Over a period of five days of intense activity the life and work of a
classic singer who has now become the center of much debate will be exhaustively
studied. For the generation of flamenco fans that begins with the demise
of the “opera flamenca”, the fandango era as some people call
it, up until the appearance of Camarón de la Isla and the consequent
artistic freedom that followed, Antonio Cruz García “Antonio
Mairena” was, and continues to be the maestro of maestros, the most
knowledgeable and accomplished interpreter of the most traditional and
unadulterated sort of flamenco singing, and his book “Mundo y Formas
del Cante Flamenco” (Revista de Occidente, Madrid, 1963) coauthored
by Ricardo Molina, represents the flamenco bible. However, for the following
and current generation, not only the book, but also the singer, his work
and his entire perspective have come to symbolize a failed attempt to
restrain and limit a dynamic art form that requires absolute freedom.
In actual fact, “Mairenism” is another facet of the ongoing
fusion vs. tradition debate that crops up wherever flamenco fans gather.
Flamenco writer and researcher José Manuel Caballero Bonald (Jerez
de la Frontera, 1928), member of the Cátedra de Flamencología
y Estudios Folklóricos Andaluces and director-producer of the much
acclaimed Archivo del Cante Flamenco recording opened the week's activities
with his conference titled “Antonio Mairena: passion for flamenco”.
He pointed out that Mairena was “the most complete flamenco singer
that has ever existed and a permanent example of classic cante” at
the same time allowing that “a singer must adapt these forms to current
circumstances”. He talked about Mairena's 'reconstructed' cantes
that “he went collecting here and there in what was nothing less
than field work, putting together both personal and local styles and seeking
out old gypsy singing families”. But he added that “the primal
lament is more important than any historical accuracy” and Antonio
Mairena possessed that absolute authority due to his “canny knowledge
of the intricate workings of gypsy Andalusian flamenco singing”.
José Manuel Caballero Bonald
He emphasized that Mairena managed to dignify an art form which up until
that time had been undervalued, often barely supplying basic necessities
for its best interpreters who worked within a degrading system: “During
the 30 years of Spain's postwar period Mairena demanded that flamenco
singers be respected so that flamenco would cease to be what it had been
until then and become a music worthy of study”.
admitted that Mairena's dubious theory of the “razón incorpórea”,
a muddled theory which saw flamenco in general as an intrinsic or ethnic
value, as “somewhat affected”, at the same time that he forgave
and embraced it because “Antonio Mairena left us a flawless art of
impeccable internal authenticity”.
The range of activities that fills the week includes live performances,
most notably by singer José de la Tomasa with Manolo Franco on
the guitar and a recital by guitarist Niño de Pura, a visit to
the house where Antonio Mairena lived in Carmona, and conferences and
debates dealing with various facets of the singer's work with Ana Córdoba
Montesinos, Juan Manuel Suárez Japón, Carlos Martínez-Shaw,
Antonio Zoido Naranjo, Manuel Vidal Arias y Juan Teba de Montes, Antonio
Reina Gómez, Rafael Escudero Rodríguez, Felipe González
Márquez y Alberto Fernández Bañuls.