Sunday, January 27, 2013

El Pinini:-150 year flamenco tradition.

                             La fuente vieja s’alborotao, por que El Pinini s’ha emborrachado

The fountain is in uproar because El Pinini is drunk and singing, suggests the popular verse that has almost become his epitaph.

Fernando Peña Soto was a humble gypsy who, after consuming a satisfactory quantity of wine, would sing his cantiñas in the streets and bars of Utrera.
He was a unassuming buthcher and a father to nine children, and between them they were to create one of the most interesting chapters in flamenco history.

Not one shred of actual evidence remains of his singing; yet he is still revered in the town as one of the most significant singers of Utrera, and because he was patriarch to a family of flamenco performers that can be matched by  few others.
El Pinini
To be a descendant of El Pinini seems to add a touch of royalty to a performer and the incalculable amount of illustrious members of this family that still live and perform flamenco in his mode is an enduring example of his legacy.
Most of this huge family still live in the same streets where they were raised and their children and grandchildren still respect and admire the tradition of this mystical man.
Even the youngest members of this family will be familiar with his name because it is still the topic of conversation in their homes and  and I have a strong feeling that his name will be well-regarded for many years to come.

I first went to Utrera in search of the legend of La Fernanda and her sister Bernarda, whilst researching my first book concerning flamenco,  and I was instantly seduced by the antiquainted atmosphere that seems to smother much of the town.

Every town in Andalucia has an old quarter that is dripping with tradition and in Utrera you are constantly reminded of the town’s association with flamenco.
Utrera has statues and monuments in commemoration of La Fernanda and Bernarda de Utrera, Bambino and Enrique Montoya as well as numerous plaques recalling the lives of flamenco artistes that were born in the town. Streets and avenues have also been given names in remembrance of  these artistes and there is also a small park which has been dedicated to their honour. El Parque del muro artista flamencos is small area next to a childrens playground that has mosaic stars embedded in the floor in a similar fashion to Hollywood’s ‘Walk of fame’, where each star is in regognition of the achievments made by the individual whose name is on it.

The gypsies of Utrera are proud of their flamenco tradition and it would appear that they will never forget those who have made this town so special. 

La Fuente Vieja-Utrera
The name of Utrera has always gleamed with a mystical supremacy where flamenco is concerned and today it has become a kind of home from home for me and I feel that I will not be the last non-Spanish flamenco afcionado to succumb to the powers of the town.
I have visited Utrera more times than any other place in Spain and my curiosity has transformed into a love and yearning for a town that I find more and more difficult to leave each time I  have to.

The legend of El Pinini is like a mysterious spell that engulfs anyone who delves into it and it has had a certain enchantment to me, and the lure of this tradition almost goes beyond acceptable human comprehension.
The bond that can be found between all gypsy flamencos is astounding and the friendliness and compassion that I have experienced during my time here has made me realize that Utrera could well be my destiny.

One of the most beautiful things about the gypsy flamenco is the way the youngest performers are able to relay their flamenco in the same manneras their ancestors, because their song and dance have come from the same stock.

I sense that this phenomenal flamenco tradition is far too precious to simply fade away over time and in the same way that classical music is incorporated into many modern musical trends, this flamenco mode will survive in much the same way. There will always be a certain minority of people who will want to continue with the orthodox styles of singing and dancing because it is simply their way of living and it is this unadorned day to day routine that I believe will keep it alive. 

Fernando Peña Soto – El Pinini was born one-hundred and fifty years ago and he has been dead for the last eighty, but his spirit is still very much alive  in Utrera. It would appear that El Pinini created a legacy that few others can boast of and I am so grateful for that first day when I stepped of the train in Utrera in search of the legend of La Fernanda de Utrera, because what has followed has been some of the most enjoyable times I have ever had.

I feel extremely proud to be able to refer to many of these wonderful people as my friends and, even more important than the many nights of outstanding flamenco I have witnessed in this town, it will surely be the people of Utrera who will leave an everlasting impression on my life.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Maybe it's time to start paying attention to whats going on in the real world of flamenco .

Whilst it is also  necessary to remember the past, it is also important to discover the new, yet there are many people who are missing the true essence of this beautiful culture because their only contact with flamenco is what is presented today in theaters and concert halls throughout the world. 

It is for this reason that I have decided to start a series of articles concerning the performers that are still continuing the age-old gypsy tradition, many of whom are little known in the commercial world, but they are part of one of the oldest and most respected flamenco clans in Andalusia. 
All of these artistes come from well established flamenco families and their ancestors include some of the  greatest names ever to be associated with the art; it is the off-springs of these great flamencos that are continuing a tradition that has been practiced in Andalusia for longer than anyone actually knows.   

Part 1 ' In the shadow of Bambino' - Manuel de Angustias

Born in Utrera in 1970, he is the grandson of Manuel de Angustias Viejo and second cousin of Bambino and his families roots are also firmly embedded in the world of the corrida; yet Manuel Alonso Jiménez - Manuel de Angustias has not just hitched a ride on his families tradition, he has carved his own direction and style.
As a child he would spend much time in the house of his great-aunt Frasquita, the mother of Bambino, and it was then that he discovered his love of the cante. He made his first recording on an old cassette recorder in his bedroom when he was a child and he would hang out in the bar owned by Diego Charmona (brother of the great Bambino) and it was here that he would learn the basics of flamenco singing.
In his teens he was part of the flamenco group Calle Nueva, which was made up of youngsters from Utrera, who performed a catchy style of light rumba style flamenco and with this exciting flamenco troupe he would tour places as diverse as Cuba, Venezuela and France.

Today Manuel de Angustias travels the world with his Bambino style show and he has attracted many of Bambino’s adoring fans, who no doubt find Manuel’s looks and music bear an uncanny resemblance to their previous idol. His style is more artistic than spontaneous and although he does resemble Bambino in many ways, he lacks a little of the emotional drama that Bambino injected into his songs.
Manuel accepts that he has a very strong similarity to his cousins catchy style and he certainly has Bambino’s drive and enthusiasm as he thrashes out his song - strutting extravegantly across the stage, gesticulating in order to put across his words.
He has the uncanny look of a young Miguel El Funi (a distant relative) and also possesses Funi’s posture and grace yet his dance seeks attention and Manuel also has he ability to play with the ryhthms will relative ease and although he can also sing the deep jondo styles associated with his grandfather - who was  one of the most orthodox falmenco singers of the last century - Manuel de Angustias is better suited to the stomping rumba flamenco mode.
He show has seen the stages of France, Japan and America and he also appeared as guest artiste at the wedding of Luis Alfonso de Borbón; a claiment to the French throne who is also the great-grandson of Franco.

Manuel is an artiste in the full sense of the word and although he may appear quite self-absorbed at times, when he is relaxing with family and friends all traces of stardom are quickly forgotton.
In these surroundings he demonstartes that his is quite capable of singing the ancient sigiuriyas and soleares of his grandfather and any traces of his artistic being will be lost in the turmoil of the fiesta. He is also fascinated by the world of the bullfight and will spend numerous hours on the ranches that surround his native land, where he practises his moves and turns with the hope of one day entering the ring to face probably his biggest challenge.

He is an extremely amusing and good natured person who speaks of Bambino with much pride and affection and when the opportunity arises he will leap to the fore to remenice about his relatives great artisic talent.
Bambino was something of rebel during his early years, especially when in Madrid where he was making vast amounts of money, and Miguel de Angustias speaks with admiration about those crazy years in the capital when the flamenco artistes like Bambino were treated, and behaved, like Hollywood stars.
Bambino passed away more than a decade ago, but when Manuel de Angustias takes the microphone, the spirit and temperament of Bambino is still very much alive.
Manuel de Angustias is one of todays most inspiring young flamenco singers, and with three solo compact discs, and numerous collective recordings already in the can, he is certainly carrying his families flamenco tradition well into the twenty-first century.