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Interview with José Anillo 'Los balcones de mi sueño'

"JUST BEING ONESELF IS ALREADY A NOVELTY"
March 21, 2012
Interview: Pablo San Nicasio
Photos: Rafael Manjavacas

The surname “Anillo” has most recently been linked to Encarna, a singer making her way up with great strides, and whose voice has been heard in various companies and theaters.  Her brother José, always close to her, produced that first record of hers not so long ago, and now is here with his own recording debut: “Los Balcones de mi Sueño”, a project put together with sacrifice and hard work, and in which we can discover most of the thirty-three years of life it took to put him in the flamenco spotlight.

It must be hard to make a first record.
And the history of this recording goes way back…ten years ago I had already chosen the title “Los Balcones de mi Sueño”.  And in my parents’ house I still have the original demo, begun all those years ago, and on the cover it already had that title.  The “balcony of my dreams” is the Carranza bridge which tells me I’m almost home, on my own turf, where I feel happiest. 

You speak of Cádiz, but where are you located now?
I haven’t lived in Cádiz for a long time.  I spent my childhood there, but soon went to Seville and then I came here to Madrid.  I was in Madrid two years, and now I’m back in Seville.  I’ve also spent long periods in Tokyo, at the famous flamenco tablao there.  Some of them have closed now, but that one is still open.  I turned 18 in Japan.

How do you manage to record a solo record and also be a singer for dance?
It’s that I really only have one way of looking at this.  It’s true I tend to sing for dance, but I just find my own wave-length and let myself go…no need to change the mind-set, I couldn’t even if I wanted to.

A bit like your sister perhaps?
Maybe, but she also dances very well, and knows a lot about dance.  She started out dancing at the age of 5, and there are videos of her with bata de cola dancing alegrías at 6.  I started out singing for her dancing, and she used to request that I always be the one to sing for her…she’s quite strong-willed.  Then, following my lead a bit, she got involved in cante and we’ve influenced one another mutually.  We’re the only members of the family who have careers in flamenco, although there is a background of interest.

We’ve always gotten along really well, and as a result of producing her record I got a taste for the studio.  She started out with Miguel Poveda as producer, but his commitments made it impossible for him to continue, so I took on the responsibility and he paid (laughter).

What is your relationship with Juan Villar?
Very close.  He is for me my maestro.  He never taught me directly, but I’ve always gone to his concerts and tried to get as close to him as possible.  And my father grew up on Lubet street in Cádiz, just like Juan.  They were neighbors, we almost have a family relationship.

When we sang the bulerías together on the record, I was a nervous wreck.  I took all my people to the bay to have lunch, and afterwards, all together, sixteen people, we went into the studio to record.  Everyone just having eaten…  Juan and me, face to face at a table…what a time of day to be singing.  But anyhow, we sat there, marking compás, just like that, nothing else.  Without a doubt it was one of the most important moments of my life…with my parents there too…

Did he have any advice to give you?
I didn’t want to bother him beyond his participation.  That’s enough for me, it will stay with me forever.

It’s not the only “dream” from that “balcón” of yours.
I had help from many people.  My sister, Alfonso Losa and Juan Ogalla putting the footwork…Jorge Pardo who was terrific with me, without hardly knowing me at all.  The closest I was to him was when he worked with my sister and Juan Diego on a project not long ago, but that was all.  I mostly knew about him from what people said.  And of course I knew his background.

Paco Cruz got me his telephone number, and you can’t imagine…he went to the recording studio after just getting in from Barcelona, he hadn’t even passed by his house.  He couldn’t do enough for me.  He’s a person who works harmoniously, a good guy.

 

 


“Yesterday I was watching a documentary about Atahualpa Yupanqui, and he said that singing is like praying twice, once to the people, and once to god.  You can’t say ‘I love you’ to your wife shouting or in a strong voice…this is the same thing.”

And six very different guitarists.  
Yes, and all top-notch.  Alfredo Lagos, who I’m crazy about, he’s always been close to me and my sister.  I consider his brother one of my maestros.  It’s a bit like Rafael Rodríguez and Paco Cruz, two great musicians, two of the best I see standing out in flamenco, but who haven’t really made it…people who’ve watched me grow up, through good times and bad…and then, José Luis Montón.  That was a result of my collaboration with him on “Flamenco Kids”, for the “Nana de Luis”.  I told him, I said “I want this for my record”.  He was the first person who paved the way for me to do it.  Years ago when I got to Madrid with the demo of my bulería “A Solas Con tu Piel”, he heard it and we began to be in contact.  He’s a unique guitarist, and the feeling he gives to tientos, he’s the only one who can do that.  Also “Soñar Contigo”…it’s perfectly suited to him.  Cano and Juan Requena are also on the record.  All six guitarists, and they each take an equal part.

Does your son have a stage name yet?
He knows all the words from the record, at four years old.  And now he sings them better than when he recorded the bonus track.  He did that at three, almost one year ago, during Easter…at this point I think he’s going to be Joselito Anillo “El Niño de los Lunares”, which is what my girlfriend’s mother calls him.  His participation is just that, a little wink, a song I always sang to him…who knows how far he’ll go.

Would you even want that?  Many guitarists don’t want to hear a word about their children carrying on the tradition…
Because guitarists have a harder time.  Us singers can study lying down, but guitarists have to spend hours and hours sitting and practicing…I’m happy being a singer, I make my living like this and I have no problem with my son being one also.

“Enrique Morente said: “Look, José, as your friend, as a veteran singer and flamenco follower, it’s my obligation to help you”.


Although there are eleven pieces, very little strays much from strictly flamenco cante.
It’s the only thing I know how to do.  At most, the version of “Soñar Contigo” to bulerías, but in these times we’re going through, you don’t need to do strange things.  Just being oneself is already different.  We can sing the same as our ancestors, but it sounds different, if only because now we live differently.

The malagueña calls my attention because it’s so slow.
It’s that in order have the feeling of “El Mellizo”, that’s how it has to be, there’s no choice.  Mournful, almost as it if were a Gregorian chant.  Very slow and loose.  Yesterday I was watching a documentary about Atahualpa Yupanqui, and he said that singing is like praying twice, once to the people, and once to god.  You can’t say “I love you” to your wife shouting or in a strong voice…this is the same thing.

You bring back Juan Varea.  Flamenco from another era that no one wants to know about.
There’s a story behind that.  I’d always loved Juan Varea, I’ve been listening to him for many years.  But I’d never come across “Consuelo la Granaína”.  To such an extent that I knew for sure that something of his had to be on my record.  I didn’t know exactly what.  Then one day, walking around the flea market with my girlfriend here in Madrid, I found one of those anthologies with lots of singers.  It was all fandangos, a old recording lost among many others.  And there was Juan Varea singing that cante with Perico el del Lunar.  I liked it so much, I chose it for my record.  Later on I found out that those same fandangos were the ones my grandfather sang to my grandmother when he was courting her.  Just think, when they heard those cantes, they were crying like babies…it’s destiny.

“Each day is a new experience, and since I try to be authentic and sincere, I let myself be carried away by my emotions to capture sensations and then communicate them with song.”

What do you consider the “simple things”?
The things you can’t get by without, like breathing…

Who do you think of when you make a first recording?
Well, there are many people and many stories behind this work.  But mostly, I have to mention Enrique Morente.  I was speaking to him on the phone every day the last two months before he left us.

To make this record, I went little by little, getting musicians together, paying for this, that and the other thing…one record company offered me something then changed their minds…between one thing and another, I had the record made and nothing else.  No publication, no manufacturing, no distribution…nothing.  It wasn’t like before, with the other record where Poveda was paying…now there was no one.

I gathered up all my courage and decided to call the maestro.  He said: “Look, José, as your friend, as a veteran singer and flamenco follower, it’s my obligation to help you”.

How nice of him.
Then came the tragedy we all know about.  He’d spoken to me about the malagueña, which he loved…then everything happened, and we couldn’t do anything we had planned.  Wherever he is, it has to be a privileged place, he did everything in his power so that I could meet José María Ramírez, a guy from Bilbao, who was the owner of the company “A Comás Arte” and who took care of everything, so it was thanks to him…

Why do you believe José Anillo is unique?
Well, my family is unique and I have a unique life.  They taught me humility and truth.  That’s what I have, and it’s enough for me.  Each day is a new experience, and since I try to be authentic and sincere, I let myself be carried away by my emotions to capture sensations and then communicate them with song.  And I maintain the belief that every moment is an artistic opportunity, a succession of moments that deserve to be brought into flamenco.  So with guitarists like these, the ones on my record, the kind you never have to worry about because they’re geniuses, that’s all I need.

 


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