Carlos Sánchez. Jerez, September 10th, 2005

38th Bulería Festival. Capullo de Jerez. El Torta. Montse Cortés. Diego Carrasco. Domingo Ortega. La Reina Gitana. Bullring. Jerez de la Frontera (Cádiz, Spain), September 10th, 2005

The thirty-eighth edition of the Bulería Festival. For yet another year, thousands of people thronged to the bullring in Jerez to attend this huge flamenco event opening the city's Autumn Festival. A festive ambience. An enticing bill, with the presence of two great cante stars, Juan Moneo ‘El Torta’ and Miguel Flores ‘Capullo de Jerez’, and that of a prodigal son, bailaor Domingo Ortega. The sell-out crowd was guaranteed. But the edition paying tribute to Lola Flores was unbalanced. El Torta was disappointing and Capullo established himself as the life of the party.

El Torta (Photo: Carlos Sánchez)

Ten o'clock at night. Jerez smells like young wine, like fresh wine. It's harvest time. The previous night, the traditional ‘grape treading’ was done. Kick-off of the ‘Autumn Festival’. The people are welcomed by bulerías. The crowd starts to take their seats to the beat of the land. This is a party; that's how it's understood by most. People come to have a good time and that's all. That's the concept there is nowadays of this traditional flamenco event. You shouldn't make fun of the artform. Felipa la del Moreno opens the upbeat bill. She is followed by Joaquín el Zambo, Ángel Vargas, Barullo, Luis Moneo and Anabel Rosado, among others. From Santiago to La Plazuela. A hotchpotch of performers to the sound of Fernando Moreno and Antonio Jero on guitar, with Santiago rhythmic tapping. Part of the ‘Royal Filarmoney (Philharmonic) of Santiago’ - Chícharo and Gregorio -, together with brothers Cantarote and Curro de la Joaquina. There sure is rhythm here. The group parties it up, championing the bulería.

Piano's turn. Rosario Lazo Montoya ‘La Reina Gitana’ (‘The Gypsy Queen’) made her keyboard sound more flamenco than ever. Fully-devoted from the very first instant, she offered a show balanced with cante and baile. To endow it with more musicality, she included violin and German flute. The Jerez-born artist wanted to pay her own tribute to Lola Flores. The crowd rewarded her for it. The night turned chilly. Like that bulería by El Torta says: “El frío los huesecitos me calaba…” (“The cold pierced my little bones…”). But the crowd was well-prepared to weather the falling temperatures. Nothing better than sherry or spirits to stave off the uncomfortable chilly night air.

We leave the land of wine with the presence of Montse Cortés. The Catalan artist made her début in Jerez. Fighting at great bullrings is always complicated. But her performance grew. She was well-accompanied by Daniel Méndez on guitar. Tonás, taranto and soleá, then finishing off with the tango-rumba ‘La rosa blanca’, the title of her latest album. Camarón-like touches to the delight of the crowd.

An intermission over twenty minutes long. Enough time to get the stage ready for baile. Domingo Ortega came back to his native land. The prodigal son returns. Hitting the nail on the head. He came ready and willing, and you could tell. He started off with alegrías doing baile full of personality. Scrutinizing and varying each of his movements. With unexpected finishes. Reliably. With contemporary hues. The Jerez-born bailaor had fun on stage. He finished with soleá.

The crowd was waiting with bated breath. It's time for El Torta. Curiosity and the circles of people swell up. Nobody knows what he'll do. Not even he himself, shut up in his own world. He kicked off with soleá. But he came in hoarse, nearly voiceless. He struggled in each stage. He writhed with each word. Restless and deep in thought. He grabbed the seguiriya as well as he could. He did the same thing with the tangos and bulerías. He was disappointing and surrendered his reign to the night's great victor, Capullo de Jerez. The bullring went crazy no sooner did it hear his name. The audience sang out his name as if he were a rock star. Here was flamenco's Mick Jagger. With the same old repertoire. But that didn't matter. “When I get down to singing, I put my hope into it”. He turned the bullring upside down.

This is a party, especially in the stands. That's how those bearing the chilly night air welcomed Diego Carrasco, the compás guru who returned to the Bulería Festival following an absence of over thirty years. And he did so his way and with his troops. “The old world and the new world … José Monge Cruz, present!”. He began with a bulería dedicated to ‘Camarón de la Isla’, next doing ‘Vida y gloria del gitano’ through bulerías, paying tribute to La Faraona and finishing off with ‘Yo te quería María’ from his latest album, ‘Mi ADN flamenco’ (‘My Flamenco DNA’), which by the way, has been nominated for the Latin Grammy Awards. The thirty-eighth edition closed with a grand finale which left the image of Capullo dancing with El Torta on cante.


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