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Confrontation, versions and revolutions in flamenco

Punta y tacón
March 23, 2017
Silvia Cruz Lapeña

Silvia Cruz Lapeña


My job involves taking criticism.  It’s a group of people who head the list of professions that receive the most criticism: politicians, performers and journalists. The second ones show their work, but aren’t, like the rest of us in the first group, all to blame.  Since I know it’s partly true, I’d like them to see this article as part apology, reply and scolding.

“Revolution”. This text takes off from that word, because several people have asked me or commented why the media are so obsessed with applying that word to flamenco. As Manuel Bohórquez rightly pointed out, many people lately have been talking about Niño de Elche and Rosalía, as if Camarón de la Isla, Paco de Lucía and Enrique Morente had never existed. I’m with Bohórquez, mostly because in the case of the singer from Elche, I see more interest in shocking people than in renewing anything, and regarding the Barcelona woman, she’s more versions than transformation. 

Neither one of them is distasteful to me; getting people riled is one of the functions of art, also renewing and interpreting in another register what has already been done.  Yet, as far as I’m concerned, it’s more in the direction of something profound to join Fauré with Valderrama, and make it sound like something wonderful, fresh out of the oven.  That’s what Mayte Martín does in “Al Flamenco por Testigo”, and although the media treat her well, she’s not referred to as a renovator.

I’m not a corporatist, but I know enough newspapers and magazines to understand what’s happening, and where the errors lie.  More than acting in bad faith.  Also, although we don’t like to face it, they’re not interested enough in flamenco to really get into it. I think some artists are also responsible for letting qualities be attributed to them and which they do not possess, seeing the competition as vast and hard. The press knows this as well, but haste and lack of knowledge make them do things you wouldn’t believe.  For example, repeating verbatim press releases sent by managers, record companies and producers who know just what the media want.
And above all else, the press wants novelty.  And if something isn’t new, it has to be attractive.  And it’s not the fault of the social networks, it’s always been like this.  Other things, fortunately, are less and less frequent; for example, if the editor of a magazine says a topic is interesting, but can’t go on the front page because the girl isn’t pretty.  They’re more reluctant, and I’m glad, but the girl better be pretty, or hot or both, and the same thing if it’s a boy, because that way the recording, the report or the interview has a better chance of getting in the layout.  Does that hurt?  Well, it’s everyone’s achievement.  Most people prefer to click on a photo gallery rather than an article, good, bad or whatever.  You arch your brow and shake your head.  I don’t prefer it either, but there must be some reason why cultural articles are among the least read.

I can tell you, being partial as well as brief, how flamenco is dealt with in the non-specialized press, especially outside Andalusia: they’re attracted to it, but they don’t like it; they feel obligated to publish something, but they don’t understand it, and tend not to get past the fringes and polkadots, then resorting to clichés, because it’s the easy way out, and cheaper than asking or getting informed.  There are exceptions, but in their thirst for novelty, the media have invented go-to phrases.  One thing is the revolution, an overwrought recourse created outside of flamenco (and sometimes inside), about a world that, like that of journalism, is all too quick to use hackneyed images.