XVI BIENAL DE FLAMENCO DE SEVILLA
Cante: Juan Valderrama; Special collaboration: Dulce Pontes, “El Güito”; Guitar: Daniel Casares; Piano: Laura de Los Ángeles; Cello: Rafael Domínguez; Double bass: Alberto Román; Violin: Alejandro Álvarez; Palmas: Jaleo group; Musical director and arrangements: Jesús Bola.
Text: Gonzalo Montaño Peña
Flamenco and pop singer Valderrama put together this show to honor a generation of singers who, according to him, have been forgotten, as well as defend a singing style he learned directly from his father.
The show opened with the projection of videos of “forgotten” maestros referred to in this tribute such as Caracol, Niña de los Peines, Vallejo, Marchena and Valderrama senior. At the same time an instrumental introduction left no doubt about the high musical quality and professional finish of this show. So I ask myself…are these maestros really forgotten? I honestly don’t think so. Just listen to the new recordings coming out, and the numerous references to these singers – that which is worthwhile doesn’t go out of style.
But getting back to the recital, after the interesting introduction, a rush of staccato strings brings Valderrama to the stage for the milonga “La Rosa” of Pepe Marchena. This is where we discovered a voice full of possibilities, a clear, well-pitched sound, and above all else, very comfortable with the falsete technique with rich melismas and a clear lovely low register, although as the show progressed I began to become aware of the linear quality of his singing; the question of rhythm, everything fitting just so, leaving little room for creativity in the phrasing.
The repertoire for this recital seemed at times repetitious, especially when guajira was linked to colombianas, or milonga to farruca and garrotín, making for a lyrical sound resulting from the vocal style and arrangements. Although it must be said this was an entertaining show, and the stories the singer told added interest that the audience was grateful for at every moment.
I enjoyed the guest appearances such as that of Dulce Pontes for whom the lyrical form vidalita held no mystery, making for an attractive duo with Valderrama. Oddly enough, in the previous Bienal, in a duet between the Portuguese singer and Estrella Morente, the former didn’t dare get near flamenco, but on this occasion she seemed quite at home in the role.
Also enjoyable was the cameo appearance of dancer El Güito por soleá. Majestic in his bearing, taking over the whole stage!
The musicians were well-chosen for the occasion, guitarist Daniel Casares got the job done at every step of the way, as well as the trio of strings and the piano of Laura de Los Ángeles who was elegant in her accompaniment, as well as in the rondeña solo she played.
The arrangements of Jesús Bola were high quality (for the concept of this particular show) and tasteful in their choice of instrumentation and accompaniment.
Generally speaking, this seemed more like a concert than a recital, and as such, was good. The sweet birdlike voice can get on your nerves after five or six songs, but the guest artists added some measure of variety. However, as a flamenco recital, there just wasn’t enough to it, it was lacking in “gracia” and avoided getting into situations where the cante could have grown and achieved some sort of depth – you take that away from cante, and it’s a lost cause.
“ALEJANDRÍAS, la mirada oblicua”
Text: Estela Zatania
Cante: Juan José Amador. Guitar, hurdy-gurdy: Raúl Cantizano. Dulcimer and lyre: Juan Manuel Rubio. Drums, cajón, bendir: Antonio Montiel. Violin: Fathi Ben Yakoub.
Despite having the longest libretto so far in the Bienal de Sevilla (or perhaps because of it), I didn’t know what to expect from a work titled “Alejandrías, La Mirada Oblicua”, presented by a company with the unpronounceable name “8co80”. In fact, what mostly convinced me to attend were the names of Inma “La Bruja” who ended up being substituted by Ana Malaver, and Juan José Amador who would not be involved in anything that wasn’t worthwhile.
And it was the right decision. I must point out two things however: 1) this is a work of danced theater, not theatrical dance, in the sense that there would be no change whatsoever in the outcome if all flamenco references were to be eliminated, and 2) I am not a theater critic.
Normally, when you see the phrase “ambitious work”, you can assume the person who wrote it wishes to convey “they bit off more than they could chew”. “Alejandrías, La Mirada Oblicua” however, is an ambitious work in the most positive sense: in my opinion the artists pull off the seemingly impossible task of representing a large part of the history of Alexander the Great in ninety minutes of dance. The opportunities for failure abound. Sexual and homosexual allusions, fanciful historical dress, fights, death, jealousy, envy and lengthy narratives between scenes…elements which in other dance companies have led to the most absolute limits of the absurd.
I do have to admit that in the first few minutes I had my eye on the door planning a possible escape route. Maybe all quality art triggers that response of sight or flight (forgive clumsy paraphrase). But thanks to the force of personality and capability of the four dancers, a sort of tension is created that does not allow you to take your eyes off the stage. Juan Carlos Lérida as Alexander gets into the skin of the illustrious Greek to the point of inspiring fear with the extravagance of his movements. Marco Vargas and Marcos Jiménez are equally impressive, and Chloé Brûlé is extraordinary in the long pas de deux with Lérida which is the most powerful danced seduction scene I can recall.
In the midst of such strong individuals, Juan José Amador and Ana Malaver who does the narration, remained secondary actors despite their admirable interpretations. “Trilla, seguiriya, abandolao, romance, nana, vidalita, giliana” says the program. All I remember is a dramatic story told by means of four highly expressive human vehicles, exotic music which in my ignorance of Greek culture struck me as “authentic” and a mysteriously beautiful coherent work, although in no shape size or form could it be called “flamenco”, not even by the most liberal definition.
“LA VIÑA: CANTÓN INDEPENDIENTE” DAVID PALOMAR
Text: Estela Zatania
Cante: David Palomar. Flamenco guitar: Ricardo Rivera, Keko Baldomero. Bass and double-bass: Manuel Posadas “Popo”. Piano and keyboard: Jesús Lavilla. Percussion and chorus. Javier Katumba. Drums: José Mena. Chorus and palmas: Anabel Rivera, Reyes Martín, Toñi Nogaredo, Matías López. Guest artists: Rafael Rodríguez, Daniel Méndez, Cifra 3.
From the intense Greek tragedy at the Central, the change to sweet luminous Cádiz couldn’t have been sharper…or more welcome. Young David Palomar presented his second recording, “La Viña, Cantón Independiente”, an ode to personal freedom and tribute to the neighborhood he grew up in. (I don’t really like to see record presentations at the Bienal outside the program of parallel activities, but it’s what there is nowadays).
An almost excessive group of seven musicians and three guest artists, given the limited dimensions and pretensions of the Teatro Alameda, backed up a long and carefully crafted show worthy of more prestigious stages. Personally, I would have preferred a conventional recital by this young interpreter of Cádiz cante – it’s always better to control one’s self-promotional urges – but the raw talent and open personality of Palomar smoothed over any possible misgivings.
The opening with protest rap soon dissolved into something a little less aggressive, and we were able to enjoy fandangos and tientos with fine original arrangements. The chorus of four voices, which surely sounds fine on the record, situated the recital firmly in the area of pop music; I’d have left them at home this time. A bulerías song about Jerez, carnival-style tanguillos about Napoleon’s invasion and the good humor of guitarist Ricardo Rivera set the typically Cádiz feeling of “let’s all just have a good time”.
A rock-style rumba was hardly annoying at all (joke…half joke…not everyone was ready for that), and guitarist Rafael Rodríguez appeared to accompany David. Morón guitarist Daniel Méndez was another guest artist, and some wonderful bulerías required no “modernization”; being the most dynamic flamenco form, it self-updates in the right hands and voices. Palomar is a kind of Diego Carrasco from Cádiz, naming the old singers of his town with special mention for Chano Lobato.
After sevillanas accompanied on keyboard, the singer showed his musical I.D. card; single-handedly, without guitar or palmas or anyone else onstage, he interpreted a series of alegrías, romeras and cantiñas just in case anyone still had doubts about his capacity.