Jueves Flamenco de Cádiz ¡¡El Compás!!
Text and photos: Estela Zatania
Cante: Mariana Cornejo, Nano de Jerez, Alicia Gil, Samuel de los Santos. Guitar: Niño de Pura, Pascual de Lorca, Lito de Alicia. Dance: Lidia Cabello and group.
Seasoned veterans…and the power of one adolescent singer
Twenty-nine years of good flamenco, and still going strong. This annual event organized in Cádiz by the Enrique el Mellizo flamenco club follows a similar pattern to that of the Granada dance festival “Los Veranos del Corral”. In other words, quality shows in a historic setting, distributed throughout the summer on non-consecutive days, always bringing a mix of polished professionals and young hopefuls with a wide range of concepts based on classic or traditional flamenco. It seems to be a formula that works.
This year the ample patio of the Baluarte de la Candelaria, with a capacity of up to some one thousand five-hundred people, isn’t filling up as when people had money in their pockets. Nor have the performers been chosen from the absolute top of the line, but good flamenco fans have the opportunity to enjoy interesting new voices and veterans who for various reasons are often overlooked.
Thursday in Cádiz we had a warm sultry sea-breeze, the fried fish and manzanilla were on the table and everything was in place to enjoy the voice of Seville singer Alicia Gil who opened the program. Neither young hopeful nor top star, she’s a hard worker who has a couple of recordings and discreet professional success, qualities that made her the perfect “curtain-raiser” for the Jueves. Her voice is flamenco and expressive, her delivery contemporary and retro at the same time and her repertoire a mix of traditional and pop elements. The cante of tonás was a declaration of her flamenco intentions, and in tientos tangos and soleá por bulería, she gave free rein to her pop tendencies always with a wink to classic cante. Lito de Alicia accompanied her on guitar.
Nano de Jerez is a much-loved artist in Cádiz, and particularly at this festival. His famous “Bombero” routine wasn’t on this time, but the authentic flavor his singing and dancing, his quips and subtlety, it all adds up to a concise portrait of what flamenco was like before this genre was considered a marketable commodity. He started out as a conventional flamenco singer, but over the years has always had more success with his festive cante and quick wit that define his artistic persona. With the Jerez-sounding guitar of Pascual de Lorca, he interpreted tangos of Cádiz and Triana, bulería por soleá dedicated to his aunt “who invited me to lunch today” (with just a couple of words he conjures up the Andalusian character) and fandangos naturales, before closing with “a little something from my hometown, whaddya think?”…in other words, bulerías.
The most surprising artist of the night was newcomer Samuel de los Santos from Chipiona. At only 16, he’s not even on youtube yet, which says a lot given the times, but believe me, this is no clever youngster being promoted by eager parents, but a fully dimensional flamenco singer who, impossible though it seems given his age, has the knowledge, compás and communicative power that some of today’s stars might be lacking. They tell us flamenco can no longer be sung with the angst of earlier times because we have too many creature comforts nowadays. Indeed, the boy looks well-fed, and is as handsome as you would expect a healthy 16-year-old to be. Perhaps Samuel de los Santos suffers from the pain of being alive, of having loved and lost or not knowing how deal with the loss of loved ones. His delivery is richly textured, a mix of Agujetas and Mercé, which is a mouthful. This singer may be destined to important accomplishments if the market has a niche for this kind of artist in the second decade of the twenty-first century. He was to have been accompanied by Paco Cepero, but at the last moment Niño de Pura substituted, drawing frequent applause with his falsetas, and the occasional picado attack. Young Samuel sang soleá, alegrías, siguiriyas, bulerías and fandangos as an encore, self-assured, smiling broadly and with uncommon depth.
Dancer Lidia Cabello, with her singers Raúl Gálvez, Ángel Pastor and Paco Reyes, and the guitar of Niño de la Leo, that is to say, a solid Cádiz backup, danced soleá with a long bulerías ending. This dancer, who is sometimes excessively frenetic in her movements, this time found her artistic serenity and the results were admirable. The personality, not necessarily the guitar-playing but the personality of Niño de la Leo lit everyone up and gave life to the group, making for a fine performance overall.
Mariana Cornejo, the matriarch of Cádiz flamenco, worshipped by many flamenco fans for her expansive personality and many years of experience, came on dressed in turquoise blue with a small fringed shawl, a perfect picture of feminine Andalusian elegance. She came with her classic repertoire, and some new things I’d never heard before in her, an arrangement of garrotín with tangos del Piyayo and the “tran tran treiro” of farruca. But there was kind of sadness not usual for this lady, and no one seemed to know the cause. Missing was the friendly repartee with the audience, the housewives’ anecdotes; not even her famous “chuflillas” had the usual sparkle. We love her all the same, she’s the spiritual godmother of this festival and we expect to see her back to her bubbly self again soon…