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Grandpa and the flamenco dynasties

-Grandpa, is it true that flamenco came out of a group of gypsy families from the early 1800s, like some researchers say? It’s a deeply-rooted theory in gitanismo(1). In Triana, for example, gypsy cante was limited to the Pelao and Cagancho families, and little else.-There is some truth in that. Yet, note that before Manuel Cagancho and Juan Pelao

-Grandpa, is it true that flamenco came out of a group of gypsy families from the early 1800s, like some researchers say? It’s a deeply-rooted theory in gitanismo(1). In Triana, for example, gypsy cante was limited to the Pelao and Cagancho families, and little else.

-There is some truth in that. Yet, note that before Manuel Cagancho and Juan Pelao were born, Triana already had Frasco El Colorao, who wasn’t from any flamenco dynasty, and also El Fillo, born in Puerto Real (Cádiz), who arrived in Triana two or three years before Silverio was born, around 1828.

-Yet, I guess that before that time there were already cantaores and cantaoras in that neighborhood of Seville, right?

-No doubt about it, although it’s something that’s not well documented. If you think about it, the artists who performed in that famous party mentioned by Estébanez Calderón in 1842 (when he described dancing in Triana four years before) were not from Triana. I mean the most relevant ones: El Planeta, Juan de Dios, El Fillo, El Jerezano…

-True grandpa, but there would already be some flamencos in Triana at that time, right?

-No question about it. What happens is that before those years, even as there were people who made a living singing and dancing, there were no renowned flamenco professionals in Triana, and if they were, they would only perform in private parties.  In the mid 1800s, one Peicker organized tourist visits to Triana which included watching dance performances, but as far as I know, these were bolero(2) parties. In the parties of Seville, such as the so-called Baile de los ingleses (“Dance of the English”), where boleras such as La Campanera and La Nena performed, there were always some gypsy women from La Cava district in Triana who came to liven up these parties. Their style of dancing was somehow different than boleros, and I believe that this fusion was crucial in the creation of baile flamenco.

-Wouldn’t cantaores from Triana go to these parties too?

-Apparently not. Just Sartorio, José Perea, El Peinero and Juraco, among others. I suppose that Silverio also performed in them, before he went to South America.  A little later, the celebrated José Lorente and Enrique Prado also featured in those parties.

-What’s the most important dynasty in flamenco?

-The Ortegas from Cádiz, without a doubt. This dynasty was started by El Gordo Viejo and stretches to our days. Manolo Caracol was its most important star, but before he was born, we also had Enrique Ortega Feria El Gordo and his sister Gabriela (mother of Rafael and Joselito El Gallo). El Fillo and El Nitri also belonged to this prominent family. Later, the Ortegas married into the Cádiz branch of the Monge family (the family of El Planeta) and more important artists would come out, such as the great bailaor Rafael Ortega Monge, son of Manuel Ortega Feria and Manuela Monge Fernández (granddaughter of El Planeta and born in Málaga).  

-Wasn’t there any important non-gypsy flamenco dynasty?

-Sure there were, but the early flamenco researcher Demófilo had no interest in them. Maestro Pérez, the great guitarist from Seville, had three artist sons: Juan Antonio, a leading guitarist; Manolito, a bailaor de tronío; and Lola, a bailaora who died very young, wife of cantaor Juan Trujillo El Perote. The famous Niño Pérez, who recorded shellac records with Vallejo, was the son of bailaor Manolito Pérez. So, this was an influential family of flamenco artists in Seville, where it has been completely forgotten.

-I guess that Jerez also had important flamenco dynasties, right?

-Of course. The lineage of Paco la Luz is noteworthy and also stretches to our days. His daughters La Serrana and La Sordita were stars in Seville. Then we have El Sordera and his sons Vicente, El Bo, Enrique and Sorderita. José Mercé is Sordera’s nephew. The Zambos are also descendants of Paco la Luz. We could go on and on. Other important flamenco families of Jerez were those of Juan Junquera and the Marrurros. Later we have the Loreto Family, with Joaquín Lacherna as its most important artist. After him came Manuel and Pepe Torres, La Jeroma, La Malena and Currito el de la Jeroma, among others. As you know, José el de la Tomasa and Tomás de Perrate are from that family: Tomasa is a grandson of Pepe Torres, and Tomás de Perrate is a grandson of Manuel Torres.

-Were there flamenco dynasties in other provinces of Andalusia, too?

-In all of them. The Habichuelas, for example, are a dynasty of leading guitarists from Granada, with Juan and Pepe Habichuela being the most important. In Córdoba we have the Onofre family. Then we have the dynasty of the Negros, from Ronda (Málaga), with La Andonda y Aniya la Gitana as the most renowned. There is also the lineage of Diego del Gastor, whose nephews, such as Paco, Juan and Dieguito are also excellent guitarists. From Puerto de Santa María we have the Coquineras, four sisters who were very popular in the cafés of Seville, particularly Antonia, Josefa and Milagros. From Rota (Cádiz) were the celebrated Roteñas: Concha, Antonia y María.

-So grandpa, that theory that flamenco was forged from a group of families should be researched in depth, don’t you think?

-There’s no doubt about it, and we haven’t even mentioned the dynasty of Popá Pinini, which filled Utrera and Lebrija with artists: Bastián Bacán, El Lebrijano, Miguel Funi, Pedro Bacán, Pedro Peña, Fernanda y Bernarda, Pepa la de Benito, Inés Bacán… There’s also the Mairena family, with three great cantaores such as Antonio, Curro and Manuel Mairena

-We should carry on with this topic another day, right?

-Of course, Manolito. We have to talk about the Morentes.  

-Whoa, grandpa. Touchy subject.

-Why do you say such thing? The three children of the master are artists, regardless of personal tastes. Estrella is a leading star.

-True, but that’s a sensitive topic.

 

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Arahal, Sevilla, 1958. Crítico de flamenco, periodista y escritor. 40 años de investigación flamenca en El Correo de Andalucía. Autor de biografías de la Niña de los Peines, Carbonerillo, Manuel Escacena, Tomás Pavón, Fernando el de Triana, Manuel Gerena, Canario de Álora...

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