43 rdFiesta de la Bulería
Text and photos: Estela Zatania
Cante: El Torta, Capullo de Jerez, Fernando de la Morena, David Lagos, Macarena de Jerez. Dance: Andrés Peña.
The most noteworthy thing of this 43rd edition of the venerable Fiesta de la Bulería, with a program that included the very noteworthy singers Torta and Capullo, was the low attendance. This annual happening, normally characterized by the numerous audience and a free-wheeling atmosphere just barely bordering on pandemonium, could almost have been celebrated in the stately Villamarta Theater this year.
In fact, the main topic of discussion, the thing that had people engaged in heated debate, was neither the singers, nor the choice of artists, nor the (eternally) deficient amplification, but rather the absence of drink coolers, an accessory that had nearly become symbolic of the Bulería festival. In answer to the recession which has hit harder in Jerez than many other places, the organization came up with the strange idea of prohibiting all food and drink brought in from outside, and of raising the price of tickets. The result was a fourth of the usual crowd, some two thousand people instead of the seven to nine-thousand we’ve seen in recent years, and a whole lot of hungry thirsty flamenco fans. For many diehard followers of Torta and Capullo, the two most newsworthy figures of Jerez flamenco, it was the last straw: “without my drink cooler, you can count me out”.
And that put quite a damper on the atmosphere. An outdoor flamenco festival isn’t a night at the theater, and some of the artists complained about the lack of warmth from the audience despite the rhythmic chanting of “TOR-TA” and “CA-PU-LLO” respectively.
A strong opening was provided by Torta who was quite a bit more together than a month ago at Casabermeja. He began with classic cante, alegrías and bulería por soleá, but the crowd didn’t perk up until the first rumba strum sounded. The singer interpreted his old standby songs with a chorus of two female voices, and a bulerías encore that fleshed out the 45-minute performance.
The master of ceremonies requested a minute of silence in honor of the much-missed Fernando Terremoto whose passing has left a wound that is slow to heal. Next, Macarena de Jerez made her debut as soloist at the Bulería, and she managed the responsibility with the force of her personality and her powerful, but sweetly hoarse voice, so apt for cante. With Juan Manuel Moneo on guitar, who had also played for Torta, Macarena gave us tientos tangos, malagueña and bulería por soleá, finally getting the audience right in the palm of her hand with some vigorous bulerías. This is one of the few female singers who keeps the tradition of really dancing between verses, rather than the symbolic carbon copy bulerías steps so many resort to for easy applause.
Singer David Lagos, a veteran singer for dance, also made his solo debut at the Bulería. He began with such a powerful martinete, the crowd, more mentalized for festive cante and beer swigging, was moved to cheering, and when Lagos linked to cabales he earned heartfelt applause. Along with his brother Alfredo Lagos who accompanied on guitar, these are two undervalued talents in Jerez, but very much appreciated outside. Malagueña de Chacón with abandolao ending, a tango song, alegrías with brief allusions to Pinini and bulerías with all the dimension that comes from having sung for dance all these years.
Fernando de la Morena, with Fernando Moreno on guitar, triggered a wave of approval after announcing he would only sing bulerías, although he eventually squeezed in some fandangos with his trademark phrasing. And the first part ended with the audience chanting: “Where are the coolers? the coolers are gone”.
The dance portion of the night was the intense Andrés Peña, with the superb back-up of Luís Moneo, Miguel Rosendo and Miguel Lavi singing, and Javier Patino and Miguel Iglesias on guitar. You can always sense Andrés’ respect for the past, and his sincere desire to communicate it to a modern audience. Tonás with a cane to open, and his sober style and controlled energy are well-received. The guitars appear for some bulerías cante which goes way beyond mere filler thanks to the quality of the singers. Andrés returns for soleá in the most classic line, and the feeling is of six men in perfect flamenco communion.
Capullo de Jerez was the moment many people were waiting for, and the popular singer made the audience happy with his most popular songs, accompanied by the guitar of José Ignacio Franco. At three in the morning the last song came to an end, while in the passageway where they make the fried fish and sell drinks, there was plenty of spontaneous fiesta to round out the night.