The coherence of Mayte Martín
Since she is a young artist, she will certainly continue to surprise us with wonderful projects. But I expect from Mayte a great work of traditional flamenco which would point the way again. An anthology, for example. A review of the different flamenco schools, from Chacón and Pastora until our days, because she is the only one who could
I’ve never hidden my admiration for Mayte Martín, cantaora from Barcelona. Moreover, I’ve always said, and still do, that she is the number one in cante, and not just among female cantaoras, but including male cantaores as well. Nowadays, the voice of Mayte is unsurpassed. I don’t mean to say that there aren’t cantaoras or cantaores who touch me in a deeper way, or who occasionally bring me to tears. When I speak or write about her, I not only think of her wonderful voice, but also of the treasure of multiple qualities that she has. I don’t mean to compare them, but I feel the same about Chacón, an artist I admire because of the combination of many qualities, not just because of his singing skill or depth.
Since I adore that artist, I’m also demanding and critical of her. Because I believe she could be an even more important artist as a flamenco cantaora. The other day I wrote about the lack of — and need for — role models in cante nowadays, and I want to make that point again. Perhaps we don’t need a new Mairena, who led a whole generation to the path of traditional cante, because these are different times, but we need role models for good, serious cante. Mayte represents traditional cante, but she also has the freshness of innovation. She doesn’t imitate anyone, in my opinion. She follows the styles of Chacón and Pastora Pavón, but she never seeks to copy them because she has a great personality and that makes her avoid the imitation that is so prevalent in our days: whoever doesn’t want to sing like Camarón, tries to sing like Mairena or like Enrique Morente.
«Her voice was like a kiss in the back of the neck. She had something different, new, an amazing ability to make the old seem new»
The first time I heard Mayte singing was when she won the Lámpara Minera de La Unión prize in 1987, if I remember well, as I usually write from memory. I had never heard anything about her before, and I was surprised by her self-assurance on stage, besides her voice, of course, which was like a kiss in the back of the neck. She had something different, new, an amazing ability to make the old seem modern. She would already add a new shine to some cantes, like the cantes mineros. From that moment on, I always followed her career with a keen interest. Not so much so nowadays, however, because she’s been doing things that don’t really interest me. It’s not that I’m against she singing boleros of songs from other genres, because all artists must have the freedom to do whatever they believe in or whatever they feel like.
I can’t envision an artist like Mayte always doing the same thing, but rather always moving around multiple ideas and experiments. Since she is a young artist, she will certainly continue to surprise us with wonderful projects. Perhaps what I’m going to say is crazy, but I expect from her a great work of traditional flamenco which would point the way again. An anthology, for example. A review of the different flamenco schools, from Chacón and Pastora until our days, because she is the only one who could succeed doing this with the minimum of competence that would be required. She won’t do it, because I know her well and she was settled into her comfort zone. Yet, if she wanted to take on this project, I would give her all my support.
Translated by P. Young