Three unique individuals, unmistakable, each one
in his own way. Misfits some would say…misunderstood geniuses
others would say.
Diego de Morón, nephew of guitarist Diego del Gastor,
the adopted son of Morón de la Frontera and clear representative
of a style of flamenco guitar-playing that came to be so popular
abroad that for several years at the end of the sixties, beginning
of the seventies, the small town of Morón became a
sort of Mecca for American flamenco fans, while Spanish followers
of the art took little notice. Diego del Gastor died childless
in 1973 leaving the essence of his “cuerda pelá”
style (a way of playing the instrument that relies heavily
on thumb-work and rejects harmonies) to four nephews of whom
the most faithful interpreter is Diego de Morón, a
free spirit and philosopher without portfolio.
Manuel de los Santos Pastor, patriarch of the singing dynasty
of the “Agujetas”, heirs to the legacy of Manuel
Torre with a time-worn, gut-wrenching voice. Respected by
nearly all flamenco-followers due to his tremendous ability
to communicate via cante, he is also known for his Bohemian
ways and independent spirit, his anarchic singing and some
off-the-wall declarations he occasionally makes to the press.
A personality who cannot be ignored, no matter how you look
Flamenco the way it was played
just before another generation set out on their long march
Writer P.D. James wrote that “Creativity is the successful
resolution of internal problems”. We don’t know
whether the reappearance of Niño Miguel is due to any
such mental peace, but a few days ago this guitarist, born
two years after Camarón de la Isla, touted in his adolescence
as the one who would wipe Paco de Lucía off the map,
had the courage to do what few current stars of the guitar
would risk: a recital of nearly one hour, solo, without cajón
or palmas or Indian drums. As if emerged from a time capsule,
with the associated advantage of not having become “contaminated”
by jazz, he played flamenco the way it was played just before
another generation set out on their long march toward experimentalism
with alternative tunings, “green” chords as we
used to call them and correct but hidden compás that
no longer involves listeners with the same urgency.
There was heavy emotional baggage. His frail, weary appearance,
far beyond what you would expect after the passage of thirty
years’ time, triggered a muffled gasp among those of
us of a certain age who remember the face of that adolescent
who would become king. He took his seat, apologized saying
something about being “a little under the weather”
and started pulling beautiful and mysterious sounds from his
guitar with a dynamic attack, owing a great deal to Paco de
Lucía, no question about that, with the occasional
nod to Sabicas but always with his own personality and a fair
amount of original material which fell surprisingly fresh
upon our ears. He acknowledged the first enthusiastic applause
with extreme humility, almost shame.
You could tell he was intimate friends with his instrument.
He would fine-tune on the fly like the most seasoned professional,
and modulated between keys with absolute authority. You would
have expected worse technique, and certainly he was a long
way from current standards, missing notes here and there,
but he accomplished no small feat given the difficulty of
the material. His left hand seemed up to the task, the one
that creates the positions, but his working hand was off,
the one that strums and picks, as was his coordination between
both. Were he so inclined, he could approach the level of
today’s best with a few months of dedicated study, but
unfortunately for flamenco fans, that is highly unlikely to
He played lengthy pieces that did not sound like “themes”,
but rather the old system of melodic excursions linked by
rhythmic phrases that kept us on track and prepared the ear
for ever more sophisticated falsetas. There was not one dull
moment and it was impossible to avoid wistfully recalling
a Paco de Lucía who was more flamenco than now – the
handwriting on the wall for many of today’s virtuoso
NIÑO MIGUEL, LIVING
LEGEND OF THE GUITAR, RESURFACES AT THE CENTRO CULTURAL EL
The evening of March 10th, Niño Miguel reappeared
after nearly thirty years’ absence at the Sala Joaquín
Turina of Sevilla Centro Cultural El Monte.
This past Thursday the history of flamenco wrote another
glorious page. For more than thirty years the guitarist from
Huelva was unjustly ignored. Mental illness and his extremely
precarious physical condition made this individual whom Paco
de Lucía called “one of the best flamenco guitarists
in history”, live the life of a vagabond, roaming the
streets of his city.
Faithful to their philosophy, Seville producer Taller Flamenco
designed a show in honor of the guitarist in which not only
Miguel, but also Agujetas and Diego de Morón performed.
Miguel Vega de la Cruz, Niño Miguel (Huelva, 1952),
son of Almería guitarist Miguel de Tomate. Despite
an uneven career he is considered one of the great flamenco
guitarists. He learned to play by his father’s side
and while still a child was accompanying star singers. In
the seventies his way of playing caused a sensation. In 1973
he won the Prize of Honor at the Peña Los Cernícalos
Concurso Nacional de Guitarra in Jerez, and Spanish television
devoted a program to him in the series “Raíces”.
He recorded two records with Universal, both re-released in
1999 under the title “Grabaciones históricas.
El Flamenco es universal. Niño Miguel”, now out
of print. He had little luck in performance and in fact, Seville’s
Third Bienal de Flamenco became his final public appearance.
Guitarists like his nephew Tomatito and Rafael Riqueni have
lavished praise on the quality of his compositions. His musical
legacy contains such noteworthy pieces as the fandango “Brisas
de Huelva” and “Lamento”, a waltz rhythm,
both of which, fortunately, have been transcribed under the
title “Guitarra gitana. El Niño Miguel”.
As of now, Niño Miguel continues to wander the streets
of Huelva with his guitar, completely cut off from the professional
circuit. His performance March 10th, 2005 at Seville’s
Sala Joaquín Turina within the series “Jueves
Flamencos” was one of the rare opportunities flamenco
fans have had in many years to enjoy his guitar-playing.
Granaína, alegrías, zambra, bulerías
and taranta. Fifty-five historical minutes, and a lesson.
That dignity and art have no price.
Today he’ll be back on the streets of his town making
his hard-scrabble living and hastening to his fate, while
those who dress him in a suit and shave him, divvy up the
The other side of the same coin is Diego de Morón.
The son of flamenco singer Joselero de Morón came to
demonstrate that his uncle Diego taught him much more than
just a way of playing. And that’s why he was right in
the wings, enthralled with Miguel’s playing, not missing
a single note. To be sure, his playing is diametrically opposed
to that of the man from Huelva. But that’s exactly where
you find the greatness of art.
Transmitting with simplicity is far more difficult than it
looks. Not everyone can floor an audience letting a few notes
of siguiriyas, soleá or bulerías ring out, even
though nowadays flamenco guitar-playing has a higher level
Diego de Morón came to offer his art. In his own good
way. One note at a time. He let it all hang out. He stopped.
He plucked the strings and thus spoke to his audience. He
painted his name in gold letters to play alongside Miguel
on a program that will go down in history, and by the way,
Agujetas spent his time on stage doing everything but singing
straightforward. Because even if it was only out of respect
for Miguel, he should have spilled his guts.
There’s no way of knowing if this was the last time
Miguel will appear on stage. Just as we don’t know when
Diego will do so. In any case, it’s irrelevant because
thanks to the private institution El Centro Cultural el Monte,
and some incurable romantics, we were able to see him just
'Rey del cante gitano'
Diego de Morón
'A Diego el del Gastor de Morón'