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tf10music

 

Posts: 51
Joined: Jan. 3 2017
 

The Spanish government publicly apol... 

A few days ago, Pablo Iglesias issued a public apology on behalf of the Spanish government to the Gitano community for hundreds of years of institutional racism, mistreatment, etc. One thing that struck me was the way he talked about "la invisibilización" of the Gitanos throughout history and also in the study of history. It made me think about how there has been a trend of class-reductionism among some of the writing about flamenco, which proposes the idea that the 'gitanidad' of flamenco is by and large a reification of injustice suffered by the lower classes. These arguments risk suppressing the racial valences of gitanidad in flamenco, because they are saying more or less that while the Gitanos are in fact an ethnic group, to be a 'gitano' has more to do with one's class status than one's ethnicity and the cultural specificities therein.

On that note, I was wondering what our members think of when they hear a cantaor singing, for instance, "porque soy gitano." What does that mean to you within the coded context of flamenco transmission?

Here's the article that I mentioned, by the way: https://www.europapress.es/epsocial/igualdad/noticia-pablo-iglesias-pide-perdon-pueblo-gitano-racismo-institucional-ellos-historia-espana-20200730140754.html
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 1 2020 19:27:16
 
Ricardo

Posts: 12088
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to tf10music

Rito y Geografia does not feature Porrina or Farina, but it does make a point to enter Caracol’s lavish mansion with fancy paintings and such. Most interviews with the successful singers focus on their need to leave the big city and return to their humble andalusian roots. Perhaps without the class distinctions, there would be no Flamenco as we think of it.

_____________________________

CD's and transcriptions available here:
www.ricardomarlow.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 2 2020 18:23:37
 
etta

 

Posts: 298
Joined: Jan. 20 2010
 

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to tf10music

In regard to Gitanos as a subculture, it seems that most subcultures are related to class, ethnicity, unique historical baggage, and often race itself. These subcultures are usually at the bottom of the class scale. Slavery, and especially in the U.S.A., created among the slaves a class that relegated them to the bottom of class structure, and color gave them an even greater and more negative identity. This subculture was contrived by the majority of white society to created subservient and docile people. Slaves worked hard with great difficulty to create their own culture. That included music forms (the blues for example), religious music to boost spirits for a better future, but they also learned to compensate psychologically for their plights with happy music, defiant music, crisis and sorrowful music, dance, and especially pride even if that pride could not be reflected outside their own subculture. For most of us "pride" is a substitute for self-esteem. If we can be nothing else we can be proud whether it be as individuals, or down trodden subcultures, or down trodden nations. Sometimes this can be a good thing or sometimes it can set the world aflame. But, the culture of these groups is very rich with something other major cultures lack. They expose in their music great depths of sadness as well as joy and elation in different ways. They are extremely good barometers of history.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 3 2020 17:45:13
 
tf10music

 

Posts: 51
Joined: Jan. 3 2017
 

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to Ricardo

quote:

Rito y Geografia does not feature Porrina or Farina, but it does make a point to enter Caracol’s lavish mansion with fancy paintings and such. Most interviews with the successful singers focus on their need to leave the big city and return to their humble andalusian roots. Perhaps without the class distinctions, there would be no Flamenco as we think of it.


Oh yes, there's no denying that class distinctions have played a major role in the history of flamenco. An example that immediately comes to mind is the difference between guasa and gracia -- the former was a solely upper class form of humor in the 19th century, while the latter was available to the lower classes. This distinction explains certain idiosyncrasies in transmission and performance and gives us a way to understand how levity functions in step with 'lo jondo.'

But class reductionism means attributing the entirety or the vast majority of the concept of gitanidad within flamenco or within Andalusian society to class, and in doing so suppressing the importance of ethno-cultural particularity.

And then there are the contexts in which distinctions like 'ethnicity' and 'class' get collapsed. For instance, the significance of blacksmithing to the development of flamenco cante is undeniable -- that occupation has valences that can be attributed to class and others that can be attributed to common labor practices specific to Gitano families.

That's why I feel like the word 'gitano' is really quite difficult to parse within flamenco practice, or that it might mean different things at different times even as it retains a consistent overarching signification.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 4 2020 5:53:02
 
tf10music

 

Posts: 51
Joined: Jan. 3 2017
 

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to etta

quote:

it seems that most subcultures are related to class, ethnicity, unique historical baggage, and often race itself.


I agree with this. A class reductionist would claim that racial categories are produced by class differences, and would view something like chattel slavery to be 'forced labor,' more or less. Of course, the history of chattel slavery (and other kinds of slavery) does not bear this out, because it does not take into account the generationally reproducing nature of the labor, nor the social death it involves. There is a difference between forcing someone to work and turning someone into an economic asset. Race and class are intertwined in a far more complicated manner if you take all of these things into account, which is why I take issue with class reductionism.

I'm interested in this idea of pride, because it seems very relevant to proclaiming "porque soy gitano" as part of a flamenco letra. Pride has historically been a motivator of inter-communal violence (in those scenarios, it manifests as 'honor' that can be guarded or taken), but I appreciate the way you connect it to self-esteem, because that seems like a major element of what is going on in flamenco. But is the self-esteem tied to an ethnic or racial identity? A class identity? Would it depend on the context? Maybe it means something different for a payo cantaor to sing certain letras than a gitano, because the self-esteem ends up getting attached more to class and less to ethnicity.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 4 2020 6:08:32
 
Ricardo

Posts: 12088
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to tf10music

quote:

Maybe it means something different for a payo cantaor to sing certain letras than a gitano,

Not anymore than if a woman sings a masculine letra and vice versa.

_____________________________

CD's and transcriptions available here:
www.ricardomarlow.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 4 2020 18:10:15
 
tf10music

 

Posts: 51
Joined: Jan. 3 2017
 

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to Ricardo

quote:

Not anymore than if a woman sings a masculine letra and vice versa.


That's an interesting comparison. I suppose that within the framework of cante, there's always quite a lot of code-switching going on, whether it's between cultural/gender roles or within class structures. I haven't found anything written on the semiotics of flamenco cante, but it seems like that could be a rich line of inquiry.

I wonder if that kind of semantic malleability has contributed to the "invisibilzación" of Gitano communities -- I know that I've met Gitanos who resent the idea that any given Spaniard or even any given Andalusian can go ahead and claim flamenco as their own, but then at the same time there is this long history of social exchange that has almost certainly broadened the connotation of certain letras/ideas/words beyond any initial ethno-cultural specificity.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 5 2020 17:18:29
 
Ricardo

Posts: 12088
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to tf10music

quote:

know that I've met Gitanos who resent the idea that any given Spaniard or even any given Andalusian can go ahead and claim flamenco as their own,


Read brook zern interview with Aurelio Selles. Pretty eye opening to payo vs gitano cante from same class level. Remember laughing out loud reading that.

_____________________________

CD's and transcriptions available here:
www.ricardomarlow.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 5 2020 17:33:38
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 2902
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to Ricardo

quote:

ORIGINAL: Ricardo

Read brook zern interview with Aurelio Selles. Pretty eye opening to payo vs gitano cante from same class level. Remember laughing out loud reading that.


Do you have a link?

Thanks,

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 5 2020 18:36:45
 
Ricardo

Posts: 12088
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to Richard Jernigan

quote:

ORIGINAL: Richard Jernigan

quote:

ORIGINAL: Ricardo

Read brook zern interview with Aurelio Selles. Pretty eye opening to payo vs gitano cante from same class level. Remember laughing out loud reading that.


Do you have a link?

Thanks,

RNJ


It seems the links are all dead. I feel bad quoting from memory. The gist of it is that Aurelio looked at all gitanos as low class trash. He dropped names, accused Gypsies as getting credit unfairly for their incorrectly sung stolen from payos songs, and finally admitted that only Manolo Caracol, despite his race, was a guy who comported himself with enough class to be someone that he could tolerate hanging out with. Overall, it was a hilarious read. He was like the payo version of agujetas.

Edit: Manuel Torre NOT Caracol

_____________________________

CD's and transcriptions available here:
www.ricardomarlow.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 5 2020 19:52:55
 
kitarist

Posts: 952
Joined: Dec. 4 2012
 

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to Ricardo

quote:

It seems the links are all dead.


Snapshots of the website are available via archive.org. For example, this one from Nov 2017 is one of the last, if not the last, substantive snapshots of his blog:

https://web.archive.org/web/20171103072412/http://www.flamencoexperience.com/blog/

It does not seem possible to search it easily, but perhaps you would recall roughly when the interview was posted - and where - blog, or somewhere else on the larger website; looking at snapshots around that time might yield something.

_____________________________

Konstantin
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 5 2020 20:06:39
 
Ricardo

Posts: 12088
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to kitarist

quote:

ORIGINAL: kitarist

quote:

It seems the links are all dead.


Snapshots of the website are available via archive.org. For example, this one from Nov 2017 is one of the last, if not the last, substantive snapshots of his blog:

https://web.archive.org/web/20171103072412/http://www.flamencoexperience.com/blog/

It does not seem possible to search it easily, but perhaps you would recall roughly when the interview was posted - and where - blog, or somewhere else on the larger website; looking at snapshots around that time might yield something.


Here is when I posted the link:
http://www.foroflamenco.com/tm.asp?m=255925&appid=&p=&mpage=2&key=aurelio%2Cinterview%2Cmontoya&tmode=&smode=&s=#256108

_____________________________

CD's and transcriptions available here:
www.ricardomarlow.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 5 2020 20:42:42
 
kitarist

Posts: 952
Joined: Dec. 4 2012
 

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to Ricardo

quote:

ORIGINAL: Ricardo

quote:

ORIGINAL: kitarist

quote:

It seems the links are all dead.


Snapshots of the website are available via archive.org. For example, this one from Nov 2017 is one of the last, if not the last, substantive snapshots of his blog:

https://web.archive.org/web/20171103072412/http://www.flamencoexperience.com/blog/

It does not seem possible to search it easily, but perhaps you would recall roughly when the interview was posted - and where - blog, or somewhere else on the larger website; looking at snapshots around that time might yield something.


Here is when I posted the link:
http://www.foroflamenco.com/tm.asp?m=255925&appid=&p=&mpage=2&key=aurelio%2Cinterview%2Cmontoya&tmode=&smode=&s=#256108


Since you have the actual link, I just entered it in the syntax of the archive.org website - as https://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.flamencoexperience.com/blog/?p=121

But got a message that that particular webpage has not been archived. Damn.

_____________________________

Konstantin
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 5 2020 20:47:37
 
tf10music

 

Posts: 51
Joined: Jan. 3 2017
 

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to Ricardo

quote:

The gist of it is that Aurelio looked at all gitanos as low class trash. He dropped names, accused Gypsies as getting credit unfairly for their incorrectly sung stolen from payos songs, and finally admitted that only Manolo Caracol, despite his race, was a guy who comported himself with enough class to be someone that he could tolerate hanging out with. Overall, it was a hilarious read. He was like the payo version of agujetas.


Wow I wish this was still available online. It sounds super interesting and also a little bit like that monty python sketch in which a son rebels against his literary/artistic father by insisting on becoming a coal miner -- a complete reversal of expectations.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 6 2020 16:19:34
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 2902
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to tf10music

"The Wind Cried" by Paul Hecht is a fictionalized account of the author's association with Aurelio and his circle in Cadiz. I found it interesting and entertaining reading. There are copies advertised at high prices, but I got mine reasonably from Dan Zeff.

https://tinyurl.com/y64srdt5

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 6 2020 18:29:49
 
kitarist

Posts: 952
Joined: Dec. 4 2012
 

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to Richard Jernigan

quote:

got mine reasonably from Dan Zeff


Richard, was this a current purchase? Just wondering if that website is up-to-date and functional in these covid times. Want to get that book and other books from there if they ship to Canada.

_____________________________

Konstantin
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 6 2020 19:12:54
 
mark indigo

 

Posts: 3018
Joined: Dec. 5 2007
From: UK

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to Ricardo

quote:

It seems the links are all dead. I feel bad quoting from memory. The gist of it is that Aurelio looked at all gitanos as low class trash. He dropped names, accused Gypsies as getting credit unfairly for their incorrectly sung stolen from payos songs, and finally admitted that only Manolo Caracol, despite his race, was a guy who comported himself with enough class to be someone that he could tolerate hanging out with. Overall, it was a hilarious read. He was like the payo version of agujetas.


this one?

Flamenco Singer Aurelio Sellés (Aurelio de Cadiz) speaks – 1962 interview by Anselmo Gonzalez Climent – Translated by Brook Zern

Translator’s note: Aurelio Sellés was the great master of flamenco song from Cádiz — the seaport town renowned for a brighter and happier style of song than Seville or Jerez. But Aurelio was also a notoriously crusty and cranky guy. The flamenco magazine Candil reprinted an old interview with him, conducted in 1962 by the pioneering Argentinian flamencologist Anselmo González Climent (who coined the word flamencology as the title of a seminal book, “Flamencologia”).

Here are excerpts from the interview, with comments from Climent and some interjections or clarifications of mine [in brackets]:

Aurelio Sellés: “Juan Talega [the revered deacon of serious flamenco song and a key source for the singer Antonio Mairena] only knows the monotonous song of his uncle Joaquín [el de la Paula, a legendary master and creator of a key soleá form, the soleá de Alcalá]. He’s shameless, sloppy, boring and corto [short, i.e., limited in repertoire]. He’s a hindu [evidently a deprecatory word for Gypsy] whom I can’t stand. A bad person, a liar, incompetent. I’m tired of the “geniality” [alleged genius] of Gypsies. It’s Manuel Torre this, and Manuel Torre that, and on and on. [Manuel Torre is universally admired as the greatest Gypsy master of cante jondo, or flamenco deep song, which is attributed to the Gypsies of Andalucía]. In fact, Torre was only good for siguiriyas [the most difficult form of the so-called "deep songs"], and only when he could do it. In the rest, he just danced around something that he fundamentally didn’t know.

I’ve seen Juan Talega booed by Gypsies. [Talega's reponse: "Aurelio and all the cante of Cádiz are worthless. There's no variety, and no personal styles. It's all a lie."]

Climent, the interviewer, says: “Aurelio told me to stay away from the Gypsyphiles headed by Ricardo Molina. So I did, out of respect and docility. But it put me in a bind. Ricardo counterattacked, warning me that if I maintained fidelity to the payo [non-Gypsy] faction, our ethnic-preference differences would deepen, and we wouldn’t be able to make common plans for the future. And in fact, we never again could deal peacefully with the matters that had united us so amiably before…”

Aurelio: “Don Antonio Chacón [considered the greatest non-Gypsy singer of all time] was the divo mas largo de todos los tiempos — the most complete, masterful singer of all time. But he adulterated all the songs, to fit them to the tastes of the señoritos (posturing would-be gentlemen). Because of his voice [in a high register] he couldn’t really do the siguiriyas and soleá. He got his best songs from Curro Dulce.”

“In Granada, the flamencos are demanding and violent. They didn’t just boo La Paquera and Terremoto [two gigantic figures of the flamenco song of Jerez] — Terremoto couldn’t vocalize well — they actually threw them out.

Seville? I don’t know anyplace where the people are more fickle. I’m outraged that Mairena and Talega dare to talk of a Seville school of singing. How can you compare that with the roots of Cádiz. And the Gypsies — if there were more of them, they’d get rid of the payos and all of Andalucia. The Gypsies are blind about flamenco. They don’t know a lot of the styles.

Okay, Antonio Mairena knows the song. But he has no gracia [charm, appeal], and doesn’t reach your heart. His brother Manolo [who unlike Antonio is half non-Gypsy] is better. Antonio invited me to be on an anthology he directed [Antología del Cante Gitano y Cante Flamenco]. He took away jaleo and palmas, and put the guitarist where we couldn’t hear each other. I think he did it out of malice. It hurt my reputation a lot .

My mother disliked Enrique el Mellizo [the greatest interpreter of Cádiz flamenco song of all time] — said he was dirty and uneducated. But when he sang, Gypsies would hurl themselves out of windows. In a way, I admire him more than Chacón. The first time Manuel Torre heard Mellizo, they had to stop him from jumping out of the window. [Interviewer's note: It seems that the true measure of the glory of a singer was measured by the quantity of listeners who, possessed, leaped from balconies -- at least during fiestas on the lower floors. Aurelio assigned this honor to Chacón, Torre, Mellizo, Tomas el Nitri and once to Antonio Mairena.]…

Aurelio: I put the true cante por alegrías [the most important flamenco song form from Cadiz] in circulation in 1921. Before that, the best singer of alegrias was Paquirri el Viejo, a disciple of Enrique el Mellizo…

Socially, Pastora Pavón [La Niña de los Peines, the greatest female flamenco singer of all time] was a beast — she deserved no honor for her comportment…

People go to flamenco concursos [contests] because it’s fashionable. And what’s worse — they dare to give opinions! I mean, people who still stink of singers like Pepe Marchena [a wildly popular singer of cante bonito, or “pretty” flamenco song] or Antonio Molina [another cante bonito singer] — giving opinions!…

In Córdoba, they think they have good cantes — what a lie! The songs are twisted, unimportant, and desangelados [de-angelized, lacking in magic]. I only sang there to show them the real cante.

“Today, nobody knows how to sing tonas, deblas, martinetes, [three similar forms of unaccompanied deep song sung in a free rhythm], cañas, polos, etc. The only one with an idea is Manolo Caracol [the fabulous Gypsy singer] despite his famous anthology where he sang bad stuff that was not the true cante. [The anthology is considered Caracol's masterpiece.] He has hounded me to show him the key to some styles. He wanted to record everything I know. Once he beseiged me, to repeat the tangos de Cádiz as done by my older brother, el “Chele Fateta” I don’t want to help others rob me; I’m going to write my memoirs, and record an anthology that’s all mine [sadly, Aurelio never recorded a true anthology]. Caracol keeps after me to show him the Cádiz cante, but though I consider him a true phenomenon, I fear him as a person. With that kind of desperation, he’d take what’s mine and pass it off as his. I know his caste [i.e., Gypsies, or Caracol's kind of Gypsies]. They’re capable of anything. The branch that lives in Cádiz have customs to scare anyone. I heard one, once, singing siguiriyas to someone who had just died….

No aficionado of flamenco can be a bad person. They’re all good people. But the flamencos themselves — they’re crápulas [this is not a compliment, to sat the least]…

The best flamenco guitarist of all time was Rafael de Jerez. [Could he mean Javier Molina? Or Rafael de Aguila, a noted disciple of Javier but a lesser artist?] Others are Manolo de Huelva, who’s still alive but drunk and worn out, and Melchor de Marchena, the greatest one right now. Perico del Lunar [the revered Jerez guitarist who was behind the monumental 1954 Antologia del Cante Flamenco] is a veteran with too much prestige. He’s one of the biggest sinverguenzas [shameless frauds] in the business…

When Fosforito [the admired non-Gypsy master who won the important 1956 Cordoba contest] tries to sing the Malagueñas del Mellizo, it’s pathetic. His bad malagueñas are on a par with Mairena’s bad tanguillos [another Cádiz form]. Fosforito sings with his head. He’s a good aficionado, but he pontificates a lot and learns little…
Juan el Ollero was a cantaor from Triana who invented the soleá of Córdoba about a century ago. [This story may be true. It would mean that the so-called soleá de Córdoba was not the invention of a Cordoban singer, but was imported by a noted non-Gypsy singer from Seville’s Triana district who knew that version. The two soleares certainly sound similar to one another.]

My older brother lived in Argentina around 1878, and brought back a lot of songs that he expertly crossed with our songs. He specialized in milongas [an Argentine song borrowed by some flamenco artists, and sometimes even considered a light flamenco song], rematados [ended] por alegrías…”

[Climent begins the second part of this interview by noting Aurelio’s reservations about the material on Antonio Mairena’s very important first LP. Aurelio says that Mairena’s siguiriyas are barely interesting, particularly the “cambio” of Silverio — the part that changes from the Phrygian mode to the major key – and adds that the soleá of Enrique el Mellizo has merit, but is far from the mark of Enrique. Regarding the corrido or romance — old Spanish ballads which were conserved only in a few Gypsy families — he allows it to be called authentic. Aurelio sings “a bajini” (in a whisper) a version that is not as close to the compás of soleá as is Mairena’s. He recalls hearing in Seville a romance sung to the style of martinete. He deduces that the traditional form called the romance acquires a distinct flamenco base according to the preferences of each region where it’s sung.

Climent notes that Antonio Mairena often said he didn’t know know how to sing polos, cañas or — with more reason — fandangos.

Aurelio says: “I’ve never in my life heard a complete polo or caña. And what I do remember of those cantes has nothing at all to do with what is circulating today. I know and sing some fragments, above all the remate of the soleá apolá [accent on the final “a” of “apolá” — so it would be a soleá that was influenced by the polo, or “apola(da)“, “poloized”. There’s talk of cañas of Seville, Triana, Cádiz and Los Puertos, and of a singer called Tobalo. If he was a singer, he wasn’t the only one to give it shape. There must have been many types or variants of polos. Today, we hear one that was made fashionable by the dancer Pilar López, who knows how to experiment and invent. But the blame for the monotony of the form goes to Perico del Lunar [the Jerez guitarist who arranged the influential and venerable and original 1954 Anthology of Cante Flamenco, and who allegedly clued the singers in on the more obscure forms]. Perico, with good or bad faith, has adulterated almost all the old cantes…His anthology is neither authentic nor correct.

Aurelio speaks of the cantiñas [a key Cádiz form, linked to the alegrías] of Fosforito and Mairena: “This is my turf. The entendidos [knowledgeable folks] discuss whether or not the cantiñas are independent of the alegrías. Some say that’s not really the question: They say the cantiñas are not a special cante, but a light way of singing, of “cantiñeando” [singing out], or whatnot. I assure you that the cantiñas are in fact a special type of alegrías, with a tonal change that isn’t too distinct [poco solido] and that gives the singer a lot of leeway and freedom.

It’s a form that is even lighter [todavia mas aligerada] than the alegrías. The cantiñas of Fosforito are loaded with ornamentation [adornos]. Those of Mairena are a mixture of cantes, with the unique trait of ending por romeras, which are also alegrías. Mairena’s are more from Seville than from Cádiz. He makes them monotonous, and they seen as repetitive as the sevillanas de baile.

The soleá de Alcalá is a slow, cold, short cante, without the bravura lines [tercios valientes] they give it in my region. It has art, and balance. It’s even agreeable. But it lacks pauses, variety, high lines. It’s very low-key [muy apagada]. The soleá de Utrera is more defined, it has more content and it even has some similarities with some variants of the soleá de Cádiz.

Climent notes that the Gypsyphile/Mairenista Ricardo Molina gained increasing respect for the non-Gypsy cante of Aurelio. Climent wondered what had happened to cause the change. Then one day, Molina said to him “Doesn’t Aurelio seem not quite castellano [payo or gache — i.e., not really non-Gypsy] to you — doesn’t he seem a little Gypsy? Do you think he could really be a cuarterón [quatroon, in this case a quarter-Gypsy]?.

Aurelio: “I don’t tolerate crossing the cante [styles]. You should start and end with the same style — of this person or that person. You have to sing the malagueñas de Mellizo as a single entity, complete. The same with those of Chacón or la Trini. I can’t stand singers who start with a verse from Enrique, go to one by Fosforo el Viejo, and rematan [wind up] with La Trini’s. It’s not right. I sometimes need four or five coplas in order to get myself properly into the line of, say, Enrique. Nowadays, nobody takes the trouble. Let’s not fool ourselves — there’s a lot of ignorance out there.”

Climent: Another key tenet for Aurelio is the almost sacred obedience to compás — flamenco’s often complex rhythmic system. Aurelio says “The compás is the fundamental element of the cante. I can exceed my limits, go crazy at the high point of a remate — but without ever leaving the axis of compás. Caracol, when he gets carried away [se desordena], also loses [desordena] the compás. It’s his worst defect, for all the high esteem I have for him. [This is a common criticism of Caracol, acknowledged even by some admirers]. A singer who doesn’t stick to compás shouldn’t even qualify for a contest. And certainly the cradle of compás is in Cádiz, above all in the soleá and the bulería.

I can’t sing with just any guitarist. The tocaor who marks his own compás is a bad player. He needs to support himself in a mathematical calculation. And that’s not what it’s about. The compás is something more subtle and fine than that. You have to have it by right [de casta]. The best maestros are Manolo de Badajoz, Melchor de Marchena, Sabicas and Paco Aguilera. Niño Ricardo [a revered and hugely influential guitarist] is incomplete, disordered, abusively personal. He gets away from the cante and the compás. With me, at least, we just can’t get it together. [Again, there is some justification for this claim. Ricardo sometimes went out of compás, considered a sin in other guitarists, possibly because he was attempting very difficult material without correspondingly awesome technique, or maybe because sometimes his imagination just ran away with him.]

Fosforito has good and bad traits. He interests me, and I voted for him in the 1956 Cordoba contest. But his soleares are disordered, his siguiriyas indecisive, his alegrías debatable, his cantiñas absurd. Still, his voice is appropriate to cante grande, and he’ll become one of the greats if he can capitalize on his strengths.

La Fernanda, La Bernarda, La Pepa, all those from Utrera, are Gypsies like you can find in any corner of Andalucía. [La Fernanda de Utrera is acknowledged as the greatest female singer of soleá of all time, and the greatest cantaora of recent decades. Her sister Bernarda is a fine singer]. They’ve done well in contests due to lack of competition. Under the circumstances, they can be good. The one who impresses me most is Fernanda. She knows how to fight against her weak vocal faculties. Among the young people, she was the one who was best in the whole Cordoba contest.”

Climent writes: La Perla de Cadiz [a great cantaora, and an inspiration for Camarón de la Isla] was the only contestant who excited Aurelio. He convinced two judges, but failed to convince me or Molina. Aurelio said “Perla as better than any other cantaora in the contest — at least in the cante chico. As she is from Cádiz, she is a Gypsy with quality. She’s a professional, born and bred [hecha y derecha]. It was ridiculous not to give her the first prize in the cante chico [lighter flamenco styles].”
Climent: “To Aurelio’s disgust, we only gave La Perla the second and third prizes. I believe Aurelio was influenced by factors other than the cante itself. But we all agreed that it was too bad la Perla’s husband didn’t compete, since he showed us privately that he was a magnificent singer and a fine dancer, too. He was a “gitano fino“, prudent, modest, in his place [sic: “en su lugar“].

Aurelio: “Manolo [Manuel] Torre is the singer I admired most. For me there have been two principal epochs of cante: The first, of Paquirri el Guante, Enrique el Mellizo and Tomas el Nitri. The second, exclusively of Manolo. As a professional, he was a genius [genial], unique. As a person, he was simple, “tirado“. A humble Jerez fisherman, de cortas luces [uneducated, not bright], lacking character. He was a low Gypsy [gitano barato]. But a friend of mine…”

[Translator's note: With friends like Aurelio, who needs enemies?]

Aurelio: The singer called Medina el Viejo was the maestro [teacher] of Niña de los Peines. He was the best interpreter of peteneras — exactly the one that would make Pastora famous. He also showed the way with his bulerías, tangos, tanguillos and alegrías. Pastora specialized in tangos, taking cante chico to the heights. But in the rest of the styles, her singing was weepy, overly quejado (lamenting), exaggeratedly abultado [inflated], as if to compensate for her lack of domination in songs as costly [demanding] as the [great and crucial] siguiriyas and soleares.”

Climent writes: “Juan Talega’s countertheory denies any influence of Medina on Pastora. Talega says “Pastora never suckled from that teta. Anyone who says different is an ignoramus. Medina had his style on some cantes, but never had the gracia and essence of Pastora. He was a lightweight, a divo, a Pepe Marchena [pretty singer] of his era. He was lucky, and got famous, but he’s worthless next to Pastora. She got her cante chico, from tangos to bulerías, from Manuel Torre, her only maestro, before developing her own personality. Manolo Caracol doesn’t agree on this, but he’s wrong. He’s just jealous and envious of the Pavón family. Tying Pastora to Medina is a way of taking credit away from her. Caracol’s a bald-faced liar. She was a disciple of Arturo Pavón, her older brother. She is an unequalled singer of festive cante, although she does lament [queja] too much in the cante grande. She’ll go down in history for her inimitable tangos.”

[Translator's note: Folks, please forgive the length of this and related posts (which actually omit most of the original material). For all we can learn by talking among ourselves, the real deal is found in the music and the words of the verses, and in the oral testimony of the artists, whose disagreements and vituperation, like their music, make us all look like amateurs.]

Climent writes: Aurelio says he admires the singing of Manolo Caracol, and pardons his sins of theatricality, applauding his traditionalist spirit. “I can’t deny the enchantment of his virile, rajo [rough, raspy] voice. But I don’t like his anthology. I don’t know why he elongates the soleá corta [“short soleá“] of Joaquin [de la Paula]. Or why he misses the purity and valentía [boldness, courage] of Enrique el Mellizo’s cante. And his way of losing the compás when he’s emotional or distracted.

There’s no single mold for the martinetes [early, unaccompanied deep flamenco songs]. Those of Triana are classical, valiente [brave, gutsy], varied. Those of Cagancho el viejo have no competition. Those of Seville are more measured, more conservative, with more adornos than pellizcos [chillingly emotional touches]. Those of Los Puertos are the best of all. They demand flexibility, courage and great depth. Those of Cádiz are quebrados [uneven, rough] and gracioso, if that’s the word for such a serious cante. The martinete of Tio Juan Cantoral is the most legendary. But I prefer those of Los Puertos.

Chacon revived the caracoles [a song sharing the rhythm and major key of the alegrías], from the Goyesca period. But even with his greatness, I don’t like the song. The music seems defective, and nobody can stand the words. ”Curro Cuchares and el Tato together in the Café de la Union” — why, they weren’t even contemporaries.

Juan Talega wants to show that he can sing a lot of siguiriyas. Some are passable. But in general, what he’s done is make variations on one siguiriya style — Loco Mateo’s.

There’s a pretty song that’s not given much weight, and is rarely sung well. It’s a Gypsified style, with the sound of a slow bulería: the alborea [a ceremonial Gypsy wedding song, traditionally reserved for intimate gatherings]. In my youth, it was part of my repertoire. It’s not easy. It deserves to return to circulation.

Bulerías is not Juan Talega’s forte. What he does is a rythmic trick, so he can keep singing soleares though it appears to be bulerias. I don’t like those absurd and senseless combinations called the solea por bulerias or bulerias por solea. The two songs [bulerías and soleares] are similar, but the purity of each one should be conserved.

My soleares are a mixture of Los Puertos, Jerez and Cadiz. I don’t forget those of Frijones — nor does Caracol in his anthology.

I agree (me hago solidario) with (flamencologist) Jose Carlos de Luna when he says that the cante begins in Morón.

[Translator’s note: This may be an odd geographic theory, or may be an attempt to attribute several great Gypsy song forms like the siguiriyas and soleares to Silverio Franconetti of the town of Morón de la Frontera. Silverio, a non-Gypsy with an Italian father and a great singer and creator, was the key figure in first commercializing flamenco by creating “cafés cantantes” where a paying public could witness flamenco.]

Aurelio: I’ll grant that this or that came from Seville, but Seville, in general, is very presumptuous and can’t compare with the solera [this refers to the sun-driven distillation or aging of sherry] of Cádiz.

The jabera is nothing more than a light malagueña. It’s a malagueña for dancing.

Despite the unjust neglect [olvido] that surrounds her, Carmen Amaya is the most serious [exemplar] of baile flamenco. With all her extraneous trappings, she never strays from flamenco. There’s no other bailaora who’s similar to her. The only other one who’s worthwhile is Pilar López, although at times, as Ricardo Molina correctly says, she is too “intellectual”.

Antonio Chacón was the first singer who tried to sing in Castillian (clear Spanish, rather than the loose and sometimes incomprehensible Andalucian dialect). He did it to increase his popularity. He thought that this way his singing would be more “formal”. The bad thing was that his imitators carried this idea to ridiculous extremes. Not even Pepe Marchena escaped this influence.

I have sung for the public just three times in my life. First, with [the great dancer] Pastora Imperio at the beginning of my career. Then at a public homage for me in Cádiz. And finally this year in a festival dedicated to Parrilla de Jerez.” [This would be the father of Manuel Parrilla.]

Climent writes: “Juan Talega thinks that the soleá dance is older than the song itself. He doesn’t know the origin of the danced soleá — but he insists that the soleá as a song was invented by his uncle, Joaquín el de la Paula. He goes on to say that the song was born in a little area encompassing Utrera, Alcalá de los Panaderos [Alcalá de Guadaíra], Seville and Triana.

Climent writes: Ricardo Molina [the flamencologist and acolyte of the great Gypsy singer and gitanista Antonio Mairena], increasingly caught up in his gitanophilia, insists on ascribing Gypsy traits to Aurelio. He’s sure Aurelio can’t be absolutely payo. He tries dialectical approaches. He professes surprise at the idea that Aurelio and his 21 siblings could really have the same father. And it’s strange, but as if that same suspicion somehow reached his ears, Aurelio tells me that after four years absence in the war of Santo Domingo, his father returned to Cádiz and the first thing he did was go directly to his wife to assure himself of her fidelity. “From that moment on,” Aurelio says, “that’s when my parents started to have kids one after another.”

Meanwhile, Ricardo Molina is really interested in helping Aurelio record his “flamenco testament”, in Cádiz, away from the intolerable friction with Talega and Mairena, who had made him record for their anthology unrehearsed and who chose the songs for him to sing — many eliminated in the final commercial release. Ricardo Molina admires and really likes Aurelio — a complete change from his first response at an earlier concurso. He calls him the most capable and genuine singer of his generation. [i.e., prior to Antonio Mairena's generation].

Aurelio speaks of the non-Gypsy giant Silverio Franconetti: “He was an incomparable siguiriyero, giving that form hierarchy and variety. His variants and cambios are still done. Ricardo Molina blathers about his being a disciple or imitator of El Fillo, but he was just as masterful. I can’t stand Ricardo’s pro-Gypsy enthusiasm. I admire lots of Gypsy singers. Manuel Torre was a king, apart. But all my life, the real singers have been payos [non-Gypsies]. Cante flamenco is a backbone with three names: Silverio Franconetti, Antonio Chacón and Aurelio Sellés Nondedeu.”

Climent: “Aurelio’s guasa [difficult attitude, wise-ass or mocking behavior] deserves an article of its own… He’s a true friend, incorruptible, faithful to the point of partiality..”

Climent writes that the 1962 Cordoba contest was dominated by artists provided by Pulpón, the manager/promoter who had firm control of many flamenco artists. This upset the Cordobans, and infuriated Aurelio de Cadiz, because Pulpón favored artists from near his Seville power base — including Fernanda and Bernarda de Utrera and Juan Talega. But, Climent says, things worked out pretty well “when La Fernanda, herself alone, justified the entire event.”

Aurelio: “I’m fascinated by the obsessive belief that there exist good soleares de Cordoba. They have gracia, thanks to their simplicity. They start without a warm-up temple, and go to the high parts (alturas) like an elevator. I’m also intrigued by the alegrias de Cordoba. Very castillian, cansinas [boring, tiring], of little compás, and with poor textual repertoire. I think they came from a variant of Paquirri’s that were popular here. I showed this to Ricardo Molina, and he agreed.”

“[Singer] Juanito Varea, from Castellón de la Plana [far north of Andalucia], was the disciple of a Gypsy guitarist called Castellón [probably not a reference to Agustin Castellón, called Sabicas]. He’s got his act together (es muy consolidada) now. He has a classical flavor, and lots of courage. There’s a certain leaning toward theatrical cante, above all when he does his famous fandango. I’d advise him to lose that, and stick to the cante grande [great song, big song — a term that includes the three cante jondo or deep song forms and may go beyond that to include some other serious flamenco songs, e.g., the tarantas or granainas] where he belongs.”

Climent writes: “I noticed that Aurelio stayed near me, and seemed to sing to me. I asked him about this, and he said “Sure, I do that in every reunion. I sing for just one person, and forget the rest. It’s more heartfelt, and comes out a gusto [just right]. The true singer draws inspiration from a friend, and grows. Even in public, you have to imagine another person — just one person.”
Climent: “We talked of the silences in the cante. Aurelio’s are forged with “radicalidad jasperiana (¡dicho a cuenta de sus inefables jitanjaforas!“) [?]. They are more frequent and more believable than those of — we won’t name names. They are more credible, in general, than those of the Gypsies, which are more aesthetic than metaphysical. In Aurelio, they conform to a vital imperative. He is clearly conscious of when this silent break is necessary. It’s as a culmination of that which is impossible to express. He says “Even in the alegrías or bulerías, sometimes the mood produces a kind of paralysis. It must be the emotion. Who knows? But I know it when it happens.”

Climent says Aurelio wanted to visit Lucena [near Cordoba]. He didn’t say why. But there, he sought out the baptismal font where his wife was baptised. When he found it, he cried like a baby.

Climent: “Ricardo Molina and Aurelio were devastated when Pepe Pinto kept impeding the efforts to have La Niña de los Peines (his wife) record her discographic testimony. Ricardo wondered if Pinto was professionally jealous of Pastora. He even suspected that Pastora “se ha aflojado” (perhaps meaning losing her mental faculties, which may have been the case, though around that time she did one final and fabulous star turn at a festival). Aurelio, on the other hand, thinks she’s in excellent shape, and thinks Pinto is committing a grave error.”

End of translation. A lot is being written about flamenco today. I hope people will give due attention to the actual words of the flamencos themselves, including giants of the art like the irritating and irascible Aurelio Selles.

_____________________________

  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 6 2020 19:20:56
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 2902
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to kitarist

quote:

ORIGINAL: kitarist

quote:

got mine reasonably from Dan Zeff


Richard, was this a current purchase? Just wondering if that website is up-to-date and functional in these covid times. Want to get that book and other books from there if they ship to Canada.


Maybe a couple of years ago? Record of purchase doesn't show up on a quick search of my online debit card statements, dating back to January, 2019.

Zeff's phone, FAX and email listings are on his web page.

https://www.danzeffguitars.com

Dan has been easy to do business with over the years.

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 6 2020 23:24:37
 
kitarist

Posts: 952
Joined: Dec. 4 2012
 

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to Richard Jernigan

Thank you.

_____________________________

Konstantin
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 7 2020 1:05:02
 
FredGuitarraOle

Posts: 885
Joined: Dec. 6 2012
From: Lisboa, Portugal

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to mark indigo

Thanks for posting, Mark! I had never read an interview of Aurelio, what a personaje! Indeed the payo version of Agujetas, as Ricardo said.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 7 2020 1:11:12
 
kitarist

Posts: 952
Joined: Dec. 4 2012
 

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to mark indigo

quote:

Flamenco Singer Aurelio Sellés (Aurelio de Cadiz) speaks – 1962 interview by Anselmo Gonzalez Climent – Translated by Brook Zern


Awesome! - how did you find it?

_____________________________

Konstantin
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 7 2020 1:36:43
 
Piwin

Posts: 2814
Joined: Feb. 9 2016
 

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to mark indigo

quote:

No aficionado of flamenco can be a bad person. They’re all good people. But the flamencos themselves — they’re crápulas


I like this. It means I'm a good person, but Ricardo is a jerk.

_____________________________

  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 7 2020 1:51:24
 
tf10music

 

Posts: 51
Joined: Jan. 3 2017
 

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to mark indigo

quote:

Flamenco Singer Aurelio Sellés (Aurelio de Cadiz) speaks – 1962 interview by Anselmo Gonzalez Climent – Translated by Brook Zern


That was an incredible read. I was particularly fascinated by Aurelio's characterization of flamencos in Granada. I wonder if a part of that is just his version of the 'malafollá" that people here in Granada always talk about but rarely enact.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 7 2020 4:34:26
 
mark indigo

 

Posts: 3018
Joined: Dec. 5 2007
From: UK

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to kitarist

quote:

Awesome! - how did you find it?


looked on my hard drive!

_____________________________

  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 7 2020 8:49:31
 
kitarist

Posts: 952
Joined: Dec. 4 2012
 

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to mark indigo

quote:

ORIGINAL: mark indigo

quote:

Awesome! - how did you find it?


looked on my hard drive!

Thanks for saving it!

_____________________________

Konstantin
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 7 2020 16:40:35
 
Ricardo

Posts: 12088
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to FredGuitarraOle

quote:

ORIGINAL: FredGuitarraOle

Thanks for posting, Mark! I had never read an interview of Aurelio, what a personaje! Indeed the payo version of Agujetas, as Ricardo said.



Wow, a fun ride! I’m laughing all over again. My brain mixed up Manolo Caracol (whom he distrusted) with “Manolo” Torre (whom he called humble and a friend).

- Ricardo “El Crápula”

_____________________________

CD's and transcriptions available here:
www.ricardomarlow.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 7 2020 17:55:39
 
Piwin

Posts: 2814
Joined: Feb. 9 2016
 

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to Ricardo

quote:

Ricardo “El Crapúla”



_____________________________

  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 7 2020 18:03:43
 
BarkellWH

Posts: 3026
Joined: Jul. 12 2009
From: Washington, DC

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to mark indigo

quote:

Climent writes: Ricardo Molina [the flamencologist and acolyte of the great Gypsy singer and gitanista Antonio Mairena], increasingly caught up in his gitanophilia, insists on ascribing Gypsy traits to Aurelio. He’s sure Aurelio can’t be absolutely payo. He tries dialectical approaches. He professes surprise at the idea that Aurelio and his 21 siblings could really have the same father. And it’s strange, but as if that same suspicion somehow reached his ears, Aurelio tells me that after four years absence in the war of Santo Domingo, his father returned to Cádiz and the first thing he did was go directly to his wife to assure himself of her fidelity. “From that moment on,” Aurelio says, “that’s when my parents started to have kids one after another.”


What an interview! Much of it (like the quote cited above) reads like a Saturday Night Live or Monty Python sketch.

Bill

_____________________________

And the end of the fight is a tombstone white,
With the name of the late deceased,
And the epitaph drear, "A fool lies here,
Who tried to hustle the East."

--Rudyard Kipling
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 7 2020 20:24:01
 
Ricardo

Posts: 12088
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to BarkellWH

quote:

There’s a pretty song that’s not given much weight, and is rarely sung well. It’s a Gypsified style, with the sound of a slow bulería: the alborea [a ceremonial Gypsy wedding song, traditionally reserved for intimate gatherings]. In my youth, it was part of my repertoire. It’s not easy. It deserves to return to circulation.


This was one of funniest ironies in the whole thing!

_____________________________

CD's and transcriptions available here:
www.ricardomarlow.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 7 2020 22:23:38
 
mark indigo

 

Posts: 3018
Joined: Dec. 5 2007
From: UK

RE: The Spanish government publicly ... (in reply to Ricardo

quote:

He was like the payo version of agujetas.


for comparison, here Agujetas speaks:

Flamenco Singer Agujetas Speaks – 1998 Radio Interview – Translated by Brook Zern

Translator’s note:

This is my translation of a radio interview with the great flamenco singer Manuel Agujetas broadcast on April 25th, 1998 on Radio 3, on the program “Duendeando”. The interviewer was Teo Sanchez. Thanks to Rafael Moreno, who posted the Spanish transcription.

Agujetas is a difficult – okay, impossible – person, a living legend, and is seen in the flamenco world as a true monstruo (the word can be a compliment in Spanish, though in this case it could also indicate the usual English-language meaning.) I knew him well in the 1970’s, and still see him often. I feel privileged to have witnessed his singing up close and even face-to-face on many occasions.

I feel that Agujetas, and other artists who come out of the flamenco tradition, are extremely important sources of information and fact, and should be taken as seriously as any given anthropologist, sociologist, flamencologist or self-styled flamenco authority. Yes, artists have axes to grind, and like to tell stories or cite facts or incidents that fit their interests. So do I, of course, and more importantly, so do the actual authorities including those I know and respect. (Agujetas, unlike most other people, freely admits here that he doesn’t feel compelled to tell the truth about certain parts of his life — but he tells the truth about his art.)

Here’s the interview:

Teo Sanchez: Here with us this afternoon is Manuel Agujetas, or Manuel de los Santos. How are you, Manuel?
Agujetas: So-so.
T: Why is that?
A: Well, it was a long trip and I haven’t slept well.
T: That’s just today — but in general you’re pretty good, and content, I think. With a new CD on sale, no?
A: It must be on sale, according to the paper.
T: Yes, it’s already on sale. It’s called “Agujetas in La Solea”. Quite a while since your last CD, no?
A: Four years, at least.
T: And the last one?
A: “Agujetas in Paris”.
T: I’ve got that one here. And what a cover photo — you look handsome indeed, and the Eiffel Tower right behind you. The French arranged this, right?
A: Radio France — the government.
T: Very good. And how did they treat you there?
A: Pretty well. They treat me well wherever I go.
T: And in La Solea, they treated you marvellously as well.
A: Well, okay, because the owner is a friend.
T: And when there’s a friend….
A: There are very few friends; but anyway….
T: When did the idea of doing this CD emerge: How long since you started looking at the project?
A: I think that Francis and the other guy had considered it for a long time. They told me about a year ago that they’d record me in La Solea “whenever you want to do something”.
T: And it was done in a special way, because it’s not a studio recording. It’s a CD that was recorded during three of your performances, no?
A: They wanted to do it over three days, to select things, but I don’t think they really selected anything. They put in everything, because the disc runs to about an hour.
T: I wonder about your name: Is it Agujeta or Agujetas? [Translator's note: The interviewer here is asking whether it is singular or plural -- but in deepest Andalucia the "s" would be omitted regardless. Agujetas focuses instead on whether there is or is not a "h" sound -- indicated by a "j" in Spanish.]
A: Well, in Andalucia they say “Aguheta” [Agu-eta], the same as they say ”naranha” [naran-a] for orange; up here they say “naranja” [naran-ha], or patata…
T: I mean about the “s”, Manuel.
A: I don’t know. I’m illiterate. Down there they say “Aguheta” [Agu-eta].
T: The name seems to come from your father.
A: Yes, he worked on the RENFE national railroads, and my mother would call out “Manuel, Manuel”, and he didn’t hear; but then there were the spikes, the agujas, and that’s where the name “agujetas” came from.
T: So your father worked on the railroad.
A: Yes, changing the spikes.
T: But he also had a forge.
A: Hombre, that was his real job.
T: And you’re from Rota….
A: No, no, I’m not from Rota. I was born in Jerez de la Frontera, and that’s why I’m called Agujetas de Jerez. But my mother was from Rota and that’s where my father went…the usual thing…then…there were two of us born in Jerez. One died, who was older than me; so we’re from Jerez, understand? Whatever happens, happens. People want to know about this stuff more than the artist himself. “He’s from Rota”. Agujetas de Rota… My father wasn’t from Rota. He spent 40 years there, and there’s an Agujetas Street in Rota, but my father is from Jerez and I was born in Jerez. But the falsehood remained. I was born…now people want to know how old I am and I wasn’t even baptized or officially noted. How can people know how old I am? Were they all by my mother’s side at the time I was born? Gypsies never tell the truth to anyone. I, specifically, never tell the truth to anyone. I tell the truth about flamenco, and what’s good and not good, yes. But the truth about my life, I never tell to anyone. I’m not like those who go on TV and blather that “I fought with my brother four years ago” or “I don’t speak to my mother”. That’s not what one does. That’s shameful behavior.
T: Your father sang…
A: He was one of the very best, the purest. And there was Manuel Torre, and now there’s me.
T: What did Manuel Torre represent in flamenco
A: I didn’t know him, but when my father was 13 he sang the cante of Manuel Torre; but it was my grandmother who sang just like Manuel Torre — and my grandfather, and my uncles. So my song is like an amnistia — a pardon, an amnesty, see? And my father did four cantes of Manuel because he liked Manuel, but my father is a born artist. What happened was that I did the recordings, and I brought the music to light, because at that time there were no artists. The four Gypsies that there were, well they sang for the señoritos — for rich folks, in private sessions. Then I came along and made the recordings. Just as Borrico and other old singers of Jerez did. But none were artists.
T: There is a romance, a flamenco-style ballad, recorded by your father.
A: There is one, done in his style.
T: It’s believed that those old romances are part of the origin of flamenco song.
A: Well, no. That stuff had nothing to do with flamenco. A romance is a story. A story that lasted perhaps two hours. The Romance del Bernardo el Carpio or of all those Counts they had, you know? But no sung corrido or romance existed. It was a story that lasted for two hours, but then, much later, some flamenco artists dedicated themselves to doing romances as song. The first to do it was Juan Paterna, a man from El Puerto who was the father of el Negro el de la Pipa, of Tio Jose de los Reyes, who is my cousin, part of my family. He was the first. In a communal house in Puerto de Santa Maria, in some rooms on the side where some women lived in the summer, nursing their children, this guy came along who wasn’t even a Gypsy — at least I think he wasn’t, though I was just a kid of about 14 — he came out doing this corrido, but it wasn’t sung. At first he just spoke or recited the words, it was a story that lasted one or two hours, and the women fell asleep. And he was the first who sang these little songs in Puerto de Santa Maria; but before that it was just a recited story, understand?
T: Yes, yes. It was a story first, and wasn’t sung till later.
A: I did it as song. I had never heard it, ever. Now, in books, you won’t find that. I have a book about the cante that’s from a hundred years ago and there they wrote down all the corridos that were done back then, like the one I recorded called “Cuatrocientos sois los mios”. I did that on an early CBS recording I made with flamencologist Manuel Rios Ruiz, both speaking and singing it.
T: Is it true that your father did little song contests with his children? That he would have you sing to see who did it best?
A: No, no. My father worked at his forge. The big box was in the middle, and there was an anvil for my brother. I was little, and would straighten the irons…and my father was working and singing while the iron heated up. That business about the Gypsies singing while they worked is a lie, understand? Working and singing martinetes is impossible. I guess you could hit something with a hammer, but doing the real work would not be possible. I told that to Rios Ruiz, and on my first record there’s a “Martinetes of the prison”, which is an old cante jondo. The Gypsies picked that up from those who were in the society. Flamenco is not something created by the “canastero” Gypies like Camaron, and all those making up all these modern things. This has nothing to do with flamenco. Flamenco is from those Gypsies who functioned within the society, but who’d end up in jail because they misrepresented the mules they were selling, understand? And they’d be sentenced to five or six years, and they’d sing to family members and end up crying. But if you’re working at a forge, why would you be singing with such intense emotion? You toss the hammer down and go to a bar for a glass of wine. No, the martinetes come from the prisons. You were stuck inside, and you sang. If you were at the forge, hauling coal and throwing water around, well, you could sing, but only if you weren’t working. You can’t sing at the forge — why do they want to fool people like that?
T: We’re going to listen to a solea por bulerias from your CD.
A: A bulerias para escuchar. [Note: This is an alternative word for the bulerias por solea, which is neither a bulerias nor a solea but a distinct form that has a clear relationship to both. The form can also be called solea por bulerias, or a bulerias al golpe. "Proper" usage varies according to locality, so some people will get irritated no matter which term is used.]
T: So the bulerias por solea is one that’s meant to be listened to, rather than danced to… and what’s the difference between the compas of the bulerias and that of the solea?
A: The solea is more parada — braked, slower.
T: But the compas is basically the same.
A: No, no. It’s a miajica, a little crumb, that’s lighter than the solea, and more for listening. The folks who don’t know call it bulerias por solea, but it is not bulerias por solea. It’s proper name is bulerias para escuchar. And now we’re into that book that you mention. The Gypsies don’t tell the truth to anyone. How are you going to write a book, then? If someone wants to write a book, let them make a record. But through good luck or bad luck, flamenco ended up in the hands of illiterates. Chocolate, Terremoto, Agujetas… How could a writer create a book about flamenco? They can’t, because they don’t know the real truth. The Gypsy walks off with your money and tells you lies. Understand? I tell no one the truth. Because my father never told me, “Do you hear this song as it should be?” Never. “”Well, and because you’ve sung it that way here at the forge, as we’re talking”. “Whatever you say. Manuel sings it this way, but now it will go that way because no one knows.” And the day came, “Let’s go listen to Manuel”. “Yes, Manuel knows everything.” “Of course, if you say that it wasn’t like that, it was like that; and now it’s going to be like this.” I sing in 70 different ways, but without ever losing the rhythm of the cante gitano.
T: When did you first decide to become a professional?
A: I was working at the forge. I was fifteen, and had my own workshop. I had a girl. And at seventeen, with the father of [the great guitarist Manuel] Parrilla called Parrilla el Viejo and with Manuel Rios Ruiz, who was a mailman in Jerez. Then he worked for CBS records. And with the friendships of Parrilla el Veijo we made a few records with Manolo Sanlucar accompanying, the first for CBS. And I went up to Cafe Chinitas for a few months. And when I got back I was an important artist. I gave 16 recitals in the Ateneo theatre.
T: Manolo Sanlucar was on your first record.
A: And the second and third. I have 11 LP’s with Manolo Sanlucar. The first two were on CBS. Then five years on an exclusive contract with Compania Fonografica (CFE?), making 10 records — one every six months. I was in America and would come and record two at a time.
T: What are you doing now? Still working?
A: Yes, I live through the cante. This year I go to Japan. But I don’t want to leave. They call me at home and I go where I please. I don’t have to call anyone, or hope I’ll get work. I sit at home. They call and say “Agujeta, come to such-and-such…” And if I like the idea, I go; if not, I say “Nah, I’m retired”. That’s my way, and I’m not about to change.
T: Where do you get the words for your cantes?
A: I make them up. Some are from my father, and those of Manuel Torre are in the tradition. But I make up verses, according to what is happening in my life.
T: There’s a song on the CD called Soleares al cambio.
A: That doesn’t exist. If they’d only asked me, they wouldn’t have put down all that nonsense. I said, “I’ll make the recording and you have to do it as I tell you.” It should begin here, and be in a certain order. Don’t put the Solea after the “fuerte” (strongest part, macho); there are those who put the “fuerte” before the solea itself, and the whole piece becomes worthless. Because properly, you sing the solea, and then the macho that follows is stronger than the solea, to wrap it up. Understand? And if you put that macho section first, and then follow it with the solea, that’s worthless.
T: What is the macho?
A: It’s the stronger part. When you sing the siguiriyas, there’s a macho that’s stronger than the siguiriya. When you sing a solea, there’s a macho that’s stronger than two soleares. You end with them. Do you think just anyone can sing? People listen to four howling dogs and say they know how to sing. Well, they don’t know how to sing. Singing flamenco is very difficult. Not just anyone can do it. But that fact is not appreciated, so you get people who do all kinds of foolishness.
T: Do you think the siguiriyas is the most moving flamenco song?
A: The siguiriyas is the greatest flamenco song. Siguiriya, solea and martinete. And to know how to do them, one must endure a lot of suffering and troubles. Those who haven’t suffered can’t sing flamenco. One must suffer, and often go hungry, and have lice. If you’ve been well brought up, in good circumstances, then you can’t sing worth a damn. Understand? You must have a cause, a reason, within yourself. One must have something.
T: I find myself doubtful about flamenco, because the times have changed so much. There is not the same kind of misery and suffering that there was years ago.
A: But I still carry that suffering with me. That’s from the way I was raised. I was raised badly. The lice I had — they carried national identity cards. I slept on a heap of straw, not a bed. My father raised nine kids, but on a heap of hay with one blanket on top. Understand? That’s what made me what I am. Should I pretend I was never hungry? I’m the same as I was.
T: But couldn’t you know yourself and sing flamenco if you hadn’t suffered such deprivations?
A: No — you could know, but you wouldn’t feel the same. To express this, you have to have undergone something.
T: So there are really two flamencos?
A: No, hombre, no. There is only one flamenco. The other is just a bad copy. All this modern stuff is a bad copy of flamenco. Flamenco is this: Juan Talega, Chocolate, Mairena.
T: Something must save it.
A: If you want it to, sure. You’re asking. But actually, flamenco is what I’ve told you it is. The modern stuff is a bad copy. Does everyone have a right to eat? Sure. Get it?
T: But in the beginning, the song — as you said before — was only in families, in homes.
A: And don’t you think these homes each held miseries of their own? Men in prison, men working the forges with heavy hammers, lice-infested, kids raised sleeping on hay.
T: But when flamenco leaves these homes, does it remain flamenco?
A: The purity remains, if it was there in the first place. Who carried flamenco within themselves? El Chocolate did. I did. Terremoto did, with those four sings he did so well. Antonio Mairena did. And who carries flamenco today? Just one person: Agujetas — and a son of mine who, if he weren’t involved with drugs, would be an important figure. I’m talking of Antonio Agujetas, who made a record at the age of 14, and sang the other day in Casa Patas in Madrid. This kid could’ve been a figure today. But he isn’t, because he’s a drug addict. And then there’s the fact that young singers are doing modern stuff. So if one comes along who could actually sing flamenco, he doesn’t know how. Who could sing like that son of mine? Nobody. But he’s been in jail for 15 years, because of drugs. Who has suffered as much as he has? When you remember what flamenco is…but he is ignorant about life, because he thinks that modern flamenco is what’s best. The other day, when he sang in Casa Patas, in the first part he did nothing, but then he remembered his father, and he did two fine cantes in the last part. That’s what the newspaper wrote. The only one left who can do it, and he doesn’t do it.
T: So you think it’s all over?
A: Hombre, who is going to do it? There’s no one. Everybody is doing modern stuff only. They don’t do flamenco right… I say to them, “Tell the truth, man.” But they don’t. Artists today don’t tell the truth because they know doors would close, and no one would call them. I tell the truth about flamenco because it’s all the same to me, and I don’t care what people say. Of course flamenco is dying. It’s over. Who do you go to when you want to hear cante flamenco? I taught my son to sing the right way. The moment that young artists want to do the four modern-flamenco things, flamenco is lost…There’s a moment when you feel right, you feel a gusto, whether you’re sad or happy, you know? Because I’ve cried in America with my pockets bulging with dollars — and my boots full of money, too. When I had no place to put money, I’d fill my boots with it. I have a sister who’s there in America, and she’d ask me for money because she didn’t want to go to the bank and I was carrying $10,000 in my boots. Well, I cried with full pockets, but now I don’t know if it was from grief or happiness, you know? And that must be what people call inspiration. But reading and stuff like that, I don’t understand.”

End of radio interview with Agujetas.
Brook Zern

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