Tuesday, August 28, 2012

New set back concerning Spanish edition of book about El Pinini.

It is with great regret that once again I must inform of a delay in the publication of the Spanish edition of FLAMENCO, A time-defying heritage. ( Un Herencia del Tiempo)

This version of the book was due for publication next month (September) and was to be presented by the Tertulia de Flamenco y temas de los Gitanos de Utrera in October, but due to yet another  set back, it now appears as if this book will not be ready until April of next year.

This book has been constantly delayed for reasons beyond my control and although it was finished more than 18 months ago, a continuous stream of errors has delayed publication once again.
The book, which concerns the family of El Pinini and the flamenco tradition of Utrera, was originally presented to the Ayuntamiento de Utrera in April 2011 and after numerous meetings, the ayuntamiento agreed to finance the translation of the book from English to Spanish.
However, after a long delay (and no word or contact from the ayunatmiento) I was informed that they  had, in fact, withdrawn their offer of finance due to the current financial crisis.

After much thought and consideration (because a translation of this scale is by no means easy to subsidize) I decided to finance the project myself.
The translation was completed in January of this year (2012) and the book was then presented to a publisher in Utrera, who agreed to publish the work. Once again, after a long silence, I was informed just yesterday that this project has now been delayed until next year.

I have worked on this project for more than five-years,and yet it appears that it may be at least another six-months before we can see the finished result; if indeed it is ever published.
To say that I am disappointed is an understatement, but I can no longer waste more time or money on this project and although the book HAS been published in English, the Spanish edition hangs in the balance once again.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Remebering Federico


Remembering Federico: June 5 1898- August 19 1936


Federico Garcia Lorca was one of the most popular of Spanish poets and playwrights and he ranks among the greatest names of modern European literature.
There have been numerous books written about the life and works of Federico Garcia Lorca and almost as many concerning his murder; a shameful death that symbolized the savagery of the Spanish civil war.
Federico grew up in the town of Asquerosa where his father owned a sprawling farm and the young poet showed signs of brilliance in his early school years when his teachers remembered him as an “indifferent student who distinguished himself chiefly by coining puns and clever nick-names for his classmates”.
Lorca’s frequent boyhood visits to the Alhambra Palace tensed his soul and the poet had strong views and opinions about the re-conquest of Spain because he believed the soul of Spain had been lost by the expulsion of the Moors.
He was strongly influenced by Rubin Dario, whose fairy tale world of swans, roses and peacocks gave Lorca a spiritual guidance: he also had a fascination with death, which first appeared after his twentieth birthday because he realised that he could no longer fend off adulthood and death.
One of Lorca’s early poems was called “Dawn of the twentieth century” and in this he describes war as “failure of the soul and failure of god”. He believed that the world had lost its innocence and entered a brutal new era, and his own brutal murder at the outset of the Spanish civil war was to enforce his beliefs and concerns.
But it was in Madrid that Lorca really began to flourish and he was to make quite an impression on some of the capitals most illustrious artists. These friendships included Salvador Dali, Rafael Alberti and Luis Buñel: his intimacy with Dali prospered until they were almost constant companions.
Lorca had struggled to come to terms with his homosexuality and although he was open about his sexuality with close friends, with others, especially his family, he was evasive.
Lorca had an extremely intimate relationship with Emilio Aladren; a twenty-year old artist whom he had met in Madrid and whom he had become infatuated - Emilio’s youthful good-looks gave him an uncanny resemblance to the young Salvador Dali.
Lorca also surrounded himself with some of Spain’s most culturally esteemed people including the Manuel de Falla; he also had an obsessive friendship with the bullfighter, Ignacio Mejias Sanchez, the man whom Lorca dedicated his most famous poem.
On his arrival in America in the early 1930s Lorca was introduced to the Harlem jazz-scene, which he likened to the gypsy-flamenco of Andalusia, although Lorca was said to have been appalled at the racial abuse of the Negros.
Lorca wrote thirteen plays and nine books of verse in his nineteen year career and because in both acting and words he continued to demand justice for people of all races and origins, he edged closer to active political involvement even though he considered himself apolitical.  
His gypsies, his Andalusia and his ballads are all part of the baroque world of which Lorca immersed himself and his work evoked an almost reverie vision of a land that he lived and died for: his romantic and inventive writings, which relate to flamenco, archangels, landscape, love, death and of course, the gypsies, have immortalized him throughout the world.




Sunday, August 12, 2012

Remembering Antonio Mairena. (Sept 1909 - Sept 1983)

This September will mark the 29th anniversary of the death of one of the greatest  flamenco singers that ever lived: He passed away in the sleepy town of Mairena de Alcor in Seville in 1983 and yet today he is still revered and remembered with great affection by those who have encountered his cante. This article is in memory of one the mightiest of them all; Antonio Mairena.


Antonio Cruz García was born in Mairena de Alcor (Seville) on the 5th September 1909 and he is among the greatest and most respected cantaores of all time. Like Silverio Franconetti before him, Antonio Mairena, as he was artistically named, was a singer of great knowledge and affection for the orthodox styles of song.
Born of gypsy parents, Antonio grew up, like so many others, in the surroundings of his family’s blacksmiths and was influenced by singers like Joaquin de la Paula and El Niño Gloria.
Antonio had wanted to perform in the 1922 Concurso de Cante Jondo but was forbidden from taking part by his father due to the family’s lack of money and the fact that he was just thirteen years of age at the time.
In 1924 he was to appear on stage for the first time in a competition that was held in Alcalá de Guadaira; winning first prize in the siguiriya and soleá sections. At the early stages of his career he was known as Niño de Rafael but by 1930 he had become ‘El Niño de Mairena’. He dabbled with flamenco opera but this was not for him and Antonio Mairena dedicated his efforts to the fiestas that were held in Seville’s Alameda de Hércules district, at that time the centre of flamenco activity.

He was approached by the great dancer Carmen Amaya to accompany her on a tour of America but Antonio declined the offer, preferring to stay in Seville, although he did accompany her on other occasions when she returned to Spain.
He became much in demand by the flamenco dancers because of his enormous command of the rhythm and his profound knowledge of flamenco song.
He appeared with Pastora Imperio in Madrid and also toured with Antonio el Bailarín, which gave him the recognition that would eventually lead to him receiving the third coveted golden key of flamenco.
The key was awarded in 1962 and, unlike El Nitri or Manuel Vallejo (The first two singers to receive this award) whom many believe were not justified in receiving this achievement, Mairena was awarded this trophy for his outstanding knowledge of the cante, his determination to preserve the art of the cante jondo and, of course, his amazing singing qualities.
Antonio Mairena revived many old and forgotten styles of cante and he was also responsible for discovering so many distinguished flamenco singers who had previously never sung outside the confines of their own homes.
Unlike many of the old singers whose voices were never recorded for prosperity, Antonio recorded many discs, his first in 1939. He was also a great admirer of Juan Talega, from whom he accumulated many old styles of siguiriyas and deblas, and many believe that if it were not for his efforts, numerous old song styles would have been lost and forgotten for eternity.

Antonio Mairena also turned his hand to flamencology (flamenco theory) and together with the poet Ricardo Molina, co-wrote what is considered to be the flamenco bible, Mundos y Formas del Cante Flamenco.
He remained active in the world of flamenco for all of his life, although not in the commercial scene of the theatres and clubs, but in juergas and festivals in lower Andalusia. He dedicated his life to the promotion of the gypsy cantes, although he was well versed in all styles of flamenco - probably more than anyone else of the twentieth century.
He excelled in the lesser-known styles such as toñas, deblas, carceleras and martinetes, and his powerful, versatile voice lent itself well to bulerías, tangos and fandangos.
The town where Antonio Mairena was born is something of a shrine to his memory: Other towns in Andalusia have clubs, festivals and monuments dedicated to dozens of different artistes, but in Mairena de Alcor just about everything has Antonio’s name attached to it.
He also had two brothers who were confident singers of flamenco, Manuel and Curro Mairena, but their names have been somewhat overshadowed by their brother’s.
Antonio died in his place of birth on September 7 1983 but the locals still talk fondly of him as if he was still with them today.
There is little question in the minds of most flamenco aficionados that Antonio Mairena was one of the greatest singers that ever lived.