Remedios Amaya in Verano Flamenco Guadalcacín
Friday night was Remedios Amaya, and two more scheduled recitals will feature El Granaíno and Capullo de Jerez, a great opportunity to see artists of this level in what is basically an intimate setting, and for the modest ticket price of 8 euros.
Little by little flamenco is starting to cook again. I just attended my first show in the “new normal” state of social distancing and face masks, with temperature check at the entrance. You’d think it would put a damper on the usually free-wheeling nature of this type of flamenco event, but it was actually a terrific evening.
The Guadalcacín town hall programed three high-flying flamenco artists to perform in the small patio of the Tomasa Pinilla school this summer. Friday night was Remedios Amaya, and two more scheduled recitals will feature El Granaíno and Capullo de Jerez, a great opportunity to see artists of this level in what is basically an intimate setting, and for the modest ticket price of 8 euros. We counted 133 white plastic chairs in small clusters, just over half of which were occupied. People are still reluctant to attend group events.
A couple of years ago on a social media forum of serious flamenco fans, one member suggested carrying out an informal survey to identify the ten top flamenco singers alive today. It was an interesting experiment, to say the least. The big surprise was that nearly every single list not only included Remedios Amaya, but nearly always in the first or second spot.
What was more surprising still, was my own surprise. Why had I not even considered the charismatic lady who has been one of the most popular female flamenco voices for so many years? More than a flamenco singer, a flamenca, with an expansive personality and generous smile that sends the flamenco feeling all the way to the back row of the biggest venue. I had thought of her as closer to pop music, which is not really an accurate portrait of Remedios Amaya.
After some health issues in recent years, our urban Triana Extremadura-flavored ghetto flamenco cult figure who initially managed to hitch a ride on Camarón’s artistic coattails, has actually made several “comebacks” including a few years ago at the Bienal de Sevilla when she filled the patio of the Hotel Triana with her communicative power and earthy authenticity.
Long ago, at the beginning of the Camarón heyday, there was a time when la Susi (Encarnación Amador, of the numerous Amador family) was hailed as the female counterpart of the popular singer from San Fernando. But soon that honor had to be shared with Remedios Amaya. After some years of erratic activity, a breakthrough collaboration with Vicente Amigo in 1997 paved the way for guitarists to use cante to back up their own “solo” recordings. (Sabicas did something similar with Enrique Montoya decades earlier, but that was for the United States market where there was no following for flamenco singing).
Remedios came to Guadalcacín, just outside Jerez, with a small but effective back-up that included her sister Carmen, daughter Samara, percussionist Isidro Suárez and the terrific guitarist El Perla, whom we’ve seen so often with Farruquito.
Born in Triana to a family with roots in Extremadura, Remedios puts the pieces together just right for her own canastera personality which she used to open with credible soleá. It’s always a pleasure to see how classic flamenco forms can adapt so well to a given singer’s perspective and artistic line without losing the focus. Taranto was prefaced with a brief pep talk that drew enthusiastic applause: “Señores, we have to fight to defend flamenco!” a reference to the painful disappearance of tablaos, peñas and festivals we’re seeing daily.
Jaleo extremeño with her popular “camino la feria Zafra”, was followed by Camarón’s creation Canastera recorded in 1972 folks, nearly 50 years ago and still sounding good. One year after that recording was made, in the TV series Rito y Geografía del Cante, Remedios Amaya, then eleven years old, gave us all a lesson in flamenco attitude.