Text: Pablo San Nicasio
Photos & videos: Rafael Manjavacas
Sunday, December 16th, 2012. Ciudad Deportiva de La Fortuna – Leganés (Madrid)
1st part: Cante: María del Mar Fernández Guitar: José Carlos Gómez. Palmas: Lorenzo Virseda and “El Téllez”.
2nd part: Dance: Toni “El Pelao” and “La Uchi”. Cante: Juañares and Pepe Bocadillo. Guitar: Luis Miguel Manzano and Juan Serrano.
Presentation of the second “Ángel Lacalle” prize to Rafael Jiménez “Falo”.
Angel Lacalle was not a person particularly devoted to the kind of flamenco artist who attracts mass audiences. He was more interested in selected singers, in other words, cult figures.
So you can be sure the second time the prize bearing his name was awarded, he would have approved of the recipient. If anything characterizes the singing personality of Rafael Jiménez “El Falo”, it’s the impossibility of pigeon-holing him in the infrastructure of flamenco for the masses.
From the way he delivers the cante, to his repertoire, Rafael Jiménez is an artist who can only be known and savored once you’ve delved sufficiently into an art-form that appears on the surface to be more commercial, but which barely lets you get your head above water.
In a moving speech after the “Silla del Cante” was presented by Angel’s son, Rafael reminded us of the fundamental purpose of flamenco. Something which today, more than ever, continues to be unquestionable: to help people survive with dignity, even in the most difficult moments.
A very instructive speech after which the concert would begin that was to wind up this event which would in turn result in the coronation of Beatriz Romero as yet another very young aspirant to professional flamenco singer. And there are already quite a few underage artists knocking insistently on the doors of tightly closed circuits. No one dares rest on their laurels.
La Fortuna, the remodelled working-man’s neighborhood of Leganés, is a hotbed of artists and flamenco fans. A place that deserves to have a festival like this, simple and honest, always necessary on the calendar, where everyone can enjoy the competition and the show, veterans and newcomers. People for whom, as we said before, only someone like Angel Lacalle made room.
María del Mar Fernández came to Leganés and had the grace to admit that she wasn’t exactly a flamenco singer. “I sing my songs”, true enough. You could tell from the sound of her voice. She knows what flamenco is about, but is far more comfortable in her “themes”.
She began with lots of compás for jaleo bulerías and alegrías de Cádiz. Very tight and always travelling academic paths as though recently learned. In the same sober tone of soleá and granaína, with a superb José Carlos Gómez on guitar.
From that point on, magic ensued that went beyond her flamenco initiative and reached millions of people in the Indies where María del Mar landed a few years ago. From that adventure she got “a lot of good energy”, and along the way inspiration for her guitarist and producer to create “La India”, a tanguillo single hot off the press.
Tangos and bulerías ended a performance in which you could tell how recent the flamenco recycling was, but which ended up pleasing an audience that clearly appreciated the effort. The more commercial face of an artist born and raised in flamenco, but who successfully chose another path that she was able to pull off thanks to her youth and flexibility, to satisfy a target audience.
Furthermore, it was what the organization was after. Contrast. Open-minded youth with enough strength to fight off the veterans of “cante jondo”.
And the “Pelaos” came to Madrid. They are from here, but in actual fact, Toni was on the verge of leaving us not long ago, so it felt like a home-coming. Fortunately, he’s back and he’s come to dance. And how he danced!
The most emblematic flamenco couple from Spain’s capital, Toni and Uchi, Uchi and Toni, they’re the man and the woman in this thing called dance. The little that remains of a school which, nevertheless, is reflected in several current stars. Watch their videos and you’ll see how they remind you of some of today’s top flamenco dancers.
A caña with some sublime moments gave way to the singing of Juañares who filled in between dances. His siguiriya and soleá added a great deal to the evening which continued to grow. A truly fine singer with a great sound.
The skeptical flamenco fan might have expected and settled for more intentions than deeds. But the fact is, both Toni el Pelao and Uchi demonstrated considerable physical conditions, with some frankly moving moments. Especially in the alegrías with machine-gun footwork so popular nowadays. Swift feet but with something to say, surprising aplomb and supple physiques, a fine veteran couple.
No wonder we saw them leisurely talking to friends in the audience only minutes before the show…they are the calm within the storm. They personify the dignity and survival that “Falo” had earlier alluded to. Flamenco itself.
María del Mar Fernández La India
Toni el Pelao & La Uchi
Toni el Pelao & La Uchi