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Reunión de Cante Jondo 2011. Puebla de Cazalla. José Menese, Pepe Torres, La Moneta...

July 11, 2011

XLIII Reunión de Cante Jondo
Saturday, July 9th, 2009. 1100pm
La Puebla de Cazalla, Hacienda La Fuenlonguilla



Text and photos: Estela Zatania


Cante: Cancanilla de Málaga, Ana Ramírez “La Yiya”, Rubito hijo, José Menese, Diego Clavel. Guitar: Antonio Carrión, Manuel Herrera. Dance: Pepe Torres and his group. Fuensanta “La Moneta” and her group

The pungent scent of rosemary, the respectful atmosphere, the program that makes no concessions…  I must be at the Reunión de Cante Jondo de la Puebla de Cazalla.

If classic festivals are in their death-throes as so many say these days, it’s not the fault of the format or the organization: it’s the worrisome, and increasingly noticeable shortage of traditional interpreters.  But in the great
tradition of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”, now we get festivals heavy on academics and short on music, where the word “jornadas”, more or less “study days”, can be a euphemism for “there aren’t a lot of artists to fill the bill, so we’re going to give courses, stage exhibits and hold round-table discussions”.  Not that these parallel activities are not valid or important, but there’s a lack of balance, and we’re beginning to see a prototype of festival that’s more brainy than artistically moving.

Pepe Torres
Ana Ramírez 'La Yiya'

And then they talk about the drink coolers.  It’s not the coolers that raise hell at some festivals, but the people who bring them.  And if they happen to be from La Puebla, you can be sure there won’t be a single “ole!” at the wrong moment.  Thank you Mr. Francisco Moreno Galván and Mr. José Menese Scott for having created this idyllic flamencoland 44 years ago according to your vision and criteria.  Because it makes the difficult job I’ve assumed of defending the classic format of the festival heyday much easier.

As in all festivals of any kind, La Puebla has had a few weak years.  Last night was not one of them.   In fact, about when the unknown lady sitting next to me offered me a glass of manzanilla wine and a tapa of Spanish omelette, just as the second siguiriya of the night was getting underway, for a moment it felt like I’d been transported to 1971 when I attended this venerable event for the first time.

The festival started as in other years with guitar, on this occasion with two maestros, and that’s not a word I take lightly: Manuel Herrera and Antonio Carrión, who also accompanied the five singers on the program.  They played soleá, and here, in the heart of the Seville countryside, where cante is understood in a different way, and the ghosts of past stars still circulate among olive and carob trees, this noble music takes on a life of its own and smells of flamenco’s interior heartland.  The audience that filled the timeless patio hung on every note, and cheered the best falsetas.  Where else do you see anything like that nowadays?

Cancanilla de Málaga
Diego Clavel, Manuel Herrera

Adapting to new economic realities, but without relinquishing one whit of dignity, the organization programmed four singers from La Puebla, and only one from outside.  Ana Ramírez “La Yiya” looks like your  typical young girl fresh out of a flamenco singing academy, but there was a lot more to her.  After malagueñas and abandolao, she interpreted some frankly moving siguiriyas.  Soleá por bulerías, remembering La Moreno and landing cleanly in Jerez where “Dios le mandó un castigo mu’ grande”.  She finished with caracoles, and we have Menese to thank for cultivating these seldom-heard cantes.

Rubito Hijo, one of the two winners of Lámparas Mineras who reside in La Puebla, sang soleá, alegrías and siguiriyas…classic, competent, without any big surprises.  His bulerías were quite tasty, and the singer had some interesting personal details before ending with a fandango encore..

Cancanilla de Málaga, who used to go by the name “de Marbella”, is a singer in the classic pre-Camarón line of Antonio Mairena, as you could tell by his knowledge, compás and a powerful natural voice.  Soleá with intelligently linked verses, tientos tangos and siguiriyas, from the one about the “moro” up to the “dos días señalaítos”, tastefully updated.  His bulerías…delightful, inspired, stylized, laying down the law with compás, monkeying around in the best flamenco tradition…got the audience to their feet for the first time this night.

Fuensanta La Moneta
José Menese & Antonio Carrión

The emcee took advantage of Pepe Torres’ appearance to point out that the dancer is a descendent of Diego del Gastor from the neighboring town of Morón de la Frontera.  With an excellent group of singers made up of Enrique Extremeño, Moi de Morón and Guillermo Manzano, and the Iglesias brothers, Miguel and Paco on guitar, the sobriety and elegance of Pepe’s dancing, so well-appreciated in La Puebla, came off extremely well despite some problems with the amplification.  In the bulerías finale, el Extremeño got into it as if his life depended on it, and the three rough-hewn voices, with Pepe squeezing out every drop of flamenco, left us happily exhausted.

Two-thirty in the morning, and it’s only the half-way point…but no one’s complaining!  Once again the instrumental duet opens, and again it’s top-notch.  Diego Clavel, discreet singing star of this town, and possibly the most studious and dedicated, starting out dryly: “Buenas noches…por granaína”.  Then, “liviana, serrana and María Borrico”, and the neophytes among the audience were grateful for the didactic tone.  Romance and malagueñas of Chacón and Peñaranda with abandolao closed out Clavel’s dignified performance, although he felt the need to apologize a couple of times for a slightly out-of-control voice that was more than forgiven by his numerous admirers.

The career of twenty-six year old dancer Fuensanta la Moneta can’t be described with the hackneyed adjective “meteoric”.  From the long formative years of adolescence in the Sacromonte cave of La Rocío, to the highest dance prize of La Unión in 2003, then followed by participation in a number of companies, this is one hard-working girl.  She’s flirted with the avant-garde, without ever abandoning the classic line, the polkadots and sprig of rosemary she so proudly wears in her hair.  In fact, she is today the youngest dance star of traditional flamenco.  And God bless her for it many would say, although others would call her an impossible anachronism.  Here in La Puebla, she’s the queen of dance precisely because of her conservative approach, and this is the fourth time she’s been on the bill.  Like Pepe Torres, she brought fine voices, those of Jerez singer Miguel Lavi, and of Morón native David el Galli, in addition to the same excellent guitar-playing brothers Iglesias.  She danced soleá and siguiriya with her characteristic temperament and energy.  Hers is an intense style full of substance but short on silence – with the contrast that would be offered if she allowed subtle quiet moments, the results would be spectacularly enhanced.

When José Menese is programmed to come on last, you know it’s because he is the La Puebla singer with the most number of diehard fans.  And they adore him unconditionally, and although there have been some less than brilliant performances on the singer’s part, his people never turn their backs on him.  On this night, fortunately, there wasn’t much to forgive in a mini recital that included romance, caracoles, tientos, soleá, peteneras and siguiriyas.  And people who didn’t feel like sticking it out to 6:30 in the morning for the round of tonás and the closing fiesta, were free to leave, an option chosen by many after the town’s favorite flamenco son had taken the last bow.