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Antonio Reyes with the scent of clove and cinnamon

The cantaor from Chiclana delighted the members of the Peña Flamenca El Chozas, celebrating 25 years of its Cultural Week. la Peña Flamenca El ChozasSemana Cultural

Few artists still alive today can boast of having a peña flamenca named after them. Peña El Chozas, in Seville, is named after José Antonio Muñoz García, a cantaor from the very flamenco Cartero district who, at seventy years old, is very much active and in full control of his faculties. This peña is small and charming, in need of a little help so it won’t close down, as has happened with many other flamenco cultural associations in the capital of Seville. It doesn’t have a president. Before last summer, it was open every day, but nowadays it only opens if there’s a performance. As stated in the event’s ad: cold drinks, one euro. Calamari tapas, two euros. Being welcomed at the door by Antonio Reyes, priceless.

It’s also priceless being able to attend a recital of such high level in the company of fifty other great aficionados. How boring have theaters become these days. They want to open flamenco to the wider public. What can I say? Cante is truly enjoyed when we’re able to make eye contact with the artists in a small venue. That’s what Mari Ángeles Carrasco, director of the Instituto Andaluz del Flamenco, tells me: peñas have existed since before we were born, they’re the cornerstone, the launching pad of young artists, the places where they can get some experience before turning professional. “Mari Ángeles, how do you feel about being the guest of honor in this celebration of the 25 years of Peña El Chozas’ Cultural Week? “Well, as you can imagine, it’s a great honor, but in fact it’s an honor for the whole team who works behind the curtains, decisively promoting flamenco through agreements and subsidies.” So, bring in the money, Mr. Instituto, because Pedro El Granaíno will perform on Saturday, and someone has to pay for it.

There he is, standing up, warming up with a single round of martinetes. Without missing a beat, he links it with a zambra caracolera, to the rhythm of a Gypsy hammer, and then comes a bit of a Romance de Juan de Osuna, with the master in full control, de Huelva vino un jinete con los ojos de aceituna. He’s linking tientos de Caracol in a zambra. I love this guy, I really do.

“Good evening, I’ll sing in remembrance of my land, Cádiz, Chiclana…” He sings his usual slow alegrías, evoking Camarón and entering through the Bay of Cádiz, nothing new here. Then comes the tangos, where he’s king. Sweetness runs down his throat, contrasting with the variety of flavors coming out of the guitar of Diego Amaya in falsetas based on accords from Jerez. It wasn’t one or two, but at least twenty dishes he served, covered with oles. The cantaor from Chiclana stretches the compás, doing the impossible to keep the beat, as the guitarist from La Plazuela nails those same dark notes and our hearts get filled with joy. Tell me, tell me… There’s Juan Villar, who always attends the recitals of the masters from Chiclana. A tu vera, Rosa María. It seems like Antonio is really making an effort to change his repertoire, something we celebrate with joy.

The same goes for his soleares, where he mixes traditional lyrics with uncommon ones, linking a lot and making a great effort. The moment of truth arrives, as Diego Amaya’s toque still reverberates, because this palo is music to die for. A clavito y a canela, the version of Manuel Torres. A frightening cry beats up our souls and I pray to Heavens. Just look at the people’s faces!

From there until the end, it’s all pleasant and joyful. Slow bulerías, as there are no palmeros. Fandango de Vallejo por bulerías, unbeatable. A couple of fandanguitos. Ole, ole… And then a beer for one euro. One euro, and someone else almost grabbed mine. I drink it with Chozas himself, who enjoys talking about cante.


Event notes:

Series: 25th Flamenco Cultural Week of Peña El Chozas
Show: Antonio Reyes’ recital
Cante: Antonio Reyes
Guitarra: Diego Amaya
Presenter: José María Rodríguez Fatou
Peña el Chozas


Filólogo madrileño. Media vida en Sevilla. Centinela de las palabras. Lo jondo le acelera peligrosamente el corazón.