Thursday, September 28th, 2012
Text: Estela Zatania
Photos: La Bienal
A long journey, step by step
Once again I’m wondering if the day’s program of the Bienal de Flamenco de Sevilla was deliberately planned: the long journey (“Travesía”) of Gerardo Núñez, undertaken step by step (“Paso a Paso”) by La Moneta. Maybe it’s no coincidence, and the titles are suggested by the nature of today’s flamenco which seems to be on a permanent quest in search of novelty.
“Travesía”. Teatro Lope de Vega, 8:30pm .
Guitar: Gerardo Núñez, Manuel Valencia. Cante: David Carpio, Rafael el Zambo. Percussion: Ángel Sánchez “Cepillo”. Upright bass: Pablo Martín. Dance: Carmen Cortés.
Gerardo often points out that flamenco fans don’t forgive his interest in other musical forms. I’m sure no one makes the conscious decision to avoid a certain type of music, but rather it’s a more complex and subtler process, with no intention of the kind of ostracism the musician complains about.
Through his music, Núñez demands to be accepted as is, whether he’s playing bulerías de Jerez or one of his compositions, and it’s the latter which sometimes takes more effort to assimilate despite the obvious quality. No one with even minimal knowledge would deny the virtuosity and creativity of Gerardo Núñez. But traditional flamenco fans need to have the reference of a form. Before saying “what a beautiful granaína!”, there needs to be a granaína…or a soleá or a siguiriya. And the occasional absence of this reference is what some find off-putting in Gerardo’s work. He erects the barriers himself – at his recitals you always hear people whispering to one another “what’s he playing?”. However, it’s a concern of no interest to the general public who are happy to be carried away by the beauty of the music and the jazz sound that so many enjoy.
I hadn’t attended a Gerardo Núñez recital for some time, but in general, last night’s offering seemed to have changed little. Three or four guitar pieces, a lovely rondeña, Carmen Cortés’ dancing which leaves you wanting more, the same solo of percussion and bass with comic details by Cepillo and Pablo Martín I saw for the first time ten years ago, and plenty of harmonies and forms of jazz, a sort of musical Pac-Man that devours everything in its wake, including flamenco.
There’s also the alternative tuning the guitarist manages so well, melancholic contemplative passages, the thumb that shouts Jerez, the pizzicato and the exquisite phrasing.
To his credit, Gerardo makes a big effort to help the new generation of both guitarists and singers. The cante of David Carpio and Rafael el Zambo was very enjoyable, particularly facing off with tonás and bulerías al golpe (oddly enough, the audience barely reacted, it seems the followers of Gerardo Núñez have little interest in cante), two young singers getting their chops alongside the maestro just as Jesús Méndez did for many years.
“La Moneta Paso a Paso”. Teatro Central, 11:00pm. Directors and choreographers: La Moneta, Javier Latorre, Antonio Canales. Guitar: Luis Mariano. Cante: Miguel Lavi, Jaime Heredia “El Parrón”, Juan Tirado, Antonio “El Manzana”. Special collaborations: voice, Juan José Amador, percussion, Miguel el Cheyenne
At eleven o’clock at the Teatro Central dancer Fuensanta la Moneta presented her new work, “Paso a Paso”.
The dynamic talent of this young woman from Granada, fueled by the natural desire to experiment that you’d expect from someone her age, always brings results which are, at the very least, interesting. Her stamina is surprising, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone dance more continuously. In fact, the show began with three complete dances of hers, one after another, with no long guitar introductions and without leaving the stage. In purely theatrical terms, it wasn’t the best way to begin a show, but Moneta’s unwavering strength is impressive.
Though she still cultivates the aggressive gypsified style learned in the caves of Sacromonte, some toning-down is taking place little by little. Perhaps the most noteworthy thing of the show was the team of singers, five admirable voices, three from Granada in addition to the much-admired veteran Juan José Amador and young Miguel Lavi, one of the best of Jerez newcomers who is becoming better-known in this festival and could well be a candidate for a Giraldillo prize.
No explanation was given for the absence of Antonio Canalaes who was to have danced. Javier Latorre partnered la Moneta who wore a white bata de cola for a retro choreography that was aesthetically unconvincing. The omnipresent Bobote contributed compás and personality, and Luis Mariano took care of the guitar accompaniment with a straight-ahead Granada sound
Siguiriyas that could have been half as long, led to a cante interlude. What a pleasure to be able to enjoy the singing of Jaime el Parrón who is so seldom seen, with his rough-hewn Borrico sound and delivery. And el Manzana and Juan Tirado, interesting singers you rarely hear outside Granada. Over in the eastern end of Andalucía, basic cante is somehow gentler, while the sweet cantes have greater entity – a fine criss-crossing of influences that defies the tiresome definitions of gypsy or non-gypsy. The singers filled the theater with their flavorful granaínas and cante abandolao.
What appeared on the program as “tientos azambraos” was a tango parao played in a barred E position that gave a Granada and Levante sound, but the best part of the night was yet to come. La Moneta and her group dared to do jaleos extremeños. “Dared”, because these are cantes and forms usually best left to interpreters from Extremadura, but they did a great job, and Moneta’s energetic dancing was a perfect match. There’s always been a certain affinity between the flamenco of Granada and Extremadura that never took root in the Cádiz-Jerez-Seville axis.
The show began to feel long with the soleá por bulerías, and the bottom line of “La Moneta Paso a Paso” is that it’s an uneven work that could use some fine-tuning, but which includes first-class elements and a fresh approach within the framework of traditional flamenco.