Show: Aquellos Puentes Sutiles. Voice: Rocío Márquez. Voice and guitar: Jorge Drexler. Guitar: Miguel Ángel Cortés. Percussion: Agustín Diassera and Borja Barrueta. Leona y guitarrón: Martín Leiton. Festival Flamenco On Fire. Viernes, August 23rrd, 2019. Full house.
When I took a bathroom break during a weak version of Pena, Penita, Pena, a noticeably irritated man complained to his companion that he had come to see flamenco, “and not this”. For a brief moment I thought I was in the south where these disappointments are so common in flamenco circles, but I immediately realized that the speaker had a Navarro accent, and I was unexpectedly happy to discover that in its sixth edition, not everything was acceptable in Flamenco on Fire.
Certainly we are not saying that this type of event must be closed to new concepts, and in fact, we defend the open attitude, above all, in an area where there is little interest in this art-form. But at this point it’s annoying that an interpreter such as Rocío Marquez, one of the highest-profile singers in current flamenco, with her least serious project (all the more-so when her most recent and wonderful work, Visto en el Jueves is touring), and it’s painful to see her give up the focus of attention to an attention-grabbing Drexler. And I insist, it’s a shame because we’re not at a general sort of music festival, but rather a flamenco one, and because regardless of how many tickets are sold, it’s hard to get people worked-up if what we’re seeing on-stage lacks substance. In other words, diversity is not the same thing as folly.
So if we take for granted that this was not the time or place for Aquellos Puentes Sutiles, the most irritating aspect of the work is that it comes into being already sagging from the first moment. As if the idea of delving into the common territories of the music to unite both sides of the ocean with those songs that went and returned, was lacking substance. Which is why you had the feeling that this search for “underground” connections by Márquez and Drexler had been undertaken from the surface without sinking their feet into the mud. The Huelva singer forcing her voice and tying to match up forms and verses, and the Uruguayan doing his own thing.
In this sense, what the two artists had in common in this repertoire of milongas, vidalitas, guajiras…and songs drawn more or less from folklore, seemed contrived, because it’s one thing to avoid the obvious in order to reach that which is subtle, and something else to pull out what isn’t there.
Certainly, aside from the problems of this encounter, which might come off better as a collaboration than a show, the group of musicians and the artistic quality of the interpreters achieved some fine moments. Although what brought the most applause and ovations from the flamenco people were the romance and the rondeña, the bulerías songs and the siguiriya that Rocío Marquez sang along with her people, and the well-known themes for the rest of the audience. All in all, we enjoyed the magic of Diassera who caressed with his hands Rocío’s verses and dressed them and spruced them up, depending on the moment, exquisitely and elegantly. And with color and sensitivity from his guitar, an underused Miguel Angel Cortés. Together they were the air the singer breathed best to step firmly. And there we were able to navigate.
Photos & video: @Manjavacas.flamenco