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"What I like best is to pick out an experience and one of those sounds that have traveled a little, and add to it how I imagine it will be in the future"


Enrique Morente, cantaor flamenco. Interview

“Cante has always been in a state of evolution”

Silvia Calado. London, February 2006
Translation: Gary Cook

Enrique Morente and the music. You don't have to understand it, you just need to feel it. Just like the man himself, who without knowing what they say, feels the Bulgarian choral voices. That's how he asks audiences to approach his vocal performances. And the same goes for Seville, Madrid... or London. He visited the English capital for the second time in his career, making his presence felt. Just as he predicted would happen at the informal chat he held with two or three journalists in the dressing rooms of the Sadler’s Wells a few moments before he drove the London audience wild. Calm, modest, approachable. He spoke of progress in flamenco, its history and the blending of styles. And of projects such as production work on Estrella Morente's third album, scheduled for release in the spring, on the problems that worry men today... and of music.


Enrique Morente at London´s
Sadler’s Wells (Foto: Daniel Muñoz)

“I could've come over with ‘Omega’, but I was excited about bringing traditional cante flamenco to London.” Enrique Morente, as with all his classical flamenco recitals, decided to “adapt my repertoire to this concert”. Do you always let your inspiration lead you? “It's all I have, inspiration.” And at Flamenco Festival London 2006 he found inspiration and leaned toward bulerías, cantiñas, seguiriyas, soleá... and a few lines borrowed from poets like Manuel Machado and Lorca. Perhaps that's why he explains that all the experiments he's done “have been driven by poetry, as life without poetry has no meaning”.

Experiments... He immediately dismissed as “barbaric” the fact that in the London festival program they should present him as ‘The Picasso of flamenco’. And he explained what progress really consists of in his work: “What I like best is to pick out an experience and one of those sounds that have traveled a little, and add to it how I imagine it will be in the future.” And that's possible because, as the Granada-born vocalist reminds us, “cante has always been in a state of evolution, there hasn't been an era in which it hasn't evolved”.

And to this maxim he adds another: “Flamenco, right from the start, has always been a hybrid artform.” He's found evidence all over the world: “Jews, Arabs, Latin Americans... They've told me, when they heard me singing, that their grandparents also used to sing that stuff.” And, in spite of its ancient roots, he also considers that “flamenco is a modern sound”. And he offers the tarantas as an example: “When you're used to listening to other musical styles, you can see that the taranta has a really broad and really open tonal range, which could easily belong to any culture.” That breadth means that cante could become universal. All the more so in cultural capitals like London, “with a habit of hosting musical styles from around the world and where, thanks to immigration, it's no surprise these days to see this type of ‘kamikaze’ we call a cantaor flamenco”.

Estrella Morente's new album and ‘Omega 2’

In spite of how excited he was about performing in the city of the Thames, he confessed that on the festival program “there's one singer on the bill tonight that shouldn't be there, and there's another one that's missing: my daughter Estrella Morente.” For the past few months he's been working with her on the production of what will be the cantaora's third album, which her father promises will finally see the light of day in spring. On the subject of this eagerly-awaited album he reveals that “so long as I'm producing Estrella's albums, she'll carry on in the tradition of pure flamenco. I'm going to be really strict, so that when I'm gone she can shake it all off and do whatever she likes.” And, restless artist that he is, afterwards “I get back to work on the sequel to ‘Omega’, as not long ago they reminded me it's now ten years old.”

"Who cares where musicians are from! The world has plenty of musical styles."

And don't you get the feeling Enrique Morente is a greater innovator than the young cantaores nowadays? The artist responds wisely to the question: “The path of flamenco is a long one. And there are some really good youngsters around. Some are daring, too.” The example he chooses is Miguel Poveda, “who asked me about making an album in Catalan. And I told him if I'd been Catalan, I'd have made plenty of albums in Catalan already!” Bear in mind that he's even been known to croon in English: he couldn't resist taking the London audience by surprise with a fragment of ‘Summertime’ por bulerías. “It's just a musical gesture”, he'd warned. And the fact is he's a lover of the American music scene. Among his favorite artists are “Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Pat Metheny and total lunatics like me - Sonic Youth, for example.” From other cultures he admires Ute Lemper, Khaled... “Who cares where they're from! The world has plenty of musical styles.”

With this stance in mind, he was asked about his commitment in terms of the problems of contemporary society. “Politicians only think about the build-up of arms, when there are instruments of love such as music.” He's especially troubled by hunger and unjust war, all the more so “with the ease of communication we have today.” It's paradoxical to him to know that “a workman is going to do what he can to struggle against hunger. So why don't politicians?” It's a good job there's always art, which according to Enrique Morente is “an escape valve that belongs to the noble side of the human being.”

Enrique Morente with Niño Josele at London's Sadler’s Wells
(Photo: Daniel Muñoz)

Moree information:

The 2006 Flamenco Festival London. Enrique Morente: review and photos

Photo gallery. Enrique Morente... sueña La Alhambra

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