The second of the Galas at the Cante de las Minas in La Unión featured José Merce, an artist renowned for bringing flamenco to a wider audience who prides himself on performing "flamenco for everybody."
Merce is a popular performer at the Cante de las Minas, with a warm humanity to his performances and a comfortable interaction with the audience which guarantees that the "Catedral del Cante", the former marketplace of La Unión is always packed to bursting whenever he performs.( see Cante de las Minas 2010)
Merce is a native of Jeréz, and at the age of 13, went to Madrid to record his first record, an event which the producer, Manuel Ríos Ruiz wrote at the time, "the consolidation of José Merce as the new figure in the world of cante ensures that the "jondo" miracle of Jerez de la Frontera will now continue."
José Merce has recorded 17 albums since his first debut in 1968, and in this concert celebrated his history as an artist through from his first recordings as a pure flamenco artist, through his most important solo album, “Del amanecer” , recorded in 1998, to his latest album, "Ruido" made in 2010.
This concert was entitled, “Nuevo Amanecer”, new awakening and included a selection of his most popular anthems including “Te pintaré”, “Lío” and “Aire”, all received with great enthusiasm by a packed "cathedral of song" audience.
And of course, no Merce performance would be complete without his best known track, “Al alba”, which was written to commemorate the last execution by firing squad under dictatorship which took place on 27th September 1975.
This version was a little more subdued than other versions he's performed in recent years, the current economic crisis and scenes witnessed in some spanish cities in the last few months an uncomfortable echo for some of the older generation who recall the economic situation of Spain at the time these last executions took place.
However, most of this concert was upbeat and harmonious, melodic and comfortable on the ear of even the flamenco novice, the latter pieces taken from "Ruido" harmonious songs of comfort and reminiscence, "Hojas del limonero," a sweet song of the orchards:
Hojas del limonero,
Dulce aroma al atardecer
Son tus besos caramelo que me empapan de placer
( leaves of the lemon tree, sweet smell of the evening, your caramel kisses envelop me with pleasure.)
Merce has always been a generous collaborator and has appeared alongside many of flamencos top artists, and emerging artists, one of his latest being a collaboration with David Peña Dorantes, who appears in la Unión on Sunday evening, on his latest album, Sin Muros.
Following the performance, Merce unveiled his plaque of honour in the burgeoning stars gallery forming outside the "Catedral del Cante" an area alive with music throughout the festival, temporary bars filled with the odour of tapas and music, exhibitions relating to the worlds of flamenco and mining, art and music fusing as attendees enjoy the atmosphere of this important flamenco event.
There are lots more galas to come during the next few days, followed by the competitions which will launch emerging stars into the flamenco circuit, the coveted Miners Lamp at la Unión one of the most prestigious titles for a young artist to win. For more information, 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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