FLAMENCO BIENNALE III
It’s impossible not to feel the universality of flamenco when you’ve just spent a week in France seeing some of the best interpreters of the genre, then you arrive in Holland for the third edition of the Dutch Flamenco Biennale, and the “duende“ keeps flowing as if you hadn’t crossed hundreds of kilometers and you weren’t far from Andalusia.
Even the official T-shirts of the festival are purple in honor of the much-admired guitaris
There is a certain desire to educate the Dutch audience with an extense program of conferences, exhibits, classes and much more, always with the emphasis on diversity. Opening the door to experimentation is the operative concept that reflects the organization’s objective of going beyond “fusion“ (which has so much bad press) to see just how far flamenco can go, never losing sight of the starting point, in this case, Jerez de la Frontera, or more precisely, Moraíto, guitarist, personality, heir to a guitar-playing tradition and as flamenco as they come. Even the official T-shirts of the festival are purple (in Spanish, “morao“) in honor of the much-admired guitarist.
The program is being carried out in three cities within a reduced geographical triangle whose points are Utrecht, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, the latter being the central base of operations. Last night we were in Utrecht for the show “Maestría de Jerez“ which was preceded by a unique complementary showing of the documentary “Goede zang doet pijn“, or if you can’t manage that tongue-twister, “El Cante Bueno Duele“, a production of the festival’s which aims to portray the reality of Jerez flamenco, past and present, via the words and wisdom of Moraíto himself. There are images of singers and dancers gathered at the popular “Gitanerías“ bar with singer Jesús Méndez and guitarist Diego del Morao accompanied by Chícharo, Fernando de la Morena, Bo and many others to set the mood. In another scene patriarch Manuel Morao introduces us to the dynasty of guitar-players who have sprung from his family, from the youngest to the most accomplished professional. Without a doubt the most moving and historically relevant moment was the soleá sung by María Bala, sister of Manuel Sordera, accompanied by Moraíto…unforgettable.
After the documentary, two of the main “players“ appeared on stage: Jesús Méndez and Diego del Morao. Although Moraíto couldn’t be present due to health reasons, he was able to hear his son Diego playing his material thanks to a cell phone the director of the festival was seen holding in the wings.
Jesús and Diego, San Miguel and Santiago, more united than ever in these dire economic times when it makes more sense to join forces and give mutual support. Tonás, especially good soleares, malagueñas, siquiriyas, fandangos, tangos and bulerías, and you even start thinking Jerez cante might have continuity after all. Joaquín Grilo added the dancing, and there are simply no words to describe him, the guy has definitely found his personality and he expresses it aggressively and efficiently, few artists manage such a perfect equilibrium between what they mean to do, and what they’re actually capable of doing – he doesn’t even need cante to get straight to the heart of flamenco.