Text: Curro Velázquez-Gaztelú
Photos: Marta Vila Aguilà
Second half of the festival Flamenco on Fire. Ballet Nacional de España, Farruquito, María Juncal, Cumbre Flamenca Latin Jazz, Estrella Morente.
One of the strong points of Flamenco on Fire, came Thursday the 27th, having passed the half-way point of the festival, with the Ballet Nacional de España, directed by Antonio Najarro. “Alento y Zaguán”. They have nothing to envy of Broadway. The first part, «Alento», based on classic Spanish dance with a contemporary flavor and outstanding staging. The inspiring music, recorded in the first part, was under the direction of Jesús Torres. The second, «Zaguán», the most flamenco portion, with choreography by the great Marco Flores, which included siguiriyas and tonás, guajira and milonga. At every point the unmistakable mark of the dancer from Arcos bubbled to the surface via the dancers. Particularly in the second choreography where Flores himself seemed to be present. Blanca del Rey did a transcendental soleá with shawl, and without musical accompaniment, dancer Esther Jurado demonstrated her capacity to reach the heart and soul. La Lupi offered her own tangos, and Mercedes Ruiz worked the bata de cola, one of the areas she best dominates, for cantiñas de Córdoba, a seldom-seen piece. The end was a collective endeavor, a production in which the smallest detail was taken care of, and nothing was haphazard.
On the same day, at the Palacio del Condestable, a different venue from the Baluarte, where most of the program took place, there was an improvisation workshop with Farruquito. A complete success. Everything Juan puts his hands to is a guaranteed success. And in the same place, but in different rooms, the documentary of Vicente Pérez Herrero, «Flamenco de Raiz» was projected. A series which has been very successful with audiences; for just one euro admission, each day a film is projected. There were some amateur documentaries, and others professionally made, serving to demonstrate the festival's support for people starting out. Granada dancer Iván Vargas was the one who danced so well at the hotel Los Tres Reyes within the afterhours series…you can tell whom he takes after.
The following day, Friday the 28th, was one of the most awaited. Juan Manuel Fernández Montoya, Farruquito, brought his show «Improvisao» to Pamplona-Iruña, and with a large group he returned to the roots. Without additives of any kind, improvisation was the thread that held everything together. On guitar, Román Vicenti and Jerez guitarist José Gálvez, doing what they do best, keeping the show on track. Polito on cajón, and singing, Antonio Villar, Mari Vizárraga Pepe de Pura, and unable to be present because of her advanced pregnancy, Fabiola Pérez was replaced by her husband Manuel «Zambullo». From Deflamenco.com we send out best wishes to both.
In the evening, there was a conference by Joaquín Albaycín about his aunt, María Albaycín, “Diaghilev y el Amor Brujo”. This was the last day of screenings, with Curro Sánchez' documentary “La Búsqueda”. The afterhours show was offered by Josemi Carmona, Pamplona artist Javier Colina and Bandolero.
Towards the weekend, the arrival of people from various points of the geography could be noticed: southern France, Japan, Basque country, Aragón, La Rioja, Castilla León, Santander, Valencia, Andalusia and especially Madrid and Barcelona. This has been the definitive consolidation, without a doubt. The administration, as well as locals, have come to realize this project is a commodity that generates communal cultural spaces and unites interests. Culture is a necessary platform, and although it is suffering from the burden of 21% VAT, it continues to be necessary for towns and people to create their own criteria, without any kind of binding distortion. «Flamenco on Fire» is a ground-breaking project that promises continuity in the coming years. In just two years it has managed to situate itself among the top festivals of this art-form. Because «Flamenco on Fire» goes beyond the standard festival format. «Flamenco on Fire» is a cross-discipline event with important private investment, something not common among flamenco festivals, and in which the administration assumes responsibility for most of the cost.
The 29th was the only day there were two shows at the Baluarte. The medium-format one on the Flamenco on Fire stage at 7:00pm, and the large format show on the Sabicas stage at 9:00pm. Last year there were more shows in the early evening, but in this second edition, the only one was Maria Juncal with her «Encierro de Ana Frank», in which visual expression plays an important role. A very theatrical production in which many contemporary moments were visible. Bilbao guitaris Yago Santos, a disciple of Riqueni, did two musical arrangements along with Basilio García and the guitar of Diego Villegas. Eclectic music, some of which was inspired in flamenco forms, other pieces that were free compositions, with no rules of any kind. The violin and clarinet could not be absent in this story, as they are instruments that were played a great deal by religious people. Voice and percussion were also part of the mix. In this show, hope triumphs, as do dreams in the face of barbarity, authoritarianism and war. María Juncal opens her arms without prejudice to any form of exploitation, injustice and religious vehemence, always via art, flamenco and dance.
In the early afternoon José María Velázquez-Gaztelu was with us to pay tribute to Pepe Habichuela. The conference was titled «La Guitarra en Rito», in other words, in «Rito y Geografía del Cante». In this series of programs from the early 70s, produced and broadcast by RTVE, there were episodes devoted to guitar and guitarists, among them Juan Habichuela, and Pepe as well, and we enjoyed these pieces from the programs.
At a quarter past nine, “Cumbre Flamenca Latin-Jazz”. Music galore with high-flying musicians made us understand that we're privileged to have a musical form as rich as flamenco, and the possibility to open it up to other types of world music without losing one speck of legitimacy, nor deforming the roots, mutual respect at all times. Nearly three hours of the best music. Jorge Pardo, the person «guilty» of this crazy scheme, accompanied by Javier Colina on the upright bass, Jerry González on trumpet, Rycardo Moreno on guitar, Caramelo on piano, Antonio Serrano on harmonica and Piraña on percussion, with Bandolero later being invited to join them on stage. With so much talent gathered together, you lose all notion of time. Soleá, soleá del Chaqueta, tangos, taranta, in addition to themes of Piazzola, boleros, joropo venezolano… How long will we have to wait before these tremendous artists join forces on stage again?
Sunday was the day most awaited. The afternoon began with the conference of Balbino Gutiérrez titled “Pepe Habichuela y Enrique Morente” (Hermanos en el Arte). At 9:00pm, and with all tickets sold, 1,500 on August 30th, is quite a feat. Estrella Morente with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Navarra and Paco Suárez. «El Amor Brujo». The presenter and actress Eva Hache introduced the show with accustomed intelligence, with respect and without clichés, something all too common when it comes to flamenco. She was in her place at all times, and opened the second part: Estrella Morente at her most orthodox, with the powerful guitar of Montoyita, and the palmas and backup of Ángel Gabarre and Antonio Carbonell. Pregones, bulería por soleá, polo and alegrías. She also sang lyirical granaínas, in the purest style of Estrella Morente, siguiriya with Montoyita in ecstasy, playing magnificently, and bulerías cuplé. In the second part, and with the entire Orquesta Sinfónica de Navarra on stage, along with the ubiquitous Paco Suárez, before delving into the work of the Cádiz composer, we were treated to popular songs: “Viva Sevilla”, “Las Tres Morillas de Jaén, Axa Fátima y Marién”, from the 15th century, the gypsy anthem “Gelem Gelem” and “La Oración del Torero” of Joaquín Turina. After an hour and a half, the first notes of «Amor Brujo» sounded: “Danza Ritual del Fuego”, “La Canción del Fuego Fatuo” and “Danza del Terror”. The orchestra, keeping good time at every point despite some lagoons that came up as the work progressed, is a well-seasoned group, very professional and in love with music. Chances are people who understand classical music would be able to point out everything that took place on stage. In spite of everything, the privilege of hearing and seeing an orchestra of this level is not something you have the opportunity to do every day. Estrella also did some dancing in the part of our most universal composer, ending the piece with a symphonic version of «Volver». This was the icing on the cake that lasted eight days and nights. A recently-baked cake that appears to have many portions in store, thanks to the hard work of the organization of «Flamenco on Fire», and all the people and entities that in one way or another support and collaborate in order to make this project a reality, with dignity, coherence and class, which is exactly how it is being done. From the outset, you have to know how to take care of a project like this, treat it well and with affection so it does not become just another festival among the many that are celebrated in this country.
People were reluctant to celebrate the closing of this second edition, but they were prepared to see it end in the proper way. The finishing touch was the «Ciclo Nocturno»: Juan Carmona “El Camborio”, Saúl Quirós and Kike Morente. Incredible! Saúl did what he usually does with that peculiar voice of his, and that way of knowing the songs, accompanied at all times by Juan Carmona who knows his stuff inside and out on the guitar. But José Enrique Morente caused the greatest sensation. The Morente style oozes from every pore of his skin, but in the most natural way, not at all contrived, with a sensitivity that attracts both neophytes and experts in flamenco. Kike Morente is going to be one of the greats, because it's inside him, and in his stage presence. His natural voice attracts like a magnet. Because despite reminding us of his father, he brings it all to his own terrain like a force of nature. Kiki will be around for many years, just as we'll also have «Flamenco on Fire» for many years. So be it!