FESTIVAL DE FLAMENCO DE NIMES
|Photo gallery by Ana Palma
Text: Estela Zatania
There was a double bill for the next to last day of the Festival Flamenco de Nimes 2011. The previous night the informal afterhours fiesta had lasted until breakfast, but there’s no stopping the intense atmosphere that has come to be an integral part of this unique annual happening in the south of France.
At eight in the evening, the theater of Nimes was filled to capacity with flamenco fans anxious to experience the singing of three women who represent the most traditional sort of Jerez cante. The fascinating sound of gravel filtered through old sherry of Juana la del Pipa cut the air of the theater triggering the first shouts of “ole!”. Dressed in electric red, with a backdrop to match and Diego del Morao on guitar, she began with the form that most identifies Jerez, bulería por soleá, or “a golpe” as some people say. Briefly she sang some tientos, not a regular piece of the Jerez repertoire, and then got up to move on to tangos extremeños with her characteristic dance bits. The complicity of the French audience was palpable at every moment.
A few moments of darkness to change singers. Dolores Agujeta, all nerve and strength in a package as minimalist and essential as her singing, and a delivery so rancid (in the flamenco sense) it gives new dimension to that adjective, sang bulería por soleá, what her father Manuel still calls “bulería pa’ escuchar”, exhibiting the characteristic sound of her family and incorporating styles of soleá. With Dieguito de la Agujeta on guitar, she continued with siguiriyas, laying on the tone-bending so cultivated by this dynasty of singers, slicing the air with accusatory gestures.
Again the darkness and the change of personnel. Now it’s Macanita, the youngest of the three, but of the same generation of home-grown flamenco. Por soleá, although she takes inspiration from Utrera and Fernanda, it’s pure Macanita – in flamenco the interpretation always carries more weight than the music. With a shout of “Viva Jerez!”, she embarked upon the first bulerías of the evening, with a lyrical song squeezed in too.
The three women wrap everything up with the impact of what is probably the first female “ronda de tonás”, each one with a stark overhead spot, the ancestral sound of Juana, Macanita with her voice like gushing water and the anarchic Dolores, daughter and grand-daughter of blacksmiths giving the most authentic rendition. Still to come was the fandango moment and the inevitable bulerías fiesta finale, each one using this flexiable form to express her own personality.
Later on at the Odéon café cantante, a French dance group gave testimony to the deep-running love for flamenco in this country with its own self-sufficient ecosystem inspired in, but not necessarily dependant upon Spanish or Andalusian forms. Tonás and livianas, abandolao cante, alegrías in the Farruquito style (it’s surprising how profoundly the school of Farruco el viejo has influenced today’s dancers via grandson Farruquito), mining cante, soleá and caña, bulerías… In a cuadro made up of dancers Melinda Sala and Ángel López, guitarist Juan Santiago, keyboardist Manolo Santiago, violinist Pascal Delalee and singers Blas Deleria and Cristo Cortés, the most noteworthy by far was the latter, although they all deserve a heartfelt “chapeau”.