco fans who, returning from the Potaje Gitano de Utrera, decided to create a similar festival for their town. Thus was born the first edition of the Gazpacho Andaluz festival that took place in Morón de la Frontera August 31st of that same year. Some of the biggest stars of flamenco singing performed at the festival: Antonio Mairena, Fernanda and Bernarda de Utrera, Gabriela Ortega, El Lebrijano, Juan Talega, Pepe Ríos, Perrate and Bambino de Utrera, Fernando de Morón and Gitanillo de Puebla de Cazalla among many others. The venue for this first event was the summer terrace of the Círculo Mercantil de Morón on the town’s Alameda.
Once the idea took hold, with the passing years, the event would become one of the most important of the province of Seville, bringing together a significant number of flamenco fans and visitors. However, as has happened with other established festivals, recent decades have seen a decline in prestige, and the festival is currently facing a renovated format that has seen a change in venue to the plaza of the Town Hall in the city’s historic center.
Gazpacho, the traditional cold summer soup, has become the official culinary companion to refresh people who attend the festival.
Why you should go:
Situated in a strategic point between Seville and the Puertos, Morón is a fundamental part of the territory of lower Andalucía with gypsy settlements, and where the first primitive flamenco forms were configured at the beginning of the 19th century. A place on the frontier that looks toward the horizon and enables the encounter of neighboring towns. It’s said Francisco Ortega Vargas “El Fillo”, spent long periods, a disciple of the legendary Planeta, and La Andonda, one of the first women to leave her mark on the soleá song form.
In this town of passage and contrasts, producer of the whitewash that covers the walls of Andalusian homes, and headquarters of the North American airforce base, Diego del Gastor once lived, one of the best guitarists for singing, whose personal strums marked a new path. Beyond his school, which has continuity among some of his descendants such as Paco del Gastor, Diego left an even greater legacy, which is the passion for guitar, with stars such as Dani de Morón, one of the best young hopefuls of current flamenco.
Without a doubt, the Gazpacho is a unique opportunity to absorb this history and become saturated with the wisdom the locals have regarding this genre.
4. CARACOLÁ LEBRIJANA.
Date: July 21st, 2018.
53rd Caracolá. July 12th to 21st.. Presentation of the Caracolá de Oro to Concha Vargas.
Voice: Samuel Serrano, Rancapino Chico and Pitingo.
Guitar: Niño de Pura, Antonio Higuero.
Dance: Isabel Bayón
Time and place: Teatro Juan Bernabé, 9:30pm.
Inspired by a love of flamenco, and guided by the experience of other festivals begun in the province of Seville, such as those of Mairena del Alcor, Utrera and Morón, a group of flamenco followers in Lebrija decided to organize a festival in Lebrija that would feature relevant interpreters of singing, guitar-playing and dance. The Caracolá Lebrijana came into being September 9th, 1966 when a group of flamenco fans, spurred on by the common goal of spreading flamenco culture among locals and flamenco followers in general, put the project in action. In the first edition, dedicated to the figure of Juaniquí, artists such as Juan Peña ‘El Lebrijano’, El Borrico, Miguel Funi, Perrate, Pedro Peña, Camarón and Turronero were featured, and Bambino was the guest artist. It was staged at the now long-gone España cinema on Corredera street, and as Pedro Peña says, a key figure in the creation of the event, in those early days even the performers had to work as ushers. The name of the festival was chosen from a long list of dishes typical of Lebrija, the winner being the caracolá, since snails, “caracoles”, are one of the most typical dishes of Lebrija.
To the present day, the festival has been held without interruption with important high and low points which, generally speaking, have affected nearly all traditional Andalusian festivals.
In recent years the Caracolá has broadened its program to cover several days of recitals and parallel activities in a variety of venues, leaving behind the standard format of concentrating all the performances in a single evening that would stretch into the wee hours. Thus, the Plaza del Hospitalito, which previously had staged the event, has given way to other stages such as the Teatro Municipal Juan Bernabé, the Casa de la Cultura, the Centro de Interpretación del Flamenco, the Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de la Oliva, the Convento Santa María de Jesús and the Convento de San Francisco, among others.
Since three years ago, the program offers the gastronomic experience “Flamenco y Tapas” in which 16 local bars and restaurants participate.
Why you should go:
Lebrija is an open city in which flamenco appears unexpectedly and spontaneously at the doors of houses and in the intimacy of family gatherings. In this town of blond gypsies, an example of integration and harmonious living, surnames recall the weight of history and demonstrate a rich heritage.
Futhermore, the people here have taken care to preserve the purity of the best years, and proudly carry the freshness of the legacy with which the art has been impregnated, defending their own kind of flamenco in which respect for tradition remains intact, while at the same time always leaving room for artists to express themselves with absolute creative freedom.
In this way families such as those of Pinini, Bacán, the Peñas, the Lagañas and individuals like Lebrijano el Viejo, Tío Juaniquí, El Chozas, La Rumbilla and María la Perrata have carried on the singing of their ancestors, adding their own personalities and in turn transmitting the art from generation to generation, with key interpreters such as singers Juan Peña “El Lebrijano”, Curro Malena, Inés Bacán, Miguel Funi and Manuel de Paula, guitarists Pedro Peña and Pedro Bacán and dancer Concha Vargas. A line of artists that will not disappear because the continuity of Lebrija is guaranteed with outstanding individuals such as Dorantes, José Valencia, Pedro María Peña, Anabel Valencia, Antonio Malena and Rycardo Moreno.
5. FESTIVAL INTERNACIONAL DE CANTE DE LAS MINAS. LA UNIÓN
Date: August 2nd to 12th, 2018.
2018 program. See the complete program
The Festival de Cante de las Minas is closely linked to singer Juanito Valderrama, who planted the seed for its creation during a performance in La Unión in 1961, when he was about to sing a traditional cartagenera but the audience protested that they wanted to hear songs from his more popular repertoire. The singer then scolded those present for their lack of interest in music that was so much theirs, and called for the defense of traditional flamenco songs from this region. This in turn triggered the interest of a group of defenders of the tradition of La Unión, people who decided to take on the job of supporting a repertoire of forms that were as rich as they were unknown.
Thus, on October 13th of the same year, on the Terraza Argüelles, the festival which has annually been held without interruption straight through to the present, celebrated its first edition. After being staged at the Cine Mery, it was permanently moved in its 18th edition to the former Mercado Público, which since that time has been known as the “Catedral del Cante”. The dates of the event varied until finally becoming established in August, with the idea of taking advantage of tourists, singers and flamenco fans who take their summer vacations on the coast of Murcia.
The original idea was to organize a singing contest, which later on, in 1980, was expanded to include a guitar contest that quickly acquired enormous prestige. To this was added a dance competition in the nineteen-nineties, and more recently, a contest for instrumentalists.
The Festival del Cante de las Minas, declared Interés Turístico Nacional in 1984, is one of the most covered by the media of all organized flamenco events. The contests, which offer some of today’s biggest prizes, are among the most coveted by artists due to the associated prestige.
The first winner of the “Lámpara Minera”, the prize awarded in the singing contest, was the well-known Antonio Piñana. Also an important figure is Pencho Cros, who won on three occasions, and in the 28th edition received a tribute for lifetime achievement. The careers of the Piñana brothers, so often named on the stages of La Unión, that of Mayte Martín and Encarnación Fernández, the first woman to receive a prize for flamenco singing, were restarted thanks to the contests of La Unión.
In addition to the contest and the shows, the festival offers formative courses and a program of parallel activities at other venues. In addition to the old public market of La Unión, a beautiful building from 1900 declared patrimony of cultural interest (BIC) in 1985, is the Mina Agrupa Vicenta, the first and only underground mine in the region of Murcia that has been turned into a museum and made fit for visits by the general public.
Why you should go:
Overlooking the fact that the program of this Cartagena festival has deteriorated in recent years, with a line that favors media appeal above other criteria, the Festival de La Unión is worth a stop on the flamenco circuit because of the atmosphere generated in the small mining town.
During these days, the Plaza Joaquín Costa turns into a fair in which locals, artists, flamenco fans and curious tourists can exchange impressions in a thoroughly festive folksy atmosphere, becoming a sort of family of those who attend year after year.
Also, is the intensity with which the contest is felt both inside and out of the market, due both to nervousness and the rivalry of the participants, as well as speculation among spectators. In this sense, the contest also lets people get into the flamenco tradition of this zone and enjoy the Levante forms (mineras, cartageneras, tarantas, murcianas y otros cantes mineros, tarantos, levantica, fandangos mineros…..) that survive here.
In order to understand this festival better, we recommend reading the chapter dedicated to it by our colleague Silvia Cruz Lapeña in her Crónica Jonda while sipping an asiático, which is coffee based on liqueur, lemon and cinnamon, typical of Cartagena and which is served at the bars surrounding the plaza of La Unión.
6. FESTIVAL DE CANTE GRANDE. PUENTE GENIL
Date: August 14th
2018 program: El Pele, La Macanita, Julián Estrada, Pedro El Granaíno, Rocío Luna. Niño Seve, Antonio Higuero, Manuel Silveria, Jesús Zarrías.
With a background built on the artistic participation of the most relevant stars in the history of flamenco, the Festival de Cante Grande de Puente Genil has been a reference in the flamenco circuit since its creation in 1966.
Puente Genil is one of the locations that has the longest flamenco history in Andalusia, birthplace of guitar-playing and of Fosforito, the last recipient of the Llave de Oro del Cante, in addition to others such as Niño de Genil, Frasquito, Bascona, El Seco, Miguel Chimenea and Mediaolla, aside from the youngest interpreters, David Pino and Julián Estrada.
In the most recent editions, the festival featured flamenco personalities, the first one being in the year 2000, for homegrown singer Antonio Fernández Díaz “Fosforito”, who is without a doubt, a central figure in the approach to understanding flamenco singing in the Córdoba town.
Fosforito, maestro and pinnacle of Cante Grande, was, in 2005, awarded the Medalla de Oro del Cante, and one year later, the medal of Andalusía.
Declared an event of Autonomous Tourist Interest in 2009, the Festival Flamenco de Puente Genil, since 1966, has been programed and celebrated the night of August 14th, this being the eve of the town’s official Feria Real.
Thus, each year, more than 2000 flamenco followers flock from various points of Andalusía to enjoy an encounter in which flamenco is fully appreciated in a festive but serious atmosphere.
Why to go:
As defined by the well-known critic Agustín Gómez, Puente Genil is a “land of flamenco singing”, a territory in which flamenco expression is a part of its history and identity. In this sense, the locals live their festival as an event all their own which identifies them, and with which they share experiences year after year, lovingly calling the festival “the singers”, with the date marked on the calendar as the perfect starting point for their fair.
In these parts, throughout more than fifty editions, have passed all the relevant figures of flamenco from recent decades, many of them even before they were well-known. Among the locals, a huge amount of knowledge about flamenco, and a well-based following have taken root. Something not only noticeable in conversations that can be overheard throughout the night, but also in the respect that is clearly present during the performances, despite being experienced as a festive family event where people bring food and wine always offered for sharing.
7. FIESTA DE LA BULERÍA. JEREZ DE LA FRONTERA
Date: August 23rd, 24th and 25th
2018 program: See the program
The Fiesta de la Bulería in Jerez was created in 1967 by Juan de la Plata, recently deceased, founder of the flamenco institution known as the “cátedra”. Shortly afterwards, the Jerez city hall took over organization of this event. It was created to honor and spread the fame of the most important flamenco form of Jerez, the bulería, and nowadays has become consolidated as one of the great events of the national and international flamenco panorama.
Throughout the years, it has been held at various venues throughout the city: the Cine Terra Tempul near the famous gypsy neighborhood of Santiago; the Teatro Eslava, the bull-ring and the Alcázar, the bullring being the place where it was celebrated the most times.
In the 2016 edition, a new format was used consisting of three days on the Alameda Vieja. The date was also changed from the traditional month of September coinciding with the Fiestas de la Vendimia de Jerez, to the month of August.
This year’s program, which brings together more than 70 artists and a varied offering that includes a wide selection of courses, thematic days and a flashmob, is dedicated to the great Jerez singer, recently deceased, Manuel Moneo. The director of the big day is dancer, teacher and choreographer Manuela Carpio, who will feature Moneo’s family and other relevant artists and flamenco interpreters of Jerez.
In 2017, the Fiesta de la Bulería de Jerez celebrated its 50th anniversary with a new format with the aim of optimizing the extraordinary touristic, cultural and economic potential of this traditional event with the rhythm of Jerez as a backdrop. In this half-century, the Fiesta de la Bulería has adapted to the times, promoting changes at times controversial.
In this sense, the current format with three days of “Fiestas” in groups – as opposed to individual performances – and with an ever bigger budget, is not to the liking of many Jerez natives who consider that the event, which in 2017 attracted more than 3000 people, is losing its essence.
Why you should go:
If it’s true that any excuse for going to Jerez is a good one, the Fiesta de la Bulería is all the more so. It’s impossible not to let yourself get carried away by the beat and the characteristic sound of this land of aromas that have left their mark on flamenco. Because yes, there’s bulería in Lebrija and in Utrera, but it’s that in Jerez the three by four rhythm seems to follow you wherever you go.
For this reason, the Fiesta de la Bulería is a unique opportunity to let yourself get carried away by the Jerez identity. The joy, the naturalness, the capacity for improvisation. And it’s also the perfect occasion to enjoy absolutely original interpreters who are not necessarily in the regular circuits, and to see them at ease, surrounded by their own people.
8. FLAMENCO ON FIRE. PAMPLONA
Date: August 21st to 26th
Cartel 2018 program: See the program
This festival, the most recently-founded of those included on this list, has, nevertheless, caught the attention of flamenco fans since its beginning in 2014, with some innovative ideas that turn the city of Pamplona into a showcase for the best current talent.
Flamenco on Fire has managed to make flamenco “go north” the end of August, filling the theaters and balconies with flamenco singing, dance and guitar, glorifying the flamenco roots sprung from the land in honor of the illustrious guitarist, the maestro Sabicas.
With a widely varied range and carefully constructed offering of content, the Festival features, along with the main shows at the Auditorio Prinicipal of the Baluarte and the recitals of the Ciclo Nocturno, an exquisite cultural program, free of charge, in the open air, with “Flamenco en los Balcones” and “Jam Flamenca”. In addition, there are instructional activities with the 5th Jornadas de Arte Flamenco de Pamplona. And the best local hotels offer an exquisite gastronomic selection with the “Pincho de Sabicas” route.
In this way, despite its youth, the festival has already become a must-see event for artists, flamenco experts, followers of the art-form and tourists who during these days are able to enjoy a friendly atmosphere thanks to the experiences generated by the parallel activities.
If Flamenco on Fire has achieved anything in its four editions – this year is the fifth – it has served to honor a transcendental figure in flamenco, the maestro Sabicas, unknown to many Pamplona natives despite his being the most illustrious flamenco artist of this area.
Agustín Castellón Campos (Pamplona, 1912) was a child prodigy of the guitar. From early on, the Niño de las Habicas showed clear signs of his virtuosity, playing towards the end of the nineteen-twenties and beginning of the thirties for great stars of the era such as La Niña de los Peines, Estrellita Castro, Imperio Argentina, Angelillo, Juanito Valderrama, Niño de Utrera and many others. From that point on, he started a career of successes, both in and out of our borders, making him an unquestionable ambassador of flamenco.
Sabicas created a style of his own on the guitar that greatly influence his contemporaries as well as new generations of guitarists, leaving an impressive legacy.
Among the many initiatives set in motion by the festival to honor the guitarist, this year a tourist package is being added to suit the interests of people who can enjoy a unique flamenco experience in Pamplona, immersing themselves in the history of the maestro Sabicas while at the same time becoming familiar with the land of Navarre.
Why you should go:
Despite the fact that the model of the Festival Flamenco On Fire has on occasion been questioned in the south, where the program is considered excessively commercial, repetitive – Carmona family, Morente and Habichuela – and even unorthodox, the fact is that in barely four years the event has managed to awaken Pamplona natives’ curiosity about flamenco, and provoke the interest of flamenco fans from all parts of Spain.
All because Flamenco On Fire is a modern, open, ground-breaking encounter with innovative shows that break with the standard format of traditional festivals.
We definitely recommend you attend and enjoy the atmosphere generated in the streets of the city, with activities such as “Flamenco en los Balcones”, and be sure not to miss the Ciclo Nocturno in which intimate recitals in small format are offered, often in a more laidback ambience where you can have a drink and chat with flamenco fans.
9. CONCURSO Y FESTIVAL CANTE JONDO ANTONIO MAIRENA
Date: September 1st, 2018
Program 2018: See program
The festival has its origin in 1962 when it was called the Festival de Canciones y Cante Flamenco, a benefit function included within the local fair of San Bartolomé. In actual fact, it was a contest of non-professionals with three classifications; one for siguiriyas and soleá, another for malagueñas and serranas and a third group for the remaining flamenco forms.
The success of the first edition led to its continuity, for which Antonio Mairena proposed a more ambitious project attracting the greatest possible number of major artists. In 1964, the Mairena del Alcor city hall took over the organization, maintaining the spirit of promoting young hopefuls until in 1965 a two-day program was established, one day for the contest and another for the actual festival.
In the nineteen-seventies, the festival acquired such a degree of relevance that the Spanish press called Mairena the “Catedral del Flamenco”. From that point on, economic, social and organizational troubles marked the event, with the death of Antonio Mairena in 1983 being pivotal.
Beginning in the nineties, the festival made an effort to preserve its outstanding character, facing the need to promote a more attractive format and draw a new audience. Despite not enjoying the splendor of the early days, the Festival Flamenco de Cante Jondo Antonio Mairena, today continues to be one of the fundamental references for flamenco followers, interpreters, critics and specialized press, all finding here an important event with good flamenco singing.
The Concurso Nacional de Cante Jondo Antonio Mairena, held the night before the festival (this year on August 31st), continues to be the trampoline for young flamenco hopefuls, a breeding-ground for future stars and a source from which flamenco talent makes the transition to flamenco venues the world over. In this way, the Casa del Arte Flamenco de Mairena del Alcor, in charge of the organization, works to carry out the mission of “forming people with a healthy interest in flamenco, who know how to listen and can value what they hear”, as Mairena himself declared.
All the major artists have passed through the Concurso de Mairena, from Juan Peña Lebrijano, the first winner of the prize, to Manuel Agujetas, Calixto Sánchez, Fosforito, Juan Moneo El Torta, Curro Malena and Camarón de la Isla, among many others.
The Festival de Cante Jondo Antonio Mairena has been declared an event of Tourist Interest in Andalusia since March 14th, 2008, for being the clearest manifestation of the values and flamenco traditions the people of Mairena embrace as their identity, along with their April fair.
In this sense, it offers the visitor a genuine interest from the tourist’s point of view because it allows us to become familiar with one of the central figures of the history of flamenco, and understand his philosophy in first person.
In recent years, other parallel activities such as conferences, exhibits and master-classes have been added to the contest and the festival’s big night, as well as a concert by the most commercial flamenco groups aimed at the youngest audience whose tickets are also valid for the Festival.
Why you should go:
If we said that to hear bulerías you had to go to Jerez, there is no question that to saturate yourself with classic flamenco singing you have to go to Mairena del Alcor. In this town, singing and flamenco have the aroma of authenticity and the people who attend give meaning to the term “flamenco follower”, or what Mairena native Pedro Madroñal calls “the art of knowing how to listen”.
From the moment you enter the beautiful Casa Palacio of the Duques de Arcos, a Mudéjar construction dating from the fifteenth century, and which has been headquarters of the contest and festival since 1998, you sense the wisdom of people who have spent decades soaking up the singing and the impressive legacy of their mentor, Antonio Mairena, still expressed in flamenco fans from all over.
Far from the prejudices and controversies regarding the radical defense of Mairena’s philosophy, often overly manipulated and misunderstood, Mairena del Alcor offers in this event an intimate passionate encounter with classic flamenco singing.
It is therefore impressive the seriousness with which flamenco is taken in this town of hills and the silence that reigns among the audience, where not one single cheer of “ole!” is without a good reason. Likewise, the respect with which the artists come on stage, aware of the historic importance of the proceedings and of the school left by the illustrious Mairena singer is impressive. Not to mention the hours the audience obediently sits quietly, even when the weather may not be the best.
The associated contest which has also been declared of Tourist Interest in Andalusia, is a unique opportunity to rediscover the spirit with which the event’s creator conceived it: “the liquid fountain where singers in the process of formation, and those who follow, may drink in the pure waters of flamenco singing”. For this reason, the most commercial formulas are avoided and what is sought is to preserve the prestige the award has had for decades with a specialized jury and exquisite organization that takes on the task with enthusiasm and passion.
Have no doubts that here in Mairena del Alcor you will hear the best siguiriyas singing.
10. BIENAL DE SEVILLA
Date: September 6th to 30th
2018 Program: See program
Presented as “the great international event in the world of flamenco”, every two years the Bienal turns Seville into a great showcase for followers and professionals of the sector the world over. The main venues of the city give substance to the festival to offer the most anticipated premieres, the art of the biggest stars and the work of young hopefuls over a period of several weeks.
It all began with an initiative of the Federación Provincial de Entidades Flamencas de Sevilla, that planted the first seed in 1979, when they organized the Congreso de Actividades Flamencas, which became the Bienal de Flamenco de Sevilla under its first director, José Luis Ortiz Nuevo.
Since its inception in 1980, the Bienal has staged 18 editions over a period of three decades. During this time, the event has programed every type of show and tendency, giving a place to every aesthetic line, color and perspective in the art of flamenco. A great cultural container where the most traditional flamenco lives in harmony with the most experimental cutting-edge avant-garde work.
The Bienal of 2018 seems more complicated than ever, due to internal problems that have affected the organization that was without a director until the October appointment of Antonio Zoido, after the suspension of Cristobal Ortega and the subsequent naming and resignation of José Luis Ortiz Nuevo.
In this sense, this year all eyes are looking towards a program that for many, is not worthy of the coherence demanded of a festival of this nature on its twentieth anniversary. In any case, and putting aside political questions, the Bienal continues to be one of the most awaited events for flamenco fans, programmers and festival directors throughout the world.
Among the novelties presented on this occasion is the intent to make the event felt throughout the entire city of Seville, offering multi-discipline activities at a variety of venues all over the city. In addition to the customary theaters, other stages will include the Maestranza bull-ring, the Puerto de Sevilla, the Casas-Palacio and recently inaugurated Factoría Cultural situated in the Polígono Sur development, as well as other sites of cultural heritage such as the Iglesia San Luis de los Franceses that opened for the first time in the previous edition.
Why you should go:
Without a doubt, Seville occupies a fundamental place in the history of flamenco. Its genesis and development touch every corner of this city where the most important figures of flamenco of all time were born and/or developed their artistic careers. This is why it is necessary to attend this all-important flamenco happening and feel the intensity and passion associated with this art-form. Enjoy the way the people of Seville and flamenco fans from all over Spain and tourists from abroad share this cultural expression in its full extension.
In other words, the Bienal is a universal encounter with flamenco in all its forms, a showcase that displays the newest tendencies, without forgetting the most solemn ones.
Its unquestionable importance can be seen in the interest generated throughout the world, in the formal manner in which major artists present their work here, in the opportunity provided to young hopefuls and in the attention given to all the presentations over three weeks of authentic flamenco frenzy.
Without a doubt the Bienal represents the moment in which the flamenco that was, that which is and that which is to come, find a point of encounter. With the added attraction of a context: the city of Seville, which serves as epicenter for the artists who interact, develop and exchange ideas.
The best thing about the Bienal is that there isn’t only one, but as many as each spectator seeks out and wants. And of course, the opportunity to feel that flamenco once again is a living and breathing art with an intensity barely similar to that of it golden years.
Consult our updated Agenda de Flamenco regularly where you can find all the Flamenco Concerts and Festivals.