Flamenco entrevistas »

Interview with Manuel de Paula

New show 'Anca Paula'
August 7, 2010
Text: Gonzalo Montaño Peña
Photos: Fidel Meneses.

Singer Manuel de Paula is making a comeback with his show “Ancá Paula”.  A tribute to his family heritage, and at the same time, to the flamenco families which have long been a fundamental element in the transmission and development of the art of flamenco: the Paula family, the Peñas, the Bacáns, the Funis, the Malenas…

Ancá Paula is the result of a series of reflections on the concept of the flamenco singing dynasty: the artistic vision in first person of Manuel de Paula who is the centerpiece of this kind of living flamenco.

What is Ancá Paula, what are we going to see?
The show aims to represent one of the many experiences I had in Lebrija.  By way of sung text, I try to narrate the experience of this way of understanding flamenco as a way of life and a a way of communicating feelings.

There is a place in which most non-commercial flamenco develops, which is the home, and specifically the flamenco families.  How do you bring that concept to the show?
In Lebrija the flamenco families have been mostly responsible for the transmission of cantes, families like the Vargas, the Peñas, the Funis, Los Paula…these are settings where flamenco is an integral part of life, and they are veritable schools of art.  The people in the show belong to these families and represent the various styles of cante each one has cultivated, and those which are not represented are named, and we make an attempt to show them via the text.

How is knowledge of cante transmitted in the home and in family gatherings?
It comes about in a natural manner between youngsters and elders, watching, living, participating.  In the show, from Miguel Funi who is the oldest, to Juan Diego Valencia who is the youngest, there is an age-based progression in which there is a hierarchy, and knowledge is handed down from a perspective of respect.

Does that kind of learning still take place, or have the codes changed with the massive presence of records and video recordings?
Anyone lucky enough to live this way doesn’t need to look any further, they already have the base.  Then they can go on to expand their experiences by other means.  You have to let in the new things without even forgetting what went before.  One of the texts says: “To know about today, you have to be in the past”.

Who were your maestros in that formative stage?
Bastián Bacán was without a doubt one of them, my mother also taught me a lot, and everything I lived in those houses such as Perrata’s, where there were many fiestas, and all those experiences are narrated in the show.

Did people used to sing differently?
In each passing era the cantes are managed differently.  I remember old Bastián Bacán with a verse that says: “Grandfather Bastián said sit right down boy, I’m going to teach you the cantes of Juaniquín”, and when he says that, I try to do that cante as closely as possible to how he does it.  But it’s true, the cantes have changed, but the essence remains.

What were those moments like?  When and where did they come about?
It might have been in the tavern, two or three gypsies sitting around would have a glass of wine, and one might say “Let’s go to my house, we’re going to listen to my wife sing a little”, and that would be all it took.  This is a memory I have of my father, because my mother sang, and I remember I stayed there listening, and it was the most direct way of learning there could be”.

Your most recent work opens with “Mare, ¿quiere usté que vaya un ratito a la alamea?”, and this verse is also important in the show.  What’s behind it?
In my mind, this verse is a complete lesson, I can’t possibly forget it.  It comes at an important moment in the show.

This is a show born of your memories and experiences.  How do you get the spectator into the suspension of disbelief required to appreciate these moments of your life?
With texts, and of course with all the artists who participate and whom we expect at all times to transmit the feeling of a fiesta in Lebrija.  That’s my goal, to be a vehicle transmitting those experiences, and that the observer who has never been to one of these fiesta may leave the theater feeling what I feel from those memories.

In your previous work you did traditional songs of Lebrjia dressed up with contemporary arrangements.  In this show have you also included modern arrangements, or is it a little more traditional?
This time everything was conceived to be as representative as possible of “the way it was done”, because we’re trying to show a period in which, for example, you would not have seen a violin; it’s about showing what there was, and it tended to be cante, guitar and a table, so that’s what we have in the show.

“Ancá Paula” is featured at this year’s Caracolá Lebrijana.  This must be something special for you.
For me, the very thought of debuting in Lebrija is the ultimate best thing that could happen, because what I’m showing is Lebrija in all its depth, so I feel just like a kid with new shoes.

“Ancá Paula” is on at the Caracolá Lebrijana Friday July 23rd, 2010, and is programmed for the 16th Bienal de Flamenco de Sevilla.