Grandpa, you’ve had a whole life as a flamenco aficionado and you would have hundreds of stories to tell, being acquainted with the artists for so many years. Do you feel like talking about some of these experiences and anecdotes?
-Grandpa, you’ve had a whole life as a flamenco aficionado and you would have hundreds of stories to tell, being acquainted with the artists for so many years. Do you feel like talking about some of these experiences and anecdotes?
-Sure I feel like it. My first experience with an artist of, say, some importance, was with Antonio Mairena in the Su Eminencia neighborhood, in Seville, at Peña Flamenca El Chozas. I think it was in 1977 and the master of Mairena had gone to that peña with his brother Manolo to discuss the details of a recital with the guitarist José Cala El Poeta. At the time I was a huge fan of Mairena, and seeing this master in the peña where I started to become a flamenco aficionado, close to the place where I lived, was quite something. He wore a long coat, a fedora and huge sunglasses which almost covered his whole face. I have a photo from that day, made by the photographer López, from Torreblanca, where Antonio can be seen with the Padre Pío neighborhood in the background, where I would later move to. I remember that I greeted him and they later left to watch a match of the Betis soccer team, which played against Las Palmas.
-Did you attend the recital of his brother Manolo?
-Sure I did. Antonio didn’t go to that recital, though. Manolo gave a first-class recital and I have to admit that it was in then when I finally understood the style of the Mairenas, which before I didn’t quite get. Manolo was a bit sick with a cold and he sang with a handkerchief in his hand, because he sneezed several times. I was six feet away from him and his bulerías por soleá, soleares, seguiriyas and tientos moved me. Let’s say that he hit me with his cante, and from that day on I became a great admirer of him. And my love for the House of Mairena increased exponentially, particularly for Antonio.
-Did you ever talk about this with Antonio?
-No, just with Manolo. Antonio was a little arrogant and he would have resented the fact that it was by listening to his brother that I had finally understood his style. And Manolo liked it when I told him about this. I always got along well with him, although one day he stopped talking to me due to a critic I wrote about him and we didn’t look at each other for three or four years. Then one day he called me and told me: “Look, I really appreciate you, and it hurts when you see me in a peña and you don’t even talk to me. I don’t agree with all the things you write about me, but I wanted to thank you for today’s review”. I had written a good review about his latest album, featuring saetas. cantaores only like positive reviews, and they get upset when critics say bad things about what they do.
-Did you befriend Curro Mairena?
-No, I didn’t. I met him and we chatted a couple of times, but we weren’t friends. He wasn’t a professional cantaor and I listened to him singing just a few times other that in his town’s festival. I really liked when he sang the seguiriyas of Francisco La Perla or those of Tío José de Paula, Debajo del romero / guardo yo la llave… I won’t say that he was better than Antonio in that palo, like some people say, because that’s not true, although I liked him because he has a big fan of Manuel Torres, like myself. Curro had a moving depth, jondura, singing por seguiriyas.
-Did you ever listen to Juan, the other brother?
-No, I never met him. I’ve listened to some homemade recordings of him and he sang well, in the style of his family, although he didn’t have renown among flamenco aficionados beyond Mairena del Alcor.
-There were very good cantaores from Mairena, besides the Mairena brothers. Would you dare to give your opinion about some of them?
-Sure I would.
-Manolo was a good friend and I liked him a lot. He was a good aficionado and he was a good singer of the cantes de Alcalá por soleá. Besides that, he didn’t stand out much, perhaps just por seguiriyas. His knowledge was encyclopedic.
-I never met him, but I have some of his recordings and he was a great cantaor.
-A good friend and a great cantaor. He was a professional. He was good singing all kinds of palos, and he excelled in the fandangos de El Gloria. He died in a motorcycle accident near Mairena. He always had his problems, but he was a nice guy.
-A good friend and also a greatcantaor. He had the best flamenco sound of Mairena, without a doubt.
-Antonio Ortega padre.
-A great master. Good in all kinds of palos, and a very wise man. A true friend.
-He was great, although he was unreliable and bohemian. He could have been a great star, but didn’t quite make it.
-A great master. On par with the Mairenas.
Translated by P. Young