The adventures of Mayte Martín
It doesn’t matter whether it is Mayte Martín or John Doe. Certainly, this artist has the right to sing whatever she feels like, among other things because she sings wonderfully. Yet, if she releases an album of non-flamenco songs, why is that she has so much coverage in the flamenco media? I don’t get it. Just because she’s a cantaora, do people have
It doesn’t matter whether it is Mayte Martín or John Doe. Certainly, this artist has the right to sing whatever she feels like, among other things because she sings wonderfully. Yet, if she releases an album of non-flamenco songs, why is that she has so much coverage in the flamenco media? I don’t get it. Just because she’s a cantaora, do people have to give an opinion about anything she does, even if she decides to set up a circus? I don’t think so.
I remember when, several years ago, she sang at the Bienal de Sevilla in the Lope de Vega theater, filled to capacity, in her show AlcántaraManuel , which had nothing to do with flamenco. Dozens of aficionados from my hometown, Arahal, took a bus to attend it, yet they all left before the show ended. Me too. They left the coliseum at the Casino de la Exposiciónbecause they felt ripped off, and they were right. Fooled, indeed, because the show was super boring.
She got upset with me a few days ago because I said that she had chosen the easy way. I’m not saying that writing songs is easy, but it’s hard to leave a good flamenco discography, something she doesn’t have yet. The fact that she doesn’t think this is important doesn’t meant it isn’t, because today we assess the great masters of the past according the discography they left behind. I’m referring to Chacón, Niña de los Peines, Manuel Torres or Marchena. It’s true that Marchena sang a few non-flamenco songs too, yet the thick of his discography was cante flamenco , and that’s what made him a legendary artist.
I get that with her new album, Tempo Rubato , this cantaora from Barcelona will have a media coverage that she would never have if she were releasing an album of cante jondo . She’s getting lots of coverage already, and I’m happy for her because I like and admire Mayte and I wish her the best. What I don’t get is the coverage in the flamenco media, as if they owed something to this singer-cantaora. I also don’t get the flamenco purists who cheer and celebrate this particular album, because they are the same people who criticize anyone who adds musical arrangements to a caña or a jabera .
The field of flamenco critic has been mortally wounded for years, due to several reasons. First, since it’s not a well-paid job, just anyone can do it, whether or not they know what they’re talking about. Second, because some media organizations avoid criticizing anyone (since all they care about is selling), so they avoid any conflict with record companies. And third, because there are very few flamenco critics left, and instead there are lots of fans of certain successful artists. I’ve seen in theaters some of them loudly cheering performers who aren’t even worth to sing in family reunions.
I’m sorry to say that Mayte Martin has disappointed me a bit, even as she couldn’t care less about it, which is fine, because artists must always do what they feel like doing. In my opinion, she’s one of the best voices of cante, and one of its best minds, and perhaps that is why it hurts so much that she has given up flamenco, which is what made her famous. Yet, she’s quite critical about some things done in cante. There is some incoherence about it, no doubt.
Maybe that’s why I still like the cantaores and cantaoras who died miserably singing flamenco, the right way.
Original photo by Miguel Mesa.
Translated by P. Young