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Renewing old cante: young flamenco

Manuel de la Tomasa, Pepe el Boleco and Alonso Núñez El Purili were showered with acclaim in a historic performance El Purili

By Luis M. Pérez. Seville. May 28, 2018. (Photos: CienxCien Flamenco)

Puebla de Cazalla is one of the few municipalities in Seville province where cante flamenco can still be felt in the air, in its olive groves and in its whitewashed, centuries-old houses. In the heart of the countryside, the land of Niña de la Puebla, José Menese and the Moreno Galván family is not ashamed of its flamenco tradition, as is the case with Seville, where singing in a bar or tavern is frowned upon and may be even penalized. La Puebla and its people know “istinguir”, the name that good aficionados give to deep flamenco knowledge and the ability to tell real flamenco from the fake one.

Six hundred people came to the Caseta Municipal at noon, heeding the call of the Dolores Brotherhood (Hermandad de los Dolores), which used all proceedings to fund their social work in behalf of low-income people with impaired mobility. To do that, it once again commissioned a great poster, created by the local painter Patricio Hidalgo, featuring a great lineup: the three new cantaores who everyone is talking about, three young men that will soon be top stars of cante. Kids who, in the words of Carmen Arjona in her splendid presentation, come from very different words, having very different life experiences, contexts and families, yet have a very similar concept of their art, traditional cante jondo, which due to their youth is refreshed and truly reinvigorated, filling us with hope for flamenco’s future.

When writing a review, it’s always recommended to write the following day, rested, to avoid being carried away by the emotion of the moment, averting a torrent of overblown praise that ruins any good review, fleeing frenzied expressions that should rather been left back in the theater. After sunrise and morning coffee, I still feel by heart beating with joy.

That’s the expression most heard as people discussed the performance in the foyer, “my heart is about to come out of my chest”, and dozens of people had their hands over their hearts at the end of this recital. Someone even literally fell from their chair during a martinet by Pepe El Boleco.

The spectators left the Caseta Municipal like soccer fans after their team’s victory “did you see how Niño del Tomasa tackled that cante? And what about the way Purili lifted the lapel of his jacket, showing its emerald-green lining, ending with his arms high up, with his huge, beautiful hands spreading salt from the Strait’s on first row…?”

Their personalities are very different: the pure grace of El Purili (what a suitable nickname!). He has the innocence of someone who knows how to be an artist without any sense of haughtiness, smiling broadly when he dances por bulerías minutes after tearing his soul apart singing por martinetes like an old man. An old cantaor is what seems to possess the throat of Pepe el Boleco, so shy and serious, and don’t forget he’ll be seventeen in July. He made us cry with fandangos and seguiriyas, as did Manuel de la Tomasa, who will be nineteen in a month. He’s been singing only for one year, as he used to play the guitar, yet when he sings por seguiriyas we can almost taste blood. Manuel performs his cantes without imitating anyone, he creates his own nuances on the fly, improvising with the courage and insolence that only youth can explain. I have to say, what happened yesterday is hard to explain, it had to be experienced.


Event notes:

Show: Renuevo del cante viejo, jóvenes flamencos
Organizers: Hermandad de los Dolores de la Puebla de Cazalla
Place and date: La Puebla de Cazalla’s caseta Municipal. May 27, 2018
Cante: Manuel de la Tomasa, Alonso Núñez El Purili and Pepe el Boleco
Toque: Antonio García y Rubén Lara
Palmas: Hermanos Gamero
Presenter: Carmen Arjona Pavón

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