56th POTAJE GITANO DE UTRERA
Saturday, June 30th, 2012, 10:30pm. Colegio Salesiano, Utrera
Text & photos: Estela Zatania
Cante: José Mercé with Diego del Morao, Aurora Vargas with Diego Amaya, Mari Peña and Jesús de la Frasquita with Antonio Moya. Dance: Manuela Carrasco. Jerez group: Enrique el Zambo, Fernando Soto, José Gálvez, Felipa del Moreno, Mercedes Pantoja, Carmen Jiménez, Chícharo, Rafa, Eléctrico, Fernando de la Mini.
Nearly one year after his untimely passing, the tributes to Manuel Moreno Junquera keep coming. So loved and admired for the brilliant Jerez aroma of his guitar-playing, his dedication and his humanity. So many words, no words are left, nor were they ever sufficient to describe a deeply-felt absence that has affected every sector and level of flamenco-followers.
The fifty-sixth edition of the Potaje Gitano de Utrera, the oldest flamenco festival, was dedicated to Moraíto Chico, and on this occasion, no media personality was on hand, as in recent years, to attract a popular crowd and fill as many seats as possible…let’s not forget the Potaje is a non-profit event staged for charitable ends. This time, with a very flamenco bill of artists, and no concessions, one thousand eight-hundred tickets were sold, each with its corresponding wooden spoon for the traditional bean stew.
Master of ceremonies Antonio Ortega who did a fine job of presenting the show, began by remembering a series of losses to the flamenco community. In addition to the twentieth anniversary of Camarón’s passing, since the first of the year we’ve seen the disappearance of Enrique de Melchor, Martín Revuelo and Pepe Perejil. Ortega also made reference to two highly relevant figures for Utrera, who left their respective marks on this town’s flamenco; it’s been twenty years since the loss of Perrate de Utrera, and on June 12th it was exactly one century since the death of Merced la Serneta, buried in Utrera, the only place on the flamenco map that remembered the centennial with a program of commemorative acts.
But this was Moraíto’s evening, it was all for him. The first sounds to invade the night air were the brother and sister Jesús de Frasquita and Mari Peña, with the wonderful guitar of Antonio Moya who contributed his characteristic mix of Utrera, Lebrija and Morón, finding the right balance between classic and current styles. Tientos in the voice of Jesús, a cante which in Utrera takes on gravity and importance thanks to the legacy of Gaspar de Utrera, and then, soleá with the unmistakable flavor of Utrera, interpreted by Mari to the rolling compás which is this town’s trademark. The same compás which then gave form to some fandangos. The singers ended with bulerías, with the wonderfully sincere dancing of Carmen Ledesma.
Aurora Vargas followed with the greatly underestimated guitarist, born in Córdoba but raised in Jerez, Diego Amaya. Aurora sang cantiñas to open, instead of usual alegrías de Cádiz, in addition to soleá, tientos tangos and bulerías. Few surprises in the repertoire, but always the surprise of Aurora’s expansive personality. Beautiful in middle age, with a voice that is acquiring shading that softens earlier harshness making her singing more poignant and moving.
An excellent documentary about Moraíto was projected, and included the guitarist himself speaking which left a knot in many throats, and a group of artists from Jerez offered a sort of musical tribute with the noteworthy participation of Diego del Morao on guitar, and the cante of Enrique el Zambo, bulerías and more bulerías to soothe the painful memory. Various personalities participated in the official tribute including the mayor of Utrera, relatives of Moraíto and dancer Antonio el Pipa who was visibly moved.
Two major figures were featured in the second half. José Mercé, artistic companion and inseparable friend of Moraíto could not be absent for this emotional tribute. Before the first cante he declared: “this is dedicated to the greatest guitarist for cante of all time”. With Moraíto’s son on guitar, he interpreted soleá, alegrías and siguiriyas with particular intensity that triggered the applause of the numerous audience, and ended with bulerías. This man’s consistency is incredible, few singers offer such a guarantee. His performance however was too short for some…he’d skipped the malagueñas he regularly interprets…and there was a bit of heckling.
It may sound corny or repetitious to say Manuela Carrasco is the goddess of flamenco dance, but when so many of us say it, there must be a reason. Elegantly dark, rhythmically decisive. Austerity, flamenco-ness, intensity, aplomb, power, commitment and instinctive good taste…these are the words I wrote down as I watched Manuela, a lady who exudes the elusive ‘duende’ with every breath. The fine backup included dancers Choro and Rafael de Carmen, guitarists Joaquín Amador and Miguel Iglesias and the voices of Enrique el Extremeño, Pepe de Pura and Emilio Molina.
At four in the morning, the Potaje Gitano de Utrera 2012 came to an end leaving a couple of thousand people pleasantly satiated with bean stew and good flamenco.