“Tomás de Perrate
was born in Utrera in 1964. The son of Perrate de Utrera and grandson
of legendary singer Manuel Torre, from early childhood he was soaking
up the most authentic and profound cante of Utrera and Jerez. Until
1999 he did not express himself artistically in public. The sound
of his voice and the purity of his cante was a surprise to everyone.
He caused a stir at the 2002 edition of Seville's Bienal de Flamenco
where he obtained the “Giraldillo al artista revelación”,
just as he surprised us last year in Mont-de-Marsan. To his artistic
talent he now adds that of speaker thanks to his profound and intimate
knowledge of the past and present of the cante of Utrera. Complete
artist that he is, he will illustrate his words with his own cante
accompanying himself on the guitar.”
The organization of the Festival
Flamenco de Mont-de-Marsan
When Javier Puga and I came up with the idea of giving this conference,
we decided to talk about the “The yesterday and today of Utrera
cante.” But as I began to write and tried to give form to the
ideas I wanted to explain, I started to realize that it would be
more honorable and instructive to invert the chronological order
of the title and explain my feelings in the most humble manner.
In all honesty I have to confess that the only thing I understand
are the life experiences and the personal transformation I've gone
through since I came face to face with this art form. I am referring
to the fact I was a conventional individual up until the autumn
of '99, very fond of all music and with a certain ear for instruments.
“I feel more committed to
the art than ever”
Although my father Perrate was a legendary singer and I was at his
side until the moment of his death, as far back as I can remember
life in our house was oppressive and shrouded in poverty due to
the paraplegic state that bound him to a wheelchair around 1972
when he was 52 and I was under 10.
For this reason I never had the opportunity to experience firsthand
those fiestas at home with friends of his, or those family fiestas
that took place in most of the gypsy homes, nor even a flamenco
ambience that might have stirred some interest at that early age.
All I have is that image of my father, his generous attitude, his
capacity for living with the utmost dignity, and his palpable aura.
Oh, and with Miguel Acal on the radio!
Today I feel more committed to the art than ever, I hear Perrate's
voice and he says that it's good that a person should become attached
to the place of his birth with ever more intimacy, and partake of
the essence of that earth where he saw first light and then grew.
That voice also tells me that the elders, who have always been the
keepers of the truth, did not spread the word or give it universal
meaning, that it is up to us, the younger generation to do this
job, but just as for them, the defense of beauty must always be
“The reality of flamenco
adaptation to this, our era.”
Utrera's elders: Fernanda, Manuel, Perrate, Gaspar, Bernarda
Now, out of the affection I hold for these people, I feel authorized
to speak in the name of the community of the young flamenco singers
of Utrera, now that there are so many of us, and aware as we are
that we are breaking into the time-line, after several generations
without continuity. We all want the best for Utrera, the hard part
is knowing how to go about this task, all the more daunting if we
don't close ranks.
Now we have the extraordinary ease of access to information in
our favor, but we don't want to be mere apprentices of the past,
as wonderful as it was, but rather take charge of the present and
future, becoming versed in the reality of flamenco and adapting
ourselves to this, our era.
Fiesta in Utrera
We have come to understand that our flamenco legacy is not necessarily
better than the that of other areas, but the fact is that ours offers
the guarantee of diversity, and this distinction is what characterizes
the originality of our cante, in addition to an outlook that makes
us feel we command a way of being in flamenco that is truly unique
The peculiarities of this geographical area have a profound importance
in flamenco music, not just for having produced major figures, nor
because the name of Utrera is written in capitals in the history
of cante, nor because it is a major landmark in the history of flamenco,
but simply because of its overwhelming significance.
“In this, my town, I can assure you there
have been countless singers who never
felt compelled to become professional.”
If we keep to a narrow interpretation of the verb “transcend”
one definition says: “to project a vivid and far-reaching identity”;
or another which indicates: “to extend and communicate effects
that produce consequences”. In other words, stated in a more
contemporary manner, “Denomination de Origen”, the official
status afforded to fine wines. This defines a characteristic taste
and smell that make one variety different from all others, consolidated
and made known by great artists whose 'aroma' influences other 'vintages'
It behooves us to study history in order to understand culture,
but I have no intention of boring you with dates and names which
would distract from my main purpose and idea. Nevertheless, there
is one bit of information that is especially important, and this
is that there is a current state of affairs in Utrera, which, although
it is somewhat regrettable, when looked at from another angle, it
also contributes to more precisely defining that 'denominación
de origen'. In other words, each area is a world unto itself and
from each one important artists emerge who have managed to make
a name for themselves, even beyond their borders, but in this my
town, I can assure you there have been countless singers who never
felt compelled to become professional despite being in possession
of those rare stylized, creative, magical gifts and developing them
to the fullest. They have kept the flame of our enjoyment and hope
alive, and have enriched the cultural heritage of our ethnic group
with a home-grown element that represents a philosophy of being.
of Utrera is nothing
more than a different flavor”.
Historic and intellectual memory, and that of our elders sets before
us the figures of Merced Fernández Vargas “La Serneta”,
“Rosario la del Colorao” and Fernando Peña Soto
“Popá Pinini” who history has accorded a niche
in modern times.
realize they were the ones who configured the early era, a beginning
and a body of knowledge that make Utrera a center of flamenco singing
and more importantly, that special manner or style within the cante.
A sort of prototype began with them which has been preserved in
modern times, always responding to the circumstances that surrounded
them and producing a certain style which is attributed to them…they
were giants. Those individuals, and others of equal worth but less
famous, gave birth to what has come to be popularly known as the
magic of the compás of Utrera, which is nothing more than a different
flavor (something not easy to explain but which is nevertheless
obvious to connoisseurs of the art).
With Antonio Moya in Mont-de-Marsan