The third of the Flamenco Galas at La Unión took place on Saturday night, featuring guitarist Carlos Piñana (al toque) and Juan Valderrama on vocals ( al cante.)
These two artists represent two flamenco dynastic families, and both artists were keen to honour their famous forbears , and pay tribute as part of their performances, offering a memorable evening for flamenco enthusiasts, representing two different points of perspective of the same artform.
Carlos Piñana Conesa was born in Cartagena in 1976, coming from a family with a deep set tradition of flamenco. He is the grandson of Antonio Piñana ( Padre, father) patriarch of the profound and emotional mineras , who won the miner's lamp himself at La Unión in 1961, and son of guitarist Antonio Piñana (Hijo, son), himself a renowned flamenco guitarist.
Carlos spent his childhood breathing in the essence of flamenco, flamenco in his veins, flamenco in his consciousness, his first classes at the hands of his father, leading to a deep lifelong passion which progressed to studies in classical guitar in the Cartagena Conservatorio de Música, and parallel studies in flamenco guitar.
Soon he began to shine and the awards started to flow, achieving the prized first place in the Cante de las Minas in 1996, followed by a number of other prestigious awards.
Since then he has performed worldwide and collaborated with an impressive list of both Spanish and International artists, recording five of his own solo albums as well as composing a number of pieces for the Ballet Español de Murcia : “Póker Flamenco”, “A Tiempo de Fuego”, “A Compás del Poeta”, “Penélope” and “El Celoso Extremeño”.
He currently divides his time as a master with the Conservatorio Superior de Música de Murcia in the flamenco guitar department, directing the Escuela de Arte Flamenco de la Fundación Cante de las Minas, and organising the annual guitar fiestas of the Certamen Internacional de Guitarra Flamenca ¨Niño Ricardo¨ and the Festival Internacional “Guitarras en el Almudí”.
His performance at La Unión was a breathtaking display of masterful flamenco, the entire concert performed without a sheet of music in sight.
Dexterous and melodic, the notes dripped from his guitar in a succession of smooth, enveloping melodies, alegrias, tarantas, soleás, fandangos, zapateados, guajiras, milongas, jaleos, with atmospheric accompaniment by Miguel A Orengo on drums, José Ramón Velasco on bass and Fernando Velasco on flamenco cajón.
A display of captivating music, framed with the images of the mines painted by local artist Esteban Bernal Aguirre, bathing the musicians in the colours of the earth, rich music honouring the mining past of La Unión.
A luxury for the senses.
This was followed by Juan Valderrama Caballero, born in Madrid in 1972, but who grew up in Seville, again, born into a family of flamenco greats, his father, Juanito Valderrama, one of the most important figures in popular flamenco throughout the years of dictatorship.
This concert was entitled , "Don Juan " and was a tribute to his father, beginning with video footage showing his father singing and concluding with an atmospheric soleá de Triana sung in conjunction with a recording of his father's, his characteristic flat brimmed sombrero hung over the back of a empty chair, picked out by a single spotlight.
Juanito Valderrama was a colourful figure, dying, at the age of 87 after a lifetime dedicated to flamenco.
He was born in Torredelcampo, Jaen, May 24 1916, his parents country farmers,
and as his career developed, he became famous composing his own lyrics, many of his early works recalling his childhood days, accompanying his father's mules to market and extolling the beauties of life amongst the olive groves.
Aged eight he won a singing competition and by 1934, had been recruited into a travelling song company, performing in many places, including Madrid's Cine Metropolitano.
The outbreak of civil war , 1935-37 was a time of convulsion within Spain and no family could escape the bitterness and high feelings which flowed during this period, and Valderrama enlisted in the Republican ranks, taking part in active service in the trenches, although his singing talent led him to follow a more morale building route, including caring for the sick, than that of soldiering.
After the war he dedicated himself to building a career as a flamenco artist, but although his fame brought him in contact the circles of those in power at the time, he still harboured enough loyalty to the Republican cause to write his most famous song, El Emigrante.
El Emigrante is a ballad, written in 1949, at a time when thousands of refugees were leaving Spain as Franco's regime intensified, and eulogises all the good things Spain represented, which these emigrants were forced to leave behind.
Ironically, according to his obituary, he was called to sing this song for Franco himself, following a hunting party, and the dictator was so moved by the lyrics and the rendition that he called for an encore. Valderrama recounts his inner astonishment when asked to perform the piece again, and the comment that his verse was "wonderfully patriotic" made by the dictator, who had obviously failed to understand the true meaning and sentiment behind the yearning lyrics, which was Spain, seen through the eyes of someone who had been forced to leave it and seek work elsewhere.
Thousands of Murcians left Spain during this era, many finding work in the agricultural areas of France as manual labourers, leaving their families behind in their home towns.
He was an innovative performer, and performed a variety of popular song and copla, which he interspersed with the pure cante jondo, the darker, deeper songs of flamenco, which can be so hard on the ears of those first discovering flamenco.
Ironically, his critics derided him for making "an artform into a mass market spectacle", whilst he maintains the stance that popular music was more likely to attract a wider audience, and indeed, at that time, was more likely to result in a few more coins in the singers hat at the end of a performance.
Today, of course, he would have been held up as an innovator, crossing the ranks into a more mainstream market, although at the time his critics derided his transgression from the art of cante jondo.
His first recordings date from 1935, and he recorded 1500 songs during the 60 year period, formally retiring in 1994.
So this concert by his son, Juan, was dedicated to his memory, and the popularity of his father's figure was very evident in the reaction of the crowd at La Unión to the pieces performed in his memory.
His son Juan, has a dual career, both as a successful journalist and TV journalist, as well as a flamenco artist.
Although he began his set with a technically difficult minera, has a characteristically sweet voice, which favours the temporeras, tarantas, milongas and seguiriyas and was supported in this performance by Rubén Levamiegos on guitar, Manuel Luque on cajón and Álvaro Palacín and Adolfo Vega a las palmas ( clapping.)
Following the performance, he unveiled his "Lámpara Juan Valderrama, " his name engraved in stone in the Avenida del Flamenco outside the "Catedral del Cante" in which the performance took place.
For the full programme of Galas in 2012, Click Cante de Las Minas 2012
To see the gallery of images and reports from Cante de Las Minas 2012, Click Cante de Las Minas
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