Cante hurts... and is diverse

Silvia Calado. Amsterdam, January 29th, 2011

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'Noche de cante jondo'. First part: Arcángel with Miguel Ángel Cortés on guitar. Second part: El Torta with Diego del Morao on guitar. 3rd Dutch Flamenco Biennial. Bimhuis. Amsterdam (Holland), January 29th, 2011, 9 p.m.

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Arcángel (Photo Daniel Muñoz)

The days go by intensely in Amsterdam. Starting very early in the morning, at the Hotel Lloyd there is a hustle and bustle of artists, journalists, technicians and production personnel. The earliest ones to rise today were the contemporary and flamenco musicians (among them, Arcángel and La Moneta) who take part in the closing gala 'Flamenco sin fin', in order to go to the daily rehearsal at the premises where the Nieuw Ensemble usually gets its premieres ready. Mid-morning, Joaquín Grilo had a baile master class at the Global Dance Lab. And a little while later, Bobote taught a double workshop in an old hall of the hotel itself, to train Dutch enthusiasts in the art of compás. Meanwhile, at the Bimhuis musical crosses from here and there were displayed, of guitars and lutes, of cantes and saxes, like 'Viento del desierto' and 'Compasión'. And at the same time as all of this, the hotel’s internal TV channel was broadcasting in a loop the documentary 'El cante bueno duele' (‘Good Cante Hurts’), directed by the festival’s director, Ernestina van der Noort, together with Martijn van Beenen.

It was precisely that film which was shown at the Bimhuis as a prologue to 'Noche de cante jondo' (‘Cante Jondo Night’). But some of the passages in the audiovisual didn’t correspond at all to what would later happen on stage, at the same time as it sends out certain excluding messages which don’t reflect the reality of flamenco cante at all. A reality which is as rich, as varied and as diverse as its own performers and creators are. And that is precisely how it was displayed minutes later live: El Torta is as much a cantaor as Arcángel is, although they are worlds apart.

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Arcángel & Miguel Ángel Cortés (Photo Daniel Muñoz)

Arcángel was dazzling. The Huelva-born cantaor offered an impeccable, complete recital, expressly dedicated to his beloved Enrique Morente, which was felt by ears, head and heart. The quality in technique now reached by this artist is superb and therefore, he can afford complexity and sophistication without losing his sense of direction. Beside him he has a guitarist, Miguel Ángel Cortés, who is able to back him along that road on which both of them conduct themselves as high-level musicians. And together they’ve personalized arrangements which add originality and freshness to what is so withered. The good taste and demandingness they apply to every note is a pleasure to listen to. And the same thing happens with the thoughts, since there aren’t any coincidences in any of the lyrics: he says them for them to be heard and to be understood and for you to make them your own. “When you knock on my door, don’t do it with your fist, do it with your hand open”, he said por soleá. “There’s so much joy in my house that I’m not telling anyone what’s wrong with me”, he said por cantiñas. “You’ve wasted a lot of time criticizing and muttering”, he said por verdiales de Vallejo. And all of it, while continually appealing to the heart, producing feelings which might be sweet or bitter, for if the tangos are velvety, his seguiriya is sharp. Only after all of that did he say good night and thank those who “make these kinds of festivals possible, since for me it’s an honor that flamenco, the music which makes us get up every morning with a desire to live, is in so many hearts spread throughout the world”.

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El Torta
(Photo Daniel Muñoz)
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El Torta & Diego del Morao (Photo Daniel Muñoz)

After the intermission, a radical change. El Torta visited planet Earth for a while in order to tackle a stage, an audience, cante and his internal struggles. Trapped and affected by the aftereffects which drug addiction and depression have left in him, he charged the recital pressured by who knows what beings, what forces, what torments. He sang violently, furiously, hurriedly, nervously, startling the audience, the guitarist (what reflexes Diego del Morao has) and himself. And he said 'with-sense' and nonsense as they sprang up, and really great truths: “I’m really suffering”. And even so, he was able to let loose spine-tingling “moments” of cante of the kind that hurts, touches and affects you, por soleares and por seguiriyas. But the balance between those instants and all the rest is not acceptably even at present, or at least not for those of us who feel that there’s nothing comical about other people’s suffering.

Further information

More informationShow scheduleOfficial website

Flamenco Biennale Holanda 2011. 'Terremoto de Jerez'. Review, photos, video

Flamenco Biennale Holanda 2011. 'Qasida', Rosario la Tremendita & Mohammad Motamedi. Review, photos

Interview with Arcángel, cantaor (October 2007)

Interview with El Torta, cantaor (November 2007)

Photo gallery. Flamenco Biennale 2011: Rotterdam

Dutch Flamenco Biennial 2011 kicks off in Rotterdam with Dorantes, Rocío Molina and Diego del Morao

Dutch Flamenco Biennial 2011 shoots a documentary about Los Morao in Jerez

Dutch Flamenco Biennial 2011 opens the dialogue between flamenco and contemporary music

Holland features the cross between tradition and avant-garde at the Dutch Flamenco Biennial 2008

Visit the international flamenco festivals agenda


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  CD. Arcángel,

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CD. Miguel Ángel Cortés, 'Bordón de trapo'

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CD. Diego del Morao, 'Orate'

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  CD. El Torta, 'Momentos

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