FLAMENCAS EN SABATINI 2004
The artform of the common
in royal surroundings
Silvia Calado. Madrid, august 2004
Photos: Daniel Muñoz
Noches Flamencas en Sabatini Season. Chano Lobato
/ Antonio Pitingo (Wednesday 4th August). Enrique
de Melchor / José Menese (Thursday 5th August).
La Tati (Friday 6th August). Pepe Habichuela
and Josemi Carmona / Salomé Pavón (Saturday
7th August). Niño Josele / Duquende (Sunday
8th August). Gerardo Núñez Trío
/ Capullo de Jerez (Thursday 12th August).
El Güito (Friday 13th August). Jardines de Sabatini,
Madrid (Spain), from 4th to 13th August 2004. 10pm.
The stage design alone deserved
a round of applause on the opening night. The towering side
wall of Madrid's Royal Palace used as a backdrop was a sight
to behold. And it wasn't the only thing. This season of 'flamenco
nights' in the palace gardens was held among the pine trees
and lawns, with only the starry skies (as starry as you’ll
get in a brightly-lit city) as a roof. As luck would have
it there was some respite from the midsummer heat, and a cool
breeze blew down from the nearby mountain range to soothe
the audience. As an extra incentive, apart from the cinnamon
wafers served up by a 'chulapo' in traditional dress, the
audience enjoyed table service as they lapped up the activity
on stage. Except for those seated in the stalls to the rear,
who had to get their own drinks. In total, there was room
for around seven hundred people, and on a lot of nights -
good news considering this was peak holiday season - they
were all occupied. The only remaining ingredient: flamenco.
The program aimed, on the
one hand, to strike a balance between vocalists, dancers and
guitarists, making a special effort not to neglect these last
musicians. And, on the other hand, to combine established
names and promising newcomers. This duality was already evident
on the first evening, when the double bill featured both the
whippersnapper Antonio Pitingo and the hardcore old-timer
both backed on guitar by Paco Cortés. The former seized
at the chance to perform a varied repertoire of classic flamenco
pieces, drawing on influences such as Antonio Chacón
and Manolo Caracol. And Chano Lobato, who now has nothing
to prove, focused on the styles of cante that have become
his trademarks - tanguillos, alegrías, tangos, soleá
- and offering those entertaining yarns of his, telling tales
of Ignacio Espeleta and Pericón de Cadiz. And the fact
is, as always, he's just as pleasant a cantaor as he is a
storyteller. He oozes experience. Arte, with a capital A.
if to prove that flamenco guitar, according to program director
Juan Verdú “is at the most important moment in
its history” there was occasion for flamenco guitarists
to take the limelight. On the second evening, to be exact,
the proceedings were kicked off by Enrique
de Melchor with a guitar recital, accompanied by a somewhat
shaky rhythm section and an out-of-place flute.
With his characteristic blend of a delicate hand and a classical
style, he ran through a repertoire featuring tangos, fandangos,
a habanera, bulerías and rumbas, combining his experience
on flamenco guitar with the musicality of his 'band'.
The son of Melchor de Marchena later switched roles, providing
accompaniment to the vocals of José
Menese. The cantaor from Puebla de Cazalla gave a dignified
recital, his powerful voice booming from deep within. He stood
out from the crowd with his choice of repertoire, full of
seldom heard cantes: trilla, farruca, nana, caracoles...
Menese y Enrique de Melchor
This format - ‘guitar
recital + cante recital’ was repeated on three other
occasions: on Saturday in Pepe
Habichuela and Josemi Carmona's concert, preceded by a
performance by newcomer Salomé Pavón; on Sunday
with a performance by guitarist Niño Josele from Almería
and cantaor Duquende from Catalonia; and on Thursday with
Gerardo Núñez and Capullo de Jerez.
The guitar duo comprising Pepe Habichuela and Josemi Carmona,
father and son, was one of the high points of this season.
With a guitar linked up to an amplifier, electric bass, two
percussionists, a keyboard and a vocalist, the regular member
of Ketama offered a delicious performance, which unpretentiously
veered toward fusion and universal appeal... whilst never
straying from flamenco territory. And it paid off: he seems
just as much at home giving a fresh group approach to palos
like bulerías and rumbas, as he does giving a solo
performance of a soleá, laying his instrument bare.
The album is overdue.
The legendary Pepe Habichuela takes over, giving a solo performance
on the same guitar his son used. His striking intuition on
guitar was plain to see from the very first note; the audience
was intoxicated by his subtlety, his know-how. He played alegrías
and bulerías with two percussionists, and played the
bulería por soleá taken from the magnificent
disc ‘Yerbagüena’, giving it a new twist.
He struck up a two guitar bulería alongside Josemi
and cantaor Pepe Luis Carmona. And then it was back to the
band formation, comprising ‘Habichuelas’ old and
young. And, to round off, the theme from the album recorded
with Indian musicians The Bollywood Strings, but this time
played without them. Tentatively, very tentatively, the audience
called for an encore (this is an audience that has trouble
getting whipped into a frenzy), and the encore came, with
a few dance steps thrown into the bargain courtesy of one
of the ladies of the clan. Let's not forget that before this
incredible concert came a chance for cantaora Salomé
Pavón to perform her repertoire of light-hearted styles,
with the backing singers providing plenty of over-the-top
'coros'. To emphatically state that she's La Niña de
los Peines's niece, Manolo Caracol's grandson and Arturo Pavón's
daughter (her father, incidentally, is very ill) perhaps worked
more against her than it did in her favor. Ones caste doesn't
make one an artist.
Pepe Habichuela with Jose María
Carmona and Salome Pavón