XVL Festival de Cante Grande
Text and photos: Estela Zatania
Between numbers, tributes and eulogies for Morente and Moraíto
Cante: Arcángel, Marina Heredia, Julián Estrada, David Palomar, David Pino. Guitar: Miguel Ángel Cortés, Luis Mariano, Ricardo Rivera, Gabriel Expósito, Manuel Silveria. Dance: La Lupi and her group with Curro de María, guitar, el Pulga and Manuel de la Curra, cante
It isn’t on the regular circuit of classic cante festivals, but with this year’s edition it’s been 45 years, so far that Puente Genil’s annual Festival de Cante Grande “Fosforito” has been held, one of the oldest and most stable of its kind.
A festival that continues in the classic format, with drink coolers and picnic baskets, and flamenco fans sharing food and drink with strangers, discussing the fine points of diverse flamenco topics… Each year the day of the Virgen of the Assumption which falls on August 15th, marks the beginning of the local fair prefaced by this venerable festival which has received nearly all the top flamenco stars of the last half-century. The ample field of the municipal fair zone being just about full despite the TV broadcast of a major soccer game at the same hour, is an indication of the level of interest, and this being the birthplace of maestro Antonio Fernández Díaz, “Fosforito”, you wouldn’t expect anything less. In fact, the original name of the festival, maintained for years, was “Fosforito Canta en su Pueblo” [‘Fosforito sings in his hometown’]. The beloved singer is always present in the first row, although according to posters, he hasn’t participated artistically since 1999.
The summer heat is still strong when the emcee welcomes us all and asks for a round of applause for Moraíto who is in everyone’s thoughts. But this year’s festival is officially dedicated to the memory of Enrique Morente who was also honored by this same event in 2002, and we hear his recorded voice por tonás competing with the occasional distant cheering of soccer fans.
Cádiz singer David Palomar opened the program with Ricardo Rivera on guitar, and the palmas of Anabel Rivera and Diego Montoya. According to geographic stylistic borders, Puente Genil is far from the triangle that includes Cádiz, but it’s in the heart of a sort of lozenge-shaped area that extends from Carmona and Marchena, towards Lucena and beyod, in other words, flamenco territory with a different flavor. This is the first time Palomar performed in this festival, and he came with the intention of defending his approach to cante. He interpreted chuflas dedicated to Morente and Moraíto, and siguiriyas, the yin and the yang of classic Cádiz flamenco singing. He dedicated alegrías cantiñas to his son of 25 days with verses that spoke of Cádiz and its most representative singers and places. This “Cádiz suite” was closed out with tanguillos de Cádiz, and when the audience cheered for an encore, he offered some fandangos.
Local singer David Pino has sung in this festival on numerous occasions. In addition to singing, he is a guitar teacher and flamenco investigator, which is admirable enough to warrant overlooking the limitations of his thin voice. Nevertheless, he has two important things in his favor. On the one hand, a taste for seldom-heard cantes…in this case, caracoles and a stylized arrangement of bambera…and on the other, the noteworthy guitarist Gabriel Expósito, a virtuoso with a fine taste for accompaniment. In the siguiriyas that Pino dedicates to Fosforito, the Cordoban guitarist makes the most of a tuned-down sixth string, but even more interesting is his limited use of passing chords. In other words, this young man who effortlessly dominates the entire neck of the guitar, is singularly reserved in the accompaniment of this basic form which over the years has acquired a musicality that adds beauty, but greatly limits the singer’s options. Expósito allows small doses of harmony with extreme control, which has the effect of restoring the modal quality of the cante.
After Pino, Marina Heredia, a vision of exotic Granada beauty, takes the stage with her guitarist Luis Mariano, and Reyes Martín and Jara Heredia for palmas. She puts her flexible flamenco voice at the service of an alegrías song arrangement, with a sprinkling of traditional styles that manage to keep the flavor on track. A malagueña is closed with fandangos de Albayzín, including some styles seldom heard outside of Granada; home-grown cante always tastes best. Continuing with repertoire from her most recent recording, she interprets soleá of Triana. Tangos which she announces saying “let’s remember Enrique”, actually include a large dose of Camarón nostalgia, which is inevitable considering her generation and background. She ends with fandangos and the stage is readied for the dance segment of the show.
Lupi and her group, a Málaga dancer whose name hardly circulates, an inexplicable lack of attention that we flamencos have had with this artist. With Curro de María on guitar, and the cante of Pulga and Manuel de la Curra, Susana la Lupi was intensely flamenco with abundant personal details. In fact, the dancing of this woman, who for years was the teacher of Rocío Molina, actually reveals where the young revolutionary dance star is coming from. In alegrías, verdiales and serranas, Lupi is classic yet original, traditional yet surprising, flamenco always, always…
After intermission, another singer from Puente Genil who tends always to be on the program: Julián Estrada. An assortment of temporeras, and then peteneras bring a change of pace. Manuel Silveria is another noteworthy guitarist from the rich Córdoba roster. Estrada, the eternally young forty-something singer, interprets soleá, alegrías with mirabrás and other cantiñas, a bulerías song with abandolao, fandangos and the audience enthusiastically eats up every bit with applause and ovations.
Arcángel is the big star of the evening. With his regular guitarist, Miguel Ángel Cortés, and the Saavedra twins for chorus and palmas, the Huelva singer interpreted his standard repertoire adapted to the taste of this particular audience. His insistently high voice is well-matched “por medio” for soleá with a retro flavor, and the most baroque sort of vocal arabesques. A pop song to tango compás with a similarly precious style is very well-received by all those present, and after some fandangos there are words of admiration for Morente, “always in search of art”. The famous cantiñas arrangement is a perfect inalterable jewel of perfection. Arcángel needs to be begged…it’s all part of the act…for his well-known fandangos de Huelva, bringing everything to an end with the audience singing along “Calle Real de Alosno”, and maestro Fosforito smilingly applauding when Arcángel takes his final bow at twenty to five in the morning.