44th Caracolá Lebrijana
TWO PERSPECTIVES, ONE COMMON LANGUAGE
A young Catalonian, and an old hand from Jerez. It would be hard to think of two more different backgrounds within flamenco than those of Miguel Poveda and Diego Carrasco. Travelling down the road of life, each one following his own particular itinerary, they came upon rhythms and forms that served them well, and their personal visions grew and developed. Thus considered, it was practically inevitable they would cross paths as wonderfully as they did at the plaza of the Hospitalillo of Lebrija, and on so many other occasions.
But let’s begin at the beginning… The focus of the forty-fourth Caracolá Lebrijana was distributed over two days, with a well-deserved tribute to Juan Peña “Lebrijano”, the most relevant figure of one of the most relevant flamenco towns. A photo exhibit devoted to the singer at the town’s cultural center, including the gift of a “Lebrijano Passport”, was complemented on Saturday night the 25th by the town’s official recognition of Lebrijano as “favorite son”. This act took place on the second day of the festival, with the noteworthy performance of the singer himself, in addition to Enrique Morente whose appearance was a historic first in this flamenco territory.
Diego Carrasco: the same old repertoire, and you never heard it before…a fine stream of flamenco poured out like the best sherry of Jerez
Friday night was given over to the above-mentioned odd couple. Diego Carrasco opened, singing with that gravely half-voice, accompanying his insinuated bulerías on guitar. More than sing, he philosophizes and observes life through the vehicle of his deep bulerías. “Debajito de la hoja del perejil”, Lorca reworked and filtered through Carrasco’s oneiric mind, the same old repertoire, and you never heard it before, art feeding upon itself. He talks of María la Perrata and Tío Lagaña, and sings about them with the flamenco mystery that permeates everything he does. “Ea lajea”, a fine stream of flamenco poured out like the best sherry of Jerez, travels into the night air of the Andalusian countryside. The message comes across free of interference. “Futuro puro puro”, “the tree of knowledge”, “Fernanda is the future and the past” – verses laid down like sentences. Diego Carrasco standing up communicates more than Diego Carrasco seated. That elegant minimalist dance, improvised poetry, swagger in the walk, snippets of music… He was backed up by relatives: Ané and Juan Carrasco on percussion, Currito de Navajita on guitar and Carmen Amaya with palmas and chorus.
Miguel Poveda. At just thirty-something, he’s at the top of the heap and his name is engraved in the annals of flamenco singing. It took an outsized talent to once and for all break the localist barriers that exist in many minds. Just a couple of years ago, who could possibly have dreamed that someone not born in Andalusia would become the most admired and sought-after singer in the country. This is the miracle Poveda has managed to pull off, and in every performance, the audience is at his feet. Not as they would be for a passing fad, but as for a bona fide flamenco singer, because the young man gets it all together: knowledge, ability, sensitivity, intelligence, humility and a boundless love for flamenco. With his compact regular group – Juan Gómez “Chicuelo” on guitar, and Carlos Grilo and Luís Cantarote on palmas – the Catalonian, like the Jerez man, did the same repertoire as always, with that knack certain people have for making the familiar sound fresh. Malagueñas de Chacón and Peñaranda, masterfully working the contrasts and ending with rondeña. Outstanding cantiñas with bulerías de Cádiz to match – Miguel may be the number one interpreter of this branch of cante to which he lends all the necessary flavor without copying anyone, and singing original verses as well: “Fue el orgullo de Cái / Chano Lobato en gloria esté / porque allí nació La Perla / Pericón y Aurelio Sellé” [“The pride of Cádiz was Chano Lobato, may he now be in heaven with la Perla, Pericón and Aurelio Sellé”]
The superb guitar-playing of Chicuelo, with just the right equilibrium between classic and contemporary, follows Poveda’s every breath, something you don’t see that much in the new generation of guitarists. Then, something extraordinary happens: the Lebrija audience cheers and applauds, jumping out of their seats for Miguel’s soléa apolá as if he’d just sung the latest hit disco song. Since the early days of the Camarón frenzy, I hadn’t seen this kind of reaction to classic cante. It’s possible Miguel Poveda is on his way to becoming a social phenomenon…or he may already be one.
Next, mineras, the cante that earned Poveda the Lámpara Minera and jump-started his career nineteen years ago. The duende of lower Andalusia stops by for a listen when siguiriyas and cabales begin to sound, momentarily entertaining some doubts, but finally joining in and cheering with the crowd. In tientos tangos the singer offered an admirable geographical tour-de-force, and bulerías a capella included cantes of Lebrija and many other tidbits, with compás that was not neatly counted out and memorized, but which oozed from every pore.
After an obligatory encore, the inevitable fiesta finale was Carrasco and Poveda for “Alfileres de Colores”, and the wonderful chemistry that unites these two men flowed abundantly.