Text: José L. Ramos Romero
The Grand Finals of the 59th edition of the Festival Internacional del Cante de las Minas de La Unión 2019
Expectations were very high. Comments and gossip filled the terraces of the small bars along the Avenida del Flamenco while sitting through those interpretive duels of people aspiring to be worthy of the Lámpara and the women’s Desplante prizes. On the one hand, the lyrical voice of Perrete as opposed to the visceral singing of Mati; and on the other, the contained fury of Olga and the unbridled passion of Paula. And all the rest…
The contestant for the Filón Minero, marimba player Alejandro Solano, who opened the Finals, did the rest, along with his numerous group with interpretations of taranto, siguiriya and bulerías. Despite the complicated proposal with so many instruments used in developing the song-forms, the result was extremely beautiful. On the other hand, the other contestant vying for the Filón, saxophone-player José Javier Pérez, “Javi Forner”, had a fine showing as well with the same forms he interpreted in the semifinals, that is: rondeña, tangos and bulerías. A slick group managed by the man from Valencia in that flamenco-jazz cadence, demonstrating great knowledge regarding the actual song-forms. But only one can be the winner.
The same didn’t apply to the Bordón Minero, as there was only one finalist. Granada musician José Fermín Fernández was superb in taranto and bulerías, with fine technique and clean tremolos, achieving effects that drew “ole”s from the audience. There was a small complication in the second piece, the bulerías, when one of the strings slipped out of the capo, a little problem that was quickly resolved attacking the strings with yet more rage and courage. The audience rewarded the guitarist’s honesty and bravery with cheering and applause..
Burgos native Loreto Arnaiz Palacios “Loreto de Diego” was chosen for her malagueña, verdiales, soleá and tangos, four of the seven forms presented for the contest. Accompanied by the guitar of Rosendo Fernández, the festival’s official guitarist, she was outstanding in each and every one of her interpretations with a risk-taking delivery that achieved moments of great beauty thanks to that stretched-out timbre that she manages so well, and thanks to her well-trained voice. She was sent off with applause and ovations.
But the heart of the matter was divvied up between those two unique pairs of the competing singers and dancers.
The first one to appear on stage was Francisco Escudero Márquez “el Perrete”. Alongside him, the official guitarist Rosendo Fernández. He began with mineras, with that vocal torrent, cadence and breathing, linking lines in that mellow tone that reminds us of that other sort of delivery with more light and shadow in managing the complex tones of mining songs. The malagueña was fabulous, the taranta, excellent, the cante abandolao was wonderful, recalling Pérez de Guzmán. Lovely. She ended her performance with levantica, and once again the cadence of her melisma was superior. Applause, cheering and ovation resounded throughout what used to be the central market, sending off the couple. But only one can be the winner.
The first dancer to appear on stage was Olga Aznar García “Olga Llorente”, that brown beauty who enchanted us all in the semifinal on Thursday. And then came the first surprise, she chose caracoles for her first dance, a form she didn’t do in her previous performance. The dancer, seated on a wicker chair, wrapped in a shawl, executes her choreography before the audience so impressed by her art. The way this lady moves, how she uses every possible resource in the handling of the shawl. What grace, and how well her group follows her. Spectacular. In the second piece, taranto, Olga repeats the dance that brought her to this Final. She again draws us in with her movements, her build-ups and figures, hips hands and feet that have a life of their own. This Catalonian woman is quite a show. The audience goes wild. But only one can be the winner.
And now it was Paula Comitré Juez’ turn. She began with taranto. And already, from the first bit of footwork it’s clear. And so it is that the Seville dancer’s fury mows down everything in her path. And up and down, and the waistline, and hands and feet, and the use of the long train. The audience in the market applauds and cheers the dancer. In her second piece, Paula goes flamenco for alegrías, again, not the dance she did on Friday. And once again she left us incredulous with her dancing. Seated in a wicker chair and wearing a shawl. What a beautiful sight to keep our attention as we admire her, what wisdom in her timing, how she manages the shawl like an extension of her body, with confidence and rhythm. She was sent off by a well-informed audience and a standing ovation, with much-deserved cheering and applause. But only one can be the winner.
Next up was Barcelona singer Matías López Expósito “el Mati”. And with him, David Caro on guitar. He began with mineras, again leaving no doubt about the power of his voice. This was followed by tientos, free-form, loose in the high and low tones with that rough modulating voice, and David, with plenty of agility in his fingers and well-controlled melodies. Taranto in the sixth position, and more of the same, with honesty in this mining form. And taranta, straight-ahead, with David giving a fine performance. To round out his performance the singer repeated siguiriyas. And this was the absolute be-all and end-all, with the entire audience applauding and cheering the visceral interpretation of the singer from Barcelona. Things begin to lean in a certain direction… But only one can be the winner.
You already know the winners. Any one of these individuals could have won, because the level was spectacular. But only one could win.
The audience was thrilled with the magic of the evening with singing, guitar-playing and dance, an evening many of us will remember because of the enthusiasm and thrills experienced at the Cathedral of Cante, both the contestants and the audience, so knowledgeable that once again they demonstrated their discerning taste in these revered Levante forms.
Congratulations to the winners. And special mention to Loreto de Diego who took home no prize this time, but there will be more opportunities. Another point, we were surprised by the absence in these semifinals of the other official guitarist, Antonio Muñoz Fernández (Bordón Minero, 1989), an unfortunate circumstance we hope not to see repeated.
We’re looking forward to seeing you next year – if all goes well – for the 60th edition of the most important flamenco festival in the world.
Photos & videos: @Manjavacas.flamenco
Playlist Videos Final del Cante de las Minas 2019
Links with photos & videos Final Cante de las Minas 2019
Enlace con todas las publicaciones del Cante de las Minas 2019
Especial Cante de las Minas 2019 – Toda la información