XLII Fiesta de la Bulería
Familia Parrilla, Jesús Méndez, Manuel Moneo, Farruco and his group, Diego Carrasco
For weeks the Jerez flamenco community was fussing about the program which for the first time in many years would not include either of the town’s biggest cult figures: Capullo and Torta. Instead, the mainstream attraction this year was Diego Carrasco with pop figures David de María and Junior, something else that made the conservative sector bristle.
That it was going to be a crashing bore, that nobody would go, that a city like Jerez ought to take better care of their venerable festival… On the one hand, it was true, there weren’t even half as many people as normally show up at the bullring each year for this festival; the recession continues to be deeply felt in cultural endeavours. But when we’re talking about 3000 people as opposed to the usual 7000 or more, one can hardly speak of a lack of interest. In fact, the only thing missing was the feeling of being at a gigantic beer party with gangs of young people less interested in bulerías than brawling, which is the usual crowd the above-mentioned singers tend to attract. This year the Fiesta de la Bulería was returned to the diehard flamenco-lovers.
With the famous siguiriyas falseta we relate, not only to Jerez, but to Manuel Fernández “Parrilla de Jerez” in whose memory this year’s festival was held, the mega event got underway. In no more than one minute, fiesta sounds with the Jerez trademark were ringing out and filling the bullring. For a full hour the Parrilla family, under the direction of Juan, brother of Manuel, and with the noteworthy participation of Bernardo and Juan on violin and flute respectively, served up a varied fiesta in which the musical and spiritual presence of Manuel were felt throughout. As he was leaving the stage, Juan Parrilla look briefly heavenward, and it was impossible not to read the thought in his head at that moment, the most eloquent tribute possible: “that was for you, Manuel”.
The dignity and specific weight cante deserves
Next up was the promising hopeful, the young man who has been anointed standard-bearer to defend Jerez flamenco. Jesús Méndez began to draw attention a few years ago, and master guitarist Gerardo Núñez had the foresight to include him in his group. Ever since then, the singer has continued to grow and mature, and last night he was self-assured and dynamic. This flamenco-savvy audience greatly appreciated the cantiñas, bulerías, malagueñas and siguiriyas Méndez interpreted, accompanied on guitar by Manuel Valencia and Miguel Salado.
On this night so strongly anchored in the San Miguel neighborhood, the cante heavyweight was Manuel Moneo, with the back-up of his family, sons, daughters and grandchildren: Barullo, Barullito, Macarena and Rocío. Manuel is in the peculiar situation of being better appreciated outside Jerez than in. This is an absolutely classic, sober singer who has never had time for the histrionic style Jerez flamencos are so fond of. Rejecting all special effects, he presents his cantes with authority and respect. It’s a more difficult route, but one which this old lion ably manages with all the dignity and specific weight cante deserves. Soleá, fandangos, tonás and bulerías, dense timeless cante with a good flamenco voice, knowledge and compás: everything else is dispensable.
Praying at the same flamenco altar in perfect harmony
And speaking of histrionics, the dance portion this year was the very popular Farruco, or “Farru” as he’s called, younger brother of Farruquito. An extraordinary dancer, just like his grandfather, brother and other family members. So how come I’m not convinced? So identical to his brother, and yet he lacks the dark mystery of Farruquito, or of his mother Farruca. He doesn’t work the silences, he smiles far too much and has a circus-like show-biz personality. The excellent back-up was Antonio Rey and Jesule on guitar, Juan José Amador, el Granaína and Antonio Zúñiga al cante, Popo on electric bass, the percussion of Isidro Sanlúcar and Bernardo and Juan Parrilla on violin and flute.
The charismatic Diego Carrasco arrived to put things in place, tie up loose ends and unite generations and perspectives in a lengthy fiesta finale with the noteworthy collaboration of Remedios Amaya, David de María, Junior and quirky homespun performer Diego Pantoja. Carrasco, always well-aware of his artistic heritage, is probably the only person capable of putting such a diverse collection of personalities on the same stage and making it work. Young rockers, the queen of gypsy cante and an old bohemian, all praying at the same flamenco altar in perfect harmony; this is the indelible impression left by the Fiesta de la Bulería 2009.