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Festival de Jerez. Matilde Coral / Ramón Trujillo / María Bermúdez - Capullo de Jerez

March 3, 2010

14th Festival de Jerez 2010
Ramón Trujillo, Niño de la Fragua
María Bermúdez “Chicana Gypsy Project”
Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010. Jerez de la Frontera




Text: Estela Zatania
Photos: Ana Palma

Tuesday the Festival de Jerez got underway with dancer Andrés Marín’s presentation of his show scheduled to debut at the Villamarta Theater, “La Pasión Según se Mire”, which the artist describes as his most “personal” work.  Jerez singer David Lagos spoke about his recital programmed the same day at the Palacio Villavicencio, and dancer Ana Morales commented on her work “De Sandalia a Tacón” which we will be able to see at the Sala Compañía, also on Wednesday.

Within the series “Vivencias” that brings veteran artists together with noteworthy journalists in order to conduct interviews, today featured the much-admired dancer Matilde Coral (Sevilla, 1935).  The artist, wife of Rafael el Negro with whom she created the trio “Los Bolecos”, and who would go on to develop the famous “Seville school of dance”, shared observations and anecdotes with Jesús Vigorra and the audience that packed the Centro Andaluz de Flamenco.

At seven in the evening there was a double recital at the Palacio Villavicencio.  In the first part, guitarist Ramón Trujillo offered his work in which we were able to admire his classic picado runs and traditional harmony in a taranta-inspired piece, bulerías por soleá with a respectful cajón and two pairs of knuckles on a wooden table, in addition to bulerías, alegrías in A position and tangos, with a brief encore of bulerías de Cádiz in major key.  In the second part, a young singer from the San Miguel neighborhood of Jerez, el Niño de la Fragua, with the accompaniment of Pascual de Lorca, began with malagueña and alegrías, with a thin sweet voice appropriate for these forms.  Soleá, fandangos and bulerías completed his half-hour performance.

Tuesday’s discreet program included no show at the main venue, so all the more reason to report on an extraordinary encounter that wasn’t planned, but which would not have taken place had it not been for the festival.  Two people who attended the show at the Sala Paúl, veteran dancer Luisa Triana, daughter of the legendary Antonio de Triana who for years was Carmen Amaya’s partner and choreographer, had the opportunity to say hello to the son of Carlos Montoya, the first guitarist to devote himself exclusively to flamenco concert guitar, and some of us looked on in delight as the two commented on anecdotes and corroborated data of things that took place six decades ago.  And that’s how it is at this festival, the social part, the common experience, serendipitous encounters, spontaneous fiestas…

CHICANA GYPSY PROJECT. Dance and voice: María Bermúdez. Cante: Miguel Flores Quirós “Capullo de Jerez” (Guest artist), Miguel Rosendo, Juan Cantarote. Flamenco guitar: Jesús Álvarez. Electric guitar: Lolo Bernal. Violin: Bernardo Parrilla. Double bass: Paco Lobo. Drums: Tato Macías. Music director: Ildefonso de los Reyes. Director: María Bermúdez.

Nowadays, the word “flamenco” always gets the attention of the public at large, and yet, any attempt to define it is interpreted as an attack against free expression.  How come such an admired genre does not allow even the most superficial definition?  Perhaps it’s easier to define its counterpart at the other end of the spectrum, “fusion”, because the word has a meaning of its own: “fusion”, “to fuse”, to homogenously combine two or more elements into one.  If fusing butter with flour and milk is an irreversible process that gives us cream sauce, the show “Chicano Gypsy Project” of María Bermúdez is more like a steak and potatoes with salad: delicious but separate elements that do not lend themselves to fusion. A classic Gershwin song, and another Chicano one, are complete and perfect entities that are neither enhanced nor enriched when placed alongside flamenco, and the latter comes out behind.

Specifically, the minor key and the flamenco or modal key, don’t take kindly to each other, and one of the two always dominates the other; in this case, the flamenco key was eclipsed by the minor one time and again.  Conversely, and for the same reason, the piece that worked best was a Mexican ranchera with alegrías, precisely because they share the same scale, the same musical language so to speak.  Capullo’s intervention yielded the most flamenco momentos, but there was a lack of continuity with the rest of the work.

You get the uncomfortable feeling that the concept of fusion is being promoted at the cost of everything else.  The act of singing a well-known Spanish song such as “Piensa en Mí” in English, when the person singing speaks perfect Spanish and is performing within the framework of a flamenco festival in Spain, for a self-selected audience who are followers of the genre, would seem to be much more about making a statement than about art.

At the previous day’s press conference, María counselled that we should not go to see her show with preconceived ideas, that “purity” does not exist, a line of defense repeated by many artists nowadays.  We kept our part of the bargain and attended the show with an open mind, but the overwhelming effect was to make us, each one of us, place our own goal-posts.  I for one have discovered that flamenco is much more that an embroidered shawl, a flower in the hair and a choreography in compass, because there was all of that, but flamenco was looking shyly on from the sidelines, reluctant to appear.

At the Peña Tío José de Paula the party continued with the singing and dancing of the women of the cultural organization for those who weren’t yet ready to call it a day.