try to preserve the past, but the past preserves us”
“El pequeño reloj” is a reflection on
the passage of time in flamenco, particularly through the
guitar, from classic players such as Ramón Montoya, Sabicas
and Manolo de Huelva, to Pepe Habichuela, Tomatito and Niño
Josele. Thanks to technical advances, historic recordings
have been recuperated, but there are also contemporary sounds
such as the electronic music of Carlos Jean in the last theme.
This is Enrique Morente's always original way of viewing flamenco,
and the singer pointed out that his latest recording was made
during a time of war. Every second, every moment of the record,
in the rondeña, the alegrías, the caña, the policaña, tientos
and bolero, the Granada artist's untiring artistic quest is
clear, and he flatly states that evolution must be based on
respect and love for traditional values. Take time out to
give a listen to “El pequeño reloj”, Enrique Morente's new
On your new record “El pequeño
reloj” you decided to highlight the passage of time,
from Sabicas to Tomatito to Pepe Habichuela to Niño
– Yes, I took the idea of the sense of time from the guitar,
from the world of accompaniment over the years. From maestros
of the 1930's such as Ramón Montoya, the rondeña
he recorded in Paris during the war. That path, right up through
Carlos Jean, that's the idea behind the record.
Was the idea of putting a soleá
of Manolo de Huelva followed by another with Niño Josele,
or Sabicas' alegrías followed by Pepe Habichuela's,
to point out the differences?
Yes, the idea is to see the different type of expression.
It shows that we all think we're doing the same thing, but
it's not so. Very often we talk about preserving the past,
but the past preserves us.
Are the classic artists still your
greatest source of inspiration?
Always, they have to be the mirror; those who have produced
great works must be the source.
“You have to move on, but always
with respect for what others have done in the past.”
What else inspires you?
The hands of the clock, the watches we all wear [he points
to his wrist], and while we're here in the bar, the hands
keep advancing and there's a wonderful love story taking place
or a crime is being committed or a trial is taking place.
It's all happening, and the hands keep moving.
Is improvisation the most important
thing, or meditation and hard work?
Meditation and hard work are more important. Improvisation
must be kept to a minimum.
We spoke of taking inspiration
from classic artists. Do you think young flamenco artists
consider that source, or do they somewhat ignore it?
At times they ignore it. There's a concept out there of “getting
rid of the old fogeys”, which is terrible! It's sounds
awful! My friend Micola from Alicante called me the other
day and says “hey Enrique, you have to come down and
I'll make a paella, 'cause we have to talk about getting rid
of the old fogeys” and I go “whaaaat!!!???”
and he says “yeah, Enrique, give me a break man, I'm
down here and we gotta get rid of the old fogeys” so
I said “Micola, would you mind terribly waiting a couple
of years since I still have a small kid?…first we have to
pick out the method of execution…” [laughter]. Well,
that's taking it like a joke. You have to move on, but always
with respect for what others have done in the past.
a concept out there of “getting rid of grandpa”, which is
terrible! It's sounds awful!”
a fair amount of what you could call “social consciousness
flamenco” on this recording.
Yes, it was recorded during a time of war, during the “No
War” movement. Afterwards it turned out to be “War
Yes” and this is a protest against the politicians' disobedience
of the will of the people. That's what was going on during
the time the record was being made, and there was no way this
work could have not reflected that reality.
In any case, flamenco is a vehicle
for the expression of suffering.
But flamencos express suffering with grace and even fun. You
might be singing some gay sevillanas and the verse expresses
the depths of despair, but flamenco can also be used to protest
As far as poetry, Lorca is one
of flamenco's favorites, you've sung many of his verses, but
also from other poets, and on this occasion you chose Bequer,
Quevedo… Can any poetry combine with flamenco?
I like anything which is good, whether old or modern, I almost
prefer the super-modern stuff because it breaks the meter
and the form. Once I did Kafka's “Metamorphosis”
with Israel Galván, I've got no hang-ups…no problem
Photo by: Rafael Manjavacas
“Flamenco can also be used to
What about rhythms?
That's a different story, rhythms are universal and should
all be friends. Rumba, seguiriya, soleá…. if you
break it down enough you reach a point where it's all the
You also pay a lot of attention
to Cuban rhythms in your recent work.
Hold on a minute! That's always been close to flamenco, since
way back, because the ships in Cádiz went to Cuba,
some came and others stayed over there, we've always had that.
This recording pays tribute to
the guitar. A lot of guitarists confess they're frustrated
singers…is the opposite true for you?
As a matter of fact, yes. I've got a collection of guitars
at home but I get very discouraged, because I pick one up
to study and see that my heart is way ahead of my hands.
“Labels are always
annoying, but sooner or later they say everything about you,
so they're bound to get it right once in a while.”
They say Paco de Lucía
gave you a hand with the Ramón Montoya recording. How
come you two have never done anything together?
Paco was in Mexico at that time recording, and he happened
to pass by the studio, so that's how it happened, he paid
us a visit, but he was actually working on his own record.
You can't decorate your own Christmas tree and everyone else's
But a lot of people wonder why
you've never worked together.
He's always abroad, and I'm always back home in the small
But you've been around the world
and back…[he laughs] It just never came up?
It never came up, but we're great friends.
They call you a revolutionary,
an innovator…is that a tall order to fill when you start
a new project?
Labels are always annoying, but sooner or later they say everything
about you, so they're bound to get it right once in a while.
“Rhythms are universal
and should all be friends.”
Some people might feel pressured.
No, I tell you, once I make up my mind, that's it.
But you took your time mulling
over this new recording, five years since the last one…
I did a remake of a Lorca recording of mine. Then for a time
I was busy taking care of two of Estrella Morente's records.
At that time I was more concerned about her career than my
own, in other words hers became mine. So those records of
hers which I produced were my records as well. Recording-wise
I haven't stopped, although it might seem that way and I've
been doing other things, I've been doing my concerts and working
If a recording is commercial, do
you consider that a plus or a minus as far as art is concerned?
There's nothing wrong with something being commercial, we're
working within a capitalist system, you have to move the merchandise,
the product is made to be sold, not to sit on the shelf. The
idea that you're somehow more honorable, nicer people, good
little boys and girls because something doesn't sell, is ridiculous.
What often happens however is that cheapness and commercialism
become intertwined and associated with inferior work, but
that's not it. It's wonderful when things sell.
“The passage of
time has been an asset. Time helps me and keeps me, and for
that I'm grateful.”
You've taken a lot of criticism
over the years and now they praise you. Do you think the passage
of time has given you a certain mandate?
Well, the passage of time has been an asset. Time helps me
and keeps me, and for that I'm grateful.
Photos: ANTONIO ARABESCO
Sonia Martínez Pariente
Enrique Morente presents his latest record 'EL PEQUEÑO RELOJ'