Flamenco Joven is for me characterized by a move away from a music that is rooted in folklore. By rooted in folklore, I mean rooted in a particular folk dogma, fossilized and frozen in a time and context that is not the here and now.
Flamenco Joven appears to have changed all that, but there has always been innovation in flamenco.Â Manolo Caracol said that “you can sing with an orchestra and you can sing with bagpipes! You can sing with anything!” Flamenco Joven appears to have started in the 1980s, but there has always been innovation in flamenco. There has always been that “other flamenco”.
Little is known of the origins of flamenco. Wrapped in the shrouds of time, the origins are confused by myth and lack of evidence. All we know for certain is that flamenco is about 200 years old.
The nineteenth century was when flamenco became what we know today. These forms were developed and through the cafe cantantes, and what had previously been embryonic and behind closed doors, became accessible to the public while a professional performing elite put their stamp on these forms. The names that come down to us today, names such as MalagueÃ±a de la Trini shows us that these same performers were acutely aware of ownership of something that was uniquely theirs. Theirs because they were the innovators.
The twentieth century was characterized by a period of re-creation and re-interpretation. The Flamenco Genealogical Tree became fixed. In an art form where purity is held in such high esteem, innovation was seen as a dangerous thing.Cante became slower over the century and harmony become more important than previously, but was was a SoleÃ¡ de AlcalÃ¡ was a SoleÃ¡ de AlcalÃ¡ for life!
Against this backdrop, only the most creative, talented and from traditional backgrounds could ever hope to innovate. And they did. The first being CamarÃ³n and Paco de LucÃa, followed by Manolo SanlÃºcar, Antonio Gades and Mario Maya, and Enrique Morente.
The basic flamenco forms are still not changed. A soleÃ¡ is still a soleÃ¡, but new instrumentation, harmony and choreography is added, giving every appearance of something new. This is why the solid flamenco backgrounds of both CamarÃ³n and Paco was fundamental in their careers as innovadors.
The Origins of Flamenco Joven
Although nobody paid much attention to them in the rest of Andalusia and even Jerez, new names claimed their place in the history of flamenco. Most of them had to perform in Madrid, the only place where they were given “stage time”. A musical promoter from Malaga who is based in Madrid stated in El pais (11/10/94): “Those who are responsible for promoting flamenco in Jerez are in the XIX century”. As Raimundo Amador said: “in flamenco there is much flamencolico”, (a clever play on the suffix -ology and -colic).
Coral de los Reyes, Juana Vargas, Tomasito, Navajita Platea, are responsible for some of the most modern flamenco (in the 1990s). The title of one of the themes of Navajita Platea gives us a clue to the nature of the new music: Cante Jondo Americano. Navajita Platea is a synthesis of flamenco and blues, and the group is formed by two gypsies: Ildefonso de los Reyes Pele, 24 years old, and Francisco Currasco Curro, 19 years old. Both have strong family links with flamenco. Pele is son of Julian de los Reyes, a flamenco verse writer and his mother is a Mexican flamenco dancer fascinated by Jerez. Curro is nephew of the legendary singer Terremoto and El Sordera, and is cousin of Jose Ketama and Diego Carrasco.
In the said article Pele says: “Jerez is like New Orleans. Here and there the essence is well conserved, but new things are also born. I identify with flamenco but wouldn’t call what we do flamenco. Someone has to invent a new word”. This blend of influences, New Orleans and Jerez, is well reflected in some of the words in Gitano Americano, for example:
Me gusta la Coca Cola
y los perritos caliente’
las hamburgesas de McDonals
y un cacho e’ pan con aceite.
I love Coca Cola
and hot dogs
the hamburgers from McDonalds
and a bit of bread and oil.
Navajita Platea were amongst the most vanguards of all the moderns. The recipe was nonetheless the same: artists who were deeply embedded in the of flamenco started experimenting with other musical forms. Blues and Jazz forms were the main influences, but there are those who started experimenting with rock, such as Triana and a form of Salsa-Jazz which is typical of Ketama. One of the most interesting flamenco-wise was the experimentation of Juan Pena El Lebrijano, who for some years had been singing with the Moroccan National Orchestra and who accompanied his singing (sometimes in Arabic) with arabic musical forms – one of the most important and earliest musical influences of flamenco. Interestingly, he is performing a re-visiting of “Casablanca” in the 2010 Bienial.
In addition to various fusion styles, the joven flamenco encompasses singers such as Gitano Indio who not only sings authentic flamenco but he is also extremely knowledgeable of its forms. This knowledge has enabled him to gain the approval of many of the most finicky of flamencologists in his interpretations of the cante, in which he occasionally mixes palos such as malaguenas and granainas. After hearing such a mix, Antonio de Canilla, one of the most respected singer of malaguenas today, told me that Indio’s interpretation was new but authentic and correct from every point of view when one considers that a granaina is a malaguena from Granada.