There are not many foreigners, or Spanish come to think of it, who hold such a burning passion in their hearts for the art of flamenco.
There is however an Englishman who has developed a fervent love for the gypsies of Andalusia and their culture, and this was displayed at the presentation of his latest book, last Thursday in Utrera.
|Kurt Grosch - Celia Mendez - Tony Bryant - El Marquesito|
Tony Bryant had decided to present the Spanish version of his book, A Time-defying heritage, in the small gypsy enclave of Utrera, because the book is based on one of the towns most celebrated flamenco names - El Pinini.
Pinini was the patriarch to the illustrious family that has produced some of flamencos most notable performers including La Fernanda and La Bernarda de Utrera, Miguel El Funi, Inés Bacán and Pepa de Benito.
Herencia del Tiempo traces the roots of this family’s entangled genealogical tree from the XVIII century until present day and it also connects this family with other renowned dynasties like those of El Sordera, El Perrate and La Serneta. The author had first-hand experiences with this family because he has made Utrera his second home and he seems to have gained the trust and friendship of most of the town’s flamenco population.
The presentation was sponsored by the Ayuntamiento de Utrera and was held in municipal library, and dozens of Utrera’s gypsy population turned up to support the Englishman whom they now consider “amongst their own”.
The night was started with an introduction by El Marquesito, one of El Pinini’s great grandchildren, who told of his appreciation of the book and his respect of the author.
The author looked a little nervous as he listened to the praise that was being bestowed on him and he had told me, just minutes before the presentation was to start, that he was feeling extremely tense: This was not because he would have to address the audience in Spanish, but because after many years in the making, he was now offering this historic piece of work to the people he obviously loves.
A representative from the Museo del Baile Flamenco spoke of his amazement and disbelief when Tony first presented him with this project.
Kurt Grósch, the director of the museum, and of Flamenco Sapiens, (the publishing company that produced the book) went on to say that he believed that the author had entered into a territory that had never before been explored.
The book was translated by Celia Mendez Perez, a local language teacher who continued to shower praise on the author.
Although Celia is not from Utrera, or of gypsy blood, she went on to explain that because she had in fact married into one of Utrera’s massive flamenco dynasties, she understood how difficult it is to identify and comprehend this culture when one is first engaged in it.
The author presented his translator with a stunning bouquet of flowers during the presentation: not only had she “combined stringency and proficiency whilst translating the book”, but also because she was more than eight-months pregnant!
The audience rose to their feet to applaud as the author and translator wished each other great success for the future.
The author went on to thank everyone who had helped him with the book, and the emotion and affection that took over on the night made the audience appreciate his every word.
He said that he felt “eternally indebted to Utrera, and especially the gypsies, because it was they who had changed his life in such a marvelous way”.
The presentation was concluded in the only way possible; with a little spontaneous song and dance performed by some of El Pinini’s descendants.
El Marquesito sang catiñas de Pinini and fandangos made popular by his mother Fernanda, whilst El Pitin Hijo (a great-great grandson of Pinini) accompanied him with excellent guitar work. Soon the room was pulsating as members of the family took up their positions to assist with the palmas and jaleo.
If ever I saw a foreigner so at home outside of his habitual environment, it was here tonight, because Tony Bryant has an affection and respect of the gypsy flamenco that has earned him a place in the very bosom of their community.
A celebration party was held afterwards in a small bar in the center of town and it was attended by some of Utrera’s finest flamenco performers.
Shame I had to leave early, because I heard on the grape-vine the next day that it turned into a night of gitanerias; I suppose one could expect no less!
J M Jiménez: Utrera Seville May 2013
Herencia del Tiempo
AUTHOR – TONY BRYANT
PUBLISHER – EDICIONES FLAMENCO SAPIENS (MUSEO DEL BAILE FLAMENCO, SEVILLA)