Ezequiel Benítez, the sorrowful voice
The cantaor from Jerez presented his album Quimeras del tiempo: Recuer2 with a wonderful recital in the iconic Peña Pozo de las Penas.
The old men say that January is the worst month for singing. They say that larynxes and bronchioles always end up in “it is”, and voices acquire the blank, cloudy sky’s greyish hue. This may be true up north, but not in flamenco country. Here we have El Carbonerillo and Manuel Torres, who recorded songs just before tuberculosis closed their lungs forever. They were no longer in their prime, of course, but had the same depth as always and even more feel, if that’s even possible.
The members of Peña Pozo de la Penas say that this peñain Los Palacios is the oldest in Spain, even older than La Platería in Granada, although the latter was registered first. Let’s see how this could be proven, “it is so, trust me, we are the oldest peña!”. What we can attest is the vintage vibe we got since we came in, in each photograph, in each corner of this very small white pellizco on Cantarranas Street. Today, Ezequiel is singing, it’s the first time he comes here. “No, we never have microphones here. Try sitting next to me”.
The first notes of the evening are por alegrías, courtesy of the guitar of Francisco León Gallardo Paco León (born in Puerto de Santa María in 1991). They say his guitar was made of rosewood and cypress by Jerónimo Pérez, luthier from Algodonales, and that it was a gift from Paco Cepero. Gentlemen, let’s listen. The imposing Ezequiel Benítez owns the scene from his wood and bulrush chair, with his red beard and indelible smile. The small space with black wooden beams throws a veil of respect over the attendees, who from then on will stay connected to the WiFi of the voice of this cantaor from Jerez.
These are alegrías de Aurelio Sellé, the master of masters from Cádiz. Traditional and original lyrics pour out from the mouth of this cantaor, who some say was born in Cádiz by accident. La gracia viene de Cádiz, y de Jerez el compás, yo canto por alegrías para poderte olvidar.
The same goes for the tientos de Enrique el Mellizo, which are given a very personal imprint by Ezequiel, who links the verses in an impossible way. This cantaor from Jerez’s Santiago district has had bronchitis for two weeks, but those who don’t know don’t even notice. The chapel of silence finally loses it, and it can’t help but throwing bunches of oles to the celebrants of this flamenco liturgy.
“I’ll sing a little por soleá”. “Just watch the honey coming out of Paco León’s guitar”. So young and so experienced at the same time. He has finally found is own sound. A tribute to Tía María Bala, sister of Manuel Soto Monje El Sordera de Jerez. What a feeling Ezequiel gives to the soleá de El Chozas de Jerez. Yes, he wasn’t from Jerez, he was from Lebrija. Ezequiel sings the verse ”te voy a sacar del convento” and the crowd goes wild.
From here until the end, all are committed. Fandangos del Niño Gloria y and fandangos de Pepe Pinto with Ezequiel’s own lyrics. He then sings several tangos, among which those of Pastora Pavón stand out, even as they feel a little forced and his voice is getting tired. Then come the seguiriyas de Jerez, with a magnificent closing in the Curro Dulce style. The icing on the cake are the bulerías del Chozas and the bulerías de la Bolola, where Ezequiel made use of his charisma and “galatería”, that mixture of spark, eroticism, double meaning and wit that is sorely missing in today’s flamenco. Like in that verse, “Yo le pido a las mujeres que conmigo gasten cuidadito, y no me enseñen el conejo negrón, que saco yo mi escopetón, y, señorita que le pego yo un tiro, pon, pon, pon”.
Recital: Quimeras del tiempo: Recuer2
Place and date: Peña Flamenca Pozo de las Penas, Los Palacios y Villafranca (Seville)
Date: January 25th, 2019
Cante: Ezequiel Benítez
Guitar: Paco León