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Silence! Perico el Pañero is singing

The cantaor from Algeciras proved at the “Temple of Cante” that he is one of today’s greatest flamenco artists.

By Luis M. Pérez. Seville. September 30th, 2018. Photos: Agustín Rodríguez Martínez

The Peña Flamenca “Torres Macarena is located in the center of Seville’s Macarena district, originally a settlement outside the city walls which merged into four and a half streets across the Macarena gate, next to the Cinco Llagas hospital, which is now the seat of Andalusia’s Parliament. Located on Torrijano street, it almost disappeared a few years ago, as a new neighbour, an enemy of flamenco, insisted on closing it down again and again, because this peña apparently lacked a license for live music performances. Just think about it, on Torrijano street, the birthplace of no other than Pepe Pinto, who sang fandangos there with El Carbonerillo in his childhood. In front of that peña lived and died the great Manolo Fregenal. Just imagine.

This venue has existed for forty-four years, the same age of Perico el Pañero. José Lérida López, born in Algeciras in 1974, has the surname of an old lineage of blacksmiths from Triana. His grandfather, José Lérida Cruz, a great flamenco aficionado, reportedly sold cloths (paños) for a living in Camas before he moved to Campo de Gibraltar and married María Cortés Cortés, from Algeciras, who was a great singer of seguiriyas. The courtyard of the peña is filled with members sitting around tables overflowing with food, and the buffet offers countless glasses of manzanilla in bubbly expectation. “Have you ever seen performing live?”, “I did once, but on that occasion he was so-so”. This cantaor from Algeciras is great when he’s inspired. Many people compare him with the great Manuel Torres, you know…

As soon as he warms up por soleá, we realize that this evening he’s in top shape. The guitar of Antonio Carrión gathers the first cheers on the venerable boards of Torres Macarena. There are no microphones, as it should be. Here, the stage is a terrifying isthmus surrounded by demanding aficionados on all sides except one. On that 6-feet vessel Perico gets started with soleares sewn into his heart. Juan Talega, La Andonda, Juaniquí…

Tengo pozo en mi casa
y agüita no pueo coger
porque la soga no alcanza

I have a well at home
But I can’t get any water
Because the rope is too short

Antonio Carrión‘s guitar summons a mourning por seguiriya. The religious silence that characterizes the aficionados of this peña gives way to a deluge of oles. Very nice, Antonio, it’s such a pleasure listening to you. Perico bends and unfolds the seguiriya de Juanelo, the one about the little cups of broth (“las tacitas de caldo”), leaving the public in the raw. He searches his repertoire and takes out a set of nuances. Juanito Mojama and Tomás Pavón, but sung in his own style, without copying, creating as he goes.

Next come some fandangos to settle the venue. He starts by Huelva, followed by Pepe Pinto, takes the first left by Rafael el Tuerto, and then I get lost. It’s a challenge for yours truly, because Perico adds new nuances to the old melodies. This one sounds like El Carbonerillo, wait, no, that was recorded by Isabelita de Jerez, “ella es buena y volverá”. This one is that of Manuel Torre or Dolores la Parrala.

After the snacks we get back a compás. The slow tangos of Enrique El Mellizo are spectacular, overflowing wit the flour of Antonio Mairena and eggs from the family tree. Carrión’s toque reaches its peak here. Then comes the bulerías por soleá, where Perico sampled all the stars of Jerez, the Pavón family and also his dear Antonio Mairena. He even gave us a playful wink singing the bulerías of Rosalía. Rosalía de Triana, not the other one.

Then it was time for bulerías cortas de Jerez, which came out perfect, with compás to spare. After so much emotion, we were thankful for his stroll by Cádiz, from La Perla to Juan Villar. This 6-foot tall Gypsy then stood up and the crowd went wild. The skinny, awkward guy wearing the black suit has the gift of flamenco in the way he moves. Look how he collects himself, how he breaks the air, and the incredible footwork before the sudden stop. He looks at people’s faces. This is flamenco.

Event Notes:

Recital of Perico el Pañero
Place: Peña Cultural Flamenca “Torres Macarena.
Date: September 28th, 2018
Cante: Perico el Pañero
Guitar: Antonio Carrión

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