Enrique Morente, cantaor flamenco.
“Cante has always
been in a state of evolution”
Silvia Calado. London, February 2006
Translation: Gary Cook
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.”
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
(Photo: Daniel Muñoz)