Paradas and El Pele de Córdoba
I’m very happy to learn that Paradas will dedicate its Semana Flamenca to the cantaor from Córdoba, Manuel Moreno Maya El Pele, even as there are many other more experienced maestros and maestras who would be delighted to be awarded such great honor. It’s not that El Pele will be given the next Golden Key of Cante, but this Semana Flamenca (“Flamenco Week”) is among the best events of this kind in
I’m very happy to learn that Paradas will dedicate its Semana Flamenca to the cantaor from Córdoba, Manuel Moreno Maya El Pele, even as there are many other more experienced maestros and maestras who would be delighted to be awarded such great honor. It’s not that El Pele will be given the next Golden Key of Cante, but this Semana Flamenca (“Flamenco Week”) is among the best events of this kind in all of Spain, or at least the one which takes flamenco more seriously, and I suppose that El Pele will feel happy by being honored in a town that has such high regard for flamenco.
When this great cantaor was born in Córdoba’s San Pedro district, in 1954, many of the great stars of flamenco who would define his personality were still alive, such as Caracol, for example, of whom El Pele is a big fan. Also alive at that time were Marchena, Vallejo, Pastora Pavón, Aurelio de Cádiz, La Perla, Pepe Pinto, Canalejas and Juan Varea. Antonio Mairena hadn’t been awarded the Golden Key of Cante in Córdoba yet, and Juan Talega, another of Pele’s role models, was barely known by most people. And Fosforitohadn’t yet won the 1956 Concurso Nacional de Córdoba, who turned him into a big star overnight.
El Pele is non-orthodox in cante, although everything he does has its roots in traditional flamenco. He is capable of the best and the worst. He may be amazing in the first part of a recital, and disastrous at the end. Let’s say he may get unpredictable in one single verse, and when this happens he becomes uncontrollable. Something like that happened with Manuel Torres, although I don’t mean to compare them. That cantaorfrom Jerez could make a big stir singing one single cante, either because he sang it really well, or because he sang it really bad.
In our days there aren’t many cantaores like El Pele. I would even dare to say that he’s one of a kind, the only cantaor who is able to drive the public crazy with one single verse of soleares, seguiriyas or bulerías, considering his ability to improvise and his brilliant intensity. Many times, I’ve witnesses those qualities that have made him a unique cantaor.
I remember one evening when I was with him and Enrique Morente at the Peña Flamenca Torres Macarena, in Seville. Enrique wanted to listen to him singing in private and we ended up at the Peña Manolo Caracol, in the La Feria district, the birthplace of many important artists. That evening I listened to El Pele in his most inspired state and it’s something I’ll never forget. Enrique whispered to me: “He’s light-years ahead of everyone else, although he’s crazy”.
Congratulations to the Peña Flamenca de Paradas por this choice, and congratulations to this cantaor from Córdoba for being granted such great honor. We’ll be there, as long as God and the bulls of Machacaera allow it.
Translated by P. Young