Flamenco doesn’t age, but it’s getting older. For some time now, each year brings the centennials of admired interpreters whom we do not want to fall into oblivion. This year, 2010, we are celebrating the centennial of the birth of Luis Torres Cádiz, “Joselero de Morón”, whose name was not José, nor was he born in Morón as my colleague, journalist José María Castaño has observed. But he is a singer who has earned his place in the history of flamenco thanks to his instinctive singing from another, earlier era, and his unmistakable personality, as well-defined as that of his brother-in-law Diego del Gastor, the guitarist who always accompanied him.
The 44th edition of the venerable flamenco festival the Gazpacho of Morón de la Frontera, scheduled to take place on July 31, is to be dedicated to the memory of this singer, the most beloved of Morón, the town of the plucked rooster.
The following article was published in the local newspaper of Morón de la Frontera, “El Gallo de Morón”, in June of 1985, a few months after the death of Joselero, was included in the book “Desde la atalaya” and has been updated for Deflamenco 25 years after the singer’s passing.
Luis Torres “JOSELERO”
Last April 15 Luis Torres Cádiz “Joselero” died in his house on Málaga Street number 66 in the Pantano neighborhood; the most important flamenco singer to come out of Morón de la Frontera in recent decades.
A good man, “three quarters pure gypsy” as Luis himself liked to answer anyone who would ask about his family background; the other fourth was Castillian, his paternal grandfather.
Ay, ya le picó Ay, the little bird
He would eventually meet Diego del Gastor, becoming his brother-in-law upon marrying Diego’s sister Amparo, and from that point on, was closely linked to the guitarist, in both his artistic and private life until the latter’s death in 1973. He greatly admired and loved Diego del Gastor: “a phenomenal guitarist, and a very good loving person, despite his eccentricity”, and Luis shared with him the intense final period of flamenco splendor of the town of Morón. In the nineteen sixties and seventies, years Morón became a sort of flamenco mecca with Diego at its center, a place to which foreigners from many countries came, good flamenco followers of all ages and conditions, attracting great artists like Perrate de Utrera, Juan Talega, Antonio Mairena, Fernanda and Bernarda de Utrera and Manolito de María. It was a time when Luis lived his finest artistic moments.
The singer’s most interesting recordings date from those years. And among them, especially noteworthy is that wonderful valuable audiovisual document Spanish television recorded for the first series devoted to flamenco, and titled Rito y Geografía del Cante.
As as a singer, we must remember that Luis learned and assimilated soleá cantes from the Ronda and Grazalema mountain ranges, brought to Morón by Diego del Gastor’s parents, Juan Amaya and Barbara Flores. He was the natural depositary of that beautiful priceless gift of cante which these people from El Gastor handed down to the people of Morón.
It was precisely in those soleá cantes where Luis was most at home, and where he reached his best level of interpretation, although we cannot overlook his tangos, which had been sung by the old gypsy women of Marchena, which he recreated with the natural grace and flavor, the restrained delivery and sense of rhythm that marked everything he did. Those canastero tangos with the unforgettable guitar of Diego del Gastor are on record for future generations to enjoy. And likewise immortalized are the alboreás Luis interpreted in such a personal way, different from any other singer, and only the second time these cantes were recorded, the first being in the voice of Rafael Romero “Gallina” on the Ducretet Thomson anthology of 1954, known as the “Hispavox” after being reissued in 1959 by that record company. Joselero’s recording of these cantes was included in the Archivo del Cante Flamenco produced by Caballero Bonald in 1968. As a result, Joselero suffered the criticism of Antonio Mairena and Juan Talega for having made public a song form normally reserved exclusively for gypsy weddings. We also remember Luis for his siguiriyas, cantiñas and malagueñas; as his daughter Amparo says, “My father sang everything, and well”.
I often wonder what would have become of those cantes had Luis not recorded them with that pungent flavor and freshness he transmits. But fortunately for flamenco fans, thanks to his privileged sound and family roots, he was able to pass on this treasure marked with a personal style. This is why, when asked whose influence he followed, he would answer: “Well, the cante is my own. The little I sing has always been straight from my insides. It was born in me, although no one is born with complete knowledge”. In this way, as I see it, Luis wanted to make clear that cante is remembered, recreated and transformed by one’s personality which reflects the life of the interpreter. Cantes may even be enhanced by the process as has happened with so many greats, and as will continue to happen, but nothing is invented out of thin air. This is how Joselero’s contribution must be seen, because there is no doubt whatsoever that he represents an important link in the chain begun by Silverio Franconetti, and later continued by Andonda, Fillo, Cantorala, Tenazas, Diego del Gastor and so many others who have made the flamenco history of Morón.
I met Joselero towards the end of his life due to the difference in age between us. But through numerous conversations maintained in fiestas and gatherings, often simply over coffee at the Rayos X in the Pantano, or Retamares cafeteria, when he would be accompanied only by his shoe-box full of combs and wallets, I was able to appreciate his openness and desire to talk, and his free spirit regarding flamenco.
Today, when the full weight of this loss is beginning to sink in, there is a flood of memories, and without any need of words, those of us who have felt and continue to feel close to him know that on more than one occasion, as we go down the street, we will imagine Luis sitting in his wicker chair, enjoying the sunshine at the door of his house, just as he liked to do. And when we hear someone in the Callejón del Pescao hawking wallets, lace and sundries, we will remember his sinewy hands opening and closing a fan of colored combs. And we will smile inside each time we remember that ingenuous grace, full of innocence and the knack of dispensing it at every moment. And we will also know, it goes without saying, that now and again when we hear a soleá cante we will remember his natural well-measured voice. A voice that seems forged from the same noble metal as the bells he evoked in the tangos he so often sang:
Las campanas de Carmona The bells of Carmona
The clear profound voice of a man who, despite the hard dark times he lived throughout most of his years, was always clear-eyed and faithful to the soleá verse he so often sang, not only in performance, but going up Mina street to the caves around the old castle where he and his extended family subsisted for many years:
Soy arroyo y no me enturbio I am a stream, but never muddied
Space does not permit a list of the awards and tributes Luis deservedly received, but only to say that of the few accorded him in life, noteworthy is the concession of the gold insignia of the Tertulia Cultural Flamenca of Morón de la Frontera.
Like so many other flamenco followers, it is going to take a long time to get used to the idea that Joselero is no longer with us with his cante. But despite everything, it is a relief to know that that soleá, those tangos and alboreás transmitted with his voice, will remain alive in the collective memory even long after we have joined him.