Text and photos: Estela Zatania
Friday, June 17th, 2016. 10:00pm. Plaza de Toros, Jerez de la Frontera
A night to remember
Some major artists were unable to appear at the last moment, but those who did perform on the big stage of the Jerez bull-ring to pay tribute to the singer who passed away New Year's Eve of 2013, were more than sufficient to make up for it. In fact, the length of the program, which lasted over seven hours, brought back memories of those festivals years ago, and some which still keep the custom, that the music keeps flowing right up until the first rays of sun appear…good thing I was able to withstand that kind of marathon in my adolescence.
Juan Moneo Lara “El Torta”. Cult figure beyond any doubt, possibly the one most associated with Jerez today, has diehard fans, including a young crowd with limited interest in flamenco singing. For many followers of the art, the best singer of all time. Controversial, incorrigible, both in human and artistic terms, inspired and instinctive. This belated tribute was inevitable, and thanks to the organization, despite a few small glitches, thousands of people were able to enjoy the best of current flamenco, and remember el Torta. It was reminiscent of the best days of the Fiesta de la Bulería, with more than three-quarters of the ample bull-ring occupied.
The intelligent distribution of performers in groups and collaborations that were relatively short, enabled a smooth program despite the length. Audiovisual segments opened both the first and second parts, while pianist Rosario Montoya “La Reina Gitana” opened the evening. Veteran Paco Cepero appeared to be feeling good accompanying young hopeful Samuel Serrano. Luis Zambo and Fernando de la Morena, another pair of bookends that complement one another, represented the most traditional Jerez cante with the accompaniment of Domingo Rubichi and Miguel Salado.
Rancapino, father and son, another terrific moment, that sweet delivery in two different versions, with Antonio Higuero and Paco León on guitar. Next up, the well-established young singer Jesús Méndez, with the guitar of Manuel Valencia. Dolores and Antonio Agujetas were at ease with their unmistakable style that gives new dimension to the concept of “rancid” singing as it's called by Spanish flamenco followers, and Manuel Parrilla provided the guitar accompaniment.
An upbeat contemporary group…Jesús Agarrado, his son José and Rycardo Piñero among others…provided a contrast to the sobriety of the Moneo dynasty, which is where Torta's energetic singing came from. For many, it was one of the best moments of the night. Manuel Moneo sentenced with his singing, while his son Barullo provided intense emotion, trading off verses of siguiriyas with poetry alluding to Torta. Like the rest of the performers, Manuel had words for his brother, pointing out that “he managed to deserve a standing ovation in this same plaza singing a granaína, that's how Juan was”. Juan Manuel Moneo on guitar accompanied the dancing of his wife, María José Franco.
A “cast of thousands” represented the San Miguel neighborhood…Paco el Gasolina, los Mijitas, Soraya Clavijo, Manuela Carpio, Juanillorro, el Pescaílla…one great compact ball of flamenco with well-defined origins, impossible to name all the participants. But that wasn't the fiesta finale…nor anything resembling it. Maestro Juan Villar teamed up with the popular Juana la del Pipa, Cádiz and Jerez veterans respectively, with the guitars of Antonio Jero and Diego del Morao to close the first part of the show…the first part!
Arcángel and Marina Heredia offered another high point with their tangos de Graná, backed up by el Parrón, Curro Albaycín, Antonio Rey and Diego del Morao. From that point on, the program took another route with the contemporary flamenco of Mara Rey, Mixto Lobo and the popular Diego Carrasco among others.