FESTIVAL DE NIMES 2008
NEW OLD FLAMENCO
1st Part. Cante: Chano Lobato. Guitar: Niño de la Manuela.
The last day of the Nimes Festival began discreetly with an acoustic recital of cante and guitar. The program explained that singer Paco Santiago was born in Algeria, and raised in a gypsy family in Port-de-Bouc near Marseilles, and guitarist José el Boleco, also from Port-de-Bouc, is from an important French flamenco family. They gave a dignified recital that included malagueñas, tientos tangos, soleá, fandangos y bulerías. In the main theater, there was a double program with two artists: one of the youngest stars of flamenco dance, and the most veteran professionally active singer.
The living history of Cádiz cante in the twentieth century
Nearly sixty years separate Chano Lobato and Rocío Molina, and if she possesses the maturity of someone much older, Chano exudes a charmingly youthful innocence The Cádiz “boy” from 1927 was in charge of the first part of the recital, backed up by his guitarist, the young Niño de la Manuela, unknown for many of us, but “very with it” as commented the “magician of Cádiz” which is how Chano is billed on the program. Physically diminished, but artistically and spiritually a giant, the magician had come to show us his amazing compás, his great knowledge and his endless supply of graceful humor.
Tangos with a pure Cádiz flavor (other local variants didn’t become popular until later on), and the maestro’s voice is surprisingly strong and flexible. “Let’s remember Aurelio de Cádiz por soleá”, says one of the last people who can relate first-hand anecdotes about the legendary singer Then “…Manolo Vargas…Pericón…Ignacio Espeleta…” Chano is the living history of Cádiz cante in the twentieth century. When he stands up to sing away from the mike, the silence is total in the large theater and his voice, shaky speaking, but strong singing, effortlessly fills the ample space. A bulerías encore, a little dance with eloquently minimalist moves that speak of another era, one more encore, an old-style rumba, and the kindly maestro heads for the exit with a devilish smile, his jacket hiked up and the audience in his pocket.
Everything is new and surprising, no time to intellectualize, and if you can avoid blinking, all the better
Back to the future in the second part of the program with Rocío Molina and her show “Almario” which we previously saw last year at the Festival de Jerez. What a relief, what a breath of fresh air; this young woman from Málaga proves that “contemporary” is not at odds with “flamenco”, that the excessive use of black is an absurd affectation, that flamenco can communicate grand things without feigned drama and the new generation has a lot to offer, it’s just a question of waiting for the right person. With this show, Rocío Molina leaves no doubt that she is that person. There have been other works of hers that were less fortunate where theater got the better of flamenco which came off as sadly synthetic. In “Almario” we get to see quite a dancer, astonishingly original and brimming with personality, moving always within absolutely classic parameters, meeting that most difficult of challenges: say something new via existing forms.
The style is oniric and bordering on surreal, even in the most intense moments. In a certain sense she seems to be parodying traditional movements, and in the process, breathing new life and relevance into them The leather miniskirt and black body suit turn her into a dominatrix rendering Carmen Amaya-style contorsions contemporary. Rocío, who is on-stage at all times, is a playful flamenco seductress. In classic siguiriyas with bata de cola, by turns geometric or suave and sensual – Rocío, a mermaid out of water when she rests limply upon the singer’s chest. So much familiar imagery, subtly altered, like a parallel universe where everything is quotidian yet new. Rocío’s imagination appears to know no limits, no movement is filler, she plays with time, plays jokes, destructures the music and puts it back together never losing sight of the compás. Her giant shadow projected on the backdrop in the garrotín, the soleá with shawl based on Blanca del Rey’s work. Bamberas. Everything is new and surprising, no time to intellectualize, and if you manage to avoid blinking, all the better.