54th POTAJE GITANO DE UTRERA
Saturday, July 3rd 2010. 10:30pm. Colegio Salesiano, Utrera
Text and photos : Estela Zatania
Cante: Estrella Morente, Esperanza Fernández, Pitingo. Baile: Antonio el Pipa.
Even with the economic recession on everyone’s mind, and the weather touch and go, not even the world soccer championship could put a damper on the venerable Potaje Gitano de Utrera in its fifty-fourth edition. Although true enough, we had to wait for the televised match to end, but very shortly afterwards hundreds of people began streaming onto the large field of the Salesianos set with big round tables where the potaje would later be served.
With this year’s tribute aimed at the memory of “las niñas”, Fernanda and Bernarda de Utrera, the absence of paparazzi who in earlier years showed up en masse to get the best shots of pop celebrities like Alejandro Sanz, Isabel Pantoja, Raphael or Lolita was welcome relief. I don’t know whether the change represents a new policy on the part of the Hermandad de los Gitanos de Utrera who organize the festival, but it was certainly a perspective more in keeping with the nature of the event.
A bare-bones program no matter how you look at it, was hardly felt as such thanks to the mega popularity of the featured stars. Unlike other years, the first performance was dance, with Antonio el Pipa and his group, the only Jerez element this year. The imposing voice of Juana la del Pipa churned out a martinete to prelude the siguiriya her nephew would then dance. The young dancer Pipa has been promoting for several years and who filled in with some bulerías, hasn’t quite come into his own yet, but it was only a short bit, and soon Antonio returned with his aunt, both dressed in electric red, for the powerful soleá they always interpret. El Pipa came to Utrera with a rather small group, but the excellent guitarist Pascual de Lorca, who just a few days ago was awarded the Copa Jerez for guitar, once again demonstrated his capacity.
Of the three main voices of the night, that of Esperanze Fernández was the one which represented the most traditional or conventional sort of flamenco (“traditional” and “conventional” are the euphemisms we use for “pure”, a term now much frowned upon). Again the guitar deserves special mention: Salvador Gutiérrez, the under-appreciated young maestro from Écija. Cantiñas of Pinini and tangos of Titi – Lebrija and Triana, this singer’s geographical axis – with all the flavor you would expect from cantes heard over a lifetime. The siguiriya was less convincing, but in bulerías, for which Esperanza put on her dance shoes and again looked back to her roots with Lebrija specials like “El pollito que piaba” and “Camino de Jerez”, was the high point of her performance.
After the projection of a documentary about Fernanda and Bernarda, the tribute continued with various speakers including Matilde Coral who said “the sisters are together again, and they’re still the main attraction, wherever they are”.
A group of local artists joined in the tribute with cantes dedicated to Fernanda and Bernarda,de Utrera with the noteworthy participation of nephews Inés and Luís, in addition to Luís Marquesito, Mari Peña and the refreshing young singer Dani de Utrera among others.
The potaje stew was then served, and shortly afterwards Estrella Morente took the stage. Far more an artiste than a flamenco singer, her expansive personality and extraordinary physical beauty helped distract attention from a voice that wouldn’t be controlled on this occasion.
Last year at this same festival Antonio Manuel Álvarez was a huge hit with the crowd. Better known as Pitingo, the Huelva singer triumphed once again in this town of cante connoisseurs. With Juan Carmona on guitar, he began in a traditional vein – tonás and granaína – leaving no doubt about his knowledge of cante. In bulerías, he served up a large assortment of cuplé, and dedicated his soleá to Fernanda. The fiesta finale with the Utrera group gave him the opportunity to reprise his “soulerías” and the Beatles’ “Yesterday”, getting the audience to their feet at four o’clock in the morning.