A disastrously cultural country
The Spanish Association of Flamenco Tablaos (ANTFES) has warned that flamenco is dying. I fully disagree. Flamenco will only die when all of us who love it die, too.
The unending struggle for justice should take place everywhere around the world. Yet, this is not hapening. Do you know why? Because, as we have said before, duende is something that people either have, or do not have. It cannot be taught. It cannot be sought.
These are convoluted times in flamenco, there is no doubt about it. Facing this situation, we must point out the courage and generosity of all the people who, even as they are themselves broken and shaken by the current situation, attempt to put together a complex structure which, unlike what some people may think, is not easy peasy. Yet, even if it is a lot of work, willingly dedicating our whole life to an undertaking we have a passion for is an exciting adventure. Being able to practice a professional vocation is a great boost to our psyche.
«Will Spain vanish? No, that would be impossible. Thus, flamenco won’t vanish, either. Spain is a disastrously cultural and gloriously cultural country. Let’s not forget»
Thus, we arrive at the press conference led by Federico Escudero, director of the Torres Bermejas tablao in Madrid and president of the latest organization created in behalf of the flamenco culture that identifies our country: ANTFES, the National Association of Spanish Flamenco Tablaos (Asociación Nacional de Tablaos Flamencos de España).
It has been an exciting experience despite the difficult circumstances that prompted the briefing, because I never thought I would have the opportunity to listen first-hand — although not “in the flesh”, due to the current situation — to important flamenco personalities such as Blanca del Rey, Cristina Hoyos and Luis Adame.
Immersed in the commotion caused by this situation, I became conscious of the true ailment afflicting flamenco: the absence of a National Aid Plan to keep the tablaos afloat and getting them back on track when normalcy returns. In the words of Federico Escudero: «If we don’t get help, all tablaos will vanish».
Cristina Hoyos is the one who thrills me when I see her on the computer screen stating that if reincarnation were real, she would want to be a flamenco bailaora in each of her lives. I say this because I write extensively about my own feelings on a daily basis, yet I had never used a metaphor that revealed with such precision how intense can our love for this profession be.
«ANTFES, the National Association of Spanish Flamenco Tablaos, asks for the extension of the ERTE job retention scheme, short-term and long-term subsidies and the lifting of restrictions in venue capacity»
It is Luis Adame who brings in the whip of reality. This guitarist and businessman infuses us with an even deeper commitment to support these venues when he says that they are unique spaces where the true essence of flamenco is experienced. He calls them the «the university of lived flamenco». Besides, he categorically states that their modus vivendi is irreplaceable. Thus, we must conclude that we cannot allow ourselves to ignore the endearing character of these places, small sets upholding flamenco’s authenticity since the 19th century, bastions that give artists the opportunity to enrich themselves with their purity, learning through trial and error, the most effective way.
Back to the original purpose of this virtual assembly, the three petitions Escudero asks the government in the name of all the artistic community are: the extension of the ERTE job retention scheme, short-term and long-term subsidies and and the lifting of restrictions in venue capacity, as well as supporting all unions related to flamenco and the normalization of international tourism.
It’s true that the press conference ends with a discouraging statement: «Flamenco is dying». Yet, I fully disagree.
«Flamenco will prevail because it has plenty of tools to survive in any place and in any situation. Without us, part of our country’s identity would be lost.»
Flamenco will only die when all of us who love it die, too, because the quintessential quality of artists is their superhuman ability to reinvent ourselves. We are the imagination factory that supports the soul of all of those enriched by this art form.
Colleagues, we are not fighting a losing battle. Flamenco will prevail because it has plenty of tools to survive in any place and in any situation. Without us, part of our country’s identity would be lost. Will Spain vanish? No, that would be impossible. Thus, flamenco will not vanish, either.
Spain is a disastrously cultural and gloriously cultural country. Let’s not forget.
Image above: Antonio Canales and Concha Vargas as “Hope and Fear”. Photo by Vicente Pachón