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Mayte Martin, new release 'Al cantar a Manuel'

October 23, 2009

Mayte Martín
“Alcántara Manuel”

Series Sangre Nueva
Teatro Español. October 22nd, 2009


Text: Pablo San Nicasio
Photos: Rafael Manjavacas

She managed to do it…

There are many ways you can leave a theater after a concert:  contented, satisfied with the money invested, surprised, indignant, wanting to make love, or to curse the whole world, or your girlfriend or anyone who dares to blink.  You can leave feeling overwhelmed by the people you just saw on stage, discouraged forever….and so on and so forth.  Almost as many possibilities as there are concerts.

But the best way to hit the street after a theater experience, let me tell you, is wiping away tears and blowing your nose.  Especially if you weren’t expecting it.

Mayte Martín takes a lot of flak because of her heterodoxy, and her sweet approach to flamenco.  Presumably this is because her singing capability is so extraordinary that hardcore flamenco fans are always waiting for the fandangos of Alosno or Huelva, recalling Chacón or “Ten Cuidao”.  But then it wouldn’t even be the same Mayte Martín.

What we expect from her is to enhance and rework the old repertoire.  And of course, not court other genres so intensely, something she’s always done.  In fact it’s clear flamenco occupies a secondary percentage of her biography, something you wouldn’t expect from someone we call a “cantaora”.

So when you enter the theater aware that you’re about to hear her take on the poetry of Manuel Alcántara, you already know there isn’t going to be a lot of flamenco.

And we were not mistaken, nor were we expecting to see the most accomplished Mayte Martín to date.

She is a multi-faceted musician, playing guitar with good taste, singing with emotion, winning over the audience with free-wheeling humor and presenting us with a poet who is unknown to most people.

Twelve moving pieces with verses by the poet from Málaga, Manuel Alcántara.  Twelve vignettes involving childhood, war, Miguel Hernández, Manuel Altolaguirre, Picasso, the sea, Málaga…images with her guitar and that of her old sidekick, José Luis Montón.  Accompanied by the percussion of Chico Fargas, the double bass of Guillermo Prats and the glamorous elegant violin of Olvido Lanza.  Each one in proper place and subtly sublime, seconded at every moment by the stage presence of a woman who was already picking up flowers from the floor when the concert was only at the half-way point.

The performance began and ended in the same way, with an impressive melody which, mark my words, will find a niche in the popular psyche just as those pieces from her record “Querencia” did.  Mayte Martín has joined the ranks of singers who have pulled poetic verses out of the attic.  Many of us were not familiar with this particular poet, and that’s a shame, so Mayte Martín can be credited with double points.  She hit a mother lode and is now distributing the find.

The respect for the author’s poetry, the clearness of vision, the instrumentation, the rhythmic variety (just one almost-bulería, and a sort of alegrías, everything else don’t even bother to look in the dictionary of flamenco).  This is the real Mayte Martín, more sincere than ever. 

The encore made us bring out the hankies again.  “Buscando un Gran Amor” was the icing on the cake to round out the hour and a half the concert lasted.

Mayte Martín is becoming a cult figure.  She is to be seen and embraced gingerly and timidly in our repertoire of preferences, at the same time as we appreciate the bravery and energy with which she takes on projects.  She is one of the greats, no matter how you look at it.  The perfect master of ceremonies for the flamenco series at the Español theater which she herself inaugurated.

Last night the sweetest of Catalonian women achieved her goal of making good music; she transmitted emotion, especially sadness, delivered with a smile, poetry and good humor, and we all ended up crying like babies.



Guitar: José Luis Montón